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Posts tagged ‘Fruits’

Banana and Chocolate Crunch Cake with Graham Cracker Frosting

Thanks for all the great feedback on my first PDX Fit post – there might be some more coming your way in the future!  But for today, back to our regularly scheduled baking programming.  And I’m back with a good one!


If you’re not familiar with Michelle and her fabulous baking blog Hummingbird High, you should be.  It’s one of the most inspiring baking blogs out there, full of creative, delicious recipes and beautiful photos.  Michelle recently posted a recipe for Banana Chocolate Crunch Cake with Graham Cracker Frosting, and it immediately went to the top of my To-Bake list.  Once I had a good excuse to make it – a friend’s housewarming party – it was game on.

This is one of the best cakes I have ever made.  I love banana cake, and this is a truly great one.  It’s a cross between your typical light-but-moist cake and banana bread, making it dense but not-too-dense.  Before baking, each layer is topped with a mixture of chocolate chips and crunchy chocolate pearls, giving the cake not only a lovely, rich chocolate flavor, but a slightly crunchy texture that totally works.


And let’s talk about the frosting; the graham cracker frosting is amazing.  I’ve never had anything like it.  Many of you are probably familiar with cookie butters like Speculoos – this frosting is made with graham cracker butter, which turns out is simply graham cracker crumbs blended with milk.  So simple, but so genius.  Genius, Michelle.  It goes perfectly with the banana and chocolate flavors of the cake.

Overall, this is my new favorite celebration cake!


Banana and Chocolate Crunch Cake with Graham Cracker Frosting

Recipe adapted slightly from Hummingbird High

Instead of re-writing her recipe here, I’m sending you over to Michelle’s site for the full recipe, along with her excellent baking notes.  My own notes:

  • Michelle makes this cake in three 6-inch cake pans; I made my cake in two 8-inch cake pans.  The cakes were done baking around the 30 minute mark, but start checking for doneness at the 25 minute mark
  • I sliced each cake in half lengthwise to create 4 (very) thin cake layers.  Because I had an extra layer to frost, and because my cake was already larger in circumference, I needed to make an extra half-batch of frosting.
  • The Valrhona crunchy chocolate pearls (available at Valrhona and Amazon, and I’m told Whole Foods) are pretty spectacular, but they are a little pricey.  If you don’t feel like buying them, the cake will still be delicious without them; just add an extra 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.

Happy baking!

Carrot Fig Muffins

Muffins, Breakfast Muffins, Carrot Muffins, Fig Muffins, Healthy Muffins

Do you all need a break from all the desserts I’ve been posting lately?  Well, I just made two more for a party this weekend … but won’t tell you about them for a little while longer.  Instead, I’ll tell you about a wholesome breakfast I made recently.  I got the idea for these very healthy muffins from another blog, but made so many changes to the recipe I can comfortably say it’s my own.  An acquaintance of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer, and while she has always loved baking and all the wonderful foods that come as a result of such a distinguished hobby, she can no longer eat sugar.  Fruit sugars and honey are okay, but not refined sugar.  So I thought about a good, sugar-free bread to make her, and came up with these muffins.  I’m happy to say they came out pretty well!

These are the kind of muffins you make when you want to feel really good about what you’re eating for breakfast.  All whole wheat flour, a minimal amount of oil and sugar – they are low-fat, high fiber, whole grain goodness.  Carrots and figs lend a lot of natural fruit sweetness, so only a small amount of sweetener is needed.  The muffins can be made with brown sugar or honey – I used honey, but I probably would have preferred brown sugar (if you are lucky enough to be able to eat sugar!).  They aren’t as fun as my Brown Sugar Carrot Bread, but they are still good, and as healthy a breakfast as you can get.

Carrots, Figs, Carrot Muffins, Fig Muffins, Healthy Muffins

One year ago: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Carrot Fig Muffins

Recipe by Pâte à Chew

Makes 12 muffins

Total time: 45 minutes


1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup almond flour (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup almond flour
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, milk, or unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 honey instead, but otherwise I’d recommend brown sugar)
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 4-5 medium carrots)
5 to 6 ounces dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, chopped (you can put as many or as few figs in as you like)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with a baking spray or line with paper liners.

