Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Persian Love Cake

As soon as I saw Katherine Sabbath's Persian Love Cake pop-up on my Pinterest feed a while back, I knew I had to make it. If you're not familiar with Katherine Sabbath, go spend a minute and Google her name or check out her website here (you'll want to see her cakes!). She's a self-taught Australian baker who's known for her bold and creative cakes. She rarely uses recipes, picks cake flavors based on how she feels that day, and decorates with whatever she has on hand. Her cakes are pure art and from what I've read, she sounds like the coolest chick. I'm also a huge fan of Katherine because, like me, she doesn't like to use fondant because it's not something that adds to the flavor of the cake. (I think we're meant to be best friends!)

Ok, back to the Persian Love Cake. I was intrigued by this cake because of the flavor combinations: spiced caramel and almond mud cake (a mud cake, of any flavor, is going to be a dense cake and is great for stacking and decorating with lot of toppings like Katherine does) and rosewater cream cheese frosting. I've never used rosewater, but I've wanted an excuse to try it and I didn't dare try creating my own recipe for it. Instead, I'm all about turning to a true pro for a first-time try. 

The spice caramel and almond cake was a major hit in my book. I loved the caramel and spice flavors together, as well as the texture of the almond meal. To create the caramel flavor, you'll melt white chocolate, brown sugar, water, vanilla paste and golden syrup (I used maple syrup) in a saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture is completely smooth, you'll let it cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before beating in the eggs. At that point, you'll add the self-rising flour (which you must use because this recipe doesn't call for any other rising agents) and spices, and then fold in the almond meal. 

The original recipe bakes the cake in one deep cake pan, but I chose to bake the cake in three separate 6-inch round cake pans. This changed my baking time from 50 minutes to 25 minutes.

As for the frosting... unfortunately, it didn't win me over quite as much as the cake layers did. I really tried to like it, but I'm just not a huge fan of the rosewater flavor. I do think the flowery flavor pairs nicely with the sweet caramel spice cake and added salty crunch of the pistachios, but I don't think I'd use this particular emulsion in the frosting again. (Just a personal preference. You may love it!)

I did, however, really like the other flavors and the texture of the frosting, which calls for cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, butter, a cup of powdered sugar and fresh whipped cream. I love how all these flavors worked together, and how the whipped cream gives it a light and fluffy texture. The cake is plenty sweet on its own, so the fact that the frosting isn't overwhelmed by powdered sugar is a plus for me. 

And like Katherine, you can decorate this cake with whatever you have on-hand. I went with edible pearl beads, white chocolate chips, pistachios, and crushed freeze-dried strawberries.

Final verdict for me, I love the cake and will be using it again and again... the frosting, however, probably won't be making a repeat appearance in my kitchen.

I hope you'll try this one. I'd love to hear what you think of all the flavors and textures. Maybe I'm the minority when it comes to a rosewater affinity?

Persian Love Cake (recipe source: Katherine Sabbath)

Yield: one, three-layer 6" cake


For the Spiced Caramel and Almond Mud Cake
200 grams butter, cubed
200 grams good quality white chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli chips)
150 grams (3/4 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
250 mls (1 cup) hot water
2 tablespoons golden syrup (I used pure maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (can use pure vanilla extract)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
150 grams (1 cup) self-raising flour
225 grams (1 1/2 cups) almond meal
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamon

(If you're not a huge fan of ginger and cardamon, you could use a teaspoon of nutmeg in place of them - a slight flavor change but still gives you a good spiced cake flavor)

For the Rosewater Cream Cheese Frosting
500 grams cream cheese, softened
250 grams mascarpone, softened
100 grams butter, softened
250 mls heavy cream, whipped
250 grams (1 cup) icing/powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon rosewater 
3-4 drops pink food coloring


For the Cake:
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a round deep (17 cm) spring form cake pan - OR- three 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray and then line base with parchment paper and spray one more time. Set aside.
2. Place the butter, white chocolate, sugar, water, golden syrup (or pure maple syrup), and vanilla bean paste in a medium saucepan. Stir ingredients over medium-low heat with a rubber spatula for five minutes or until the chocolate melts completely and your mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for at least 20 minutes to cool.
3. Once the mixture has cooled, pour it into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well.
4. Sift the flour and spices over the white chocolate mixture and mix until well combined. Finally, fold in the almond meal until well combined.
5. Pour your cake mixture into prepared pan or pans. If you're using three 6-inch pans like I did, you'll pour about 13 ounces of batter into each pan. Use a scale to ensure you get equal amounts in each pan for even cake layers. 
6. If you use one spring-form pan, bake the cake for 50-60 minutes. If you use three separate pans, you're baking time will be 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 20 minutes or so before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
7. If you used one cake pan, once the cake is cooled completely, carefully slice the cake into three even layers. Cover cake layers in plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble the cake.

For the Frosting
1. Use an electric mixer to whip together the cream cheese, mascarpone, butter, icing sugar, rosewater and food coloring until pale and fluffy.
2. Gently fold in the whipped cream until combined. If your filling appears to be too soft to pipe neatly, refrigerate it for 15 to 20 minutes in order to firm up to a more workable consistency.

