Buche de Noel with Salted Caramel Ganache

For years, every December, I dreamt of baking Buche de Noel as “The Cake” for the last week of festivities but always ended up baking our scrumptious traditional cake. However, this year I told myself that it would either be Buche or Nothing for Christmas. Since a cake-less Christmas is no-Christmas, and I didn’t want to wait for another 365 days to dive deep in the revelry, it was more of an ultimatum to yours truly than anyone else. And as self-flogging works sometimes, this Christmas Buche de Noel finally saw light of the day (or Star of David) in my kitchen.

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Buche de Noel or Yule Log is the cake traditionally  eaten during Christmas and New Year in France. I was very fascinated by the whole concept till I read that it was nothing but a jelly roll decorated like a log and that was a dampener. Who eats a simpleton like jelly roll on a festival like Christmas! But as I soon found out, Buche is as simple (or sophisticated) as you care it to be, and I started searching for all kinds of fillings ranging from mincemeat to eggnog and what not. I eventually settled for the salted caramel ganache, and it proved that my decision making was still intact despite the air heavy with all kind of good liquors.

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Baking this log had an emotional string too since the sister is settled in France now. My heart aches for her on most of the days, especially during festivities. As I whipped the chocolate genoise sponge, filled and frosted it, I imagined being in the same festival bubble with her (which she burst by cooking famous Indian sweet “Gulab Jamuns” instead to mark the occasion and her French family and friends loved them!)

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Food brings people together, bridges the distance and nurtures bonds. It also pushes you to tread unknown territories and surprises you in most amazing ways. I hope it does the same to you in 2017! Bonne Anne and Bon Appetite!

Buche de Noel
(Adapted minimally from here)
Baking a genoise based Buche de Noel comes with a few words of caution which must be paid heed to. The trickiest part is to roll the genoise, which should be done when it is still hot. Make sure to dust the kitchen towel heavily with the icing sugar before you turn the genoise on it, else it will stick to the cake. Though my log didn’t suffer any cracks, but I read that in case yours does, fret not, as they can be easily covered up in the frosting.

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise:
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 6 egg whites
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/3  cup melted blueberry jam (for filling the cake during assembly)

Salted Caramel Ganache:
• 75 grams dark chocolate
• 75 grams milk chocolate
• 100 gram sugar
• 200 ml low fat cream
• 2 tablespoon butter
• Generous pinch of fine salt like Fleur de Sel

• Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale, about 9 minutes. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt.
• In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
• Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
• Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

For salted caramel ganache:
• Break both chocolates in a medium bowl
• Place sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat over low-medium heat swirling intermittently till sugar turns to caramel.
• Carefully add cream to the caramel as it will splatter a lot and keep mixing till it turns to a homogenous mixture.
• Place a sieve over the broken chocolate and pour caramel mixture through the sieve.
• Add the butter and salt and mix gently till you get a smooth and shiny mixture.

Assembling the Buche:
• Unroll the cake, and spread the jam filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Top with the salted caramel ganache.
• Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
• Pour the remaining ganache and refrigerate the cake for another 30 minutes.
• Make bark pattern using a fork, sprinkle some icing sugar to resemble snow and decorate with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. I cheated and did with fondant, but kids loved them the same.

 

White Chocolate Freezer Cake with a Sticky Brownie Base

I am a stickler for cake baking books. Of course there are books to be grabbed with closed eyes when they are written by Rose Levy Beranbaum or Dorie Greenspan or David Lebovitz. And there are books without any author names on cover and are compilations of a few cake recipes from many sources.  I buy a few of those too keeping my fingers crossed. The reason my baking spree is negligible  when compared to my buying spree is the number of recipes which vie to be tried first until I do “inky-pinky-ponky” and choose one. And last time, this one won.wp_20161206_15_54_02_pro-2Meet White Chocolate Freezer Cake with Sticky Brownie Base. This recipe is from one such book, titled “desserts” from “Easy everyday” series I bought more than four years ago. The cake was love at first sight and the title sounds so sophisticated but surprisingly is quite easy to bake. In fact here, its the fridge and oven that do all the job. But of course you need not tell this as you smile when the cake grabs eyeballs and people complement you on your “hard-work”wp_20161206_15_57_26_pro-2This double delight combines sticky brownie with home made ice cream topping and can be (read: should be) made ahead. The ice-cream topping as per the book should be as thick as the cake but I adjusted the amount for our liking and topped with a thinner ice-cream layer and it was heavenly. You may use any brownie recipe of your choice and pour this home-made ice-cream mixture on top and leave to set. I have tried different nuts for the brownie base but you may throw in whatever you have on hand including roasted peanuts. Customize this cake your way. Either way you are going to love it!wp_20161206_15_56_43_pro-2wp_20161206_16_05_04_pro-2

