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Roasted Sweet Potato Layer Cake

October 15, 2019

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I’m about to make this cake for the third time in as many weeks. I made it to begin with because our wonderful au pair, our fourth (and best behaved) child, our lifesaver extraordinaire, Aurora, is in the middle of a love affair with sweet potatoes. Growing up in Italy, she had never seen, tasted or heard of sweet potatoes before coming to live with us about 18 months ago. And now? She’s obsessed. So we make a lot of sweet potatoes and I’ve been reminded how easy and delicious they are to make. You can just chop them, without peeling, and roast them in some oil and salt for 20 minutes and BOOM – sweet potato fries (not exactly crispy, but not exactly a problem). You can peel and boil them and BOOM – a delicious side dish you can dress up with pretty much anything. Cayenne and maple syrup. Herbes de Provence and minced garlic. Grated cheese. Marshmallows. Good old fashioned salt and pepper. They’re versatile, they’re healthy, they’re easy to keep in the fridge for months until you remember to do something with them. It’s easy to see how someone just learning of the humble yam might become a little taken.

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Because she loves sweet potatoes so much and so enthusiastically, I decided to be less conventional and put it in dessert. Vegetables in a dessert is about as Italian as sweet potatoes so naturally Aurora was shocked and a little bit appalled. Until she tried it.

Now it’s on request for baby showers and dinner parties. Before I know it, it will replace chocolate cake as our family’s go-to for birthdays. Its slight warmth from the cinnamon, nod to Thanksgiving from the yams, and bright orange color make it the perfect cake to make this autumn. It really is a centerpiece kind of cake, the kind of cake you can serve at Thanksgiving to even the pie purists. The kind of cake that will remind you why baking cakes is worth it at all.

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ROASTED SWEET POTATO CAKE

This recipe may look a little familiar if you’re a true lifelong follower of this blog. In fact, I published a nearly identical and much beloved recipe with squash back in 2010. The sweet potato rendition is very similar and it’s one of our all-time favorites; if I ever had to enter a cake contest based on flavor, this humble beauty would be my entry. Frost with cream cheese frosting and/or the buttercream frosting recipe below, maybe adding a few cheeky spoonfuls of puree to the batch for color and flavor. 

Serves 12

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs
1 cup oil (or a mixture of mostly oil topped up with pureed sweet potato)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups pureed roasted sweet potato (from about 5 large sweet potatoes)*

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Butter and flour two springform pans.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices together.

In another bowl, mix the eggs, oil and vanilla.

Using a wooden spoon, combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture until just combined, then add the sweet potato puree and mix gently until completely combined. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pans; when cakes are completely cooled, generously frost each layer with my favorite cream cheese frosting or the amazing buttercream frosting that follows below!

* If you’re making your own sweet potato puree (and you should! You’ll just need to do it a minimum of an hour or so in advance), simply preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into evenly sized pieces. Roast them on a foil-lined tray for 30 – 45 mins, or until soft. It’s completely fine to roast them “dry”, without any oil, but if you want to make them sing, roast them with some butter or oil on top. Plop your soft sweet potato chunks in a bowl and use an immersion blender to puree completely. You can make the puree up to a week ahead, just keep it in the fridge.

AMAZING BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

This ridiculously delicious frosting can be used to cover and fill any cake and can easily take a little something extra (lemon extract or zest, some cocoa, etc.) Makes enough to frost the inside and outside of a 2-layer cake. Can be made a few days ahead and stored in the fridge. Make sure it’s not cold when you go to use it, as it won’t spread. Oh, and you don’t need to refrigerate a cake frosted with this buttercream – it’s mostly butter and won’t go off! (NB: this buttercream isn’t pictured in the photos, which show off the cream cheese frosting, but shhhh the buttercream is actually a little prettier.)

