I love, love, love me some Bloggess, y’all, so when I found out that she’d added a stop in North Carolina to her book tour, I *had* to go, even if it was over two hours away.

And then I thought – you know, wouldn’t it be fun to bring cake?  And to try my hand at making something fun for the topper?

I’ve never made an edible taxidermied mouse before…

There were at least a hundred people there.  There was spontaneous applause as I brought the cake up and put it on the table up front.  Here’s the inspiration for the cake:

And a closeup of Mr. Hamlet von Schnizzle (sp):

The details:

Cake is Chocolate Buttermilk Cake from Maida Heatter’s Chocolate cookbook.  Filled and frosted with chocolate ganache and some strawberry puree I made the other day. [ Note: never, ever make this cake again.  The taste was wonderful, but the texture was pure crumb!  Cutting it caused it to explode into a pile of crumbs.  Tasty crumbs, but still.  Horrible to try and serve without getting cake everywhere.  Sorry, Books a Million. ] 

Hamlet is made of marzipan rolled in coconut, his hands, feet, teeth and ears are gumpaste.  The eyes are redhots, and the cape (thank you for the great idea, George!) is a fruit rollup enhanced with some sparkle dust.  The metal pole up his butt holding him upright (marzipan mice are rather topheavy) is a flower nail.  🙂  I tried to make the ruff out of marzipan, but it was big and clunky so I left it off.

This was tremendous fun, and I’m so glad I got to meet Jenny and bring a smile to her face!  I had slipped away during part of her Q&A to go pick up a copy of the book so I could have it signed, which is of course when she said something about the cake, so I missed my big moment, but it was fine.  Great crowd!

And I got to listen to the audiobook on the way there and back with my friend Kelley, which was hilarious and there’s enough added content and fun in it that I highly recommend it, even if you already have the book.  Seriously.

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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.

Nummy!

Nummy!

It’s been a few months since I’ve managed to make the CSB cake, but I’m back on track!

This month’s cake presented some challenges.  The cake recipe itself came out very moist, almost wet – which made it a bit of a handful to work with while decorating.  The white chocolate mousse failed entirely the first time around (mostly because I misread and added all of the cream to the chocolate – hence the white chocolate ‘sauce’ you’ll see in a later pic), but I made  a milk chocolate mousse the second time around (being out of white chocolate) and it was still really soft – the extra chocolate liqueur should have helped it hold up more, but others reported soft mousse as well, so if I were making this again I’d use some other mousse recipe.  The frosting came out fine, although it took longer to set up for the final coat than I’d like, and it was un-pipeable.  I wanted to do something more interesting for decoration, but it really wasn’t going to happen with this frosting.

The taste was great, though – the cake was soft and flavorful, the frosting was dense and fudgy, and the mousse had soaked into the layers enough to make nice gooey mess.  Incredibly rich – I’ve had two parties now with this cake and still have some left over.  Help!

Slice of cake with some white chocolate 'sauce'

Slice of cake with some white chocolate ‘sauce’

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake
(from the Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes cookbook)
Makes a 9″ triple layer case – serves 16 to 20

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour [I used White Lily]
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I used Ghirardelli]
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (use real mayonnaise and not a low fat or fat-free version or anything labeled “salad dressing”)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

White Chocolate Mousse (recipe below)
Sour Cream Chocolate Icing (recipe below)

Finished layer

Method:

1. Heat oven to 350F. Butter bottom and sides of 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.

2. For batter, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside the dry ingredients.

3. Put chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Bring milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the mocha liquid cool slightly.

4. In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Add dry ingredients and coffee liquid alternately in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth. Divide batter among pans.

5. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10-15 minutes. Unmold cakes. Peel off paper lining and cool completely, at least 1 hour. (The layers can be baked a day ahead, wrap well, and refrigerated)

To Assemble the Cake:

1. Place one cake layer flat-side up on cake stand. Cover top with half the white chocolate mousse, leaving 1/4 -inch margin around edge. Repeat with second layer.

2. Set third layer on top and pour half the sour cream chocolate over the filled cake. Spread all over the sides and top. Don’t worry if cake shows through. The first frosting is to seal in the crumbs which is whey professinal call it a “crumb coat”. Refrigerate cake uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the rest of the icing and set aside at room temperature.

3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing, which should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If the icing becomes too soft, chill briefly. If icing becomes too stiff, microwave on high 2 or 3 seconds to soften, and then stir to mix well. Use an offset palatte knife or the back of a spoon to swirl the frosting decoratively around the cake.

White Chocolate Mousse:

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sugar

For mousse, melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup cream in a double boiler or in a small metal bowl set over a pan of very hot water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

When it has cooled, beat the remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. In another clean bowl, whip egg white with sugar until fairly stiff peaks form.

Fold the beaten egg white into white chocolate cream. Then fold in the whipped cream just until blended (do not overwhip or your icing will split).

[I tried this with milk chocolate and it was still too mushy; after refrigerating for an hour, I was able to get some of it into the middle of the cake using the big gaps made by the sunken cake bits to hold it in.  Still, it was tasty.]

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Sour Cream Chocolate Icing:

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Melt chocolate with butter and corn syrup in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in a heavy pan over very low heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in half-and-half and sour cream. Use while soft.

