Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Nowadays, other people’s birthdays are far more exciting than my own.  Does that happen to you too? I think that’s what happens when you pass the age of 21.

I love other people’s birthdays, because I love getting other people gifts and I love making them birthday cakes.  Ok really, that last reason is the most important one.

Yesterday  was Jesse’s birthday.  In the past I’ve written an embarrassing post in his honor, but this year I’ll mostly spare him.  I made him an epic cheesecake, because while I love layer cakes, I know he’s a fan of cheesecake.

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On someone’s birthday, you should probably make what they like, not what you like.  Remember, it’s the time to be giving.

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Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

cake adapted from All Recipes (strawberry sauce my own)

9 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour

For Topping:

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipped cream (sweetened with a few tbsp sugar), optional

For Sauce:

1lb fresh strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease 9inch springform pan and wrap in aluminum foil (this is to keep water from getting in when you bake in a water bath). In a bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Press into bottom of springform pan.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in milk and eggs, one at a time until just combined.  Add in sour cream, vanilla and flour and beat until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Place pan in a larger baking dish, a roasting pan if you have one (I used a jelly roll pan because that’s all I had), and fill baking dish with hot water.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  After that time, turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour, then crack the oven door and let it sit for another hour or two.  The goal is to make sure the temperature doesn’t drop too quickly.  That way you’ll get a smooth cheesecake with no cracks.

While you’re waiting for the cake to cool, is the perfect time to make the topping.  Dice strawberries and place in a sauce pan with sugar and balsamic vinegar.  With regards to the amount of sugar, start with half a cup, after it’s been cooking for a while, taste the sauce and add more if you’d like.  I didn’t, but I could see where some would want it sweeter.  Cook on medium heat about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.  At this point, you can leave it with chunks of fruit or you can blend to get a smooth sauce.  I blended it, but whole chunks of fruit could also be delicious and beautiful.

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The topping can be made in advance and refrigerated.  Feel free to serve it warm or cold.

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Now back to the cake… Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  A few hours before you’re ready to serve, prepare topping.  Mix together sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Spread over top of cake.  Pipe whipped cream around edges (this is optional, just for decoration).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Serve with strawberry balsamic sauce and enjoy!

I hope Jesse enjoyed it!  His birthday was pretty low key.  We had sushi, ate cheesecake and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night in a food coma.

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That might be one of the most awesome ways to spend a birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jesse!

I know I said my other people’s birthdays are more exciting than my own, but next week is my birthday and let’s be honest, making a birthday cake for yourself is always exciting.

I have many ideas in mind and it involves lots of fresh fruit.

What’s more exciting: your birthday or someone else’s?

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Healthier Banana Coffee Cake with Maple Oat Topping

A quick cake for when you need something a little bit on the healthier side.

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I had a rough morning a few days ago.  Then I gave myself a pep talk and remembered that being healthy is something I have to consciously do everyday. For me, being normal means eating three meals a day, focusing on eating a lot of vegetables and protein and NOT eating 3 slices of cake after lunch.   Pretty simple right?

The reality is I’m always going to want dessert, and eating dessert is ok in moderation. Eating a donut, chips and ice cream all in the same day (aka this past Sunday) is a little too much for me .  There is definitely a balance.

Somedays I want to embrace it and make real, delicious desserts, because I love baking.  But then other days, I want to make healthier alternatives with a little more consideration for the ingredients, like this cake:

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It’s lower in sugar than traditional cake and gluten-free (if that matters to you).  It only uses whole oats so you don’t have to worry about processed flours.

Healthier Banana Coffee Cake with Maple Oat Topping

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats, ground*
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium ripe  bananas, mashed
1/2 tbsp powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

For Topping:

1/4 oats
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Grease 6 inch baking pan (I used a springform pan).

In a bowl, mix together oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla.  Set aside.

If you haven’t done so already, grind your oats in the food processor (or blender like a vitamix). *use gluten-free oats if you’re gluten intolerant

Add dry ingredients to oil mixture.  Stir to combine.  Lastly, fold in the mashed banana.