2 cups (460 grams) salted butter, softened to room temperature

7 cups (850 g) confectioner’s sugar (approximately based on sweetness)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)

2/3 cup heavy cream (or less, based on consistency)

Beat the softened butter in a large bowl for a few minutes until it becomes very light-colored and fluffy. Sift in the confectioner’s sugar; yes, this is time consuming, but it’s how you prevent lumpy frosting! Mix and sift, mix and sift, testing for sweetness as you go. Mix in the vanilla and heavy cream until it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on the cake. You can add some extra sweet potato puree or some spice if you want to make it extra autumnal.

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Easy Granola

June 6, 2019

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We’re a household of 7 (!) this month because we’re lucky enough to have Brenna (a precious old friend, cookie discovererone-time contributor to this blog!, and generally amazing human being) staying with us. Seven people at breakfast usually means lots of breakfast needs – Eric wants eggs, Stella wants biscotti, Vesper wants porridge, Domino wants everything, Aurora wants whatever is easiest for everyone else, and Brenna wants granola. And then: magically, mysteriously, granola is in the house and suddenly everyone wants granola.

We almost never make granola because I always thought it was a huge pain in the ass. Why? Because the only recipe I’d ever followed – the one I posted about back in 2013 – was Eric’s, and so it was a high-protein, high-effort, high-volume number, with an endless ingredients list and equally endless clean up. Why? Because my husband, despite my best efforts, often eats based not on pleasure but on nutritional content. And protein? Is his thing.

After hoovering down the last few oats in far too many bags of the too-small, overpriced, over-sweetened store-bought kind, I decided to make my own. It’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s as clumpy and crunchy as you want it. Don’t like raisins? Don’t add raisins. Love dried mango in your breakfast bowl? Done! This recipe – if you can even call it that – is so straightforward and effortless. Here’s to breakfasts that are effortless, too!

 

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GRANOLA

The easiest and best homemade granola. It takes 35 mins start to finish, and uses only one bowl. It’s also easily fiddled with: just add what you like: chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, goji berries, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, vanilla extract, whatever! (If you like your granola with chocolate chips, make sure you add them after it’s completely cooked and cooled.) This recipe makes enough to fill one of those really large (57 fl. oz.) jars and keeps for months. 

  • 1/2 cup oil (I used a mix of olive oil & walnut oil, but use whatever you want)
  • 1/2 cup honey, maple syrup or golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt (this will make it quite salty, but I like it that way)
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds (whole or sliced) & 1 cup raisins or other dried, chopped fruit
  • whatever else you want: sunflower/pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, flaked coconut, etc.

Preheat oven to 300F/150C. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

In a large bowl, mix the oil, honey/syrup. Add in all the other ingredients (except maybe the dried fruit*) and mix well. Spread out the mixture evenly on the baking trays, and bake for 15 minutes then stir and return to the oven for another 10 – 30 minutes, until the oats are golden crisp but not burnt. Remove from the oven and – especially if you love clumpy, crunchy granola – don’t touch it until it’s completely cool.

Store granola in an airtight container (like a jar); it lasts for ages! Serve with yogurt or milk.

* dried fruit like raisins, goji berries, chopped figs or apricots will tend to burn, so if you don’t like that charcoaly taste, feel free to add them in halfway through cooking when you give your granola a stir or even at the very end, once your granola is out of the oven.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

April 28, 2019

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English springtime hits like a bomb, bringing with it flowers galore, hay fever a plenty, and produce extraordinaire. New season rhubarb is hitting our weekly fruit and vegetable box and there’s no better way to use it than in good old, American, lattice-topped, vanilla ice cream-on-the-side, pie.

This crust is the best recipe I’ve ever come across: it’s easy, I use my hands (no food processor) and – importantly for me – it’s forgiving. You can use it for any kind of pie, but there are few better than this one.

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STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE

I based this pie – a real crowd pleaser – on a filling recipe from Epicurious and a crust recipe from the New York Times. I think it’s the perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. If strawberry rhubarb isn’t your thing, it should be, but you can still use this pie crust for whatever pie you like. NB: it makes a lot of crust, probably more than you need. Don’t throw away the scraps: you may even have enough to make two pies. I love to roll out my scraps into a big oval, spread the middle with a thin layer of apricot jam, top with apple slices, then fold the edges over to make the best kind of homemade pop tart.