2. Sift whole wheat flour and corn starch together. Mix with wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, almond flour (if using), cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, sugar, and oil. Add the wet ingredients tot he dry until just combined – do not overmix, otherwise you will end up with tough muffins.

3. Gently stir the carrots and figs into the batter until well-distributed. Fill each muffin cup with batter until 3/4 cup full. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly browned and a tester inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cream Pies with White Chocolate Mascarpone Filling

It’s been a busy week in the Pâte à Chew kitchen.  I didn’t go anywhere this Fourth of July.  I stuck around the city, spending the Fourth at a barbecue with friends.  I made hideously ugly yet totally delicious salted caramel brownies for the occasion.  And then I spent the rest of the week and weekend working a lot in a heavily air-conditioned environment.  I’ve also been furiously planning a last minute trip.  And it’s a big trip.  More details to come!

With temperatures reaching 100+ degrees on the East Coast, I probably shouldn’t have turned on my oven.  But I promise, I had such a good reason to!  Meghan over at Buttercream Blondie (one of my favorites!) posted a recipe last week for Blueberry Bliss Oatmeal Cream Pies, and just reading the title of the post gave rise to a fierce determination: I knew I had to make these as soon as humanly possible.

Blueberries are great in cakes and tarts, but you don’t often see them in a cookie.  This recipe was a fantastic way to use blueberries in a very traditional cookie.  And trust me – they are as good as they look.  Soft, chewy oatmeal, sweet blueberries, rich and creamy filling.  Next time I might add a little cinnamon to the cookies, but maybe that’s the oatmeal cookie traditionalist in me.  They are certainly delicious without cinnamon or other spices.

My only big change to the recipe – besides not making them as pretty and perfectly round as Meghan! – was the addition of melted white chocolate to the cream filling.  Blueberries and white chocolate are one of my favorite combinations, and the white chocolate added a little richness and depth to the flavor of the cream.  If you wanted to make these cookies on their own, with no filling, the adding white chocolate chunks would be a great alternative.  And I love love love using vanilla bean paste here.  If you haven’t bought or used it before, it’s the next best thing to using vanilla beans (and way less expensive).  It can be used interchangeably with vanilla extract.  You can actually see the beautiful little flecks of vanilla bean in the cream, which will make you very happy!

One year ago: Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake (See?!  I love blueberries!)

Blueberry Oatmeal Cream Pies with White Chocolate Mascarpone Filling

Adapted from the fabulous Buttercream Blondie


8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups oats
1 cup blueberries

Mascarpone Filling

8 ounces mascarpone cheese
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean extract

* Always make sure your white chocolate is made with cocoa butter. Check the ingredients – if the ingredients do not specifically list cocoa butter, do not buy that brand of white chocolate. Cheaper brands use gross oils as the fat component in the white chocolate, which tastes nasty and results in an oily mess when melted!

1.  Make the cookies.  In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda, and set aside.  In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together on high speed until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.  Gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated, then mix in the oats.  Gently mix in the blueberries, being careful not to break them up!   Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap & refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.  I refrigerated overnight.

2.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.  I used a one ounce disher (a #30 to be exact).  Bake 13-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.

3.  Make the mascarpone white chocolate filling.  Let mascarpone sit out for a few minutes so if softens, just enough so you can stir it.  Stir it a bit to loosen it up.  Pour in melted white chocolate and add the vanilla bean paste.  Stir the three ingredients together until smooth and well-combined.  Taste to make sure it tastes good.  Taste again if you need to.  I promise, no one is looking.

4.  Assemble.  Fill cookies with filling and refrigerate.  You can use a piping bag to fill them, but you can also just use a spoon.

The Perfect Party Cake

Perfect Birthday Cake

Welcome to my 100th post!  I can’t believe I’ve written 100 of these little vignettes, and created so many wonderful things in the kitchen, but it’s been a pretty great ride over the past year and a half.  Thanks for sticking with me.

The month of July is my official Birthday Season.  Besides my own birthday, I have a large number of friends with birthdays in July (and late June, come to think of it).  For me, this means a lot of celebrating and a lot of cake-making.  The last birthday cake I made this past May, Devil’s Food Whiteout Cake, was courtesy of the great Dorie Greenspan.  I couldn’t help myself; I went right back to the same book to find a different celebration cake to make for my friend’s birthday dinner last night.  Dorie calls this cake “The Perfect Party Cake.”  And it is.

