Friday, March 29, 2013

Mango Coconut Cake

This Mango Coconut Cake is a sure way to brighten your day and your Easter table. It's a moist yellow buttermilk cake soaked with mango puree and coated with a coconut buttercream.

The yellow cake recipe I used to create the tropical cake is from Sarah Carey and was featured recently in the Oregonian Newspaper.

To add color to the cake, I coated the entire cake with a coat of light yellow icing. I then tinted three small bowls of icing various shades of yellow and randomly painted them onto the cake. The technique was easy and the result is bright and cheery.

Classic Yellow Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs plus egg yolks, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in 3/4 cup buttermilk, another third of the flour mixture, another 3/4 cup buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter among two greased and parchment lined 9-inch round cake pans (2-inches deep). Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks.

Mango Puree

1 cup diced mango (I use Trader Joe's frozen diced mango)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine the mango, water and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mango is very soft and the liquid has reduced, about 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processer and process until smooth.

Coconut Buttercream

6 large egg whites
1 1/4  cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt
yellow food coloring (optional)

Place the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and cream of tartar.

Place bowl over a double boiler on medium heat, stir frequently until the mixture is very hot (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move to mixer and whip whites on high for 2 to 3 minutes; turn down to medium low until cool (use the bowl as your guide).

In a separate bowl with a wooden spoon, stir butter to soften.

With mixer on medium/high speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, adding the next tablespoon just as the previous one is blended in. Once all the butter incorporated, add in vanilla, coconut extract and salt and whip on high speed until fluffy.
Tint icing as desired.

To Assemble:
Once the cakes are out of the pan, use a skewer to make holes all over the top. Spread each cake with half of the mango puree. Let the cakes cool completely before moving onto the next step.
Put one layer on a cake base.

Ice the top with coconut buttercream.

Add the second cake layer.

Coat the entire cake with coconut buttercream.

Put a small amount of buttercream into three bowls (about 1/4 cup in each bowl).

Tint each amount a different shade of yellow.

Using a separate table knife for each color, randomly spread the colors all over the cake.

Don't forget to add color to the sides of the cake.

A pretty slice of the cake.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bluebird Cookie

Just three colors are needed to make this cute bluebird cookie.

When it comes to cookie decorating, I often find that I'm most pleased with the simplest designs.

The wing detail on the bird was made by piping a black line of icing onto the cookie and then drawing through it with a sewing pin, being sure to wipe the pin off after each swipe.

Outline the body of the bird and fill it in with flood consistency royal icing.

Using black icing, add an eye and a curved line for the wing.

Using a sewing pin, swipe through the line a few times, being sure to clean the pin after each swipe. Add a yellow beak and yellow feet and it's done.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break Volunteers

It's Spring Break week for Portland area schools so we had extra help from some young volunteers today at the Wednesday Community Meal.

The youthful energy was infectious and much needed today since it was the last Wednesday of the month and boy were we busy. We served 372 meals and had a constant line of guests waiting to get into the dining room during the first hour of service.

Our meal changed numerous times throughout the service because we had a little of this and that but not a lot of a single ingredient. We started with chicken, baked potatoes and roasted carrots and then moved on to pulled pork, fish, shepherd's pie, pizza, beef fajitas and ravioli.  We also offered soup, salad and dessert.
Olivia adding a scoop of sour cream to the baked potatoes.

I love seeing the spirit of volunteering and caring for others alive and well amongst the young - it's a joy to witness.

Sierra and Ava peeling carrots. In the back is Zane scrubbing potatoes and Eleanor chopping carrots.

Zane is a longtime and dedicated volunteer and comes to help whenever he is out of school.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homemade Cake Flour

Making homemade cake flour.
There is a recipe in today's Oregonian for a yellow cake that I'm anxious to try. The recipe calls for 3 cups of cake flour which doesn't mean a trip to the grocery store because it is easy and inexpensive to make yourself.

Cake flour is one of those ingredients that most people don't use on a regular basis so what's the point of paying for a box that you'll just have to store when all you need is a few cups? It's not hard to make because it's just flour and cornstarch sifted together a few times.

Here's the recipe:

Cake Flour
For 1 cup of cake flour, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 1 tablespoon of the flour and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Sift two times before using.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rolled Banana Cake

The best thing about this rolled banana cake is that the custard filling is baked along with the cake so you just flip the baked cake out of the pan and roll it up and it's filled and ready to serve. This cake is light and flavorful and would make a great addition to your Easter table.

I first found the recipe on a card at Penzey's Spices. A few weeks later, I made the cake and my family loved it.

Well, I tucked the small recipe card away in a kitchen drawer and somehow it just disappeared. I looked and looked and never was able to find it again. I even searched online and inquired about the recipe at the store.

Nearly two years later, I mentioned to my friend Shannon how I once had this great banana cake recipe from Penzey's. Well, Shannon was the right person to tell.

I don't know how she did it but she tracked the recipe down in a Penzey recipe booklet and presented it to me. It was so nice of her and whenever I bake this cake I feel grateful.