1. Secure the bottom cake layer onto a cake board or plate using a dollop of the filling. Next, fill a pastry bag with the filling. Starting from the outside edge, pipe the filling onto the cake layer until completely covered.
2. In between filling and stacking each layer, be sure to give a generous sprinkling of crushed pistachios and meringue (I didn't use this).
3. Once the layers are assembled, adorn the top of the cake with remaining crushed pistachios, crushed meringue, a sprinkling of freeze-dried raspberries (or strawberries), a scattering of rose petals and slices of fresh figs. 
4. Best served at room temperature.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Honey Pear Upside Down Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Buttercream

As I've combed through Pinterest, Instagram and my go-to food blogs lately, I've noticed a trend in honey and fig cakes, especially for weddings. Seeing so many of these beautiful cakes, I wanted to make one for myself and see what the hype is all about. However, before even searching for recipes, I reminded myself that I don't really like figs (why make a cake I wouldn't love?). I do, on the other hand, love honey. So that ingredient was a keeper, and I just needed to come up with another fruit. Pears were an obvious choice. They're a perfect match for honey, in my opinion.

Before making this cake, I knew that I didn't want to do a fruit filling and I didn't want to put the pears into the batter (for no particular reason - just the mood I was in, I guess). That left me with one option: cooking the pears on top of the cake. 

I caramelized the pears a bit and used some of the leftover sauce to pour on top of the pears before adding the batter to the cake pan. This step gives the cake a bit of a brown sugar glaze, another solid flavor addition to the honey and pears.

How good does this cake look, even without the honey cream cheese buttercream? It's already got great flavors and texture on its own.

I also love the cream cheese in the frosting - adds a little tang to the sweetness of the rest of the cake.

And some earlier versions of the cake...

Honey Pear Upside Down Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Buttercream


For the Honey and Pear Cake (The Cake Blog, caramelized pears added by me)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 pears, pealed and sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water

For the Honey Cream Cheese Buttercream (adapted from The Cake Blog)
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
6-7 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons honey


For the Honey and Pear Cake
1. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the water and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely melted. Add the sliced pears and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8" round pans.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, honey and vanilla. Set aside.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes.
6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
7. Gradually add in the dry and wet ingredients, alternating between the two, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
8. In two of the pans, evenly place the pears on the buttered and floured parchment paper. Pour 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce over the pears in each pan. Save the remaining sauce in an airtight container to use as a cake soak for the pear-less cake after it's baked. 
9. Evenly divide the batter between the three cake pans, being careful to gently spread the batter over the pears. 
10. Bake for 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
11. Let cool in pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

For the Honey and Cream Cheese Buttercream  
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
2. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar on low speed until it is all combined. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Mix in honey.

1. Place first cake layer, pear-side up, on a cake plate. Cover the top of the layer with about a cup of buttercream. I like to use a piping bag to ensure I evenly cover the cake.
2. Place second cake layer, the one without pears, on top of the frosting and cover it in frosting.
3. Place the third cake layer, pear-side down, on top of the second layer of frosting. Frost a crumb coat around the entire cake and set in the freezer for about 15 minutes to set before applying the remaining frosting.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm not sure about you, but after that dark chocolate peanut butter cake, I was in need of something light and fruity! I've had this grapefruit poppy seed cake on my mind for a while and am so excited I finally had a chance to try it out. This cake originates from a lemon poppy seed cake that I found several years ago and have made nearly a dozen times. The cake and the frosting from the original recipe are light and fluffy, and full of flavor. I have nothing against the original recipe and for a lemon poppy seed cake, it's my go-to. I simply had the thought to try this cake with grapefruit instead of the lemon, and then add a grapefruit curd since they're in season and I'm obsessed. Sometimes my ideas are crazy and don't work out, but this one... it's a winner!

This cake is really simple to make and can definitely be done in steps. I made the grapefruit curd the day before and stored it in my refrigerator until I was ready to use it. I then made the cake layers the next morning and put it all together later that night. If you're not going to eat it right away, make sure to cover it in an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator over night. Then let it come back to room temperature before serving.

A quick note about the curd: the color of the grapefruit curd is going to change with each step of the cooking process. When the grapefruit juice is added to the sugar and cornstarch, you get the true grapefruit pink color.

However, once you add your egg yolks, the curd will turn a deep yellow color, like lemon curd. You can certainly use the curd just like this if you want.

However, if you'd rather the color of the curd better resemble the inside of a grapefruit, just add a little food coloring. I used just a little pink gel and got a vibrant coral color.

As for the vanilla bean, here's a look at how to cut it open and extract the seeds: slice the vanilla bean down the center and pull apart the two sides to expose the seeds. Use the side of the knife to scrape out the seeds and add it to the ingredients. (Your hands are going to smell amazing after this step!)