Chocolate Basil Tartelet

Chocolate Basil Tartelet

We went to the Farmer’s Market yesterday, our first time to the one in Durham.  We’ve lived in Durham for over two years now and never had been – either we go to the one we’re used to in Carrboro (huge and wonderful), or (much more likely) we don’t wake up on Saturday until far too late to bother going at all.

But, we’re still mildly recovering from being five hours ahead of ourselves in Scotland, so we were up bright and early on Saturday, and decided to give it a whirl.

It was much smaller than the one in Carrboro, but also much closer to us, with a good mix of vendors.  We got some mixed greens for stir-frying, a pint each of muscadines and scuppernongs, a loaf of whole-wheat artisinal bread, and a bunch of fresh basil.

Normally, I’d have a huge forest of basil growing out in the herb garden, but this year I didn’t end up planting anything, so all we have are rosemary and sage.  So limiting!  So I couldn’t resist a bunch of delicious-smelling basil.

But, what to do with it?  (Oh, the horror, what a conundrum)  We were planning to go to a Beatles-themed rock band get-together, and I wanted to take something sweet, so I pulled out Desserts From an Herb Garden and found this recipe.  It was delicious!  and a big hit – the hosts had made strawberry sauce for other purposes, which went lovely with these little tarts.

Chocolate Basil Truffle Rounds

from Desserts From an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons minced basil leaves
3/4 lb (12 oz)  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, separated
2 Tablespoons sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F; butter or grease eight 4-inch removable-bottom tartlet tins (I used disposable tart cups); set tins on baking sheet.

2. Melt butter with basil leaves in the top of a double boiler set over (not touching) barely simmering water.  Add chocolate; stir often until chocolate is melted.  Set aside top pan to cool slightly; mixture will be very thick.

Also, I probably heated more than I should have b/c I kept seeing ‘lumps’, which were actually basil leaf chunks.  oops.

3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks; add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks until bubbly; whisk into chocolate mixture.  Fold in about 1/4 cup beaten whites to lighten the chocolate mixture, then gently but thoroughly fold in remaining whites.

4. Divide batter among tins.  Bake 15 minutes, until tops have just set (mixture will still be soft in the middle).  Let cool on a wire rack (the puffed tops will fall), then chill, covered, until ready to serve.

I slightly overbaked, hence my non-fallen tops and sort of crumbly texture to finished product.  I’d definitely check after  10 minutes.

5.  To serve, remove tin sides.  With a thin-bladed metal spatula, lift rounds from the bases and transfer to dessert plates.  Serve cold or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream or a small pool of custard sauce (or fruit sauce!); garnish with basil sprigs.

We’re still puttering around with the various food restrictions, trying to find tasty things to make that we can all eat  (as a reminder, Jeff is gluten-free, I’m dairy- and soy-free, and we’re both vegetarian; plus we have a good friend who is gluten- and dairy-free and vegetarian who eats with us regularly. )

So you can imagine, when I saw this on the shelves at Trader Joe’s the other month, I snapped it up:

Trader Joe's Gluten-free brownies

Trader Joe's Gluten-free brownies

In the teeny fine print on front, it proudly proclaims:

“This mix is free of Wheat, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Milk & Dairy, Soy, & Corn.”

Also, no preservatives  or artifical colors or flavors.

(What’s left, you may ask?  Good question – mostly brown rice flour and cane syrup. )

You mix in oil, egg, and water (although I replaced the oil with a half-half mix of applesauce and hazelnut oil).  Chocolate chips are optional (although of course I added some! )

The finished product was very gooey and almost imperceptibly GF – we served them at our Fourth of July party and got tons of raves, but nobody twigged to the fact that they were pretty much everything-free.  Sounds like a win to me!

Gluten- Soy- Dairy-free brownies!

Gluten- Soy- Dairy-free brownies!

For another take on these, check out Baking Bites.

It’s a new month, and just in time for Father’s day comes this lovely collection of new truffles.  I hope you’ll stop by and check them out!

June’s Flavors:

Whisky Truffles

Whisky Truffles

Whisky – A dark chocolate truffle made with Dalmore 12-year Scotch Whisky. This highland single-malt has notes of citrus, spice, and cream, pairing beautifully with Belgian dark chocolate for an experience you won’t soon forget.

Half-sphere, or gold-dusted puramid.

Hazelnut Praline – Smooth and creamy milk chocolate paired with caramelized hazelnuts; covered in dark Belgian couverture.

Plain pyramid.

Ginger Truffles

Ginger Truffles

Ginger – Each truffle contains a dark chocolate ganache infused with ginger as well as a piece of candied ginger for a spicy/sweet treat.

Geodesic half-sphere, or triangle.

Truffle Squared (Truffle2) – Dark chocolate ganache with a touch of white truffle oil. Simple, earthy, and elegant.

Cocoa-dusted hand-rolled.

Espresso Cup

Espresso Cup

Espresso Cups – Espresso-infused dark chocolate ganache topped with a chocolate-covered espresso bean. A real eye-opener!


Available in 2, 4, and 6-piece assortments.  Enjoy!

Guess free chocolate’s popular 🙂 Drew and Thomas estimated we had around 180 people over the course of the evening – they ran out of wine glasses, I ran out of samples.. I also sold all but 6 of the small boxes of chocolate (that’s over 170 pieces of chocolate sold! More than that given away), making it a tremendously successful weekend.  Woot!

No pictures because we forgot the camera 😦  But I’ll get some the next time.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and welcome to any new readers!