February 16, 2010

Valentine's cake


I love Valentine's day.  I may be single but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the day.  It just means more chocolate for me. :)  This year I decided to make a ho-ho cake like my mom used to do.  This type of cake is our typical birthday cake, but when I was in middle school, my mom used to make heart shaped cupcakes every Valentine's with the same ho-ho recipe.  Me, well I hate making cupcakes so went with the heart cake instead.  The reason we call it a ho-ho cake is because it is similar to a ho-ho in that it is a dark chocolate cake with what we dubbed mock twinkie filling in the layers.  Its covered in a chocolate ganache and then we decorate it with the family icing.  It's insanely rich and chocolately and scrumdiddlyumptious .  Most of my friends could never finish a whole piece of cake it was so rich.  Me, I not only finish it, but I usually add a dollop of icing on the side because the decorations are never enough.  The icing is a family recipe but its pretty much your typical American decorator's buttercream.  Nothing too fancy but man is it good!

Obviously this cake can be made in any cake pan, I used an old heart wedding cake pan with 2 inch sides so I ended up cutting the cake in 3 layers, but two basic 8-9 inch pans each sliced in half works just as well.  (Maybe even better since thicker cakes need to bake longer resulting in a less moist cake) .... the cake is a mix.  *gasp*  I know, shame on me pastry student using a mix!  Personally I have no problem with cake mixes.  Honestly they are usually moister than scratch cakes. I grew up eating Duncan Hines, so when I want a basic cake flavor I use them and I'm not ashamed of it either.  This one was a devil's food cake with added vanilla and cocoa powder.  The water was adjusted too because of the extra dryer, but hey plain old devil's food is good all by itself. 

Cake - use a mix or make your favorite chocolate cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white shortening
1 tsp vanilla
approximately 1 lb powdered sugar (sifted)
some water

Cream together butter and shortening about 1 minute.  Add vanilla and about a tablespoon of water.  Add powdered sugar slowly adjusting the water if it's too thick then whip.  Check your flavor and constancy.  Add more vanilla if you you feel its too plain, add more sugar if its too thin or more water if its too thick.

This recipe is really basic, and can be thinned to ice a cake or made thicker to do flowers and such.  After you've made it a a few times you get used to it and learn how to adjust it.  If you want to add color, add it before the powdered sugar to get an even mixing keeping in mind it will lighten as you add the sugar.

Mock Twinkie Filling
1 cup milk
5 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup white shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Mix flour and milk in sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisking constantly, heat until just comes to a boil.  It will be pretty thick.  Cool to room temperature whisking every now and then to prevent a skin from forming.
Cream butter and shortening.  Add cooled milk and flour mixture, and all other ingredients.  Beat until fluffy.

I colored the filling a pale pink or you can leave it white. 

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate of your choice

Bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate that is in a heat proof bowl.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Whisk until smooth, but not too briskly or you'll add air bubbles to it.  Be gentle with your chocolate! 

I used 60% bittersweet chocolate chips because I had it on hand.  Dark chocolate works best with this recipe, but any chocolate will do.

After cake has cooled at least overnight, level your cake and cut your layers.  (you can skip the leveling if you like the old-fashioned domed look.)  Evenly divide the mock twinkie filling between the two layers.  I used a bit more on the top layer because I for some reason cannot divide in half evenly =P  wrap in plastic wrap and chill either in the freezer for about an hour or fridge for 2-4 hours.  You can skip the chilling, I just prefer to let the cake set a bit before doing the ganache.  It seems to coat the sides better for some reason.  After its done chilling, set cake on a cooling rack that is on sheet pan lined with parchment. This will catch the run off of ganache and you can save it to use for something else. Prepare the ganache.  Ladle the ganache in the center of the cake and keep adding till it begins to fall off the sides.  With an offset spatula, push the ganache to the sides so its not too thick in the center and is level.  The ganache should run off the sides evenly.  If you need more on a spot on the side, just pour it on top by that section and coax it off with the spatula.  Chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge before decorating.  You can decorate it however you like; I sprinkled red sugar around the edges before the ganache completely set.  Then I piped small hearts around and did a pearl border.  My mom used to do roses on the cupcakes, or you can leave it completely un-iced.  That's up to you!  This cake should be kept refrigerated because of the ganache and the Twinkie filling is better cold.

February 9, 2010

First Meyer lemons of the year (for me anyway)

As is obvious from the name of this blog, I enjoy lemons, a lot.  So I thought it fitting that the first actual recipe entry would be that of a lemon recipe. Plus I read about Lemon Lovefest  and thought well, heck I should enter that!  They have a archive of lemon recipes as well found here.

I made a Meyer lemon cheesecake last weekend purely out of convenience.  What? How is a cheesecake convenient?  Well my sister decided to try a new diet in which she eats mostly egg white omelets for breakfast so I told her to save the yolks and I’d make a lemon curd with them.  (I hate wasting food, drives me nuts.)  This recipe just so happens to have a layer of curd under the cheesecake for lemony goodness and I’d bought the lemons a few days before hand because they were the first Meyer lemons I’d seen in the store.  Therefore I had almost everything I needed already at home.  All I needed was the cream cheese.  So low and behold, Meyer Lemon Cheesecake!  I adapted a key lime cheesecake recipe found here at epicurious.com I made last year for my mom’s birthday to get this wonderful concoction and I’m positive that regular lemons could be used as well, it would just be a bit more tart.  I’m thinking that next time I try this I’ll do a layer of raspberry jam instead of the curd or maybe with the curd since raspberry lemon is so freaking awesome too. 

