Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas, Navidad, Noel...

***This post is dedicated to my lovely sister who helped out with this beautiful cake and the photography!***

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas [insert Michael Buble voice], everywhere you go ...

I can't believe Christmas already came and went. I wait all year long for a couple of days of holidays that fly by in the blink of an eye. It's quite sad to think that now I have to wait another 340 days until next December comes along.

Fortunately, New Years Eve is close by and it's what is keeping my excitement alive.

But let's go back to talking about Christmas because it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least I think so.

What's not to like about Navidad; family gatherings, presents, snow if you're lucky, getting dressed up, etc. and lots and lots of food!

This Noel, was bursting with family traditions. Lunch with my mom's family on the 23rd--it's usually on the 25th, but due to itineraries, we had it earlier--, dinner with my dad's family on the 24th, and a second lunch with the remaining of my mom's family today.

The reason why I love this holiday so much is that I get to see my cousins, aunts and uncles--or most of them. With a family like mine (spread out around the world) it's hard to come together, but Christmas seems to be a good enough reason.

Anyways, moving on to food. I decided to bake a layer cake for my Christmas Eve dinner. Before anything, let me tell you that despite the flaws on the inside the cake looked amazing from the outside and tasted delicious.

I wanted to make something like this cake, but I didn't make enough batter and before I knew it there was no time left. I will be trying to bake a similar cake in the near future, but for now, I am proud of the awesome cake we (my sister and I) baked last night.

(All recipes adapted from I Am Baker)

Vanilla Cake (Doubling the recipe will probably make the cakes thick enough to form a pretty Christmas Tree inside)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. In a small bowl, sift flour and baking powder and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. 
  3. Add dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with milk and vanilla. Make sure to beat well after each addition, but don't over beat.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to ensure ingredients are blended. Carefully spoon the batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  5. Once cakes are cooled, carefully cut a small cone into the center of each, making sure one of the cuts reaches the bottom of one cake. Fill both holes with Green Velvet Cake and place in freezer for about 20 minutes. 
  6. Remove cakes from freezer and mount one on top of the other. Turn the cake with the larger cone upside down and spread Buttercream Frosting onto the the bottom, making sure not to cover the green tip. Turn the other cake upside down and place on top.
  7. Using a serrated knife, even out the cakes by cutting the edges. 
  8. Cover cake with remaining Buttercream Frosting using an offset spatula to even the frosting out. Decorate cake with trees made out of remaining Green Velvet Cake or other decorations.

Green (Red) Velvet Cake

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon green food coloring
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilks (or half milk and half yogurt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup Buttercream Frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9.5 inch round baking pan. 
  2. In a small bowl sift flour and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add egg and yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. Add to batter and beat well. 
  4. Combine salt and buttermilk. Add to batter in three parts, alternating with flour; making sure to beat until incorporated after each addition (but don't over beat).
  5. In a small bowl, stir together vinegar and baking soda. Using a plastic spatula, fold into batter until incorporated and batter is smooth.
  6. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 
  7. Using a fork, crumble cake. Add 1/2 cup frosting and combine. Set aside until ready to use.

Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 7 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, 4 cups sugar, 1/2 milk and vanilla, beating on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, and until icing is thick enough to spread. If icing is too thick, add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.
  2. Leave icing at room temperature until ready to use.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Its winter! Let's eat toffee.

Here I am, sitting at Logan Airport waiting for my flight to board.

I'm thinking "What could I possibly do with all this extra time on my hands?"--now that the super hectic Fall 2011 semester is behind me--and then I realize I have a blog that I've been ignoring for the past four months.

Now before I blog about food, I'll share a little bit about life.

I turned 22 yesterday. (Insert angry/sad/annoyed face here). If you don't know this about me already, I hate getting older. Sure, I am approaching the peak of my life (blah blah blah) and I am probably overreacting about my age, but the fact is, time is really flying by and I am not liking it. I want to be a kid again. I want to go back to my high school graduation; or to the moment I moved into my first (or second) apartment. Please someone come up with a solution for me!

Enough of my age-related rambling. Let me talk about the amazing winter break that awaits: two places, two climates, two holidays and hopefully a whole lot of presents! Oh and in between the celebrations and relaxation I have a magazine to plan.

TasteBUds is up and running, but it needs a lot of tweaking and organizing. Here is a our first issue.

Anyways, during break, I plan on spending some time setting next semester's deadlines, compiling a style and writing guide, contacting advertisers and testing recipes for our next issue.

Ok, now it's time to talk about food. Here is the toffee I made for a holiday party a couple of weeks ago. I tweaked this recipe a little because honestly there was not enough chocolate in it! At least not in my book. Oh and also, be prepared to stand near the stove for a long time.

