Friday, May 24, 2013

chocolate strawberry mini-cakes with mascarpone buttercream

One of my favorite gifts last Christmas was a $50 iTunes gift card.  It took me a mere millisecond to know  exactly what I was going to use it for!  Not too long ago, Donna Hay (how much do I love her recipes and food styling!) began offering her gorgeous magazines through the iPad Newsstand.  Since most of her physical older issues are sold out, this gave me the perfect opportunity to purchase them in virtual publication form.  Having every issue at my fingertips, and the newest June/July 2013 issue downloaded the day it came out, is a food lover's instant gratification.

Ironically, my very first blog post, Blueberry and Lemon Macarpone Tart, is also a Donna Hay recipe.  This incredible, sophisticated tart is requested by my friends all the time.  The sweet shortcrust pastry is my go-to recipe nearly every time I create's delicious, and never fails!

While considering a recipe to create for the May Chocolate Party from Roxana's Home Baking, strawberries being the scrumptious ingredient to be combined with chocolate, I decided it was time to try Donna Hay's Ultimate Chocolate Cake from her October/November 2011 issue.

A deep, dark, delectably moist chocolate will satisfy the upmost chocolate cake connoisseur!    To go along with the Chocolate Party theme, I decided to add plump, red strawberries.  They incorporate a lovely seasonal sweetness, and give the cake a charming touch, without adding much extra work.  When serving, you can slice the cake in a regular manner, or remove and serve each single layer individually from the tiered cakes.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend, remembering why we celebrate!

A final note...this original upstate New York girl, is making a big time, exciting life change!  After 31 years in Virginia, my next post will be coming to you from my new home - down south in Georgia.

Until next time...and one of my favorite, scrumptiously healthy eggplant entrĂ©es...mangia!  xox


Chocolate Strawberry Mini-Cakes with Mascarpone Buttercream
Cake Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Oct-Nov 2011
Frosting Recipe from a cup of mascarpone

Yields 2 - 4 mini-cakes depending on layers, and serves 8


for the chocolate mini-cakes:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa 
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks butter), room temperature
1 1/8 cups superfine sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt (if using unsalted butter)

for the mascarpone frosting:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2-3 teaspoons milk
9 - 10 strawberries, sliced (for layering and garnish)

Create the Chocolate Strawberry Mini-Cakes with Mascarpone Buttercream:

for the mini-cakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 4 - 4" mini-springform or mini-cake pans, and set aside (I used pans like these.

Place the cocoa and hot water in a bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add the sour cream into the cocoa mixture, and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 4 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well to combine.  Set the mixer to low speed, add the cocoa mixture, flour, and baking soda.  Beat until well combined.

Divide the mixture between the prepared 4 mini-pans.  Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cooled, trim the tops from the cakes to create a flat surface.  Slice each cake evenly into 2 horizontal slices.  This will yield 8 slices, which you can layer in any way you wish.  (I created 2 cakes with 3 layers, and 1 cake with 2 layers.)

for the mascarpone frosting:
Cream together the butter and mascarpone on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, add in vanilla. Gradually add in the sugar on low speed until all combined, increase speed to medium.  Add in milk, one teaspoon at a time to reach desired consistency.  Beat until light and fluffy.

layering the mini-cakes:
Set sliced strawberries on a paper towel to absorb any excess liquid.  Using a small frosting spatula, spread each cake layer with mascarpone buttercream.  You don't have to be perfect - that's the beauty of this type of cake.  Place sliced strawberries on top of frosting.  You will be able to fit 4 or 5 slices.  Repeat this process with remaining layers.

For garnishing the top layer, you can arrange with additional sliced strawberries, or a chocolate covered strawberry!

Carol's note:

I cut the original recipe in half to create my mini-cakes.  If you want to make an 8" or 9" regular size layered cake, double my recipe above.

Be sure to click the frog link at the bottom of my post to view all the talented blogger's May #chocolateparty Chocolate & Strawberry creations!

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

banana-pumpkin bread

As I stand in line at my local Starbuck's each morning waiting to announce my order, I always glance at the sweets case filled with breads, scones, and muffins, to see if they have anything new.  I have developed an excellent restraint from buying a treat with my non-fat latte; however, I stand there dreaming of ways I can develop some of their appetizing selections.

A couple months ago, I noticed the freshly piled platter of banana nut bread, sitting alongside the now year-round (smart move) pumpkin bread.  Adoring both of them, my mind started thinking of how delicious they would taste combined into one bread - a banana-pumpkin bread!

As I tend to do when I'm on a mission, came home and searched the internet for a recipe to adapt.  I found one from King Arthur Flour, a favorite source for recipes, and another from a delightful blogger friend, Kim, from Liv Life.  After creating the recipe twice, I took parts I liked from both, which came together into a very healthy, scrumptious Banana-Pumpkin Bread.

The bread is extremely moist, and full of delectable flavor!  It was suggested by KAF when completely cooled, to wrap in plastic wrap, and serve the following morning.  (I also refrigerated it.)  I didn't do this the first time, and it made such a difference in my second loaf.  The flavors blend together so nicely overnight.  I look forward to any do ahead recipes, so this definitely meets that criteria.

