Blackberry & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Glazed Raspberries

July is a month chock full of birthdays.  It appears that I am drawn to my fellow Cancer and Leo kin because it feel like I am celebrating all month long.  But among all these birthdays is a very special one, my mama’s birthday.

So to celebrate, I layered together some of my most delicious and reliable cake components to create a chocolate and berry delight.  I used layers of moist chocolate olive oil cake, raspberry jam, a bit of chocolate ganache, and Blackberry Swiss Buttercream to frost the whole thing.  Using a metal bench scraper, I created super crisp buttercream edges and then covered the cake with fresh raspberries brushed with a homemade glaze, which was surprisingly easy to make.  Just a few everyday ingredients and you have a glaze that not only protects fresh fruit from oxidization but also, and more importantly, makes it shiny and pretty.

Blackberry & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Glazed Raspberries | toni woo + foodBlackberry & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Glazed Raspberries | toni woo + foodBlackberry & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Glazed Raspberries | toni woo + foodBlackberry & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Glazed Raspberries | toni woo + food

NEUTRAL FRUIT GLAZE

1/4         c. sugar

1/2         c. water

1              Tbsp. cornstarch

1               Tbsp. corn syrup

In a small pot, bring boil half of the water and the sugar.

In a small bowl, stir the the remaining water and cornstarch until dissolved.

While stirring the sugar mixture, add the cornstarch mixture in a steady stream.

Stir in the corn syrup, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Cool the glaze, then brush onto fruit.

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Coffee & Cinnamon Creme Brûlées

My brother-in-law and I are alike in the way that we love to celebrate other people’s birthdays, but like to keep our own very low key.  So I decided to quietly honor his birthday by dropping off surprise creme brûlées.  But unlike regular vanilla creme brûlées, I infused these creme brûlées with coffee and cinnamon.

Gently baked in a water bath, these creme brûlées are rich, silky, and reminiscent of a cinnamon latte.  Once cooled, they can be dusted with sugar and caramelized with a hand torch to get that signature crisp topping.  If you don’t have a hand torch, using the broiler setting on your oven is just as effective.  Just be sure to watch very carefully because the sugar can go from golden brown to a burnt black in the blink of an eye.

COFFEE & CINNAMON CREME BRÛLÉES | toni woo + food

COFFEE & CINNAMON CREME BRÛLÉES | toni woo + food

COFFEE & CINNAMON CREME BRÛLÉES | toni woo + food

COFFEE & CINNAMON CREME BRÛLÉES | toni woo + food

COFFEE & CINNAMON CREME BRÛLÉES | toni woo + food

INGREDIENTS:

5.5             oz. egg yolk (about 9 egg yolks)

4                oz. sugar

1                qt. heavy cream

1/2             tsp. vanilla

1/4             tsp. salt

1/2             tsp. cinnamon

1                Tbsp. instant coffee, heaping

TT              sugar

PROCEDURE:

In a heavy bottomed pot add the heavy cream, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and instant coffee.  Bring to a light boil.  Then remove pot from the heat.

Place a lid on the pot and let steep for 10-15 minutes

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.

While whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly add 1/4th of the steeped cream mixture.  Then continue to whisk and add another 1/4th of the cream mixture.  Continue to whisk, and add the remaining cream mixture.  (This is method is called tempering).

Next, strain the completed mixture to remove any lumps.

Pour the mixture into ramekins then place ramekins in a large rectangle cake pan (a large roast pan works well).  Fill the rectangle pan with water until two-thirds up the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil then carefully place in the oven making sure to not spill water into the ramekins.

Bake for 45-55 minutes until the custard is just set.

Remove from oven and let cool, or place in fridge until ready to serve.

Prior to serving the creme brulees, sprinkle the tops liberally with sugar.  Wipe away any sugar on the rim of the ramekin.

Using a hand torch, torch the sugar until golden brown.  Be sure to constantly move the torch to avoid burning any areas.

Enjoy!

*** don’t  forget to save those egg whites

How to Properly Freeze Eggs

How to properly freeze eggs, egg yolks, egg whites | toni woo + food

Because I’ve been on a buttercream and sponge cake kick lately, I’ve been using a ton of egg whites.  Naturally I took up the habit of saving all of the egg yolks and freezing them.  But what to do with all the leftover egg yolks??  Well, a number of things really.  Perhaps some rich brioche bread or a silky custard.  I could whip up a hollandaise sauce or make fresh mayonnaise.  Or ice cream, of course!  The possibilities are endless once the ideas start flowing.  There are even web articles dedicated on how to use up egg yolks with a number of recipes like this one.

So when I went to make a batch of celebratory creme brûlées I went straight to the freezer, excited to finally be using up my collection of lonely egg yolks.  I heated the heavy cream and prepped my ramekins.  But when I went to whisk my thawed egg yolks they were all solidified disks.  I was mystified.  So many items keep so well in the freezer: butter, heavy cream, doughs, etc.  So why not egg yolks?

