Monday, 28 January 2013

Red Velvet Vanilla Marble Cake

Valentine's Day dessert, Christmas potluck, Ruby wedding anniversary, or maybe you just love red....this cake is your style.  This is my second attempt at both a red velvet cake and a marble cake so I did some research before I dove in.  I borrowed bits and pieces from several different recipes and modified bits of others until I found a combination I thought would work.

I had two goals for this recipe - first, for the red velvet cake to be moist and flavourful, and second, a lovely marbled effect between the vanilla and the red velvet.

I started with Joy the Baker's simple vanilla cupcake recipe.  Her advice was to double the batch to make a layer cake, but I had decided to make a 9 x 13 cake so I opted to keep it simple and single. For the red velvet, I doubled the amount of butter that was called for in most recipes, as the last one I tried turned out dry and tasteless. I toyed with the idea of adding a tbsp of vegetable oil, but decided against it.   I also didn't want a lot of cocoa in it, so I only used 1tbsp of cocoa to 2 tbsp of red food colouring.

Ok, enough rambling.  It was a success in terms of a moist and delicious red velvet cake, and the marbling turned out rather well - a nice contrast between the red and the vanilla. The vanilla butter cake was superior,  and I will definitely use this recipe next time I make vanilla cupcakes.

Vanilla Cake
Joy the Baker's Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  
  2. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. 
  3. Add eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined.
  4. Add the vanilla to the egg mixture, and then half of the flour mixture, continuing to beat. 
  5. Add the milk, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.  
  6. Set aside.
Red Velvet Cake

1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg

1 tbsp cocoa
2 tbsp red food colouring
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

  1. Combine flour and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside
  2. In a medium sized bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg, beating well to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and food colouring until it forms a thick paste, and add to the butter and sugar. 
  4. Stir in the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, about half at a time, mixing in between.
  5. Add one tsp of the vinegar and the baking soda (Chemistry 101 - it will hiss and bubble), followed by the last tsp of vinegar. Stir well to incorporate.
  6. Pour the red velvet batter into a greased 9x13 inch pan.  It will be thick, you may have to use a spatula to move it into the corners evenly.  
  7. Pour the vanilla batter on top.
  8. Run a butter knife through the batter to create the marbled effect.  Don't be too cautious (I have learned from past mistakes), or you will not achieve the proper marbled effect.  Give it a good whirl.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Browned Butter and Walnuts

I made these cookies for the first time for a long weekend at the cottage in the summer - I don't think they lasted an entire day - they were devoured within hours.  Earlier today I decided to make a batch of cookies for some friends who could use some cheery comfort food - these are perfect.

The browned butter adds a caramel-nutty flavour to the cookie - combine that with good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts to make the perfect gourmet chocolate chip cookie.   Speaking of the wonders of browned butter, check out my previous post:  Banana Rum Cake with Browned Butter icing.  See below for tips on browning butter. 

I changed it up a bit the second time around - omitting the extra tbsp of butter, and a half cup of light brown sugar - although it reduces the richness of the cookie, they are every bit as tasty.  The next time I make these I am going to try half a cup of white granulated sugar and half a cup of brown sugar - I will let you know how it goes!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies with Browned Butter
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp molasses
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (good quality)

Divide the butter into two halves.   In a small saucepan, brown 1/2 cup of the butter.  Cool in a small bowl.
Cream the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy.  
Add the vanilla, molasses, and cooled browned butter, and cream together.  (If you like, you can add an additional 1/2 cup brown sugar if you like at this stage). 
Add the egg and egg yolk, and continue to beat. 
In a separate bowl, combine the sifted flour, salt, and baking soda. 
Add the flour mixture all at once to the egg and butter mixture. 
Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts until mixed in evenly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  
Place dough in balls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen, depending on how large your cookies are.
Bake 12 minutes for medium sized cookies and up to 14 minutes for larger cookies. 

Allow to rest for 5 minutes on baking sheet and then remove to wire cooling rack.

Browned Butter?? What the heck is that?!
In a nut shell, browned butter is simply cooked butter.  In a small saucepan, melt butter.  The butter will start to foam, and make crackling noises.  Once the crackling noises subside, look out for the brown bits forming at the bottom of the pan. You will start to smell the nutty flavour as it cooks.  Remove the pan from heat and pour into a small bowl, ensuring that you scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Cool to room temperature. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Chocolate Sugar-Crusted Slice Cookies

Ah - the holiday season is over - otherwise known as "the baking binge season", or "the baking bender season".  I was too busy hosting, visiting, baking, shopping, and drinking wine to post anything in the month of December, and for that I do not apologize!  

Each year I try one or two new cookie recipes out to go along with my tried, tested, and true family favourites.  This year was a success on both counts - and here is the first.

These cookies were easy to make, easy to freeze, and easy to bake.  A four star cookie for a busy lady. 

Watch for the cinnamon zing!

This recipe is from the December 2012 edition of Chatelaine magazine

Chocolate Sugar-Crusted Slice Cookies

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • coarse sugar for rolling- I used red sugar cookie decorating crystals

  1. Sift flour along with cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. 
  2. Cream softened butter with brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  
  3. Add flour mixture, mix until well combined.  
  4. Make dough into a ball, and divide in half.  On wax paper, roll each half until it is in log form.  The original recipe suggests 10 inches, but shorter log will make bigger cookies, so whatever you prefer!
  5. Sprinkle the coarse sugar crystals onto wax paper liberally.  Roll each log in the sugar until it covers the log. 

6.  Repeat for each log, and wrap well in wax paper to chill for one hour or    
    freeze (well wrapped cookies freeze well for several days). 
7. Oven at 350 degrees F.  Slice logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds and leave 1   
    inch apart on baking sheets.
8. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are firm.