It’s 90°F in the shade and I just can’t bring myself to fire up the oven today. So, the only reasonable thing to do is make a 4th of July Baked Alaska with homemade ice cream and top it with flaming meringue. If you don’t want to make your own ice cream, then just get your favorite store bought brand and layer them up in a loaf pan. I used strawberry, coconut and blueberry ice creams to create the red, white and blue stripes. Okay, they’re pink, cream and purple, but the intention was right and I say close enough.
You can go as crazy or quiet with your meringue, but lighting it on fire with kirschwasser (cherry flavored booze) shouldn’t really be optional. If you don’t want the booze, just use your blow torch and you’ll have the same effect without the alcohol.
I think this Lemon, Ricotta & Thyme Cakes from Benjamina Ebuehi’s book The New Way to Cake is the ultimate summer dessert. My herbs are just starting to come up in the garden and there is nothing more beautiful and fragrant than fresh herbs. I have lemon thyme in my garden and I strolled into my neighbor’s herb garden to help myself to some of her thyme. The combination is perfect in these lemony, rich cakes. If you don’t have thyme, you can try sage or rosemary (maybe use a touch less, since they are a much stronger flavor).
You may be familiar with Benjamina from GBBO, but I know her from her sleek and stylish Instagram account (@bakedbyBenji). I fell in love with the book the second I saw the exquisite cake on the cover and she has an elegance to her everyday cakes that speak to me. She combines familiar and comforting cakes with just a hint of something new and exciting. I love this book!
Today is my best friend’s birthday and nothing short of a Buttercream Rose Cake will do. This is also the perfect cake for Easter, which is just around the corner. Creating the buttercream roses and other flowers requires a bit of special equipment and some practice, but this is just the kind of activity that relaxes me and I hope you agree. I’ll walk you through building the cake that will be the canvas for your floral top and then show you how to create the buttercream and roses.
I have some tutorials on my Instagram page, but you can find even more information on my youtube channel (links for each step below). Read More
There are two camps when it comes to beets and each is fiercely committed to their opinions. One side loves the sweet, jewel-toned, earthiness of the root vegetable and usually order them at every opportunity. That’s the camp I’m in. I LOVE beets. Then there are the folks that don’t. This Chocolate Beet Cake with Ganache by Susan Spungen from her gorgeous new book, Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, will bring the two camps together in perfect agreement. It is so delicious and despite my selfish desire to have the beet flavor shine through, it is so subtle, it just leaves a super-rich and moist cake that everyone, no matter their feelings about beets, will love. Plus, it is so gorgeous, how could you refuse to try it? Once you do, you’ll go in for seconds.
The art of tempering chocolate (this is when melted chocolate sets at room temperature and stays shiny) seems like a next-level task, but Susan brings it into the home kitchen with great ease. Like anything you are trying for the first time, it takes a bit of getting used to it. I will walk you through it in my Instagram video and Susan’s directions are terrific, so give it a try and see how satisfying and beautiful the curls are. You’ll end up using this technique for so many desserts. The finishing touch on the Chocolate Beet Cake with Ganache is a dusting of beet powder. When I was flipping through Susan’s book this cake jumped off the page because of the velvety red finish of beet powder. It is actually quite easy to find too (see link and recommendations below).
For those of you who are not familiar with Susan Spungen by name, you are certainly familiar with her work. She was the editor of Martha Stewart Living, she is the go-to food stylist for Hollywood, having created all the incredible food in Julie & Julia, Eat Pray Love and many others. Open Table is a beautiful book about casually entertaining, but with incredible style. I’m such a fan of her and her lovely book. Susan generously gave me permission to share the recipe with you, which you’ll find below. I also made the cake in a video which you’ll find on my Instagram account. Read More
This Guinness Chocolate Cake with White Knight Frosting was inspired by my recent trip to Ireland. I have had epically good fortune this past year which brought me to Ireland twice. Earlier this year, I spent a week seeing Ireland with my friends at Bake from Scratch magazine, Tourism Ireland and Williams Sonoma. With each trip I have fallen deeper in love with that country. I know you will love it too and so I want to share an opportunity to win a trip to Ireland. Tourism Ireland* is giving one lucky winner the chance to design a customized trip to Ireland for 2 people. You can see some of the great places I’ve seen like Powerscourt House and Gardens, Kylemore Abbey, Kinsale, Cork City and so much more (check out my Ireland 2020 Instagram highlights to see some of these magical places. For IRELAND SWEEPSTAKES Enter Here! Winner will be drawn in November. Ireland is beyond beautiful with the rolling hills of green grass and clover that fall off into the ocean and that’s just a description of the pastures where the dairy cows graze.
The dairy in Ireland and all the products made with it were among the biggest surprises for me. I come from a dairy rich state and yet, I have never experienced cream, butter and even simple milk like I had in Ireland. I kept asking the bakers I met during my trip what they’d topped cakes with, just to find out that it was nothing more than whipping cream. That whipping cream was so luxurious I assumed it was made with creme fraiche or something to boost the velvety texture it had. Turns out feeding cows nothing more than green Irish grasses produces cream that needs nothing more than aeration to achieve magic.
(just some of the chocolates I brought home from Ireland)
Another pleasant surprise was the universal love of chocolate I found across Ireland. Just about every stop, including at the petrol station, turned into an opportunity to eat chocolate. Maybe these two discoveries are not unrelated, the chocolate + the rich cream are bound to be dynamic. Even brands of chocolate I’ve had in the States, that have never elicited anything more than mild pleasure were so superior in Ireland. Then there were the local, bespoke chocolate makers who were creating truly brilliant and exciting boxes of chocolates.
This is Sister Genevieve from Kylemore Abbey who creates some of the finest chocolates I’ve ever had. I even got a chance to step into her chocolate making shop and try my hand at creating her famous and adorable chocolate sheep. You can see more pictures and videos of the chocolates and chocolate makers I met in my Instagram Stories (including my moment in Sister Genevieve’s workshop).
During our trip through Ireland, we stopped at as many bakeries as we could fit into a day. The full list of not-to-be-missed bakeries will appear in an upcoming issue of Bake From Scratch Magazine. One of our stops was at the Pepperpot Cafe in Dublin, which I was lucky enough to visit on both of my trips through Ireland. They served us a lovely chocolate stout cake with a super-rich, but simple whipped cream topping. I was instantly smitten and knew I’d come home to make a version of my own. Later that evening we arrived at Castlemartyr Resort, again a place I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at twice (and I hope to go back again and again!)
In the beautiful lounge at Castlemartyr we were served a White Knight cocktail (think of the Irish version of a White Russian), which had layers of whiskey and a tall pour of perfect Irish heavy cream. It tasted like it was meant to be frosting and was the final inspiration for this cake. Read More