FOR THE CRUST

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  •  ½ teaspoon salt
  •  ¾ teaspoon sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter (almost 2 sticks), very cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  •  ½ cup ice-cold water
  • 1 tablespoons milk

FOR THE FILLING (just eyeball the fruit quantities)

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Prepare the pastry: combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork or pastry cutter, work half of the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Quickly work the remaining butter into the dough until the biggest pieces are the size of lima beans. Drizzle in the water in several additions, tossing and mixing between each. (It should look rather ropy and rough.) Stop adding water when a few bits of dry flour remain in the bottom of the bowl; do not overwork the dough. Gather two-thirds of the dough and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Do the same with the remaining third. Flatten into disks and stick in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but you can do this part a few days ahead if you want.

When the dough is chilled, roll out the larger piece with a rolling pin on a floured surface: you’ll need to have a lot of flour on hand, as it will tend to stick. Carefully fit the rolled out dough into a pie plate, so it fits up and over the sides. (You don’t have to grease or line it with anything.)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Combine all the pie filling ingredients in large bowl and toss to blend, then pour it into the pie shell. It may look like there’s too much liquid – that’s ok, it will thicken once it’s cooked and cooled.

Roll out the smaller dough disk on the lightly floured surface. Slice it into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Arrange half the strips evenly spaced over the fruit filling then, draping the ends over the edge. Then, layer the remaining strips over at a diagonal angle to form a sort of lattice. Trim the ends of dough strips to be even with overhang of bottom crust, and press them together to seal. Crimp edges with a fork, if desired, then make the glaze (1 egg yolk + a tiny dash of water) and brush it over the crust. If you want some extra sparkle (you do), sprinkle some granulated sugar over the dough. Transfer pie to baking sheet (as it will probably bubble and may overflow).* Bake for 20 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. The filling will set as it cools. Cool completely before serving with whipped cream, ice cream or Greek yogurt. Can be made a day or two in advance.

* NB: the edges of your crust might brown too fast, as mine did. To prevent this, you can cover the edges with tin foil for the first 20 – 30 minutes and then remove.

Homemade (No-Machine, No-Churn) Ice Cream

March 5, 2019

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If you’ve ever met me, been to my house, or even to my Instagram, you know I love cake. What’s not immediately apparent is how much my family loves ice cream. What the rest of them lack in cake appreciation, they more than make up for in ability to pack away quantities of ice cream. So it only made sense to start making our own.

I’m kind of an ice cream snob after working summers in my neighborhood ice cream parlour as a teenager. Not only did I make lifelong friends (true story), but I developed an appreciation of gourmet ice cream, the kind that’s hard to find, hard to agree on a flavor to buy and hard to pay for.

I’ve tried to make homemade ice cream before: once with a friend’s machine (didn’t work: never froze), once using the churn-it-yourself method (didn’t work: not delicious enough to be worth the effort), and even a few times with the banana “ice cream” method (didn’t work: isn’t ice cream).

So finding this method has been a game changer. Not only is this real ice cream, but it’ll be the easiest thing you’ve made in a long time. It’s as simple as whipping a bunch of cream with a tiny bit of sweetened condensed milk, adding a bunch of things, then plopping it into a big tupperware and freezing it. My only gripe is that it freezes much harder than store-bought ice cream, so it means you have to wait about 15 minutes before you can dig in. (If you’re like me, though, and tend to head to the freezer with a spoon “for just one bite,” this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: you’ll be denied.)

Now ice cream is so much perfect than it’s ever been, there are no more compromises. It’s “Almond, Coconut, Cocoa & Protein Powder” for our resident weight-lifter, “Nutella Chocolate Swirl” for our kids, “Banana Oreo” for me and “Lemon Curd, Raspberry Jam & Biscuits” for also me.