I really love how the color of the curd turned out and how it stands out against the white cake and frosting. However, if you don't love grapefruit, you can go back to the original recipe and use lemon zest and lemon juice in place of the grapefruit. I've also made the original lemon poppy seed cake without curd and it's fabulous. You really can't go wrong with this cake!


Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: one, 8" three layer cake


For the Grapefruit Curd (recipe source: Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt)
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
Zest from 1 grapefruit
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

For the Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake (recipe adapted from: Technicolor Kitchen)
3 cups cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, coarsely chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 large grapefruit
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
5 egg whites

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe source: Technicolor Kitchen)
2 vanilla beans
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


For the Grapefruit Curd
1. In two bowls, divide the egg whites and yolks. Set aside the egg whites for another recipe.
2. Add the zest of one large grapefruit in with the egg yolks and mix briefly.
3. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, salt and cornstarch and whisk until combined.
4. Add in the grapefruit juice and whisk until incorporated into the sugar mixture. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let it come up to a boil. Whisking occasionally.
5. Once it comes to a boil, let it boil for 2 minutes, whisking constantly to avoid burning.
6. Slowing pour about 1/2 cup of the juice mixture into the egg yolks that you've set aside, whisking while you pour. Continue whisking to avoid the yolks from cooking. This is tempering the yolks.
7. Add the tempered yolks into the saucepan with the juice and whisk until incorporated.
8. Let the grapefruit curd come up to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
9. Remove from heat and add the cold butter. Whisk until the butter is melted and well combined.
10. Place in a shallow dish and cover with plastic wrap. Be sure that the plastic wrap is touching the curd, otherwise it may form a skin. Let set in the refrigerator 2-3 hours. Can be made several days in advance of the cake.

For the Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter or spray the paper.
2. Combine the flour, 1 3/4 of the sugar, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed to blend the ingredients and break up any lumps, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the butter, grapefruit zest and 1 cup of the buttermilk to the flour mixture. Beat on low until completely mixed, then raise the speed to medium and beat for two minutes to lighten and aerate the batter.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and whisk to blend thoroughly. Add this mixture to the batter in 2-3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only enough to incorporate. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine were done at 24 minutes, so keep an eye on them around 20 minutes). Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes.
6. While the cakes are cooling, make the grapefruit syrup: in a small saucepan, combine the remaining sugar and grapefruit juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
7. Turn the cake layers onto wire racks and gently poke holes on the top of each cake layer with a toothpick. Generously brush each cake layer with the grapefruit syrup. Let cool completely.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the sugar with the back of a knife.
2. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat until very fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.


1. Place one cake layer, bottom side down, on a cake plate and pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake layer to create a barrier for the curd.
2. Evenly spread about 2/3 cup of the grapefruit curd on the cake layer.
3. Repeat with the second cake layer, another boarder of frosting and 2/3 cup curd.
4. Place the final cake layer, top side down, on top. Give the cake a quick crumb coat and chill for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator or 10-15 minutes in the freezer before frosting the entire cake.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Back in my kitchen after the holidays and kicking off 2016 with one of my favorite flavor combinations: chocolate and peanut butter! Seriously, how can you go wrong with those two flavors? You can't. It's a classic combination, and one that will please just about everyone's taste buds.

For this cake, I made my dark chocolate cake layers and paired it with a whipped peanut butter frosting. I decided to go with a slightly lighter frosting that uses whipped cream because the cake itself is so rich. I have another peanut butter frosting that I like, but it uses cream cheese and I felt like that might be too heavy with this cake. I think you'll love this frosting. I made sure to save myself a little to top cake scraps with, but I ended up just eating the left over frosting straight from a spoon. No shame.

Wishing so badly this cake was for me so I could be eating it right now, but hopefully the birthday girl enjoys it as much as I do!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Yields: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake 


For the Rich, Dark Chocolate Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe source: Annie's Eats)
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, divided
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt


For the Rich, Dark Chocolate Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8” round cake pans (butter or spray, line bottom with parchment paper, butter or spray paper and dust with flour).
2. In a bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and lightly beat with a fork.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. Scrape sides and mix for another 30 seconds. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans (I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed).
5. Bake for 25-27 minutes (you may need more time depending on your oven), until toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool on wire racks for 10-15 minutes, then gently invert onto racks until cooled completely.
6. When cakes are completely cooled, I like to wrap each cake layer individually with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator or freezer until I’m ready to frost. The cake will be easier to work with if it’s cooled a bit. If I’m making the cake a day or two before I actually need to frost it, I put it in the freezer to ensure freshness. If I’m frosting same-day, I’ll just put it in the refrigerator to chill until needed.

For the Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting
1. Combine the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of the confectioners' sugar in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and stiff peaks form, being careful not to over mix.
2. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl. In the now empty bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds.
3. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar to the bowl and mix in, slowly at first until incorporated, then increasing the mixer speed to high. Blend in the vanilla extract and salt, and continue to whip on high speed until very fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
4. Use a large spatula to gently fold about a third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter frosting. Once the first additional has been evenly incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no streaks remain.