Baking · Dessert

Orange Almond Ricotta Cake

This is a lovely pound cake – you can use sour cream or yogurt in place of ricotta, as cheaper alternatives, or if you prefer a bit of tang in your sweets.

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ricotta, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tbs orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (1-2) oranges
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly roasted
  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tbs orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Step one:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and arrange slivered almonds on a baking sheet. Cook for 5 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool. Turn up the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, ricotta, and orange juice. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

Spoon the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla and orange zest together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Top with roasted almonds and powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Baking · Dessert · Mediterranean

Pistachio Cardamom Cake

This recipe is recipe based off one from Martha Stewart, although I strongly doubt she was intrinsically versed in Middle-Eastern baking. Pistachio is ever-present in Southern Italian baking, and rosewater to a certain degree, but most likely those are due to the influence of the Moors and Middle-Eastern traders.

The more I learn and read about baking and cooking, the more I believe it is important to be aware of ingredients and their origins and give credit where it is due. i.e. I can’t pretend I just “discovered” cardamom or these flavor combinations. Rather, I am already a pistachio lover and come by it honestly, but have really been enjoying baking new recipes and exploring cardamom in my desserts.

You will need:

  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • Topping
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp rose water

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan. In a food processor, grind pistachios until finely ground.
  • Prepare dry ingredients: Whisk pistachos, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom in a bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare wet ingredients: Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour in two batches, alternating with buttermilk. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  • Cool cake pan on a a wire rack set over parchment paper. After 30 minutes, turn cake out onto rack and cool completely. While the cake is cooling, whisk confectioner’s sugar,milk and and rose water until smooth. Use milk to adjust desired consistency. Pour over the top of the cake.

Baking · Dessert

Chocolate Coffee Cake

According to my mother, chocolate cake recipes are always better with coffee as an enhancing ingredient.  I think the coffee in this cake is perfect, as the flavors enhance each other and make it somehow even more chocolatey. This recipe is adapted from Barefoot Contessa, and I’ve yet to find a better recipe for rich, intense, chocolate cake than this one. If I have ever made chocolate cake for you – this is the recipe. We have used it for years, without fail.

Because it so rich, you may want to consider using minimal icing. I usually bake this in a bundt, and either top with powdered sugar or simple chocolate ganache. This is also a great chocolate layer cake, in which you may want to consider a chocolate buttercream frosting.

You will need:

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)*

Steps:

  1. Preheat – preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease & Flour two 8-inch round cake pans or one bundt pan.
  2. Prepare dry Ingredients-  Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Prepare wet Ingredients – In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.  With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake – Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. If using 8 inch cake pans, bake for 26-28 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. If using a bundt pan, bake for 42-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Decorate – After the cake is completely cooled, you can decorate in a variety of ways:
    1. Simply dust with confectioner’s sugar
    2. Chocolate ganache – whisk 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tbs of cream over low-medium heat. This is good for a bundt cake.
    3. Chocolate buttercream frosting – see instructions below. This is ideal for layers.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  1. 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate
  2. 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  3. 1 egg yolk, room temp
  4. 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  5. 1 Tbs instant coffee

Steps:

  1. Melt chocolate in a double broiler or in a pyrex bowl over simmering water.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes.
  3. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  4. Dissolve the coffee in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t overwhip. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
Baking · Dessert · Italian

Classic Almond Biscotti

There are many different versions of biscotti floating around on the internet, some traditional and some experimental. Some are geared more towards the American palette (think lots of chocolate and sugar) and other towards the simpler, traditional fare for coffee dunking. I tend to prefer my biscotti for drinking with my coffee and prefer to ease up on the sugar, but then again there are times a dark chocolate biscotti with orange call me like a siren. Fun fact: my all time favorite biscotti flavor is pistachio. But in the end, I truly love a classic almond, as well. I think, in the end, there is a great versatility with this recipe: they can be standalone or you can add chocolate or other elements fairly easily.

This recipe can be modified as you see fit. The alcohol provides a depth to the flavor of the cookie. Be sure to add almond extract to achieve the almond flavor.

Time: 3 hours (including chilling & cooling). Actual assembly time is around 30 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen

You will need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, unsalted & lightly toasted
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional combinations:
  • Dark or milk chocolate – you can add as chips or melt to dunk one side of the cookie when finished.
  • Roasted pistachio (1 cup) & dried cranberries (1/2 cup). Use orange zest rather than lemon.
  • Anise – use 1/2 tsp anise extract rather than almond extract.

Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer almonds on a sheet pan and toast for 3-5 minutes. Check the almonds every minute to ensure they do not become overcooked. Color should be very light brown. Cool.

Step two:

Blend melted butter, sugar, amaretto, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined. Add almonds.

Step three:

Chill the dough for 30 minutes to ensure that it is easier to work with.

Step four:

Wet your hands (this makes shaping easier) and halve the chilled dough and form 2  loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet. I recommend getting a bowl of water and dipping your hands and rubbing them together; then immediately shape the loaves with your wet hands.

Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Allow the loaves to cool for five minutes on the baking sheet. Remove the loaves (I use a pizza spatula) and cool on a wire rack for and additional 15 minutes.

Cut the loaves with a serrated bread knife.

Step five:

Place biscotti (cut-side down) on a clean baking sheet and bake another 15-20 minutes. The color should be light golden.

Cool the biscotti on a wire rack.

Baking · Central American · Dessert · Spanish

Tres Leches

There are many iterations of Tres Leches that vary according to country and tradition. Regardless of recipe, tres leches is essentially a cake soaked in three types of milk (evaporated, condensed, and cream). While soaked sponges is far from new (i.e. rum cakes or tiramisu), tres leches utilizes canned milk, which became popular in the 20th century. Several writers trace the cake’s origins to Mexico, but it quickly became popular in Central and Latin America. The recipe that follows is an adaptation from my former colleague who is from Venezuela. Years ago, we had a tres leches bake-off, and out of all the recipes we have tried, hers was the clear and proven winner. This is a very simple, but very delicious recipe. Although it fast to bake and assemble, you will need several hours for cooling and chilling.