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HOMEMADE ICE CREAM

This recipe is so forgiving. The quantities are pretty approximate – the more sweetened condensed milk you add, the sweeter it will be, obviously, but remember that a little goes a loooong way. I recommend you start with just a splash, then keep tasting and adding until it’s exactly as sweet as you like it. Don’t skimp on the extra ingredients, and don’t be afraid to really mix them in with a heavy hand, it won’t change the consistency of the ice cream. 

  • 2 cups (600 ml) double or heavy cream
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (to taste)
  • Optional (for vanilla base): 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional (for chocolate base): 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, to taste
  • Optional: your favorite ice cream flavor additions (see below)*

In a large bowl, whip the cream with a handheld mixer for a few minutes until peaks form. Whip in a little bit of the sweetened condensed milk at a time, tasting as you go, until it’s as sweet as you want it. Add any extract (and/or cocoa powder) you’re using and whip the mixture until it’s really stiff.

Now fold in whatever you want to add. Scoop your mixture into an old ice cream carton or a large tupperware with a lid (or anything you can fit in the freezer). Freeze for at least 4 hours. That’s it!

NB: This ice cream freezes really hard so I recommend you take it out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

* Flavor ideas:

For one batch, we added a whole bunch of chopped up and blitzed Oreo cookies (maybe 30), then I swirled in some huge dollops of homemade hot fudge. We did this again but instead of hot fudge, we put in 6 puréed bananas. Heaven.

For another batch, we added some cocoa powder then swirled in huge dollops of Nutella. 

For another (amazing) batch, we did a tiny bit of lemon extract, crumbled up digestive biscuits, then swirled in raspberry jam and lemon curd.

cocoa powder + ground coffee + chocolate chips

strawberry sauce + white chocolate chips + sweetened coconut flakes

vanilla extract + cookie dough chunks

lemon extract + marshmallow sauce + cake pieces

vanilla extract + chopped amarena cherries + dark chocolate chunks + hot fudge

butterscotch sauce + white chocolate chips + pecans

mint extract + M&Ms + hot fudge

cocoa powder + Nutella + hazelnuts

chopped peanut butter cups + peanut butter + chocolate chips

Lemon extract, crumbled digestive biscuits, lemon curd and raspberry jam!

 

Roasted Corn & Chorizo Chowder

February 2, 2019

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With much of North America and Europe sitting in a deep freeze, there is little to do by way of coping but make soup. We’ve tried it every which way. Just this week: French onion (makes the whole house smell like onions), pasta e ceci (so good but not substantial), and then, finally, last night, this. A gift in a bowl. Spanish sun on cold-blistered skin.

This is one of the best soups I’ve made in ages. No, it’s one of the best soups I’ve had in ages. It may appear fussier than an average weeknight soup because you have to roast the corn and whip up a little crème fraîche topping, but it’s actually super straightforward and that garlic-infused crème fraîche? It’s the secret sauce – it adds immense amount of flavor, depth and authenticity.

So if you’re somewhere thinking of ways to get through these last 6 weeks of winter, I recommend this garlicky, hot Spanish hug in a bowl. Winter may be long and dark, but that doesn’t mean dinner has to be, too.

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ROASTED CORN & CHORIZO CHOWDER

I got this recipe from The London Cookbook, and did not mess with it much other than not bothering to make my own sofrito (see below for original sofrito recipe if you want to go above and beyond) and not removing the chorizo from the soup as it cooked. The original is posted below with my minor changes. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter; serving with good crusty bread is a must. 

  • 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh Spanish chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup peeled and diced potato (I used one large potato)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade (I used a lot more than this)
  • 2 cups sofrito (I used 1 smallish jar of store-bought sofrito, but see below for recipe)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted piquillo peppers (or any roast peppers)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • Hot paprika or sweet smoked paprika, to taste (I used a big shake of smoked)
  • Red chile flakes, to taste (I didn’t use)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. If using thawed frozen corn kernels, pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Toss the corn with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and then spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the corn for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the edges are starting to turn a golden brown. Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, and set aside.