White Chocolate Freezer Cake with a Sticky Brownie Base
(Adapted from this book)

Yields one 8 inches cake

For the brownie Base
50 g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing the cake tin.
75 g Castor sugar
40 g dark Muscovado sugar
50 g Plain chocolate
2 teaspoons Golden syrup (I used honey)
75 g chopped walnuts (or any nuts of your choice)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
25 g Plain flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1- 8 inch springform cake tin

For the White Chocolate ice-cream topping
300 g Good quality white Chocolate
300 ml Double Cream (I used one with 25% fat)
400 g Vanilla Custard

To decorate
Cocoa Powder and 50g melted Plain Chocolate

Brownie base:
• Preheat the oven to 180 °C and lightly grease the cake tin.
• In a thick bottom pan set over a low heat mix together the dark chocolate, butter, sugar and golden syrup till it is homogeneously melted.
• Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts or nuts of choice and leave to cool.
• In a bowl whisk the egg with the vanilla extract and add to the cooled chocolate mixture.
• Sift in the flour and the baking powder and stir to combine the mixture.
• Pour into the cake tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until the outside is crisp and the cake has begun to shrink from the side of the tin but the center is still soft.
• Leave to cool.

White chocolate ice-cream topping
• Break up the white chocolate and place in a bowl over simmering water. Mix gently till the chocolate melts. Take off the heat.
• In another bowl whip the cream until it holds shape. Mix in the vanilla custard and then slowly add the melted chocolate.
• Pour over the cooled brownie base and tilt around to level the topping.
• If you wish to decorate, drop small blobs of melted chocolate and draw a cocktail stick through to make the teardrop shape
• Freeze for a minimum 4 hours or until firm.
• Take it out of the freezer 1/2 hour before you want to serve it but keep refrigerated.
• Dust with Cocoa powder just before you serve it.

Apple Sharlotka (Russian apple cake)

A dessert reputed to be a cake-torte-pie-all-in-one needs a grand introduction but then, you should not be biased by the number of steps or the list of ingredients. And you should not be flabbergasted when you don’t find butter/oil/milk/buttermilk/cream listed under the ingredients even after scrutinizing the recipe five times. And lastly when I tell you that you can bake it ahead of time because it only gets better the next day and it just takes a dusting of icing sugar for decoration, I have an inkling that from this word onward, I am talking to myself.

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In case you chose to stay to know more, let me tell you this light and fluffy Russian sponge cake is raised on a heap of thinly sliced apples. The cake per se is mildly sweet and complemented well by the slight tartness of the apple chunks, which also ooze out the right amount of juices to moisten the cake.  The whiff of nutmeg and cinnamon in this cake is the perfect prelude to the up coming festive season. This cake is also the closest you will come to an apple pie on a weeknight sans all that hard work. And if I need one reason to bake this cake again, this would be it.

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Apple Sharlotka (The Russian Apple Cake)
(Yields one 8 or 9 inch cake)

6 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ spoon nutmeg powder
¼ spoon cinnamon powder
5 large apples (I used green apples)
Powdered sugar to dust the finished cake
• Preheat the oven to 170 °C. Grease an 8 or 9 inch springform cake pan and line with the parchment sheet.
• Peel and cut the apples into small chunks. Squirt the juice of one lemon and toss apple chunks well. Arrange the apple chunks in the springform pan and keep aside.
• Using hand beater beat eggs with the sugar for about 10-12 minutes on medium-high speed till the mixture falls in thick ribbon form. Whisk in vanilla extract.
• Mix flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg powders. Mix it gently into the egg mixture in three increments using spatula without deflating the mixture too much.
• Pour the batter over the arranged apples and let the batter seep in the empty spaces. You may gently move the pan to help the batter spread faster.
• Bake in the pre heated oven for 50-60 minutes till the tester comes out clean. Cool it for about 15 minutes before releasing the cake from pan.
• Once cooled, sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar on top.

Chocolate beetroot cake

The world needs peace. Really.  Oppugnant characters need to come together, we need to stop taking sides and make peace. Somewhere I believe it involves bringing Chocolate and beetroots together and I did my bit. We need to be inclusive.