In a small bowl combine ingredients for topping.

Pour batter into baking pan, sprinkle oat topping on top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through (I think might took about 40 minutes).

Allow to cool.  Dust with powdered sugar if you’d like (optional).

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This turned out great, but doesn’t any type of banana cake/bread always turn out amazing? I think next time I’d try reducing the maple syrup some more.

If you’re curious about the nutrition information on this, here it is:

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This does not include the topping and each serving is 1/8th of the cake (a small ish piece).

Not the best and not the worst.  I guess that’s what it’s about overall, right?  Balance.

 

 

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I know my last post was all about how I didn’t love Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I’ve had a change of heart.  Actually, I just tried again, and this time it was great.

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After my last post, Sara from Matchbox Kitchen, left me an awesome comment with some tips for trying again.  It wasn’t an issue of recipe, more of technique. When Matchbox Kitchen tells you SMBC is awesome, you try it again.  So I did and this time, I used her tips.

I’m happy to say, it turned out awesome.

I sort of think dulce de leche had a lot to do with it, but either way, it turned out great.

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So new confession: Swiss Meringue Buttercream is pretty tasty (especially when dulce de leche is mixed into it).

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It’s still very buttery but this time, I think the dulce de leche masked some of the butter taste and it was great.   Here’s the recipe, that incorporated some of Sara’s comments regarding technique…

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 sticks of butter, softened
1/4 cup dulce de leche*

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.

Transfer to the mixer and whip until they’ve formed stiff peaks.

Remove the whisk attachment and change to the paddle attachment for your mixer.  Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter.  Once the butter is nearly incorporated, add in the dulce de leche.  Beat until it’s smooth.  Then it’s ready to frost.

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I put mine in the fridge for about 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit before frosting, but the texture and flavor was a million times better this time.  This will make enough frosting to frost and fill a 6 inch cake or just frost the outside of a 9 inch cake.

*To make dulce de leche, boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for about 3 hours.  Make sure the can is completely submerged in water (if not, it might explode).  You can also probably find it in most latin grocery stores as different names (dulce de leche, cajeta, arequipe, etc).

I used this Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream to frost a banana cake with chocolate and dulce de leche filling.  It was a hit.

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I took this dessert to the desert

This cake traveled with me from Oakland to the Palm Springs area.  It barely survived the long drive and the heat, but it made it.   It didn’t look as pretty as this when I served it, but it got eaten up.

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This cake is definitely on my list of cakes to make again.  It was delicious, and the buttercream is way easier to make than excepted (probably because you don’t have to sift powdered sugar, which is always a pain).

I guess I’m a fan of swiss meringue buttercream after all.

What’s your favorite way to frost a cake?

Confession: I Don’t Love Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’m making my friends wedding cake(s) for her September wedding, and I’m incredibly excited.  I love weddings and I love cakes.  Combining the two is pretty much almost as exciting as pies in jars.

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I’m also extremely concerned that I’ll somehow mess it up.  I want her cakes to be tasty and beautiful, because it’s her special day.  That means I’m practicing like it’s nobody’s business.

In my cake making craze, I wanted to try out a new frosting.  I had read that Swiss Meringue Buttercream is great for getting smooth edges, so yesterday, I decided to give it a try.

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Everyone talks about swiss meringue buttercream with descriptors like: luxurious, satiny, rich, decadent.

To me, it tasted like straight up butter with some sugar in it.

I added some strawberry jam to mine to try to add some flavor to it, which improved it, but I’m still not a fan.  I might try it again with other flavorings but plain… never again.

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Now that I’ve trash talked it, in case you want to try, here’s the recipe I used.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup white sugar
2 egg whites
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry jam (optional)

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.

Transfer to the mixer and whip until they’ve formed peaks.

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Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter.  At this point, it might look curdled, don’t worry.  Keep whipping.  It can take up to 10 minutes to get fluffy.   Once it’s the right consistency (pretty silky, I must say), you can feel free to beat in jam or just smooth it on a cake.

