Cake Walk

I'll give you cake guesses as to what I made in school this week. Umm I mean, eight guesses. Eight layer guesses.


Ahem. This week at school we made cake. Lots and lots of cake. And buttercreams and Bavarian creams and ganaches and fruit mousse and chocolate mousse and Marty Moose. It was delicious.

Cakes on parade:

Vanilla Genoise (Egg Foam Cake) with Vanilla Buttercream

Angel Food Cake

Chocolate Genoise Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Dacquoise Cake with Coffee Buttercream

Charlotte Russe, Pear Bavarian Cream

Marjolaine Cake

Lemon Loaf Cake

Charlotte Royale

Chocolate Cupcakes

...with chocolate fudge frosting

Fruit Miroir Cake

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Pecan Coffee Cake

Nice little lineup, huh? Maybe try this one:

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was never big into carrot cake, but I think it's mostly because of the walnuts. Being as I'm allergic, I always shied away from walnut-clad cakes and, since most carrot cakes are choc full of that tricky nut, I never had the pleasure of enjoying this delightful treat. My version uses pecans, and is both dense and flaky, faintly sweet from the carrots and sufficiently tangy from the cream cheese frosting. I suggest you try it. Especially if you're finding yourself fading in your early January resolution to "eat healthier this year." I mean, come on - this thing is bursting with bright, health-inducing carrots. It's like eating a salad. Except it's way better. Because it's cake.


For the cake:
  • 125 grams cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 220 grams granulated sugar
  • 170 grams vegetable oil
  • 60 grams pecans, chopped
  • 165 grams carrots, grated (about 1 large carrot)
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 450 grams cream cheese, room temperature
  • 180 grams butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour one 9-inch cake pan. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whip the eggs and the sugar in an electric mixer until foamy and doubled in size. When you lift the whisk from the bowl, the egg/sugar mixture should fall in a thick ribbon from the whisk and keep it's ribbon shape for a few seconds after it falls into the bowl.

Very slowly drizzle the oil into the egg/sugar mixture. Once the oil is fully incorporated, add the sifted dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Gently stir in the nuts and grated carrots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Immediately (and carefully! The cake will be fragile and crumbly) unmold the cake onto a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until smooth and soft.

Add the lemon zest, sour cream, and vanilla extract.

Once the cake is cool, slice it carefully into two layers. Spread a small amount of frosting onto the bottom layer and cover with the top layer. Completely cover the layered cake with the frosting. This recipe makes a lot of frosting - you may have some left over. If you wish, pipe rosettes on the top of your cake using a star tip, and garnish with extra chopped pecans or marzipan carrots.

Note: This is a very delicate cake, so, if you have time, you might want to consider freezing it overnight before cutting and icing - the frozen cake will be easier to cut and assemble. The cake is best served the day it's assembled/decorated.


Pancakes and Pretty Things

Some pretty things for a Saturday afternoon during a warm spell in January:

gold flecked macaron cookies

pink gerbera daisies

brioche à tête rolls, looking like little Russian dolls. Or maybe birds on a wire.
my favorite new pie dishes, from Anthropologie

miniature brioche beehive, covered with torched french meringue and marzipan bees
And as it's Saturday, I thought you might like a nice pancake recipe. Much easier to make than pains au chocolat, and perhaps just as delicious.

Saturday Pancakes
Adapted from The Cookworks


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • chocolate chips, fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries or sliced bananas


In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the wet team: eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter.

Add the wet team to the dry team, and stir gently with a whisk or wooden spoon, just until the batter comes together. The batter will look lumpy and under mixed - this is good. Over mixed batter makes flat, heavy pancakes.

Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, spoon 1/2 cup batter into the skillet, and sprinkle a few chocolate chips, blueberries, or bananas on top. Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, until little bubbles begin to form on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Serve with extra butter and maple syrup. And maybe some bacon.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

by Shel Siverstein

Who wants a pancake,
Sweet and piping hot?
Good little Grace looks up and says,
"I'll take the one on top."
Who else wants a pancake,
Fresh off the griddle?
Terrible Theresa smiles and says,
"I'll take the one in the middle."