Amazing Rolled Banana Cake
(recipe from Mary Harris; Penzey's One, Volume 3, Issue 5)

5 eggs, divided, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 tablespoons milk
1 large banana, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Lightly grease a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper; grease paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a roomy bowl, cream together 1 egg, the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the milk until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan. Set aside.
Pour the cream cheese mixture onto a parchment lined and greased jelly roll pan.

Divide the 4 remaining eggs into whites and yolks. In a medium mixing bowl beat together the 4 egg yolks, banana and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add 1/3 cup of the sugar and beat well.

Beat the 4 egg whites, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar gradually. Beat until stiff. Gently fold into the banana mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. Gently fold into the banana mixture. Be careful not to beat down the egg whites.

Lightly pour or distribute over the cream cheese filling in the pan. Top with the chopped nuts at this stage, if desired.
Pour the banana cake batter over the cream cheese filling. Use a spatula to gently distribute it evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on it. As soon as the top springs back lightly and pulls from the side of the pan it's done.

Pull from the oven. Dust liberally with sifted powdered sugar, if desired. Run a very thin knife around the edge of the  pan.
When the cake is done, dust it with powdered sugar. And run a thin knife around the edges of the cake.

Place a clean, smooth-textured kitchen towel on top of the cake and quickly flip it over. Gently peel off the parchment paper. If some of the filling sticks to the parchment, scrape it off with a flexible spatula and gently replace it on the cake.
Place a towel over the cake and quickly flip it out of the pan. Remove the parchment and scrape of any filling that is stuck to it and put it back on the cake.

Roll the cake up starting with the short side. Do not let the towel roll into the cake but act as a guide. Lift it in the towel and set it on a serving plate, unrolling just enough so it isn't sitting on the towel, but tuck the towel in on the sides while the cake sets.
Roll up the cake. Don't sweat this - the cake is amazingly flexible and giving.
Use the towel to lift the cake onto a serving platter. Dust with more powdered sugar if desired.

After 20 minutes, remove the towel. Very pretty and already filled.

A slice of banana cake.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wedding Cake Preparations

Making a wedding cake means a trip to the hardware store.

Cutting rounds of foam core the size of the cake tiers.

I'm in the process of getting my supplies together for a wedding cake that I am making for a reception on April 6.

There will be upwards of 300 guests so my plan is to make a traditional four-tiered wedding cake and three additional large 14-inch two layer cakes.

Some of the things I did to prepare this past week included a trip to the hardware store for wood rounds which I'll turn into pretty cake bases with fabric and ribbon.

And, I bought 1/4-inch wood dowels which I'll use as supports for the cake layers. After the cake is assembled, I'll sharpen the end of a dowel the height of the entire cake and insert it down the center to stabilize every tier.

My preparations also included the cutting of a giant piece of foam core into rounds the size of each of the cake tiers. Each cake layer will be on foam core because it's a material the dowel will go through yet stay strong.

There's a lot to do and a lot to think about since the wedding is fast approaching and in the last few days I want to be able to just focus on baking a delicious cake.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mini Apple Pie Triangles

I had a roll of phyllo dough left over from making spanakopita and decided to use it to create these mini apple pies.

With the aid of a microwave for pre-cooking the apples, these delicious treats came together fast. I am a big fan of using phyllo dough because it crisps up in the oven just like it was deep fried without the greasiness, time and mess.

Two of these triangles and a scoop of good vanilla ice cream would make quite the elegant dessert.

Mini Apple Pie Triangles
makes 16 to 20 
1 roll phyllo dough (usually a box contains 2 rolls), defrosted and brought to room temperature
3 large apples, peeled and diced
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon flour
olive oil
cinnamon sugar (1 tablespoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the diced apple in a microwave safe bowl and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the apple starts to soften.

Add the ginger, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla and mix well. There should be quite a bit of juice at the bottom of the bowl. Add the tablespoon of flour and mix well. Return the mixture to the microwave and cook for 1 more minute.

Stir the mixture well. The mixture will be thick and sticky.

To assemble, lay out a piece of phyllo dough and drizzle it with olive oil.

Fold the phyllo dough into thirds and place a tablespoon of the apple mixture in the left bottom corner and drizzle a bit more olive oil on the dough. Fold the corner over to form a triangle and repeat folding all the way up to the top. This is just like folding a flag.

Place the triangle on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat until the apple mixture is gone.

Drizzle the tops of the triangles with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the triangles are crispy and dark brown.

Here are a few pictures to help demonstrate how to assemble the triangles:
Lay out the phyllo dough and drizzle with olive oil.

Fold the dough in thirds by folding one side over the center third of the dough.
Fold over the remaining third of the dough.

Add a tablespoon of the apple mixture in the bottom corner of the dough.

Add another drizzle of olive oil down the center of the strip. Fold the corner over the filling to form a triangle.

Fold the triangle straight up keeping the dough even on the side.

Repeat the folding all the way up the entire strip of dough until you have formed a neat triangle. It's just like folding a flag.

Place the triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Burgers Hot Off The Grill

Every burger came with a tidy pile of lettuce, onion, tomato and pickles thanks to super volunteer Leah who put them all together. Leah always works so carefully and lovingly, recognizing that a meal that is as beautiful as it is tasty means a lot to our guests.