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I have always tried to love beetroots. Loving them for their color came naturally but somehow they never tickled my taste buds. I still keep buying them and incorporate them in meals quite regularly but have never seen a smiling face the day they are on table. However, this cake changed it all.

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This cake started as a red velvet cake. However, the amount of the cocoa was way too much even for the ferocious beet red to show up. So, it ended up as the softest, moistest, and deeply chocolaty chocolate cake with that right punch which no one would believe comes from beet root. It also proved that its not going to be the last cake I have baked with beets. But this cake wont give you the ticket to hop onto the “eating healthy” bandwagon because c’mon! lets not kid ourselves. A beetroot shared by two people over a span of three days (with that amount of cocoa)  doesnt even come close.

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Its a very easy cake to bake, the only extra step is roasting beets in oven for slightly more than an hour and grinding that into a puree. From there its as easy as it can be. The mild sweetness calls for a good quality ganache if you really want to dress it up for an occasion. or just dust it with plain icing sugar on a regular day. Go and hunt for that languishing beetroot. It deserves a place in the oven, instead of fridge.

Chocolate Beetroot cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot, around 150 grams
½ cup neutral oil (I used sunflower)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoon plain yogurt
½ tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius . wash, dry and wrap whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Blend the wet ingredients including the puree until uniform.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean. Cool before icing.

Chocolate ganache:

200 ml light cream
200 gram good quality chocolate (not bitter or dark)
25 gram butter
A pinch of salt

1. Chop chocolate in a heatproof bowl and keep aside
2. Heat cream in a thick bottomed pan over medium low heat till bubbles start appearing over the edges.
3. Turn off the flame and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolates. Top with butter. Cover and keep aside for 5-7 minutes
4. Whisk well and add in the salt. Cool before spreading

 

Almond cake with butterscotch buttercream

 

The year end baking spree saw heavenly dose of chocolate, fruits and alcohol in my bakes, and that resulted in many happy faces around.  A week into the New Year there was an opportunity for another cake. And suddenly I didn’t want to bake with any of the above! I wanted a new ingredient to bake with, something that would be a fitting contrast to all things chocolate and alcohol. I almost decided on baking with potatoes, but in the end almonds took the cake, quite literally.

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Almonds are a beautiful ingredient to bake with. I love them for the mild flavor and rich texture they impart. At the same time, they pair very well, be it with chocolate, strawberries, honey, oranges, cherries or just anything one can think of. If almonds were humans, they would be the best people around.

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This almond cake was baked purely on experimental basis and it didn’t let me down. This beautiful golden cake is very moist and fluffy at the same time. It is speckled with tiny brown dots and infused with sweet almond flavor. I paired it with butterscotch granules and butterscotch flavored buttercream. And those tiny confetti sprinkles? You don’t fight them when you have a “soon-going-to-be-six years” old at home, you just let them be.

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Almond Cake with butterscotch buttercream:
(Yields One 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake, or 16 cupcakes)

¾ cup cake flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
200 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoons almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
240 ml buttermilk, well-mixed

• Preheat oven to 350° F (176°C). Butter a 9-inches round cake pan and line with buttered parchment paper.
• Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in almond flour.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, (around 3-4 minutes) then beat in almond extract.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
• At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled).
• Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. It is always good to mix in the last batch with a rubber spatula.
• Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
• Bake until golden and the cake tester poked in center of the cake comes out clean, (around 35 to 40 minutes).
• Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, and then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment.
• Cool completely before frosting.

Rich butterscotch buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of butterscotch essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream

• Sift the icing sugar and reserve. It is always good to use fresh icing sugar/
• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minute
• Start adding the icing sugar in small batches and keep whipping till it is incorporated all. Add essence and whip well once again.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Fruit Cake

Festivals always arrive a few days before “the” date. They can be felt in the air, smelled in home kitchens, heard in excited conversations of the children and elders alike, seen in the markets and just everywhere. The patient wait and the preparations for the celebrations, days in advance, make revelry even more special.  So, in our home Christmas  festivities almost always arrives in October, when I soak fruits in alcohol for this traditional Christmas Fruit Cake.

Camera360_2015_12_24_042809-001This cake is different from a regular fruit cake as it has a good amount of caramel in it. Caramel gives it a typical deep brown color as well as the toffee flavor which amalgamates beautifully with the alcohol and fruits, and at the same time keeps the cake moist. I prefer to bake my cake at least one week in advance and let the flavors mature with regular feeding of rum. The alcohol not only keeps the cake moist, it increases its shelf-life as well.