Slice the chorizo or remote from its casing and crumble. Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chorizo and sauté until browned. Transfer the chorizo to another plate. (NB: I didn’t bother removing the chorizo [see: lazy] and it worked just fine.) Toss the potato into the pot and cook, stirring, letting it absorb some of that chorizo goodness. Add the stock, sofritopiquillos, and roasted corn and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer about 20 minutes, until the vegetables soften but haven’t yet lost their texture.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the crème fraîche with the chives, garlic, paprika, and chile flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Slide the chorizo into the soup, stir in half of the crème fraîche mixture, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Ladle into warmed bowls, dollop with some of the remaining crème fraiche, and lightly dust with paprika (I sprinkled some chives on top, too).

If you have a ton of time on your hands or can’t find store-bought, here’s the recipe for homemade sofrito, also from The London Cookbook:

SOFRITO

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh or canned whole tomatoes
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Toss in the onions and garlic. Cook gently, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent but not colored. Peel the bell peppers with a vegetable peeler and add them to the onions. Continue to sauté for another 20 minutes, until they too are soft.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, grate them on the largest holes of a box grater. If you are using canned tomatoes, pulse them in a food processor until they are somewhere between diced and pureed.

When the bell peppers are soft add the tomato and bay leaf and cook at the merest simmer for 25 minutes longer. Add the sugar, season with salt and pepper, and give the sofrito a final stir.

If you are making the sofrito ahead, let it cool completely. Pour into a jar, cover with a thin layer of olive oil, close the lid, and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

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Lemon Almond Raspberry Layer Cake

January 17, 2019

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It’s dinner party season*, the season for heavy drinking and eating, the season for trying our best to be happy indoors. Dinner parties need, in my opinion, either the simplest desserts (a huge block of Callebaut chocolate and a knife) or the most comforting (bread pudding with whiskey sauce, hot-out-the-oven chocolate chip cookies with spiked milk, layer cake).

Dinner party season tends to coincide with lemon cake season. If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that lemon cakes are kind of my thing. (Actually, citrus cakes in general.) The craving tends to hit at this time of year: the darkest, dreariest time, when citrus reminds people that not all places in the world are cold and inhospitable. We grew somewhere, they say, far better than wherever we are now.

In this specific iteration of my usual wintery citrusy cake craving, I wanted a lemon cake that wasn’t fluffy or frivolous, something with weight and import. I wanted it to have layers and frosting and maybe – no, definitely – a layer of raspberry jam in the middle.

The cake I got was everything I wanted:

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a lemony cake made with some almond meal for a little flavor and a lot of texture and depth, filled with a (butter-free!) frosting that holds its own.

I finally settled on a cake recipe loosely based on this one. (All the cakes on Ana’s blog look next level amazing…just look at this Oreo cake! Plus she explains a lot of the chemistry behind baking, which isn’t just cool, it’s incredibly helpful no matter how skilled a baker you think you are.) While I didn’t copy the recipe exactly, I did copy its use of weight rather than volume measurements and, at least for baking, I really recommend you, do, too. All you need is a cheap digital kitchen scale – they’re about $10 on Amazon – and I promise all your baking will be better. The American way of measuring out all our ingredients in cups is so inaccurate and because baking is such a science, every gram or ounce really makes a difference.

The only issue I had was a practical one – how to fill the cake with both jam and frosting without the jam squirting out the sides? There are many things I know I could have done – I could have piped frosting along the edges of the inside layer to make a “dam” to keep the jam from running out, I could have cooked the jam down or added a bit of cornstarch to make it less runny. But I’m lazy, so my jam oozed out the sides a bit. And you know what? We didn’t mind at all.

 

I’m definitely going to make this again and soon. It’s dinner party season after all.