Almond Toffee (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 1/4 pound whole almonds
  • 3 sticks salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread almonds evenly on rimmed baking sheet and put in oven. Roast until fragrant, but not burned, about 15 minutes. Remove almonds from oven and let cool. Transfer to Ziploc bag and pound nuts, using a heavy object, until coarsely ground.
  2. Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add sugar and continues stirring until toffee reaches 305 F on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes.
  3. Pour toffee onto rimmed baking sheet, spreading evenly to cover. Let cool until slightly hardened but still tacky. Run a knife along edges of sheet to facilitate removal later.
  4. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water. Remove chocolate from heat and let cool, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour chocolate over toffee and spread evenly. Sprinkle ground almonds over chocolate; pressing down gently with a spatula.
  5. Transfer toffee to refrigerator until set, about 1 hour. To remove from pan, run sharp knife around edges and lift toffee from the bottom. Break into large pieces using hands and store in freezer until ready to serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cupcakes Galore

So remember the food magazine I told you I was planning to start? It's happening now.

Name: TasteBUds. Goal: Bring students and others at BU a food magazine packed with recipes, reviews and much more.

The Bake Sale Issue--our first mini half-issue--went online about a week and a half ago. You can see it here or order it in print here. It includes all the recipes that we made for the bake sale we had to raise funds so that we can have a print issue next semester.

Anyways, tomorrow we are having another sale, except this time it's all about cupcakes. Only cupcakes.

So, today I made my share of cupcakes for the sale. It was quite a bit of work, but thanks to my lovely new gadget (the KitchenAid electric mixer I bought after Thanksgiving) it was successful. I made three different types: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Mascarpone Icing and Peppermint Crumbles, S'mores Cupcakes, and Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting.

The hardest batch to make was the S'mores. They are a true Martha Stewart recipe: complicated and time consuming, but worth the work.

Before we get to the good stuff, any BU students reading this, stop by the GSU Link tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and try them out! Everybody else, enjoy the photos!

S'mores Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Active time: 40 minutes. Total time: 60 minutes + cooling.
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

  • 2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
  • 9 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift 2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar , flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix ingredients, using paddle attachment, on low speed.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape sides and continue mixing on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until batter is incorporated. Add boiling water and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, combine cracker crumbs, butter and remaining sugar and stir until combined.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Use bottom of a small jar or glass to press the crumbs down. Keep the rest of the graham cracker mixture for topping.
  6. Add about 7 chocolate chips to each muffin cup. Place prepared crusts in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until crumbs are golden and chips are melted. 
  7. Remove pan from oven and fill cupcakes 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle cupcakes with remaining graham cracker mixture. Bake cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Remove form oven and let cool completely.

Marshmallow Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes.

  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mix is warm to the touch, about 4 minutes.
  2. Remove bowl from water. Beat with whisk attachment, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high until stuff, glossy peaks form, about 7-10 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large round tip; pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Week After Thanksgiving + One Last Treat

Remember how I said I was going to go back to my old ways of blogging; or at least try to post more than once every two weeks? Well it looks like that will not be possible until after finals.

Seriously, this semester has really tested my time management skills--and I wish I could say they're superb, but apparently they're not. Anyways, I couldn't even get around to my last installment of the Thanksgiving series until today. It was mainly due to the fact that I slacked all break long and then once I landed in Boston I realized how much work I had.

But here it is, the last--and my favorite--post about the Thanksgiving feast my cousin and I made a week ago.

Before anything though, let me state the facts. I have a huge sweet tooth. When I say that, I mean I'd rather skip a meal if it means I get to eat double the dessert. It's obviously not the best eating habit, but that's just the way I am.

For Thanksgiving I didn't skip dinner--as you can see from the previous posts--but I still had two servings of this delicious caramel cheesecake. That leads me to fact number two: my favorite desserts are by far cheesecake and carrot cake.

So here is the recipe to an absolutely delicious--but seriously, delicious--cheesecake. Enjoy!

Caramel Cheesecake (adapted from Joy the Baker)
Makes one 9-inch pie.
*Active time: 1 hour. Total time: 3 hours + cooling (overnight is best)


  • 10 oz ginger snap cookies
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place cookies in a Ziploc bag and crumble using a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle); until crumbs are fine. Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Add sugar, salt and butter and mix until crumbs are moistened. 
  3. Fill a 9-inch pie plate with crust and press against bottom and edges using your fingertips. Make sure the crust is pressed completely.
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool while you make filling.

  • 2 blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1.3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Fill tea kettle with water and bring to a boil (this water will be used when cheesecake is in the oven).
  2. Beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in salt until well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until very well combined. Slowly beat in cream until mixture is creamy and luscious.
  3. Pour cheesecake into prepared crust and set aside. Fill a 9x13-inch baking dish with boiling water and place in lower third of the oven. Place cheesecake on upper third of the oven and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until it is slightly browned and puffed. Once cheesecake is puffed and it doesn't jiggle in the center when moved, prop oven open using a towel and continue baking for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat sugar, water and corn syrup over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; boil until caramel browns, about 5-10 minutes, make sure caramel doesn't go past an amber color. Remove from heat immediately and add cream and butter; caramel will bubble. Stir well and add salt until incorporated. 
  2. Transfer caramel to bowl and cover with plastic wrap (caramel may seem light, but once it's cooled it will thicken). Cool in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
  3. When ready to use, if caramel is too thick to pour, heat in microwave for 10-second intervals, stirring well after each interval. Pour caramel over cooled cheesecake.
*Cool finished cheesecake in refrigerator until ready to serve.