Mocha Biscotti Icebox Cake

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about drive. And ambition. Enthusiasm, too. All the things that motivate you to jump out of bed every morning, full of vigor and make you excited to take on the day.

For me, my greatest passion is baking. Every single day, I look forward to that moment when I have my recipe ready, baking supplies mise en place, knowing I am going to create something delicious that I can share with my trusted tasting crew.

And even though every recipe I try doesn’t receive a 5 star rating (there have been more than a few unsuccessful ventures lately...), I never stop pushing forward and reaching for another goal.

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Goals are good. Achieving them is even better.

Mocha Biscotti Icebox Cake – adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups cold heavy cream
16 oz Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur
2 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs.  pure vanilla extract
9 chocolate chip biscotti, crumbled

  • 12 crisp ladyfingers (saviordi)
  • 1/4 cup espresso sweetened with 2 tsp sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange a layer of ladyfingers in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Drizzle half the espresso over them. Then spread about a third of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the top. Crumble three biscotti and sprinkle them over the mocha cream. Place another layer of ladyfingers on top, drizzle with the remaining espresso, and follow with another third of the cream. Crumble another three biscotti and sprinkle them over. Cover them with the last third of the cream. Smooth the top, then sprinkle the remaining biscotti over the surface. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Cut in wedges, and serve cold.

Super Crumb Crumb Cake

Today is my last day of peace, quiet and serenity.

Ahhhh – bliss…….

Tomorrow it all comes to a screeching halt, as the posse will be returning to Austin in the morning. What this means is a substantial increase in the amount of  noise, a definite surge in the amount of cooking/baking, and a high probability of rambunctious teenagers (read: Alexander’s friends) loitering about in the hopes of being invited to stay for dinner.

I think I see the potential for negotiation: dinner = helping out at the ranch.

It’s a good (albeit slightly devious) strategy…..
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Super Crumb Crumb Cake – adapted from Serious Eats

There’s crumb cake, and then there’s CRUMB cake. Be warned: it’s extremely delicious…

  • For the Batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbs. (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

For the Crumb Topping:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 18 tbs. (9 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9- by 9-inch baking pan. To make the batter, stir the flour, sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter, oil, egg, vanilla, and milk to bowl and whisk until smooth. Spread into prepared pan.

For the topping, in the same unwashed bowl that contained the batter, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add vanilla and melted butter, and then toss with a fork until mixture forms large moist crumbs. Scatter over top of batter. Bake until center is firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Cannoli Icebox Cake

For a dessert that was declared, “One of the best cakes you’ve ever made, honey”, you might think I would have tried to get a better picture of it.

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Truthfully, I was lucky to get A picture of it. J and I absolutely loved this cake, and demolished it in about 3 days. With the summer heat in full swing, no-bake cakes and pies are high on my list.

Along with air conditioning and fruity beverages……

Cannoli Icebox Cake – adapted from Bake or Break

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, plus more for garnish
  • about 14 honey graham cracker sheets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar

    Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and yogurt until smooth.

    Arrange a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 9-inch square pan, breaking the crackers as needed to fit and cover the bottom. Carefully spread about a third of the ricotta filling over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and half of the remaining filling. Repeat with another layer of crackers and the remaining filling. Place the pan in the refrigerator.

    Place the cream in a large, cold mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Add the sugar and continue beating until you can lift the whisk out of the whipped cream and a peak that curves downward forms in the cream. This should take 2 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the icebox cake. Sprinkle with more chocolate chips.

    Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Perfect Oreo Cake

Last month, I hosted a birthday party for my beloved J. I started planning the soiree months ago, as many of his closest friends live out of state. I found the cutest invitations on Evite (does anyone do paper invitations anymore?), then started a highly detailed spreadsheet and Pinterest page for menu ideas.

Yes, I’m a geek like that. 

Hey, I also had elaborate spreadsheets for Alexander’s birthday, and Sabrina’s birthday/graduation dinners, so I could prepare as much as I could ahead of time and not forget anything important. But…. even with all my planning, I forgot one item of extreme importance. I neglected to take pictures of Sabrina at her graduation. I’m not even kidding. We didn’t get one.single.picture of her in her cap and gown. It was crowded, suffocatingly hot, and she wanted to split from the venue ASAP and head to Ihop for pancakes. Fortunately though, the school graciously emailed an order form to me with several pictures to choose from. Saved by the school…..