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Though I have been baking this cake for as long as I can remember, this year I baked two cakes. One is what you see here, and the other one using the same recipe, with brown sugar replacing the regular sugar and rum replacing the caramel altogether. That cake is still maturing and it will be another couple of days before I can update you on that one. Till then, here is the traditional Christmas Fruit Cake in all its goodness. Merry Christmas!

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(Update 28.12.2015- So, we finally had the rum cake and we did miss caramel in it. This cake was light brown in color unlike one with caramel, and more on sweeter side. It lacked the toffee-rum flavor which I feel is the very soul of the Christmas cake. So, I don’t think I am going to replace caramel with anything as for now! )

Christmas Fruit Cake
(Yields two 8 inches square cakes)

Ingredients

For the fruit mix:
• 500g chopped mixed dry fruits
• 1/4th cup rum/brandy
• 1/4th cup orange juice
• Zest from the peel of one orange
• Juice from one lemon
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/4th tsp powdered cloves
• ½ tsp powdered cinnamon
• ½ tsp powdered nutmeg

For the caramel:
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• ¾ cup hot water
• 1 tsp instant coffee powder

For the cake:
• 500 grams alcohol soaked mixed fruit
• 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
• 200 gms unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup sugar
• 4 eggs
• caramel syrup
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the fruit mix:

• In a non-reactive bowl, place all the ingredients listed under the “fruit mix” and stir well.
• Cover with a fitting lid and keep under refrigeration for 3 days or more. I soak my fruits 3 months in advance
• Mix thoroughly every 3rd day and feed more alcohol as and when needed.

To make the caramel:
• Place sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep the pan on medium-slow flame and let the sugar melt.
• Once sugar begins to melt, rotate the pan to swirl the sugar till it completely melts. Don’t fret if the sugar crystallizes, just keep stirring and it will melt to become caramel.
• Let the caramel reach deep amber color, at which point turn off the flame. Very carefully, slowly add the hot water into the pot and keep stirring. It’s a good idea to wear baking gloves at this time as the caramel will splatter A LOT. Keep mixing the caramel till it settles and dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to it. Reserve.

To make the cake:
• Heat the oven to 150° C. Grease two 8X8 inches square pans and line thrice with parchment paper. This step is very important since the cake bakes for a long time and not lining with enough parchment layers will result in hardening of the edges. Grease parchment paper as well.
• Toss the soaked mixed fruit in flour well in a large bowl so that the fruit is completely coated. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well. Keep aside.
• Beat the butter and sugar with electric blender till fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then add the eggs and beat well again
• Add the caramel syrup and vanilla extract and beat again till well incorporated. The mixture may appear curdled.
• Add the flour coated mixed fruit mixture to the butter mix and stir well.
• Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about an hour. The cake, when done, will be dark golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will turn out clean.
• Turn off the oven and let the cake cool. Once cooled, poke several holes into the cake and feed it with rum. Cover the cake in multiple layers of parchment paper and let the cake sit on room temperature for about a week. Feed rum at least twice while the cake is maturing.

Extra notes:
1. Do not pack the cake directly with aluminium foil as the juices of the cake may react with the metal. Its better to cover in the parchment paper and clean wrap and store at room temperature.
2. Though it is better to mature the cake for at least a week, a minimum of two days is much desired.

Eggless Vanilla Cake with Rich Vanilla Buttercream

When I thought that I knew American buttercream like the back of my hand, this happened:

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You see those tiny bubbles in the buttercream? I don’t like them there. Its true that this buttercream still pipes well, tastes divine and is devoured by kids and grown ups alike,  but truth be told, I was a bit disappointed when they appeared. But more than success, its failure that makes us strive to learn further. It urges us to find ways we wouldn’t have otherwise known. So, it was back to reading about bubbles in buttercream. There are many reasons bubbles are formed in the buttercream and I would love to compile them in another post. There is nothing wrong with the buttercream recipe. Its just the technique, a point that I have missed. I would update as soon as I find out.

As for this cake, its an eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I bake with eggs all the time, so this one made me push the envelope and the result was a moist cake bursting with vanilla flavor. Dress it up with buttercream or chocolate ganache and sandwich with cream and fruits for celebrations. Or sprinkle it with tutti-fruity if you aren’t feeling too fancy. Either way, this cake will make you happy, and that’s what a good cake is supposed to do.