*Who am I kidding? It’s always dinner party season around here 🙂

LEMON ALMOND CAKE WITH RASPBERRY JAM & CREAM CHEESE MASCARPONE FROSTING

I finally settled on a cake recipe loosely based on this one. (All the cakes on Ana’s blog look next level amazing…just look at this Oreo cake! Plus she explains a lot of the chemistry behind baking, which isn’t just cool, it’s incredibly helpful no matter how skilled a baker you think you are.) While I didn’t copy the recipe exactly, I did copy its use of weight rather than volume measurements and I really recommend you, do, too. All you need is a cheap digital kitchen scale – they’re about $10 on Amazon – and I promise all your baking will be better. The American way of measuring out all our ingredients in cups is so inaccurate and because baking is such a science, every gram or ounce really makes a difference. Makes gorgeously flavored and textured cake for 12. Feel free to use the cake recipe without the frosting – it’d be perfect with nothing but some jam on top. 

Lemon Almond Cake

makes enough for 2 x 8″ layer cakes

  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 235 grams sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • zest from 3 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice from 3 lemons
  • 120 grams sour cream or yogurt
  • 50 grams milk
  • 190 grams flour
  • 100 grams ground almonds (also called almond meal)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon – (don’t forget this! It adds so much.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup raspberry jam, for filling (you can substitute any jam or curd you like)

Preheat oven to 160°C/325°F. Grease and line two same-sized cake tin with with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl sift together flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. (If you can, sift it.)

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, milk and lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. (approx. 3 min). Add the lemon zest and the eggs. Add the tiniest bit of almond extract and the vanilla extract. Beat another minute or two until really pale.

Alternating between them (and starting and ending with the flour mixture), add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture with a wooden spoon, gently mixing to combine after each addition.

Divide batter between your two prepared tins and bake 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the palest part comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Allow cakes to cool for at least 15 minutes in their pans then remove and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Make the frosting while the cakes cool. To frost the cakes, top one layer with 1/3 of the frosting (recipe below) and raspberry jam (cooked down with some cornstarch if you’re worried about it running out). Put the second layer on top and frost with the rest of the frosting. There are really fancy ways to do this but, as you can see by my photos, I did not do them.

Lemon Almond Cream Cheese & Mascarpone Frosting

makes enough for a generous amount to fill and cover a cake with two layers

  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 200 g mascarpone
  • 60 g powdered sugar, sifted
  • juice of one lemon (and zest too if you want!)
  • a couple drops almond extract (really just the tiniest amount possible)
  • a big splash of vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and powdered sugar together until well combined. Add the other frosting ingredients to taste. Adding more powdered sugar will result in a stiffer frosting.

 

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Peanut Butter Nutella Blondies

December 3, 2018

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I love Christmastime for the lights, the festivities, the togetherness, the panettone and the pudding, the glitter and the glogg. But I do not love the presents. It often feels like ’tis the season for buying things for the sake of checking names off a list and for receiving things you don’t need or want. One way to bypass most of Christmas-related present-buying stress is to make three or four big batches of cookies, brownies and bars, then mix and wrap them up in paper or pretty bags and give them as gifts.* It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s cheap and people will appreciate getting a dozen homemade blondies a lot more than having to figure out how to regift that holiday themed oven mitt.

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If you’re looking for the perfect medley of giftable treats, I recommend my biscotti, some kind of classic cookie, and these peanut butter Nutella blondies. As far as effort goes, it’s next to nothing. I made these last night while waiting for the pasta water to boil, true story.

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PEANUT BUTTER NUTELLA BLONDIES

These are one of the best things I’ve ever made. Never have I received so much praise for such little effort. They take no time, no effort, no cleaning up, just a very healthy amount of our favorite things: butter, sugar and chocolate. Below recipe adapted from this one on Averie Cooks, where peanut butter chips are used instead of chocolate chips and only Nutella is spooned on top. It’s super adaptable, so use what you have or what you feel like! 

1/2 cup (115 grams/1 stick) butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup chocolate chips

peanut butter

Nutella

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Prepare a baking tin by coating the bottom and sides in butter. If you don’t have a tin you can use a tray.

In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, egg and sugar until creamy. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the flour and chocolate chips. Plop the batter into the prepared tin. Spoon big dollops of peanut butter and/or nutella on top, as much as you want.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Wait until almost completely cool before slicing.

*If you want to give more substantial baked goods, check out my pumpkin bread, which makes perfect little loaves.