Monday, March 22, 2021

Swim and Dive Team Cookies

 I made these cookies for my boys' high school swim & dive team awards ceremony.

They definitely took some time, as making 80-some cookies will do. But I am really proud of how they turned out.

When 14-year-olds give their mom a compliment... it's worth it!

What You Need:
   (or both)
Optional: silver shimmer dust and red petal dust

I got the idea here. And it's the little details that make a difference. You can see in the photo above what a difference the sparkling and dusting powder make. (I added silver sparkling powder to the goggles and red dusting powder (no sparkle) to the cheeks.)


Happy Swim Season!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Brown Butter Shortbread Cookie Sandwiches {Recipe}


These adorable shortbread cookie sandwiches remind me of a Milano cookie... but they're wayyyy better. I mean, brown butter... that's all you need, right?
 
What You Need:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 Tbsp heavy cream (divided)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)
Yield: 2-3 dozen cookie sandwiches. (I used a 1-1/2" round cutter, so I got about 30.)

Make the Cookie Dough

Melt two sticks of butter on medium heat in a light-colored pan. (This is important because you need to see the color change.) 
Stirring constantly, watch the butter as it first forms a white foam...

Then gets separated and very bubbly and spluttery...

Then the bits begin to turn light brown on the bottom of the pan.
REMOVE from the heat immediately, when the browning happens. It can burn quickly. You will smell a major difference when it starts to brown. It smells like heaven.

Immediately pour into a small heatproof bowl. Set in the refrigerator to cool to room temperature. (You could also set over a bowl of ice water.) You want it to be the consistency of softened butter before you add the remaining ingredients. 
If you do not wait, your cookies WILL NOT TURN OUT!

When the butter has set, add 2 Tbsp. of heavy cream and beat with mixer until creamy. Add 3/4 cup powdered sugar and seeds from 1 vanilla bean, and mix until combined. 

On the lowest speed, add 2 1/4 cups flour and 1 tsp. salt. Mix until coarse crumbs form. 
You want to mix this as little as possible. The more you mix or knead it, the more you build up gluten, and the cookies get tough and chewy, not crispy and airy.

Using your hands, press the dough into a ragged ball in the bowl. Dump out onto a lightly floured board, and knead very gently into a disk about 2-3" thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees (F). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly-floured board, roll to 1/4" thick, and cut into shapes. Arrange on the baking sheets. (These should not spread, so you can place them rather close together.) Place baking sheets into the freezer, and let freeze for 15 minutes. Bake at 325-degrees (F) for 12-16 minutes, until the edges are barely turning golden brown. You may want to rotate your pans halfway through baking to ensure they're evenly baked, if your oven doesn't cook evenly.


Let cookies cool completely.


While the cookies cool, make the ganache filling. Heat 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) heavy cream for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Immediately add 4 oz. chopped chocolate to the hot cream and let set for 30 seconds.
Mix with a small whisk or fork... it will look separated and gross at first, but will then come together as a beautiful, gorgeous ganache. You need to let it set until it is the consistency of thick pudding before you can make the cookie sandwiches.


Add 1 tsp. of the thickened ganache to one cookie, and press the other cookie into the top. 
Let them set for 15-20 more minutes before serving, or the ganache will squirt out.

Alternative flavors for the filling:
- Add oil-based flavorings to the ganache to make mint-chocolate, raspberry-chocolate, orange-chocolate, etc.
- Use a thick jam to make a fruit-flavored filling.




Sunday, January 24, 2021

Dark Chocolate - Brown Butter Cake {Recipe}

Sometimes, cakes don't turn out EXACTLY like I plan. This was supposed to have brown butter icing, and a beautiful chocolate drippy top. I'm terrible at the drippy top. I practiced on my pan. I thought everything was the right consistency and temperature... and then it glopped. SO, we get this more "rustic" looking cake. But it's Soooooooooo good.