On a side note I was ¼ cup short on my graham crackers so I added some crushed Meyer lemon thins (cookies) from Trader Joe’s to my crust. It gave a nice lemony taste to the crust, or you could add some lemon zest.  Those cookies could be used as decoration.  

My favorite thing about this cheesecake is the sour cream topper.  I’ve never had a cheesecake with a topper like it before.  I remember it was especially nice for the key lime version of this because it cuts the tartness really well.  For the Meyer lemon version here it would be easy enough to just leave the topper off if it doesn’t suit your fancy because its not overly tart.  My dad kinda hated to topper so he left it to the side and just ate the rest of the cheesecake, but everyone else really liked the richness it added.  This recipe was really easy to make and as long as you have the water bath you shouldn’t have any cracking problems.  If you like lemons, and especially if you also like cheesecake you will love this recipe!

Lemon custard
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 whole graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel


  • 1 16-ounce container sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
crushed lemon drops and/or lemon slices to decorate

For lemon custard:
Whisk all ingredients in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until custard thickens and boils for 30 seconds, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (mixture will thicken).
For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap 2-3 layers of foil around outside of 8- to 8 1/2-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Butter pan.
Add dry crust ingredients in a large bag.  Pour in melted butter and combine.  Pour into  pan and press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.
For filling:
Beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth 2-3 minutes with a stand mixer.  Add 2/3 cup sugar and mix well.  Add eggs one at a time incorporating well, then add lemon juice and lemon peel in blend well.  Or you can use a food processor and do it all at once.  It’s a slightly runny filling.

Spoon custard into crust; smooth top. Carefully spoon filling over. Set cheesecake in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to baking pan to come 1 inch up sides of cheesecake pan. Bake until almost set but not puffed and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, stir sour cream and 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. 

Carefully spoon sour cream mixture over hot cheesecake; smooth top. Bake until topping sets, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen. Cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Keep refrigerated.  Garnish with crushed lemon drops or lemon slices and serve.

p.s. My sister, Abby Hathaway took the pictures for me.  She's a professional photographer and the pics are linked to her website.  Now you don't have to look at my fuzzy pictures, isn't that nice?

Click Here!

February 5, 2010

So I met a chocolate rock star

On Monday, February 1st I volunteered through my school to assist Robert Bennett with a demo on chocolate basics. Robert Bennett is a chocolate Ambassador with Callebaut chocolates, owner of AHBFoods and has been in the chocolate and pastry business for 26 years. He’s also a really nice guy. Robert explained everything he was doing in full detail and answered all of our questions. He then told us that if we ever have any questions to just send him an email, neato!

I didn’t really get to do much for the volunteer gig, mostly just wash dishes afterward, but it was really cool to see him work with chocolate up close and hear some of his tips and ideas. Like about making tulip cups. Those things can get pretty pricy if you buy them pre-made but he showed us all how to make them ourselves by simply blowing up a water balloon as tight as you can and then dipping that in chocolate, hitting all the points of a compass to get the petals. After it’s hardened, don’t pop the balloon but cut it so it deflates gently, otherwise you’ll break the shell. Then voila! Tulip cup!
Another interesting trick, especially for using chocolate scraps - take food grade bubble wrap, pour chocolate over it, spread evenly, then harden. Peel off the bubble wrap, fill in the bubbles with your favorite filling and cap it with some chocolate that you place on acetate. Once it’s hardened pull off the acetate and break it into chunks or keep as a block and eat up!

For volunteering to help, the Callebaut sales rep brought us pastry tool kits from the company. It was a nice way to end the quarter.

February 3, 2010

Allow me to introduce myself...

This is my own little slice of pastry blogging. Now I know food blogging is old news, and technically so is pastry blogging since there are certainly people out there talking just about desserts, but I have yet to hear of someone actually calling it pastry blogging. So that’s what this is – just desserts. Yes, I do enjoy cooking and reading others’ food blogs, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to entice your sweet tooth, to destroy your diet and to, in general, make your life delicious.

For your first course, here’s some general information about me. My name is Betsy and I’m a pastry student in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve been baking since I was old enough to stand on a chair and steal cookie dough. I grew up with homemade goodies and think everyone’s life is better with a little sugar in it. I like lemon desserts the best (hence my blog address) with chocolate coming in at strong second. I hope to one day work in sugar and chocolate and don’t really have much desire to be my own boss. I like the idea of working for someone else. (People always ask if I want to own a cake shop when I tell them I’m in pastry school - no thank you.)

For the second course, why am I here? This blog is a chance for me to share my baking experiences both at school and at home with others. To exchange recipes, to weep over broken souffl├ęs, and to eat up all the advice I can get from those more experienced than I. It just seems like a good idea to show people what I can do and to not be afraid to admit when things just don’t turn out. Plus it gives me an excuse to take pictures of my work to show to future employers. (And for my bad photography skills I do apologize in advance.)

And finally the third course, the best – dessert. It’s just pure fun.