Aka, someone wanted a Hobbit Hole cake for their daughter’s 11th birthday, and I had way, way too much fun with it.

Bilbo! Frodo! the Ring!

The top layer (aka Hobbit Hole) was Vanilla butter cake filled with a layer of Apricot preserves and frosting.  The bottom layer was chocolate with strawberry filling (local strawberries, frozen and saved from last summer).  The frosting was ‘buttercreme’ (not real), because it holds up at room temp even when it’s hot, and kids don’t care.  And it’s sweet.  The door, paving stones, and chimney stones are made from white chocolate (colored), and everything else except Frodo and Bilbo are frosting.

Yes, those are Elvish runes. It says "Happy Birthday Fiona. Eleven years."

Yes, I added an inscription in Elvish.  Because I could.

Wouldn’t you?

The cake will fit in.  It’s for a birthday party that’s Hobbit-themed (the party favors are copies of the book even).  The kid is a geek.  The parents are geeks.  They were thrilled when I dropped it off.  🙂

And, so you all can see how long it’s been since I actually made flowers, a flower closeup (don’t take my Wilton license away!):

Nobody tell my old cake decorating teacher, okay? I'll lose that "A".

Double Rainbow Chocolate Sorbet

In my continuing efforts to deal with the “no dairy, no soy” dietary restrictions, I’m always on the lookout for desserts that  I can both eat without guilt, and with pleasure.  So when I saw this on the shelf at my local Harris-Teeter, I picked it up.

The ingredients are thus: Sugar, Non GM corn syrup, cocoa processed with alkali, natural cocoa, carob bean gum, guar gum, carrageenan.

It’s 99% fat free, has no dairy, uses no soy (yay!), is gluten-free, and the calorie count is reasonable for a snack (120 calories for a 1/2 cup serving, 5 of them from fat). (More info about the company and their products here.)

So, how did it taste?

Obviously, the lack of butterfat means that it doesn’t taste like ice cream.  No getting away from that.  But the chocolate flavor is rich (although with a hint of that weird plastickiness that I associate with carob – this isn’t belgian chocolate, folks, and doesn’t pretend otherwise), and the sorbet is creamy and has good mouthfeel.

Honestly, the closest thing I can say that this comes to in flavor/texture is the Fudgesicle Fudge Pops – remember those?

Fudgsicle Fudge Pops

Mind you, I like fudge pops.  So for me, having an entire tub of solid fudgepop isn’t a bad thing, but ymmv.

Delicious banana-rum cake using my new bundt pan!

I’ve been reading the Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy blog for a little over a year now, and being in love with her writing (and recipes!), picked up a copy of her book a few months ago.  I read through it when I first got it (something I usually do with new cookbooks – I love reading them just like books), but while I kept meaning to make something from it, I just kept getting distracted by old favorites.  Which also explains the paucity of posts lately 🙂

A few weeks ago, however, I had some extra bananas to use up,  picked up the book to see if there was anything interesting in it, and found this recipe.

It looked fantastic, so I made it (and took the excuse to use one of my new spiffy Bundt pans obtained on sale this winter), and Oh My God.  It really was fantastic.  The outer layer of rum-soaked cake became this sticky, crusty incredible goodness (we won’t even talk about the pecan layer on top), while the inside banana cake, which was soft and creamy right after baking (you think we waited for this to cool completely?  Ha!) becomes dense and creamy after you let the cake cool.  And if you throw the leftovers in the fridge?  Oh my goodness.  It is soooo good.  We even threw the last piece in the freezer (double-wrapped), and when I thawed it back out and ate it, it was still perfectly wonderful.

The book itself is a joy to use – recipes are clearly and beautifully laid out, instructions are easy to follow, and the book itself is a visual treat.  I highly recommend it.

Look at that creamy interior...

So this cake is an excellent one for cake stands, leftovers, etc.  Bakesales, you name it.  It holds up well, the flavors just get more rich after the first day, and it’s sooo good.

If only real cathedrals tasted this nice

So while we had friends over to play cards, I made it again – this time using my new mini-bundt pans (I cut the recipe in half, which made me six mini-bundts and one leftover tart-pan’s worth of batter).  Still amazing, amazing, amazing.  I took one to my sweetie for lunch at work, and he wrote to tell me that he was still tasting it on his tongue hours later.

Another cute little bundt shape

Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake

from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Dark Rum Glaze:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark [I used dark] brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum

Combine the butter, water, and sugars [but not the rum!  I did this the second time and had to double the rum, oh noes] in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low nad simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.  Set aside and keep warm.

The Cake:

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted [I ran out halfway through and used walnuts as well, which worked just fine]

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar [I used dark]
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark rum [I use Myers Dark]
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.  Spray a 10-cup tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.  [note: Yes, the pecans make quite a deep layer on the bottom of the pan.  It will all work out, I promise.]

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat togethe rthe butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Beat in mashed bananas, vanilla, and rum.  Sift the flour, baking osda, baking powder, and slat over the batter and fold in using a rubber spatula, just until no streaks of flour remain.  Fold in the sour cream.  Spoon the batter over the nuts in the pan and spread to the ede of the pan using the back of the rubber spatula.

Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 60 – 80 minutes.  [For the smaller bundts, it took around 30 minutes] Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Use a wooden skewer to poke holes all over the cake and pour 1/4 cup of the warm glaze over the cake.  Let the cake cool for 5 minutes more.  Place a serving platter over the pan and invert to release the cake onto the platter.  Spoon the remaining glaze over the cake, a little at a time, and let stand until the glaze is completely absorbed into the cake.  If the glaze starts to pool at the base of the cake, use a small metal spatula to spread it up and around the sides of the cake.  As the glaze hardens, this will encase the cake in a rummy, sugary shell.

[Let’s just dwell on that phrase for a moment, shall we?  Rummy, sugary shell.  Yummmmmmmm.]

Let the cake cool comp;letely before cutting into wedges and serving.  [Ha!  I can say that when warm/hot, this cake is almost like banana bread pudding.  It’s so awesome.  Don’t deny yourself.] Will last 2 to 3 days if covered well.  And if your house contains only one person, or somebody who has no taste buds.  Otherwise, don’t plan on saving any.  It’s that darned good.

Yummy!

Yummy birthday cake

A little while ago, I made a birthday cake for someone to have at their “Free Cake Day” party (not wanting to have a Birthday Party, or really celebrate their birthday in general – I know!  How odd.)

I’d recently acquired Rose Beranbaum’s newest cake book (Heavenly Cakes), and wanted to make something from that . I settled on Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (page 43), because the lemon flavor seemed bright and cheery, and I hadn’t really done anything interesting with white chocolate in a while.  Plus, I wanted to try out my new transfer sheets.

The cake is a lemon butter cake, baked in two 9″ layers that are split and filled with homemade lemon curd (Rose’s fabulous recipe, that works like a charm and tastes amazingly zingy).

The white chocolate lemon buttercream was the real surprise in this recipe.  The technique Rose calls for is one that I’d never come across before – essentially, you make a white chocolate custard, cool it, beat in butter and then beat until stiff peaks form – and then leave it at room temperature for up to 2 hours until “slightly thickened and spongy”.  Then you beat until smooth, and beat in the lemon curd.

Why the fermentation period?  The buttercream was smooth and creamy and tasty – everything you want – but I can’t quite figure this one out.  It’s easier, overall, than doing either French or Italian buttercream, but you have to have those two hours of downtime.  Does anyone know what’s going on, here?

In any case, the cake and buttercream both came out delicious, I put it all together and decorated with white chocolate shards, and served with either raspberry or blackberry cabernet sorbet.  The not-birthday-boy and his friends/family were highly pleased; very little of this cake was left after the party!  Another hit, Rose.

Time for another Chocolate and Wine tasting night at the Hope Valley Bottle Shop! (Located in the Woodcroft shopping center, SW Durham)

This Monday, February 8th, 5:30-7:30pm.

Come try the Valentine’s Day lineup!

Read the Printed Word!

Mostly because whenever I try to cook from a recipe that’s on the laptop, I end up with flour in my keyboard.

Cinnamon Rolls, ready-to-eat

Cinnamon Rolls!

One of the things that happens around the holidays is that you have a lot of things to do and places to go, and not much time to get ready or do prep work.  One thing that I’ve found makes a great hostess gift for brunch, or to have on hand for guests, are these lovely and easy-to-make cinnamon rolls.

The thing that makes these easier than usual is the use of the dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day – if you already have a batch in your fridge, throwing together these rolls is easy-peasy.  If you don’t, why not?  You can make these, and then make a batch of dinner rolls, then have a loaf of bread, or make some pizza… it’s really flexible.

I used the basic boule recipe for this – it’s not a sweet dough, but it works just fine once you’ve added a bunch of brown sugar and pecans and butter 🙂

Cinnamon Rolls

1 lb prepared dough from Artisan Bread Dough (a yeasted, proofed dough)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 TB cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans

As part of the preparation of the bread dough, it will have had the first rise.  Take a one-pound chunk of dough, either just after the first rise or from the fridge, and punch down the dough and roll out into a rectangle approx 15″ x 10″.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Spread approx half of this mixture onto the rectangle of dough, leaving a half-inch margin clear. Starting at the long edge, roll the dough (jelly roll style) into a cylinder, sealing the edge.

Meanwhile, put the other half of the butter mixture into a 9″ cake pan, and sprinkle the cup of pecans over it.

Slice the dough log into 2-inch rolls, placing them into the cake pan on top of the butter/pecan layer.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, moist place until puffy and near-doubled, about 20 minutes if the dough is fresh, and 45 minutes if from the refrigerator.

Bake in a 350F oven uncovered until tops are brown, approximately 35 minutes.  Immediately turn over onto a serving plate while the caramel is still hot, serve when you can stand the temperature.

You can also put together the rolls the day before, and stick into the fridge overnight – pull them out first thing in the morning and an hour later, they’ll be ready to bake.