What You Need
For the Cake:
6 oz. chopped unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup whole milk
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 eggs at room temperature
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup whole milk + 1 Tbsp. vinegar)
1/4 cup brewed coffee at room temperature

For the Icing:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla (not immitation)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
5-6 Tbsp. whole milk
*optional: 1/4 tsp. salt

For the Ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
2-2.5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Make The Cake:

Preheat oven to 350-degrees (F). Grease the sides of three 6" x 2" cake pans with shortening (or pan goop) and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 6 oz. chopped chocolate, 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup of the brown sugar. Stir constantly to prevent the chocolate from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When all of the chocolate is melted, remove pan from heat and let cool to lukewarm.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Set aside.

Combine the 1 tsp. vanilla, 3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk + vinegar), and 1/4 cup cooled, black coffee. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the 1/2 cup butter and remaining ¾ cup brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add each of the 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. 
Add half of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. Mix at low speed until just combined.

Add the melted chocolate mixture. Mix.
Add the rest of the flour mixture. Mix.
Add the milk mixture. Mix until well combined, scraping down the bowl at least once.

Pour 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups of batter into the prepared pan(s). (I use Bake-Even Strips to help keep my cakes more flat while baking. This helps later when you want to stack the cakes.)
Bake on center rack of 350F oven for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out dry with few crumbs on it.

Immediately place pan on cooling rack. After 10 minutes, invert the cake onto a cooling rack to cool.

Let cake cool completely.

Make the Icing/Frosting:

Seriously, this icing is SO amazing. I want to eat it all day every day.
Melt all three sticks of butter on medium heat in a light-colored pan. (This is important because you need to see the color change.) -- Yes, there are only two in my pictures. That's because I didn't make enough to fill and cover this cake. You will likely have some extra with 3 sticks of butter, but it's fine, because you'll want to sit down and tuck into it with a spoon anyway.
Stirring constantly, watch the butter as it first forms a white foam...

Then gets separated and very bubbly and spluttery...

Then the bits begin to turn light brown on the bottom of the pan.
REMOVE from the heat immediately, when the browning happens. It can burn quickly. You will smell a major difference when it starts to brown. It smells like heaven.
Immediately pour into a small heatproof bowl to cool (30 minutes or so).

When the butter is at room temperature, alternate adding 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp. of milk. Mixing completely after each addition. 
2 cups powdered sugar. Mix. 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix. 
2 cups powdered sugar. Mix. 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix. 
1/2 cup powdered sugar. Mix. 1-2 Tbsp. milk + 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix. (Use 1 Tbsp. if you like the icing a little more thick. 2 Tbsp. if you like it a little more thin.)

Assemble the Cake:

Each 6"x2" round cake should be leveled and torted or cut into two layers. (I prefer using a cake leveler. -- the best $5-$10 kitchen gadget around -- but you can also use a bread knife. Just be sure to make a mark along the side so that you can line it up when you re-stack them to keep things even.)

Spread a scant 1/4 cup icing between each layer. Then, cover the cake with icing. (As I said above, I didn't make enough icing, so you can see mine is rather thin. Yours should cover the cake better.) 
Here's a tutorial on how to cover a cake with icing, if you're struggling.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the icing firm up and get cold.

Make the Ganache:

You will want to make the ganache right when you're ready to drizzle it, or else it will cool too much and not drip -- that wasn't exactly what I did wrong, but I've messed it up that way before.

Heat 1/3 cup heavy cream in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Add the chocolate to the cream, and let set for 30 seconds. Stir to combine using a small whisk or fork. It will look like a mess at first, but will eventually come together into a gorgeous ganache. Be patient. And know that you will slosh some out at first. 

If you want to do a beautiful dripping cake... hopefully, you will be better than I was. Practice on an overturned cake pan if you've never done it before. I'd show you with my pictures, but I didn't take any... and then I failed. (Here's a link to a cake that I kind of succeeded with the drippys.)

So, you can also spread the ganache all willy-nilly around the cake, mixing and swirling with the brown butter icing, and make it "rustic."