Pains Au (Ohhhhhh) Chocolat

There was a time, not too long ago, when, like many of today's youth, I was in college. That time was four years ago. ...Sigh. I'm still jealous of people who get to be college students - people who get to live in dorms and apartments surrounded by all of their friends, who get to spend gorgeous fall days reading novels (or, um, maybe just drinking grain alcohol) outside "on the quad," get to take naps at 1:00 pm on a Tuesday... people who get to spend a semester studying abroad.

When I was in college (those four, long years ago), I took the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Paris.

View from la Tour Montparnasse

Pyramide du Louvre

Place des Vosges

View from the Seine

Notre Dame

Sacre Coeur

La Moulin Rouge

The experience was, on the whole, awesome. I lived with a french family, the Fraisses, in the 15th arrondissement - Hughes, Brigitte, and their 20-year-old daughter, Solveig. They were perfectly lovely and did their best to try to make me, an awkward, semi-french-speaking college kid, feel comfortable in their spare bedroom. I lived with them for five months and ate dinner with them nearly three days a week, but, though we tried to connect, French to American and American to French, we were never really close, the Fraisses and me. I think it's because of the food.

Three nights a week, I'd sit down to dinner with the Fraisse family and, three nights a week, it would be weird. Forget coq au vin or saumon en croute, heck, forget a simple wheel of brie - the Fraisse family liked to eat fish sticks from the freezer and sad, limp pains au chocolat that came out of a supermarket package. They once served me soup that contained spaghetti noodles, grapefruit slices, and mussels out of the shell. I'm not sure where they got the idea for that recipe, but let me tell you, it was a bad one.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful or snobby - I like fish sticks just as much as the next person and I did, afterall, very politely choke down the entire bowl of grapefruit/mussel/noodle soup, but I mean come on - I was in Paris, for goodness sake! I had an entire world of culinary mastery at my fingertips - crusty breads and smelly cheeses and meltingly braised meats - and there I was, at la dinner table des Fraisses, eating a frozen fillet of cod.

You know what? I didn't care about the cod. I could deal with those unfortunate mussels. What really got me were the pains au chocolat. Those poor, sad little pains au chocolat, dense and soggy in their packaging, looking like little chocolate-studded lumps of defeat.

In all fairness, the Fraisses made up for all of their culinary shortcomings by being an exceedingly nice family and always having a jar of Nutella in the cabinet, but to this day, the thought of those heavy, stale, storebought pains au chocolat makes me wince. So whenever I see a real, fresh, patisserie-style pain au chocolat, flaky, chewy and airy, butter-scented and filled with pockets of deep chocolate, I sigh a great, heaving breath of pains au chocolat relief.

And I gobble it right up.

Pains Au Chocolat
Chocolate-Filled Croissants


  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 65 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 40 grams butter, pounded with a rolling pin (between sheets of plastic wrap) until it is soft and has the consistency of hand cream.
  • 25 grams fresh yeast (can substitute 13 grams active dry yeast)
  • 125 grams water
  • 125 grams milk
  • 300 grams butter
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
  • chocolate bâtons


Making the croissant dough:

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the 40 grams of softened butter, and mix until incorporated.

Dissolve the yeast in the water and milk, and then add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, mixing just to combine. The dough should be very rough and shaggy. Gather it into a ball, and wrap the dough in plastic wrap, shaping it into a square as you do so. Let the dough chill and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

When the dough is fully rested, roll it out into a rectangle approximately 3/8-inch thick.

Prepare to incorporate the 300 grams of butter - place the butter between sheets of plastic wrap and smash it with a rolling pin until it is as soft as the rest of the dough. Shape the butter into a square - this will be place on top of the rolled out rectangle of croissant dough and folded in, so you want to make sure that your square of butter is large enough to cover 2/3 of the croissant dough.

Place your large butter square over the bottom two-thirds of the rectangular croissant dough.

Now, for the folding - think of a business letter. Fold the top flap of croissant dough, which should be free of any butter, down, on top of the middle 1/3 of the buttered dough. Then, fold the bottom 1/3 of buttered dough up, so it rests on top of the other two sections of folded dough. It now looks like a business letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the fold is now on the left, and then gently press the dough together with the rolling pin, so that the package of dough compresses slightly. This is called a "letter turn," and you've just completed one.

Wrap the croissant dough and chill it for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, unwrap the dough onto a floured board, and place it so that the seam of your "letter" is on the right. Again, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 3/8-inch thick. Do another letter turn - fold the top third of the dough down, and fold the bottom third up, making a package of dough that looks like a business letter. Re-wrap the dough and chill it for another 30 minutes.