You probably won’t hear me say that ever again.

Anyway, J’s party was perfect in every way. I had the right amount of people, a creative mix of food, and the cutest little setup of desserts:

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I made individual tiramisu, lemon cream pies:

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chocolate mousse, and no-bake cheesecakes:

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The coup de grace, though, was the Oreo cake for dessert. Literally, a “cake” of Oreo cookies:

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It was quite a focal point of conversation, although no one dared touch it. I guess they were hesitant to come between a man and his Oreos….

When all was said and done, I was exceptionally happy with the way everything turned out – and more importantly, J enjoyed himself immensely, everyone had a wonderful time, and cleanup was minimal.

The following week, we had a family dinner and I made a “real” cake for him:

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Yes, it’s as insane as it looks. Two layers of the most amazing chocolate cake (even better, in my opinion, than the Chocolate Cake That Started It All), then filled with whipped cream and lots of chopped Oreos. I had a blast making this, and was so pleased with the way it turned out.

So now that I’ve made my way through three birthdays and one graduation, the next big event is my birthday. Suffice to say, there will be chocolate and peanut butter this year. yum……

Perfect Oreo Cake – adapted from two different sources

Cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup hot coffee
Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together. Add eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add vanilla to hot coffee and add to mixture. Mix well.
5. Pour into the prepared pans and bake at 300 degrees for about 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pans to cooling racks to cool completely.

Filling / Frosting:

  • 50 Oreo cookies, chopped (plus an additional 5 cookies, cut in half, for decorating)
  • 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs. pure vanilla extract

Make the Oreo whipped cream in 2 batches. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl and refrigerate. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak. Fold into already whipped cream. Fold in Oreos and chill until ready to assemble cake. Reserve about 1 cup of filling for cake decoration. 

Place one cake layer on a cake circle. Spoon about 1/3 of filling onto cake and spread gently to edges. Place another cake layer on top, and repeat. Top with third cake layer and spread remaining filling on sides and top of cake. Pipe remaining filling in rosettes on top of cake, then top each rosette with half an Oreo. Chill until ready to serve.

 

Mocha Marble Cake

Two weeks ago, I made a super short trip to Vegas to see Mom and Dad. Emphasis on the “super-short” part. I left Austin early Saturday morning, and returned late Sunday afternoon.

phew…. 

I purposely arranged my trip over the weekend, as I wanted to make sure the posse didn’t skip school during my brief absence. It’s not that I don’t trust them…… but I don’t trust them.

Anyway, before I left, and even though I was only going to be away for one night,  I prepped a pan of enchiladas for Alexander, Chicken Fajitas for Sabrina, and baked up two cakes. For her, a Banana Zucchini Bread – and for him, this Mocha Marble Cake.

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When I got back to the house Sunday afternoon, half of the cake was gone. His words? “Best cake ever, Mom”.

Mocha Marble Cake – adapted from a recipe by Flo Braker

1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbs. hot water
¾ cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder and hot water. Stir the mixture into the chocolate syrup and set aside. Sift together the flour, and baking powder, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. On medium speed, slowly add the beaten eggs a bit at a time – this should take about 3 minutes.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the milk in two parts, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the vanilla after the last addition of flour.

Spoon two thirds of the batter into the pan, and smooth the top. Stir the baking soda into the chocolate syrup mixture, and add this mixture to the remaining third of cake batter. Pour the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter and immediately put the pan into the oven. Bake until the cake is set, and a tester comes clean, about 65 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then unmold the cake and allow to cool completely.

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – and an Anniversary!

Fun fact: exactly one year ago today, April 10, the posse and I packed up our bags (and Daisy), said goodbye to our friends in Vegas, loaded up Dad’s plane, and made our move to Austin.

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And quite frankly, my mother hasn’t forgiven me (or J) since…

However, to say we love it here would be a grave understatement. We really love it.  How can you not love a city that bills itself as the Music Capital of the World? And has food trucks on every corner? Suburbia when you want, and quiet country life as well?