Then... slice, and enjoy the heck out of this amazingly yummy cake!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Easy scratch cake with AMAZING Brown Butter Icing {Recipe}

This cake is absolutely my new favorite thing. Really, it is about finding a vessel for getting this icing into my mouth. It's AMAZING. (And so easy!!)

The cake is called a 1-2-3-4 cake. (easy!) Know that it is very rich, and a little more dense than a box cake. (SO much better tasting, though.)


What You Need:

For the Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
    OR 3 cups a.p. flour minus 6 Tbsp. plus 6 Tbsp. corn starch
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
    OR 1 cup 2% milk plus 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

For the Icing:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla (not immitation)
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. whole milk
*optional: 1/4 tsp. salt

Bake the Cake:


Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Generously grease and flour 2 8" or 9" cake pans, 3 6" cake pans, 1 9x13" cake pan, or 24 cupcake cups. (I use pan goop.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 3 cups cake flour*, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt.
*Substitution: To make "cake flour" if you don't keep it on-hand (I do not), measure 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Then remove 6 Tbsp. of the flour. Add 6 Tbsp. of corn starch. 
1 cup all-purpose flour MINUS 2 Tbsp. flour PLUS 2 Tbsp. corn starch EQUALS Cake Flour.

In a separate bowl, cream together 1 cup butter with 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy (1-2 min.). Add Each egg, one at a time, and mix completely after each addition. Add 1 tsp. vanilla.
*Pro Tip: Add 1 Tbsp. of the flour mixture after each egg to help keep the butter mixture from separating.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix well.
Add milk. Mix well.
Add last half of flour mixture. Mix well.


Divide evenly into cake pans (or cupcakes). 
Bake at 350-degrees. 8-9" pans should take 20-30 minutes. 6" pans should take 35-45 minutes. 9x13" should take 25-35 minutes. Cupcakes should take 15-20 minutes. 
Cakes are done when golden brown, and a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean and DRY. 

Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes on a cooling grid. Turn out from the pans to cool completely.

Make the Icing

Seriously, this icing is SO amazing. I want to eat it all day every day.
Melt two sticks of butter on medium heat in a light-colored pan. (This is important because you need to see the color change.) 
Stirring constantly, watch the butter as it first forms a white foam...

Then gets separated and very bubbly and spluttery...

Then the bits begin to turn light brown on the bottom of the pan.
REMOVE from the heat immediately, when the browning happens. It can burn quickly. You will smell a major difference when it starts to brown. It smells like heaven.


Immediately pour into a small heatproof bowl to cool (30 minutes or so).


When the butter is at room temperature, alternate adding 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp. of milk. Mixing completely after each addition. So, 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix. 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix. 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix. 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix. 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix. 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix.

Cover the Cake

Ice the cake, and enjoy!!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Easy Cheesecake Recipe


This small, 6" cheesecake is perfect for a small family gathering. It's smaller, so you can make it the same day, and it only needs to cool 3-4 hours.
I use my Instant Pot because it cooks perfectly and quickly. 

What you Need:
For the crust:
4-5 full graham crackers (or 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
12-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. lemon zest or 1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream

For the chocolate topping:
2-3 Tbsp. Heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (or 2 oz. chopped chocolate)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Strawberry-Picking Treats

Summer means only one thing in my house: strawberry picking. We love fresh strawberries, and always go overboard, picking dozens of pounds of strawberries... many of which will end up in the freezer for a while to enjoy for months to come.

http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/strawberry-rhubarb-cream-cheese-bars.html 
(This is the most popular recipe on my blog... and there is a very good reason for that!


http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/strawberry-margarita-cupcakes-recipe.html

http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2017/07/chocolate-strawberry-cream-cake-recipe.html

http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/fresh-strawberry-donuts-recipe.html

http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/strawberry-lemonade-cupcakes-recipe.html

http://bekicookscakesblog.blogspot.com/2016/06/strawberry-rhubarb-cream-cake-recipe.html