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Eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting
(I made 2.5 times of the recipe to make a two tier cake)

1.5 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ cup water
½ cup oil
¾ cup fine sugar
5 tbsp yogurt/curd
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
• Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an 7 inches pan.
• Sift the cake flour with the baking powder. Add a pinch of salt to the sifted flour.
• Add the sugar to the oil and mix well and keep aside.
• Whisk the yogurt till smooth. Add 1 tbsp vinegar. Then add baking soda into the yogurt and stir.
• Now pour the oil-sugar mixture, ½ cup water and the frothing yogurt-vinegar-baking soda into the sieved flour. Add vanilla extract.
• Fold quickly to make a lump free batter, Avoid over-mixing.
• Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Tap the pan a number of times to release the trapped air bubbles.
• Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-35 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
• If the cake starts browning too quickly, cover the top with an aluminium foil tent.
• Once baked, let the cake cool at room temperature before frosting.
• The cake can be baked a day before and frosted the next day.

Rich Vanilla Buttercream
(I made 1.5 times of this recipe to fill and frost the two tier cake)
1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream

• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes
• Carefully sift the icing sugar over it. It helps to remove any lumps and gives a better texture to the buttercream. It is also important to use fresh icing sugar as it really builds the taste.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.

Chocolate Oreo Cake

Not so long ago, my pantry turned into an “Oreo and chocolate” storehouse. No, I do not buy cookies or chocolates for my girl, because if I start buying on top of what she already gets from her doting father and our circle of over-indulgent relatives and friends, it will be a crime. It came to a point where I had to put my foot down and evict all those packets from wherever they were in my kitchen. The girl was obviously not happy, and even accused that she never knew I was “that” kind of mamma. But since there is no other option, she has made peace with the truth. Before you scoff at me, let me tell you that she does get her chocolates and Oreos once in a while.  But this time again, I took away a whole packet. Ya I know I am evil. Not because I took away her favorite cookies. But because I made this.6

I was searching for some inspiration to re-new my buttercream recipe when I came across the Oreo version. Oreo Buttercream? Despite my face off with the Oreos, I knew those two words together would mean “Luscious” if they were in dictionary, and a chocolate cake.  I tried a new chocolate cake recipe this time and it turned out to be a keeper. The  cake has intense chocolate flavor, the texture is sturdy and it will be fabulous for layer cakes.

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And just to tell you that the girl was super happy to see her Oreos sitting on top of the cake. She insisted on getting a slice with an Oreo topping. I didn’t feel the need to tell her that Oreo is in every bite in this cake. Whether she eats a slice with or without an Oreo, she is going to enjoy her cookie.

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Chocolate cake with Oreo buttercream frosting:

(Adapted from here)

Yields Two 8-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

250 grams self-raising flour

250 grams light brown sugar

50 grams cocoa

250 grams dark chocolate

250 grams butter

4 medium eggs

  • Preheat the oven to 160 degree Celsius. Grease and line 2x 8 inches cake pans
  • Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa together.
  • Melt the chocolate, butter and 200 ml water together over low heat. Then beat this along with the eggs into the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, and bake for approximately 40 mins, until well risen, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool.

Oreo buttercream:

150 grams Oreo cookies

250g butter

300-400g sifted icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoon light cream

  • Beat the butter until creamy. Then add the icing sugar in small batches and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. An electric mixer is really useful here! If you find the mixture a bit dry, add a tablespoon of cream at a time. If the mixture is wet, add a little more icing sugar and whip till the spreading/piping consistency is reached
  • Blitz all the cookies in a food processor. Mix half of the cookie crumbs into the buttercream, and reserve the other half.
  • Spread the butter icing between the two cakes, and over the top of them when sandwiched together. Sprinkle the cookie crumbs generously over the sides and over the top layer. Decorate as desired.

No-Bake Mango Cheesecake

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Two weeks back a conversation with myself went like this :

“I want to eat cheesecake”

“Then bake one!”

“I do not have mascarpone cheese on hand” 😦

“Then make it! You know how to make it right? Then whats the big deal?”

“I know but it will take two days to make and I want to eat the cheesecake now” 😦 😦

“Oh….ummm you have anything that you “think” can be used as a substitute?”

“I have condensed milk sitting in my cupboard for ages but still within expiry date, and I have some light cream and cottage cheese..I dont know how having these things is going to help me bake a cheesecake”

“Hmmmm….may be you could set it with gelatin…or agar agar…may be….you can try…..”