Apparently, egg yolks become gelatinous when frozen.  It seems, that to truly freeze egg yolks and retain proper consistency it needs something to aid the process.  I did a bit of research online and discovered the proper ways to freeze eggs in all it’s forms:

EGG YOLKS – Whisk the egg yolks.  Then, for every 1/4 cup of egg yolks (about 4 yolks), beat in either 1/8 teaspoon of salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar or corn syrup.  What you decide to add will depend on how you plan to use the egg yolks (sweet vs. savory).

EGG WHITES – Pour the whites into freezer containers, seal tightly, and freeze.  Freezing individual egg whites in an ice tray will result in a convenient pre-measured portion thats easy to thaw.

WHOLE EGGS – Beat just until blended, pour into freezer containers, seal tightly, and freeze.  Easy.

Also, another tip, be sure to label your container with the date and the number of egg product.  Nothing is worse than saving all that egg product only to not know how to portion it when you need it.  However if you do forget to label, just do a quick online search for the weight of an individual egg, egg yolk, or egg white then weigh it out according to your recipe.

Hooray for no more wastage!

Bad Day Double Chocolate Banana Bread (Smitten Kitchen)

Baking doesn’t make everything okay, but it almost does.  And after a really bad day involving my car getting stolen (with my favorite everyday shoes inside!), all I want to do is bake this incredible Double Chocolate Banana Bread recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  I used to bake a standard banana bread recipe with chocolate chips, which was crazy delicious, but the Smitten Kitchen has upped the whole ante by adding cocoa powder and cinnamon to their recipe.  I’m not sure it gets any more irresistible than this.  Especially since it’s more like a cake disguised as a bread.

The Smitten Kitchen blog has quickly turned into one of my favorite recipe blogs with tons of amazing sounding recipes and a recently published cookbook.  Truthfully, I’m totally jealous of this wonderful blog but, also, completely smitten.

Bad Day Double Chocolate Banana Bread | toni woo + food Bad Day Double Chocolate Banana Bread | toni woo + food

BAD DAY CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD, INGREDIENTS:

Just a few tweaks here and there, but the recipe is basically the same as Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.  I translated the recipe to weight for most of the ingredients for more consistent results, lessened the vanilla so that it wouldn’t overpower, and added a mix of regular and mini-sized chocolate chips for various chocolate intensities.  Enjoy!

4              medium, very ripe banana

4              oz. unsalted butter, melted

4.5           oz. brown sugar

1              egg

1/2           tsp. vanilla extract

4.25         oz. all purpose flour

1.5           oz. cocoa powder

1              tsp. baking soda

1/4           tsp. salt

1/2           tsp. cinnamon

1/2           c. semisweet chocolate chips, regular sized

1/4           c. semisweet chocolate chips, mini sized

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a standup mixer with a paddle attachment (or by hand) mix/mash the ripened bananas.

Add the wet ingredients: melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.  Mix together with the bananas.

Sift together the dry ingredients: all purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Measure out the chocolate chips and toss with 2 heaping spoonfuls of the dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Doing this will help prevent the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the bread while baking.

Add the remaining dry ingredients to the wet banana mixture and mix with the paddle attachment (or by hand) until just combined, making sure to not over mix.

Add the chocolate chips and mix just until distributed.

Bake for 45 – 55 minutes.

Devour while warm or at room temperature.

*** For a really, really, really bad day: add ice cream

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake

I had a blast making my first wedding cake today.  Even more exciting than that, it was in the style of one of my favorite cake trends known as the “naked cake.”

I fell in love with the naked cake a long time ago and have fallen in love all over again since I have been commissioned to create this wedding cake for a family friend.  Some couples prefer lavish and somewhat complicated weddings, and some don’t.  So when I heard of their plan for a simple and elegant ceremony, I knew this was the perfect cake for the occasion.

Rustic and simplistic, the naked cake is one of the most lovely cake trends right now.  It is the polar opposite to most wedding cakes which tend to be overly decorated and overly sweet.  It is simplicity you can see with layers of cake, filling, and a thin coat of buttercream.  What you see is what you get, and it’s all you need.  By adding some fresh flowers with a bit of foliage, I ended up creating a cake reminiscent of a Pacific Northwest forrest in the springtime.

A lovely cake for a lovely couple. Wishing them love and happiness for many years.

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Rustic (Naked) Wedding Cake | toni woo + food

Mini Rosette Birthday Cake

I love that buttercream is making a comeback.  Thanks to my favorite 6-inch cake pans, I’ve been churning out adorable mini birthday cakes with retro buttercream rosettes in colors like mint green and pale primrose pink.  For these cakes I’ve been using a sturdy genoise cake and filling it with rings of jam, fresh fruit, and buttercream.  Swoon!

My 6-inch aluminum cake pan is probably my favorite baking tool at the moment.  I bought mine at walmart for about $7 each.  So far, it’s the best $7 I ever spent.  They make the cutest little cakes!  It’s like someone shrunk a full sized bakery cake into a wee cake that fits perfectly into two hands.  Feeding between 4-6 people, the 6-inch cake is great for a small gathering or a gift.  And the best part, no leftovers!