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 Sunset in our slice of country life …

Although traffic here is epic (comparable, in my world, to SoCal traffic), it’s a small price to pay for what we consider home. And even though we’re still in the rental, and a bit cramped from what we’re used to, nothing can dampen our spirits.

I take that back….there is one thing. The only downside to the euphoria of this scenario is that I miss my family. We are that odd breed that truly enjoys each others’ company, and if you see us in public, we’re the ones that are laughing the loudest, having conversations that border Mensa-level, and living life to the fullest. I’ve come to realize I need to up the ante to persuade Mom and Dad to move here. I mean, really, everyone has a price….. I just need to find theirs.

Mom? That’s easy – find her the best high-rise condo, in a location not too far from the city, and not too far from the ranch (or the swamp, as she lovingly refers to it…) and she’s good to go.

Dad? Well….. he’s going to take a bit of work to leave Vegas. Note I said “a bit of work, not a piece of work..” His requirements are a tad more complex. After all, this is the man that was worried his daughter was going to become a hill-billy. Like that could ever happen – our neighbors at the ranch can hear my car approaching from a mile away. I’m that girl walking the property with the builder in my platform pumps, without worrying about the dirt and dust… And although I receive a fair amount of good natured teasing for my sometimes over-dressed attire, I know that you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

Not that I have any intention of changing. And I’ll find his price….somehow...

Happy one year anniversary to us! Yay!
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I downsized the recipe (since it was just for the three of us) and skipped the crust completely. Although I did top Alexander’s glass with an Oreo…..

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – adapted from serious eats

  • 10 ounces chocolate cookie wafers (such as Nabisco Famous wafers)
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 8 tbs (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) plus 2 tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

    Pulse cookie crumbs and granulated sugar in food processor until fine. Place in a large bowl and toss with melted butter until moistened. Firmly press into the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and mix in vanilla, sour cream, and melted chocolate until smooth and homogenous.

Spoon mixture into crust and smooth top. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Dust with cocoa powder and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Hidden Berry Torte

I am so in need of baking something right now. I’m frustrated beyond words, and for me, baking is the ultimate stress reliever. Well, that and the daily 6.5 mile walks I’ve been taking.

My father will probably break my legs (more like throw out my running shoes) for admitting this, but last week I logged 27.5 miles. Truth. I actually broke out the calculator and added it all up. First I tried doing it in my head but we all know how THAT goes….

I really enjoy those walks, though – I can get so much organized in my head – and come home clear headed and ready for the day. I had every intention of going for a walk this morning, but since I tossed and turned thinking from 1:00 am until 4:00 am, there was no way I was getting up at 5:30 to be out the door at 6.

sigh.

So right now I’m debating between baking this bread or this cake.

And wishing I had a piece of this torte.

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Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte – adapted from Dorie Greenspan

For the Crust:
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 sticks (12 tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1/3 cup thick berry  jam
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

Getting Ready:
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To Make the Crust:
Put the flour and sugar  in a food processor and pulse just to blend. Toss in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg yolks and vanilla together with a fork, and, still pulsing the machine, add them and continue to pulse until the dough comes together in clumps and curds – restrain yourself, and don’t allow the dough to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. If you want to roll the dough, gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes before rolling. Or simply press the dough into the pan. The dough should come about 1-1/2 inches up the sides of the spring form. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil against the crust, covering it completely. Fill the crust lightly with rice, dried beans or pie weights and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or so – you don’t want the crust to get too brown. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

To Make the Filling:
Stir the jam, and spread it over the bottom of the crust – it’s okay to do this while the crust is still warm.

Put the cream cheese into the food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, for 2 minutes, until you’ve got a smooth, satiny mix. Add the sugar and spices and process for another 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the eggs and process, scraping the bowl as needed, for a final minute. Pour the filling over the jam.

Bake the cake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the filling is uniformly puffed and no longer jiggly. Gently transfer the springform pan to a cooling rack and allow the torte to cool to room temperature, during which time the filling will collapse into a thin, elegant layer.

Run a blunt knife between the crust and the sides of the pan, then open and remove the sides of the springform. If the sides of the crust extend above the filling and you don’t like this look, very gently saw off the excess crust using a serrated knife. Chill the torte slightly or thoroughly before serving and, if you’d like, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.