The same rolling/folding/turning process will be repeated 1 more time, for a total of 3 letter turns, resulting in consistent, distinct layers of butter and dough - this kind of dough is called a laminated dough.

Important: be sure to wait at least 20 - 40 minutes between each "turn" of the dough - this helps the gluten to relax and prevents the butter from melting out, and ultimately results in a flakier, more tender croissant.

At this stage, the package of croissant dough may be frozen for future use.

Assembling the pains au chocolat:

Using a sharp knife and pressing straight down, cut the package of croissant dough in half. Roll the two halves of croissant dough into two rectangles, each approximately 24 by 8 inches and approximately 1/4-inch thick. Next, cut each rectangle of dough in half the long way, so you end up with 4 long rectangles of dough, each roughly 24 wide by 4 inches high.

Place two of the rectangles on a sheet pan and chill them in the refrigerator. Working with the two remaining pieces, brush the top edge of each rectangle with egg wash. Place a row of chocolate bâtons along the bottom edge of each piece of dough, opposite the side with the egg wash.

Fold the near edge over the bâtons and place a second row of bâtons on the dough. Fold the dough again to encase the second row of chocolate bâtons, and to meet the egg-washed edge.

You should now have a long roll of dough containing two rows of chocolate bâtons. Slice the log into individual pastries, about every 4-inches. Place the raw pains au chocolat onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure to spread them out evenly, leaving them plenty of room to expand. Repeat the entire process with the two remaining rectangles of dough.

Cover the raw pastries with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (such as PAM), and leave the baking sheet to sit in a warm place for about 30 minutes to allow the croissants to proof. Make sure that they're not left to sit someplace too hot, or the butter in the dough will melt out. The ideal temperature for proofing pains au chocolat is about 75 degrees F.

After the croissants have proofed for about 30 minutes, or once they are nearly doubled in size, brush them with egg wash, completely covering the exposed surfaces but not allowing the egg wash to drip or pool.

Bake the pains au chocolat at 350 degrees Farenheit for 15 to 20 minutes, or until medium brown and flaky.

Once finished, remove from the oven and place the pastries on a cooling rack - this will prevent them from getting soggy.

This recipe makes about 20 pains au chocolat. You could probably halve the recipe, but as these are so labor-intensive, you may want to make a full recipe and either freeze the unshaped dough for later use, or freeze the assembled, un-proofed and un-eggwashed pastries. Then, when you want fresh pains au chocolat, you can remove a few, unbaked, from the freezer, place them on a sheet pan and bake them from frozen.

Important notes to remember about assembling pains au chocolat:

  • Do not roll the dough too thinly, or the layers in the dough will be destroyed.
  • Keep the dough chilled at all times while working with it.
  • Use only a little bit of flour on the bench when shaping the pastries.
  • When rolling the chocolate into the dough and assembling the pastry, try to make sure that the seam runs down the middle of the pastry - this will prevent the pain au chocolat from unraveling while it bakes.
  • Pains au chocolat do not keep well, and should be served the day they are baked.
  • If, however, you are wondering what to do with day-old pains au chocolat, use them to make bread pudding!


All Carb Diet

Look at this. Do you see this?

Cinnamon Nut Danish

Spiked Pecan Sticky Buns

Spiked, Pecan...
Sticky, Sticky Buns

Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Swirls of Orange and Cinnamon

Pear, Cherry and Apricot Fruit Cake
Fruity Cake

This is what they call a nice, big eff you! to any kind of resolutions anyone might have had for a slightly leaner 2010. It's also what I've been making at school this week. Apparently, Viennoiserie doesn't just mean "yeast leavened baked goods." It also means "chubby 2010."

Well, you know what? FINE. As long as I keep getting to learn about yeast and proofing and fermentation and crumb and crust, I'm decidedly ok with that. I mean, just look at these.

See that? I made that!

That, dear friends, is what is called a Sally Lunn Bun. Not only is it buttery and chewy and delicious, it has the best name I've ever heard for what is basically a dinner roll. Now I don't know who Sally Lunn is, but I will say this - I like her buns.

I know it doesn't look like it now, but I do have recipes for you - they're coming soon, I promise. For now, check out my brand new, interwebs-savvy twitter page. Olivejuiced tweets!