Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day & Black Forest Cake

As promised, this is the second of two Valentine's Day desserts (that would be perfect to serve any day). The first of which being a rich and decadent Hazelnut Torte I served topped with ganache and gently whipped cream. This time, I took a sweeter approach for something really special to serve to my love on this Valentine's Day. My husband adored the cake. So much so that he awoke and requested it for breakfast...while reciting lines to the best of his recollection from one of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems.

May you awake in love to something sweet and poetic everyday.

Black Forest Cake


24 ounce (700 ml) jar of Morello Cherries in syrup, or jar of sour cherries (I found mine at Whole Foods)

4 tablespoons Kirsch or Cherry Brandy

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

Directions for Cherries:

Drain the cherries, reserving the liquid. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons Kirsch. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside. Place 1 cup (240 ml) of the reserved cherry syrup in a small saucepan, along with the sugar, and heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, add 2 tablespoons Kirsch, and let cool.

In colander (or using hand) over medium bowl, drain cherries. Save liquid. In separate bowl, add cherries and combine with two tablespoons Kirsch. Cover bowl and place aside. Add one cup of saved liquid from cherries into pan with 1/4 cup sugar. Heat on medium until sugar has dissolved. Move pan off heat and add in two tablespoons kirsch. Allow to cool completely.
Recipe courtesy and adapted from Joy of Baking

Proceed with cakes.

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY®'S Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup boiling water

Cake Directions:

1. Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and allow to preheat. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, or coat with butter, then flour, turn and gently tap to remove excess flour. I like to both line with parchment and butter and flour.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. Pour in eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat with mixer on medium speed until ingredients fully incorporate. Carefully stir in (I a used fork) boiling water. Batter will become thin.

Equally divide batter between two prepared cake pans.

3. Allow cakes to bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick inserted into middle of cake removes clean. When done, allow cakes to cool ten minutes in pans. Transfer cakes from pans onto a wire rack and let cool completely. I put cakes in freezer for about 20 minutes to make sure they were very cool before adding whipped cream.
Recipe courtesy and adapted from Hershey's via All Recipes.com

Once cakes have cooled completely, proceed with Whipped Cream Frosting.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) heavy whipping cream (double cream) (35% butterfat)

4 ounces cream cheese, preferably Philadelphia

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 tablespoons (35 grams) granulated white sugar

Whipped Cream Frosting:

Add cream cheese to bowl and mix on medium speed until broken. Continuing to beat on medium, slowly pour in heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Beat until mixture increases in volume and just begins to become stiff. Add in sugar. Continue to beat until you've formed stiff peaks, or just until sugar is combined.
Recipe courtesy and adapted from All Recipes.com

Assemble Cake:

If needed, slice mound off upside (top) of the bottom layer of cake to flatten and make more steady to support second cake. Brush off excess crumbs. (*Note: Many places instruct simply turning one cake over so that the bottom of cake becomes the top, but I find that if your cake baked with a slight mound on top, the cake will not sit as flat on cake plate or dish, but if you don't have that issue, you can simply turn bottom layer of cake over and proceed with directions normally.) Brush top of the bottom layer of cake with 1/4 cup of reserved cherry syrup with Kirsch you made earlier.
Spread one cup of whipped cream over the top of moistened cake. Cover whipped cream with Kirsch soaked cherries. Turn over top layer of cake, so that the bottom is facing up, and brush with 1/4 cup of reserved cherry syrup. Place moistened side of cake (bottom) on top of cherries and whipped cream. Press down gently. Set one cup of whipped cream aside and frost cake with remaining whipped cream. Add remaining 1 cup of whipped cream to pastry bag and, using large star tip, pipe rosettes around top of cake. Decorate with cherries, fresh or maraschino, and chocolate shavings and Refrigerate for several hours or overnight covered before serving.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Celebrate Love & Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

This is the first of two (delicious, chocolate) Valentine's Day desserts. Everything is better in pairs. And I do have two special loves this year. Although, one of them is not yet old enough and will have to settle for the organic carrots Mommy made for him in lieu of cake. Daddy will be happy to eat his share.

Every day I wake up to Barrett's beaming, smiling little face and my wonderful husband, I fall in love...again and again.

With this, who couldn't...

For me, every day is an occasion worth celebrating because it is within that love, I get to live my dream come true.