**This recipe makes enough to frost a 6 inch cake (and probably enough to fill as well).  For a 9 inch (3-4 layer cake, I would probably double this recipe).

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The one benefit is that it gets very solid (like a stick of butter almost… hmm wonder why?) when cold, which means you get beautiful slices.  That’s definitely the redeeming quality of this buttercream.

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For my friend’s wedding, I’m sticking to traditional American buttercream (not just because I like it better but that’s what the bride and groom tried and liked).

In case you (like me) are not a fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, here are some alternative to frost your cakes/cupcakes with:

  • Traditional American Buttercream: This is what we’re used to. Butter. Powdered Sugar.  Vanilla and a touch of milk.  Sickeningly sweet goodness.  Make it vanilla, make it lemon, make it almond. It’s all great.  (Example: Fall Cake)
  • Whipped Cream: Simple and delicious, not too sweet, not too heavy.  Literally just heavy whipping cream and a bit of sugar and vanilla. Probably my favorite, but doesn’t hold up well it hot weather.   (Try it on rum cake)
  • Marshmallow Frosting: Sooo tasty! Not buttery at all.  Sadly, also doesn’t hold up well while sitting out. (Example: The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: I’m not the biggest fan, but I know people love it.  So why not? (Example: Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting and Sea Salt Candied Walnuts <– can totally be made into a layer cake)

What’s your favorite way to frost a cake?  or are you that person who leaves all the frosting behind?

 

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I have a hard time with this whole gluten-free movement that’s been happening the past few years.  I get that some people have genuine intolerances, but for the most part I’m a non-believer.  When someone tells me they don’t eat gluten, I roll my eyes.  Yes. I am that person.  I am a jerk.

Karma is a thing.  Let me tell you why…

You might have noticed that I fell off the face of the Earth a while (err 2 weeks).  Really it’s because I’ve been having major stomach issues and the last thing I want to do is cook and eat food.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t a blog post to tell you that I suddenly am going gluten-free.  No no.  But this post is about exploring new ways of eating, because I’ve come to the realization that having stomach issues sucks.  Right now, I would eat (or not eat) anything to make the discomfort go away.

Because now I understand how much it sucks, I have a little more sympathy for those with food sensitivities.  I have no idea if I have food sensitivities.  I’m currently trying to figure out what the heck is causing my stomach to implode on me.  I’m starting by avoiding dairy for a while.  Jury is still out.  We’ll see.

But in the meantime, let me tell you about my first experience with a gluten-free cake.

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Isn’t it beautiful?  By the looks of it, you wouldn’t even know it’s gluten-free, but it is.  And it came about because my good friend Allison (check our her blog Sweet Potato Bites) has a lot of food allergies.  I wanted to make a cake that would fit her allergy needs for a surprise birthday gathering.  Her husband sent me a list of Allison-approved cake recipes.  After a few days of back and forth, we decided he would make a gluten free cake and I would make a cake that everyone else could have.  Nice compromise for guests not into the gluten-free thing. So I went ahead and made a chocolate cake with raspberry whipped cream filling and frosting.  

But after that night, I still had a curiosity for how a gluten-free taste would be like.  I’ve never really eaten one, other than flourless chocolate cake.   So I went with it and made a cake anyway, because there’s never a wrong time to make a cake. I used a recipe for Carrot Cake from Elana’s Pantry, because having never made a gluten free cake, I couldn’t really wing it on my first try.  

But that said, I made a few adjustments to make 1 smaller (6-inch) cake.  Here’s my attempt:

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of mace
2 eggs + 1 egg white
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease and line 2 (6-inch) cake pans with parchment paper

I used my vitamix to chop up the carrots instead of grating, but you can grate them if you’d like .  Then I throw all the ingredients into the blender and blended until combine.  It’s really that easy.  Pour batter into 2 prepared cake pans.

Bake about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  While your cake is baking, make your frosting.  It’s easy.  Whip the cream.  Once the cream starts forming peaks, stream in maple syrup.  Taste it.  If you want it sweeter, add more maple syrup.  If it’s too sweet, oops!  (JK, add a bit at a time, and try to get your desired sweetness.  I didn’t want mine too sweet I only added about 2 tbsp).