Today's lunch of burgers on homemade buns and oven-roasted potatoes was one of the most labor intensive meals we've ever prepared at the Wednesday Community Meal.

I'm pretty sure every single volunteer who worked today is exhausted but pleased to have prepared and served 377 satisfying meals to our hungry guests.

The last time we served burgers on homemade buns, we made things a bit easier in the kitchen by serving them with a side of chips.

But today we had nearly 100 pounds of potatoes that were free from The Oregon Food Bank so we chose to utilize them and help keep our costs down.

Besides the extra work of cleaning and preparing the potatoes, roasting them took up a big portion of our oven space. With the homemade buns also needing to be baked, we decided to grill the hamburgers instead of cooking them in the ovens.

If it weren't for longtime volunteer Jeff, we would have been in real trouble. As soon as he came in, he got the grill up and running and grilled burgers throughout the entire lunch service. It was not an easy task but the grilled burgers sure did taste great.

In addition to the burgers and potatoes, we served bowls of hot soup and homemade apple cranberry crisp made in-house by Cheryl who is a longtime volunteer and our dessert specialist.

Homemade apple cranberry crisp with whipped cream.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

I know St. Patrick's Day was yesterday but I'm sharing my recipe for Irish Soda Bread today because I think it's a bread that should be baked and enjoyed year-round.

Soda bread is simple to make and tastes so good spread with a bit of butter. Serve the bread with soup and a salad and you've got a pretty great meal.

The recipe calls for self-rising flour which you can buy but it's much more economical to make it yourself. Self-rising flour is nothing but regular all-purpose flour combined with a bit of baking powder and salt.
Here's the recipe for homemade self-rising flour:

Self-Rising Flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

And, here's the recipe for Irish soda bread:

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 3 cups buttermilk
all-purpose flour for shaping the loaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the self-rising flour, baking soda and salt. Pour in enough buttermilk to moisten the ingredients and form a soft dough.

Turn half of the dough onto floured surface and pat into a round.
Patting out half of the dough.

Place the round on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Use a knife to score the top of the rounds into sixth's.
A round of soda bread scored and ready for the oven.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped with the fingers.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

The green color of the Swiss meringue mint buttercream makes these dark chocolate sandwich cookies perfect for your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

A bit of espresso powder in the cookie dough adds depth and enhances the flavor of the chocolate. And, the mint filling is light and refreshing.

Keep these cookies chilled until you are ready to serve.

Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookie Dough:
1 1/2  cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup Cocoa powder
2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until light, scraping down the bowl occasionally as needed.

Add the vanilla. Add the eggs. Add the sifted cocoa powder on low speed until combined.

Blend the flour, salt and espresso powder together and add to butter mixture until just combined.

Chill the dough for at least one hour before rolling.

Roll the dough until it is 1/4 of an inch thick and cut small rounds or squares.

Place the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and bake in a 325 degree oven for 6 minutes or until the cookies are matte but still soft.

Baked cookies just out of the oven. These cookies will be soft so be sure to let them cool a bit before transferring to a cooling rack.

Let the cookies cookies cool before moving to a cooking rack and let them cool completely before filling with mint buttercream.

Swiss Meringue Mint Buttercream:
3 large egg whites
1/2  cup granulated sugar
pinch teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring

Place the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and cream of tartar.

Place bowl over a double boiler on medium heat, stir frequently until the mixture is very hot (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move to mixer and whip whites on high for 2 to 3 minutes; turn down to medium low until cool (use the bowl as your guide).

In a separate bowl with a wooden spoon, stir butter to soften.

With mixer on medium/high speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, adding the next tablespoon just as the previous one is blended in. Once all the butter incorporated, add in vanilla, salt and peppermint and whip on high speed until fluffy. Add the coloring and put into a pastry bag to fill the cookies.

Filling the cookies.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Butterfly Cookies

These butterfly cookies take some time to make but they are not hard and I think the results are well worth it.

A large platter of these butterflies in various colors at a Spring gathering would be spectacular.

It's essential to be organized when you make these and have all your icing colors ready to go at once. The technique I used to decorate these is "wet on wet" which means as soon as your flood icing is on the cookie, it's time to add the details.

Here's how to make them:
Outline the cookies with piping consistency black icing and a #1 tip. Wait for the outline to dry before moving onto the next step. In the meantime, put the black icing in a sealed bag to keep it from drying out because you'll need it later.

Fill the bottom two sections with flood consistency yellow icing using a #1 tip.

Add a line of black icing on each side.

Use a sewing pin to draw through each line three times. I prefer a sewing pin to a skewer or toothpick for this because it creates a finer line. Be sure to wipe the pin clean after each swipe.

With flood consistency blue icing and a #1 tip, fill the top two sections.

Draw two yellow lines on each side and add a black line down the centers.

Use the sewing pin to draw through the lines.

Draw through the lines three times on each side. And again, be sure to wipe the pin clean after each swipe.

Add two yellow dots.

Add a smaller black dot on top of the yellow dots and they're done!