“I have heard of no-bake cheesecakes which use mascarpone cheese and cream and gelatin but I dont have mascarpone..I told you”

“But you have agar-agar and if that can set mascarpone, probably it can set condensed milk too…you can try…”

And thats what I did…I tried…..I had some mangoes in refrigerator and I got adventurous…and I am so glad that I did.

WP_20150627_08_01_47_Pro (2)So though, it is not “the” cheesecake in typical terms since it has doesn’t have mascarpone, but its not a poor cousin either just because it has cottage cheese because it totally satisfied my cheesecake cravings that day.

No-Bake Mango Cheesecake:

Note: Agar-agar is a little tricky to work with. If you have strands instead of powder, make sure to shear them really small before boiling, else it will take much longer to dissolve. Also, agar-agar has to be added while it is still hot, and so the mixture to which it is being added should be hot enough else it will lead to curdling of the mixture and the cheesecake will be interspersed with unpleasant chewy bits.

For the base:

  • Digestive biscuits – 200 gms,
  • Butter – 60 gms, melted and cooled

For the Cheesecake:

  • Finely grated cottage cheese – 200 gms
  • Condensed milk – 400 ml
  • Fresh cream – 200 ml
  • Mangoes – 400 gms, chopped
  • Agar-agar – 6 tablespoons, finely chopped
  • Water – 1/2 cup
  • Butter the base and sides of an 8 inch spring form pan. Process digestive biscuits in food processor in short pulses till it resembles like bread crumbs. Add cooled, melted butter to it and mix well.
  • Spread it evenly at the base of the pan and allow it to set in freezer for about 20 minutes.
  • Place the grated cottage cheese and condensed milk in the bowl of food processor and grind it on high speed for couple of minutes until it has pureed really well and smooth. Add the mixture to a bowl and mix together with the fresh cream.
  • Puree mangoes into a smooth paste. Heat it gently in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until it is just hot. Excess heat changes the flavor of fruits. So be careful.
  • Mix agar-agar with hot water and boil this mixture over medium heat with regular stirring. Once the mixture resembles clear glue, turn the flame off.
  • Add the melted agar-agar mixture into the warm mango mixture and mix well until combined.
  • Now add the mango mixture into the cottage cheese mixture and mix well. Tap the bowl several times to release any air bubbles. Pour the mixture into the chilled pan lined with biscuit base. Refrigerate overnight.

Rich Vanilla Cake with Fresh Fruits and Cream Frosting

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Chocolate is not my favorite flavor when it comes to having desserts or cakes. No, don’t get me wrong. I do love to bake with all kinds of chocolates in all sorts of combinations. But when it comes to choose for myself, I am more of a fruits and cream  person. I love my fruity flavors so much that I alternate among them in a place  where the hot selling flavor is Belgian chocolate, and I hardly order anything at this much sought after landmark where all chocolate lovers go berserk!

But its alright to be an outlier. Like this cake.

This ambrosial cake is made of rich vanilla cake layers, filled and frosted with fresh cream and fruits. Decorating this cake can be a real hands-on arts and craft project for a five years old helper-cum-official spatula licker, if you have one around like me. Bursting with colors and delicate flavors, this cake has had many converts. Though that’s not the intention here, I am just saying.

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Rich Vanilla Cake with Fresh Fruits and Cream Frosting:
(Source: From here)
Yields Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (Around 525 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks ( 225 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
400 grams sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
475 ml buttermilk, well-mixed

• Preheat oven to 350° F (176°C). Butter two 9-inches round cake pans and line with buttered parchment paper.
• Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, (around 3-4 minutes) then beat in vanilla.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
• At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled).
• Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. It is always good to mix in the last batch with a rubber spatula.
• Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
• Bake until golden and the cake tester poked in center of the cake comes out clean, (around 35 to 40 minutes).
• Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, and then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment.
• Cool completely before frosting.

Fresh cream and fruits frosting:

Its totally upto you to choose the fruits and their quantities. Here is what I used:

500 grams heavy cream (Fat percentage 30 or more)
1 kiwi
8-10 strawberries
15-20 seedless black grapes
15-20 seedless green grapes
Half ripe mango cut into small chunks
Pineapple tidbits for filling

• Chill a large bowl and beaters for 30 minutes.
• Add cold heavy cream into the bowl and keep it on an ice bed. Start beating the cream at medium speed for about 2 minutes
• Once the cream starts thickening, increase the speed and whisk till cream thickens and forms stiff peaks.
• Crumb coat the cooled cakes.
• Have fun while decorating!

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