Allow to cool completely.  Then lather with maple whipped cream and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge.

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Confession: I actually think it tastes better cold.

2nd Confession: I meant to take Allison a piece of this cake but Jesse dug into.  Fail.  But really I can’t complain if he liked it.  That means it was tasty.

 

Overall: I thought this was tasty.

Does it taste like cake? Not really.

Does it have the texture of a cake? Not really.

Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

 

While I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities that I know of, the point of all this is that I will stop being a hater, because stomach issues suck.

Are you a fan of gluten-free foods?  

Why Making Your Own Birthday Cake is Awesome

Yesterday was my birthday, and I made my own birthday cake.   Some seem to think that’s wrong, because on your birthday you should not do the work.  But let me just tell you… making your own birthday cake is actually awesome.

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Obviously if you hate making cakes, it’s not awesome. But if you like baking, you should consider making your own birthday cake because…

  1. You can make it as ridiculous as you want.  I wanted a tall cake, so I decided 4 layers was essential. Let’s be honest, 4 layers is really unnecessary, but hey, it’s my birthday.  4 layer cake it is!

  2. It will be exactly what you want.  I love lemon.  8 lemons went into my cake with lemon cream filling and raspberry whipped cream.  I’m not sure who else would take the time to do that if not me.

  3. If you mess it up, it’s ok.  It’s your cake.  No one can hate you because it’s your birthday.  My cake was slightly crooked.  Eh! I’ll survive.

  4. Your birthday is a pretty darn good reason to make a cake, and it’s fun!

  5. It’s basically a gift to yourself.  You’re awesome.  Celebrate you with cake!

  6. You won’t be disappointed, because you know exactly what to expect.

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So if you’re birthday is coming up.  Consider making your own birthday cake.  I promise, it’s more awesome than it seems.

Of course, if you make a cake for yourself, don’t eat the whole thing yourself.  Make sure people sing to you…

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then slice it up and share with the world!

Thanks for everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday and Happy Birthday to everyone celebrating their birthday as well!

What’s your ideal birthday cake? 

Lemon Ricotta Cake

I feel like Allison and I have been talking about lemon far too much lately. We’re obsessed ladies.

So I finally broke down and made a lemon cake.  I’m continually on the search for a lemon cake, and this is finally THE ONE.

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It’s amazing. Simple. Moist. Light. Delicious. I really couldn’t ask for more.  This is my new go-to lemon cake recipe.  Because let’s be honest, we all need a few go-to cake recipes.  My go to Chocolate Cake recipe is the Hershey’s chocolate cake.  My go to Banana Cake recipe is my Little Banana Cake. This recipe will make 1 (9-inch) round cake.  So if you were looking to do a lemon layer cake, I would suggest doubling (or even tripling if you’re doing a 3 layer cake) then spreading each layer with lemon curd and frosting with a simple whipped cream icing or a cream cheese frosting. Those would be delightful.  Don’t be surprised if you see the cake I just described on Foodologie soon. LemonRicottaCake4

Lemon Ricotta Cake

For Cake:

1/2 cup Canola Oil
3/4 cup Sugar
2 Lemons, zested
2 eggs
1/2 cup Ricotta
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

For Glaze:

2 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9 inch round baking pan and line with parchment paper.

In a mixer, combine oil, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until well combined.  Beat in one egg at a time.  Beating each a few minutes until fluffy.  Beat in ricotta and juice of one lemon (reserve the other lemon for the glaze).  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Allow to cool.

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Make glaze by heating butter, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool a bit.  Then turn cake over onto serving dish.  Pour glaze over cake.  Garnish with lemon slices, slice and serve. LemonRicottaCake2

I’m biased because I love lemon, but this was seriously good.  Perfect for a simple afternoon treat with tea, but also good for a simple dessert for your summer dinner party.

Do you love lemon desserts? What’s your favorite?

I love lemon tarts, like this one.  But this lemon cake is giving lemon tarts a run for their money.