For the cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 200g sugar (1 cup)
  • 200g flour (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon, for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C).
  2. Cream butter & sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until fluffy and light. Add in flour and baking powder, and beat until well-blended. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
  3. Prick the baked cake multiple time with a fork and allow to cool completely. After the cake has cooled, blend condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Drizzle over the cooled cake and allow it to rest in the fridge for several hours (2-2/12 hours). This will allow the cake to expand and absorb the liquid.
  4. Beat remaining cream (2 cups) with confectioners sugar and vanilla until stiff. Layer onto the cooled cake and dust with cinnamon. Serve chilled.
Baking · Dessert

Easy Tarte Citron

Tarte Citron is one of those classic desserts that are deceptively simple, yet take a lifetime to master. What follows is a much EASIER and quicker tarte citron that I promise you will enjoy. A few months ago, I ran a taste test with both the traditional method and this version, and we found that we liked both equally. The French version was more refined, but this version was creamier and a bit more decadent.

Now, if I wanted to impress someone and make homemade pastry, I would go for the classic. But often, I don’t want to make homemade pastry or do bain-maries, I just want a gorgeous lemony tart. As a result, there many shortcuts (i.e. the crust) and using condensed milk instead of creating a custard. That said, I recommend making sure the lemons are fresh squeezed, if possible. We love it, and I hope you do too.

Time: prep – 30 minutes, total – 2 hours

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs or 5 graham crackers crushed
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 egg yolks, large
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (two large lemons)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack on the lower level. Arrange pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Let cool. Juice your lemons.
  2. In a food processor or blender, finely grind the graham crackers, sugar & pecans. Add the butter and combine.
  3. Press this pecan mix into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned (around 7-8 minutes).
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with condensed milk, and stir in lemon juice. Pour filling into the crust and bake until the filling is set (15-16 minutes).
  5. Cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour.
Baking · Dessert

Coconut Ricotta Cake

We have a deep-seated love for coconut and ricotta in this house, so it was a matter of time before we made this cake. This cake is essentially a pound cake, with ricotta added as a creamy element. I prefer to use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan for presentation. I never used a bundt pan growing up (shout out to My Big Fat Greek Wedding), but now I am mildly obsessed when I see how pretty cakes can be.

I often use the coconut-almond vanilla glaze when making this for other people. However, when I want to make this less sweet for home, I skip the glaze and simply dust with powdered sugar. The result is a very creamy edible cake that has become a family favorite.

Total Time: one and 1/2 hours

Ease of Recipe: medium

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups ricotta, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs coconut extract
  • 1 cup roasted coconut, divided
  • 1/2 cup roasted slivered almonds

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or 1/2 and 1/2

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Roast coconut and slivered almonds for 5 minutes until light golden brown. Check frequently to ensure they do not burn. Pull from oven and cool.

Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, coconut extract and ricotta. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/2 cup of roasted coconut. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

Spoon the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and cream together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Top with the remaining coconut and slivered almonds. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

Baking · Dessert

Lavender Tea Cake

In no way is this a family recipe, but an homage to my mother’s undying love for all things British and Downton Abbey. There are a variety of versions of this recipe on the Internet, so I cannot claim credit. We modified this and made this for her birthday – and find ourselves making it from time to time when lavender is in season. 

One appeal of this recipe is that it is VERY easy to assemble, and it is not too sweet. The texture is a bit bready, and is perfect for afternoon tea.

You will need

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 tbs fresh chopped lavender or 1 tbs dried lavender
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Combine the milk and lavender in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a simmer, then remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.

Step two:

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Step three:

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and lavender until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.

Step four:

Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a wooden pick inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Enjoy.

Baking · Dessert

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have been baking this cake all December for other people to enjoy. I think with Christmas being on a much smaller scale, I am trying to find ways to show appreciation and love to people I hold dear, but can’t necessarily see. Under normal circumstances, I would be sharing this with others, laughing, celebrating the holidays, and feeling rushed. This year is quiet and offers time to be more introspective and appreciative of the relationships that we do have.

This is not my recipe, but one of my absolute favorites I have adapted from Barefoot Contessa. I do several things differently; first, I like to use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan for presentation. Another is that I don’t add the nuts to the streusel (I left it here in case you prefer it that way). I often use the maple glaze when making this for other people. However, when I want to make this less sweet for home, I skip the glaze and simply dust with powdered sugar.

The result is a very creamy edible coffee cake (or anytime cake) that pleases everyone. We fall back on it for presents to other people, mother’s day, and any occasion that calls for cake. It is a personal family favorite – it is rich, comforting and lovely.

Total Time: one and 1/2 hours

Ease of Recipe: medium

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the streusel:
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the nuts.

Step four:

Sprinkle half of the streusel in the bottom of the bundt pan. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with the rest of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Baking · Dessert

Homemade Whipped Cream

All you need is three ingredients and this incredibly versatile topping. I use this for cakes, pies, and my personal favorite, served alongside fresh strawberries.

Total Time: 15 minutes

You will need:

  • A hand mixer and a bowl (chilled, if you have time)
  • I cup – Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream (cold)
  • Confectioner’s Sugar, to taste (2 tbs – 1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla, to taste (1/2 – 1 tsp)

Begin with cold cream – the colder the cream, the lighter the result. Whip your mixture for about 10-15 minutes, until medium peaks have formed.

Chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Serve with fresh fruit or use to top a cake or pie.