I was having a couple friends over for an afternoon coffee, and decided to play "dress-up"  with my banana-pumpkin bread for the occasion.  I used one of my classic stand-by cream cheese frosting recipes, and prior to my girlfriends arrival, liberally frosted the bread.  Down the center of the frosted bread, I piled cut banana slices from two bananas, and sprinkled chopped walnuts along the sides.  I completed it all with a colorful, fresh mint leaf stem.  The bread is totally delicious on its own, but the dressing up creates a beautiful specialty!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Banana-Pumpkin Bread
Yield:  1 loaf


for the bread:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs
1 cup pureed pumpkin (I used Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin)
1 cup ripe mashed banana, the riper the better
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or premium whole wheat flour (I used KAF premium whole wheat)
3 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 tablespoon turbinado (raw) sugar for sprinkling on top (or use frosting recipe)

for a cream cheese frosting topping:  (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
chopped walnuts and sliced bananas for garnish (optional)
fresh mint leaf stem (optional)

Create the Banana-Pumpkin Bread:

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" bread pan.

2)  In a large bowl, beat together the oil, yogurt, sugar, honey, eggs, pumpkin, banana, orange juice, and vanilla.

3)  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the walnuts over the top, if using.  Fold the dry ingredients into the banana pumpkin mixture, and mix just until combined.

4)  Spoon the mixture into the prepared bread pan, sprinkle with the turbinado sugar (if not using frosting), and allow to rest for 15 minutes before placing in oven.

5)  Bake for 53 - 58 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  (The bread in my photos took 55 minutes.)  Remove from the oven and cool on rack in pan for 10 - 15 minutes.  Remove from the pan and continue cooling on rack.  When completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.  Best served the following day.

Create the Cream Cheese Frosting (if using):

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Add confectioners sugar, and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. Spread over top of completely cooled bread.  Garnish with bananas, chopped nuts and fresh mint leaf stem, just before serving, if desired.

Carol's notes:
  • If you wish, in place of 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, you can use 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.
  • Frost and garnish the bread prior to serving.  I made the entire cream cheese recipe above, and had a small amount remaining.  If you don't want it as thick as I created it, you can easily cut the recipe in half.
  • The bread freezes very well, with or without the frosting.  For an individual serving, with a sharp knife, slice from the frozen loaf, and allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Bread recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour and Liv Life.  The Cream Cheese Frosting is from A Cup Of Mascarpone's basic recipes.

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

chocolate hazelnut shortbread

Nutella...dark chocolate...shortbread...OH MY!!!

As a longtime follower of the unrivaled blog, Yummy Mummy Kitchen, the day Marina Delio's cookbook, The Yummy Mummy Kitchen, was released, I was in my kitchen patiently waiting, and listening for the sound of the UPS truck. I knew the truck would be carrying my much anticipated, pre-ordered copy from Amazon.

I anxiously ripped open the box!  I was immediately drawn to the front cover and "100 Effortless And Irresistible Recipes To Nourish Your Family With Style And Grace," which couldn't have been expressed more appropriately! Style and grace...not only describes the cookbook, but also the author!  A hand-signed bookplate from Marina (see bottom of post), which she graciously sent everyone with verification of their pre-order, arrived a few days later, and adorns the beautiful grass green inside front cover!

I literally created this "yummy" shortbread the day of my cookbook's arrival.  A simple recipe, with ingredients already in my pantry, I put the rolls of dough in the fridge to chill, and went right back to browsing the gorgeous cookbook!  Did you notice I said rolls?  As in two!  I doubled the recipe, knowing it was going to be fabulous, and had someone in mind to surprise with a special sophisticated baked gift!

Placing all the ingredients in a bowl, and mixing them up with my hands, as instructed, what a pleasure it was cleaning off my fingers afterwards!  Yum!!  The following morning, I removed the rolls from the fridge, sliced and baked!

Created with a couple of my best-loved ingredients, in one of my favorite cookie varieties, the distinctive hazelnut flavor of Nutella, the smooth, creamy chunks of deep, dark chocolate, and the tinge of saltiness from the fleur de sel (or sea salt), make this shortbread unforgettable.

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread is absolutely delightful...for the most elegant of occasions, a lovely gift, or to accompany an afternoon cup of espresso.

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread
Makes about 15 cookies


1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nutella
1 ounce or 1/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped (I used Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao Dark Chocolate)
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, or a good-quality course sea salt

Create the Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread:

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together with your hands.  Shape into a 2-inch wide log on a large piece of plastic wrap.  Tightly wrap and refrigerate over-night, or at least 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/4-inch slices.  Place the slices on the cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  The cookies should be just set, not crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.

Carol's note:

After taking my photos, I tried a little something extra.  Having a bottle of Frangelico on hand, an Italian hazelnut liqueur, I decided to create a Frangelico glaze, and drizzled it on half of my doubled recipe.  This is definitely not necessary, but an added sweet deliciousness to the shortbread, for a little change of pace! :)

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Frangelico
1 tablespoon milk (or another tablespoon Frangelico)

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  Add a little more or less of the dry or liquid ingredients to reach a desired consistency.  Place the shortbread on a wire rack with parchment underneath to catch the drippings.  Drizzle the Frangelico glaze over the shortbread, and allow to dry.

Follow on Bloglovin