Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blood Orange Basil Olive Oil Cake

Wow, that was a mouth full of a title. 


This was my first attempt at an olive oil cake and I really liked it.  This is the cake to make when you probably shouldn't be eating cake.  I like to think of it as "healthy," since it does have fruit and olive oil in it!  If you are looking for something more on the decadent side, I highly recommend trying this or this or just eat a stick of butter.  Just kidding...sort of.

But really, this cake is light and airy, with a hit of tart blood orange citrus accented with basil olive oil.  If you are looking for the perfect light dessert to complement a hearty dinner, this is for you!

Blood Orange Basil Olive Oil Cake
adapted from Epicurious

3/4 cup basil olive oil, plus additional for greasing pan
1 tbsp. blood orange zest
1/3 cup blood orange juice (2-3 oranges)
1 cup cake flour
5 large egss, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350.  Grease 9" springform pan with some oil, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough orange zest to measure 1 tbsp and whisk together with flour.  Halve orange, then squeeze and reserve 1/3 cup fresh juice (you might need to use 2 or 3 oranges to get enough).

Note:  Do not wear your favorite white shirt when squeezing these babies.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil and reserved orange juice, beating until just combined.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not over beat, remember you want it to be light and airy!) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 tsp. salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters (I transferred the flour mixture to a different bowl and cleaned out my KitchenAid bowl and beater) at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Fold egg whites into yolk mixture gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

I garnished my cake with whipped cream and a sprig of basil.  If you have never made your own whipped cream, I beg of you, stop whatever you are doing right now and go do it!  It is easy and so much better than the stuff in the spray can (and yes, I realize that stuff is darn good too!).  

Adding the sprinkle of sugar on top gives it a subtle crunch as you take a bite!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Nothing says happy birthday more than layers of dense fudgy cake sandwiched between clouds of super fluffy, marshmallow frosting.  

So, Happy Birthday, Dad!  

We were lucky enough to head home for the weekend to celebrate with my parents.  This cake is a Dorie Greenspan classic from her famous cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours.  The family agreed it tastes like a more delicious version of the Hostess Ho Ho.  We ate ours chilled, which I think brought out the deep chocolaty flavors and sweet marshmallowy filling.   

Divide batter evenly between two 8 inch pans.  I use a kitchen scale.
Use cake strips to prevent the "dome effect" in your baked cake.

Be sure to rotate your tray half way through to ensure even baking.

Cakes are done when they are springy to the touch.

Mad scientist time!  Warning:  This part takes awhile!

Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, it will soon be covered with more gooey frosting and cake crumbs!

I swirled the frosting by holding an offset spatula against the cake and slowly rotating my cake turn table.

The cake crumb decor is very forgiving.

Do I have to wait till Dad blows out the candles before I dig in?!
If you are relatively new to the baking scene, I highly recommend this cookbook.  It has tons of great recipes for cakes, cookies, breakfast treats, ice cream and more!  The directions are simple and straight forward, but the results are out of this world!

Monday, March 21, 2011


Did anyone else see the supermoon over the weekend? Yeh, me either. But, many of the pictures I saw were stunning. It was the biggest and brightest moon in 18 years! *Side Note-18 years ago was 1993, how is that possible? I thought 1993 was just yesterday.*

Anyway, when Greg first mentioned this phenomenon, my mind immediately turned to what food would be fun to celebrate. Naturally, my first thought was, MoonPies! Did you know the MoonPie has been around since 1917? Originally distributed to hungry coal miners, it soon became known as part of "the working man's lunch." In the 1960's, MoonPie makers developed the double decker in order to fit their product in the new vending machines of the time. My thoughts are, why have one layer when you can have two?

Thus, my mission to create a homemade (Super)MoonPie began. This recipe begins with a sweet, honey-kissed graham cracker base. I based my recipe on one I found on Smitten Kitchen. I halved her recipe in an effort to save my waistline and was able to cut 15 rounds, which translates to 5 double decker cookies, more than enough!

I also used light brown sugar instead of dark and decreased the bake time to about 10 minutes to keep the crackers a little bit softer than the traditional graham cracker.

How satisfying to make something that I once thought could only be purchased at the store!

Use a spatula to gently transfer the cookies to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Dough will be sticky so use flour as needed.

These cookies are great on their own. I'm sure they would also be good smeared with jam!

For the filling, I simply heated about a half a jar of marshmallow creme and added a heaping tablespoon between each layer. *This is where the recipe takes a turn toward the decadent!*

Then I melted about 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips to encase the entire cookie. Here is where it got a little bit tricky. Because the chocolate can only get so thinned before it burns, you might notice it isn't the smoothest coating. If (when) I make these again, I will probably take the time to make ganache, which is essentially heated heavy cream mixed with chocolate to create a smooth, silky coating.


I let mine chill and set up for a bit in the fridge before diving in! The sweet marshmallow creme softens up the lightly crisp graham crackers and the chocolate blends the flavors into a taste experience sure to bring back childhood memories of this yummy treat. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the Lighter Side

After moving only a week ago, Greg and I have already been spoiled with several days of beautiful spring weather here in St. Louis. We live across the street from a park and have been taking advantage of it on a daily basis. We've been walking, running (ok rogging, my version of the run-jog-try-not-to-die-because-you-haven't-worked-out-in-a-month, you know what I'm talking about), or biking almost every day and it actually has me thinking about healthy eating. Between wrapping up our old jobs, traveling to England and moving 400 miles away we've pretty much been living on fast food for about a month now. I know this rarely happens (those who know me know that I could *almost* live off of fast food and diet coke) but I actually started craving fruits and vegetables and good ol' home cooked food.

Fast forward to my first trip to the grocery store since moving into our new house. Although the layout of the store was new, I felt oddly at home amongst all the familiar produce options. The tall, slender asparagus bundles, crates of bright orange clementines and bunches of leafy romaine bursting from the shelves gave me a sense of calm I hadn't felt in weeks. The inspiration for a delicious salad came in the form of some of the most juicy, luscious looking strawberries I have laid eyes on since the peak of last year's strawberry season.

With my cart full and my heart happy, I headed home to make dinner. That container of strawberries never made it into the salad, but instead went straight to our tummies. So, another trip to the grocery store and another pound of strawberries later, it was time for action. I've been using balsamic dressing on my salads for ages but recently I've been reading about people using a balsamic reduction and wondered what the difference was between the two. A quick google search later and my research was complete. A balsamic reduction is simply a boiled down version of balsamic vinegar mixed with a touch of sugar. For me, simplicity is key on these precious warm spring days so this salad has only a few ingredients but boy do they pack a punch!

Summer Spinach Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Serves 2

- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- 4-6 large strawberries, sliced
- handful of blueberries
- 1/4 c. blue cheese crumbles
- 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. sugar

To make the balsamic reduction put about 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of sugar to the mix and reduce to medium heat. (I give these measurements as rough estimates, but I basically put in a few good glugs of balsamic and a few pinches of sugar.) Stir the mixture frequently and keep an eye on it because it can go from sweet and syrupy to thick and burned very quickly. I would suggest taking it off about 3-5 minutes before you think it's done because it seemed to thicken up more as it cooled.
While your balsamic reduction cools, divide the spinach onto chilled plates and top with strawberries, blueberries and blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction (don't go overboard here, a little bit goes a long way). Enjoy!

Branching out: After tasting this recipe, we both thought it was delicious as is. However, it is a great recipe for add-ins or substitutions such as toasted walnuts, dried cranberries or thinly sliced pears.