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Avocado & Quinoa Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Trendy or not, I love quinoa.  A good quinoa isn’t mushy, but light and fluffy.  Each grain should individually pop in your mouth, and not lump up into gooey spoonfuls.  It isn’t an easy thing to make.  It can be tricky and temperamental.  I’ve learned through trial, error, and research online that there are some easy steps to avoid the tragedy of mushy quinoa.   So the next time you make quinoa, be sure to follow these steps:

  1. Rinse the starchy powder off the quinoa
  2. Use the ratio of 1 part quinoa to 1.5 part liquid (not 2 parts liquid as most packages say)
  3. Do not stir the quinoa while cooking, EVER!!!

I’ve tried making quinoa a few different ways however I like it best as a salad with avocado and this refreshing orange vinaigrette dressing.

Avocado & Quinoa Salad with Orange Vinaigrette | toni woo + food

INGREDIENTS:

1          c. quinoa

1.5       c.  water

1          tsp. Better Than Bouillion Chicken Base

TT        salt, to taste

1          tomato, diced

1/2       small onion, diced

1           avocado, diced

1/2       can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

6-8       basil leaves, chopped

1           oz. red wine vinegar

1           oz. olive oil

1           tsp. dijon mustard

1/2       orange zest and juice

1          garlic clove, minced or grated

PROCEDURE:

Using a mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa to remove the starchy powder.

Add the rinsed quinoa, water, chicken base, and salt to a medium sized pot.  ***Do not stir

Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat.  ***Do not stir

Cover with a lid and cook for 18-20 minutes.  ***Do not stir

After the 18-20 minutes, all of the liquid will be absorbed.  Turn the heat off (***Do not stir) and let the quinoa rest for another 5 minutes with the lid on.  This helps to dry up the quinoa so that it is not mushy.

Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork (not a spoon).  Let cool for 20-30 minutes before adding fresh ingredients.

While the quinoa is cooling, rinse the canned beans and dice your vegetables — tomatoes, onions, avocado, and basil.

To make the dressing, in a jar, combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, fresh orange zest, orange juice, and minced/grated garlic.  Cover the jar and shake until combined.

Toss all ingredients and vinaigrette dressing together.  Enjoy!

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake

A friend of mine wanted me to create a wedding dress cake for a friend’s bridal shower.  Challenge accepted!

The bridal shower isn’t for another month, but thought I’d test it out anyway.  I made three sponge cakes, filled and frosted it with Italian Buttercream, and made a fondant bodice.  The inside is also filled with a fresh strawberry filling.  I don’t think it could’ve come out better.  This cake was so much fun to make and plan out, I can’t wait to recreate it for the event!

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake | toni woo + food

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake | toni woo + food

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake | toni woo + food

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake | toni woo + food

Custom Cakes: Wedding Dress Cake | toni woo + food

Marshmallow Fondant & Cupcakes of the Sea

Fondant has always seemed like a great mystery until I was challenged to make some ocean-themed fondant cupcakes.  I always imagined fondant was a product that was more science based than food based, like, american cheese slices and Mcdonald’s milkshakes.  Incredibly, fondant is something that can be made from ordinary grocery store items like any other recipe.  And unlike store bought fondant, this recipe for Marshmallow Fondant is both affordable and tasty.

Just be sure to follow the procedure carefully to avoid a giant mess in the kitchen.  It is also best to make this a few days or even a week ahead of time before using it.  At first the product will appear lumpy, but the lumps will magically disappear after a few days.

Marshmallow Fondant & Cupcakes of the Sea | toni woo + food

Marshmallow Fondant & Cupcakes of the Sea | toni woo + food

Marshmallow Fondant & Cupcakes of the Sea | toni woo + food

INGREDIENTS:

16           oz. mini marshmallows

30           oz. powdered sugar

2              oz. water

–              vegetable shortening

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS:

1             tsp. lemon juice (to cut the sweetness)

–               vanilla flavoring or any flavoring

–               gel food coloring

–               rubber gloves (highly recommended

PROCEDURE:

Sift confectioners sugar and then set aside.

Coat microwaveable bowl, spatula, and silicone mat with shortening.

Add marshmallows and water to microwaveable and greased bowl.  Microwave in 30 second intervals unti marshmallows arel puffed, shiny, melted, and can be easily stirred.

With a greased spatula, make a well in the middle of the melted marshmallows (do not stir). Add confectioners sugar to the well and fold into the marshmallows.

Empty contents onto a greased silicone mat.  Grease hands (or gloved hands) with shortening and knead the sugar into the marshmallows until a uniform dough.

Form into a ball and coat with shortening.  Double wrap the ball in plastic wrap, put in a ziploc bag, and let sit for a few days (fondant will be lumpy with little balls of confectioners sugar but they will disappear in a few days).

When ready to use, microwave fondant in 10 second intervals until pliable.  Add gel food coloring and knead the color into the fondant.

Dust a surface with cornstarch and then roll out the fondant with a rolling pin.  Cut shapes or mold into desired decorations.

Voila, fondant decorations!