I never subscribed to the commercialism of Valentine's Day; cards, candy, flowers, but the celebration of love, I know what that's all about, and there's nothing sweeter.

Dear friends, May you be every day~living out your dreams in love.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte:

Recipe courtesy and Adapted from Joy of Baking

1/2 cup (70 grams) hazelnuts

1/4 cup (30 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

6 ounces (170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar (divided)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Toasting Nuts: Turn oven to 350 degrees to preheat, making sure rack is placed in center of oven. Add nuts to baking sheet and place in oven for about 15 minutes or until skins begin to crack and loosen from nuts. Remove baking sheet from oven and add nuts into a clean dish towel. Twist towel so no air can get in or out and allow nuts to steam for 5 minutes. Use towel to remove the skin from nuts by rubbing. I could not get them all off and that was fine. Allow to cool.

Ground Hazelnuts: When your hazelnuts have cooled completely, add into food processor, including flour and salt, pulse until hazelnuts are finely ground. Put aside.

Prepare and Bake Torte: Turn oven temperature up to 375 degrees. Prepare 8 x 3 inch springform cake pan by lining with parchment paper. I used a tart pan.

While eggs are still cold, separate, placing egg whites and egg yolks into different bowls. Allow to come to room temperature covered.

Add chocolate and butter to heatproof bowl and place on top of saucepan of simmering water. Stir while chocolate melts and remove from heat. Set aside.

Combine egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar in bowl of electric mixer or, using hand mixer and bowl, beat until mixture becomes thicker and pale yellow in color, about 3-5 minutes. (Lifting beaters from mixture should create silky ribbon.) Mix in vanilla extract. Using rubber spatula, fold in melted chocolate mixture and nut and flour mixture, taking care to be gentle. Put aside. In clean, preferably glass bowl, use whisk attachment to beat egg whites, mixing on medium speed. When egg whites become foamy add in cream of tartar. Beat continuously until soft peaks have formed. Slowly add in remainder of sugar, 1/4 cup, with mixer turned to high, and beat until egg whites just become stiff.

Lighten chocolate mixture by folding in small amount of whisked egg whites. Fold in remainder of egg whites quickly. Be careful to gently incorporate just until mixed as to not deflate batter. Add batter into prepared pan and level top.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until inserted toothpick in center of cake removes with moist crumbs. Allow torte to cool completely on wire rack. Once cooled, torte will fall in center and may crack on top. This cake is dense and moist. I liken it to a hazelnut brownie. I served it with homemade ganache and gently whipped cream. So good!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Update & A Sweet and Simple Salad

Dear Friends,

May I just start by saying how much I've missed everyone. My last post was just before Christmas, which means I didn't get to wish you all a very happy and vibrant new year. I hope the start of 2012 has shown a lot of promise and reason to look ahead.

My new year has been dedicated to restoring my health, hence my absence. Ever since giving birth to the love and light of my life, my son Barrett, last July, I became increasingly ill. This affected my life drastically and limited what I could and could not do as I did my best to navigate being a Mom, wife and continuing to do the other things I love, like cooking, while being sick and enduring test after test in pursuit of a diagnosis.

I'm happy to say, I've adjusted and getting a lot better at managing to cook, document, keep pace with a highly active 7-month old, and slowly incorporate all of my old passions back into my life in spite of everything else.

This post was mostly about catching up, but I'm also including a quick and yummy salad.

Since I've been gone...

We celebrated our first Christmas together.

Barrett got to experience his first snow.

His first taste was carrot.

He loves his monkey and the quilt his "Gigi" made for him.

We took him to one of our favorite places, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

And he took his first ride in a swing.

I'll be back with new dishes, and more Milk, Sugar, Musings & Love(s) of my life soon. In the mean time...

Cranberry Walnut Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Mix of greens, your choice
Handful dried cranberries
Small handful of candied or lightly toasted walnuts
Chopped feta cheese
Top with pita chips

Raspberry Vinaigrette

I used this recipe and whisked in 4 raspberries.

Honey-Vinaigrette Dressing


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup red wine or distilled white vinegar (I used the latter)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red onion or shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 fresh ground black pepper


In medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey and mustard. While continuing to whisk gently, add in oil slowly. Add in onion, whisk again. Repeat after adding salt and pepper. Whisk again gently just before serving over salad.
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