Frosting, Buttercream

Best birthday cake, perfect birthday cake

The Perfect Party Cake lives up to its name.  It’s exactly the kind of cake you would want to serve at a birthday party.  The cake itself is very light, and mildly flavored with a little lemon.  Layer it with raspberry preserves, fresh whipped cream (my own addition), and top with a sinfully delicious buttercream, and you’ve got a pretty great birthday cake.  I got a little creative at the end by adding red food coloring to some reserved buttercream, and piping out little stars and a happy birthday message.  The cake got rave reviews, and I was very happy!

I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a huge fan of buttercream frosting.  Until now.  Like I’ve discussed many times on this blog, I don’t like things that just taste like butter – it has to have something else to make it special.  This frosting is to die for.  It can only be described as not-too sweet, buttery velvet.  This a hot meringue buttercream – you heat egg whites and sugar until the sugar melts, then beat them together for several minutes until you get a cooled, shiny meringue.  Add three (!) sticks of butter, beat some more, and presto!  You get a shiny, smooth, airy-but-rich frosting that compliments the light cake perfectly.

The only major modification I made to the recipe was the addition of fresh whipped cream in between the layers.  The recipe itself calls for buttercream on top of the raspberry preserves, but I wanted to make sure I had enough buttercream left over to color and pipe on the cake.  But I actually preferred the taste of the whipped cream in between the layers – the buttercream may be airy, but it is still a bit rich.  The whipped cream gave each bite a slightly lighter taste and texture, which I thought was lovely.

Birthday cake, perfect birthday cake, best birthday cake

Birthday Cake, Birthday cake ideas

One year ago: Orzo and Chickpea Salad

The Perfect Party Cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Makes a 2-layer, 9-inch cake.  If you want 4 layers, either double the cake recipe (not the buttercream recipe), or make the cake in smaller pans (6 or 8 inch) – the recipe says that you should be able to slice each layer in half, but if you use the suggested 9 inch pans, the cake layers come out of the oven way too thin to split in half.


For the Cake:

2 1/4 cups cake flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream:

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing:

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
Fresh whipped cream (optional)

* You can make your own cake flour from all-purpose flour, if you don’t feel like buying a new kind of flour.  Measure out all-purpose flour in the amount needed for the recipe.  For every cup of flour called for, remove 2 tablespoons.  Next, add the same number of tablespoons of cornstarch to the flour.  So here, you’d measure out 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, remove 4 1/2 tablespoons of the flour, and add back in the same number tablespoons of cornstarch.  Sift the flour-cornstarch mixture together at least 3 times, to make sure the cornstarch is evenly incorporated into the flour.

1.  Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray with baking spray (my preferred method) two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans (or whatever size pan you are using), and line the bottom of each pan with a round of  parchment paper.  Butter or spray the top of the parchment as well.

2.  To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment in a standing mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light in color.  Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in the next third remaining dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Next, add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last third  of the dry ingredients.  Give the batter a 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (mine were done at 30 minutes), or until the cakes are well risen and springs back if you poke it with your finger – a tester inserted into the centers should come out clean.  Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners.  Invert upright, and cool to room temperature.  The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

3.  To Make the Buttercream: Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.  Your arm will likely get tired, but keep going!  The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.  Remove the bowl from the heat, and move it to the standing mixer (if using).

Using the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter one stick at a time, beating until smooth between each addition.  When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate – do not panic, just keep beating and it will come together eventually.  On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla extract.  You will have a shiny, smooth, velvety white buttercream.  Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

4.  To Assemble the Cake: Using a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, level each layer of cake so that the top is completely flat. If your layers are thick enough to cut into to, slice each layer horizontally to make two layers.  Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.  Spread it with one third of the preserves.  Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream or whipped cream.  Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream or whipped cream and then do the same with the third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream left over).  Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but it’s best to let it set for a couple of hours in a cool room.  The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to 2 days.

Blackberry Peach Teacake

I’ve been trying to take advantage of the bounties of early summer as much as I can.  Blackberries, while probably my favorite berry, are a finicky fruit – when they are good, they are the most delicious berry in the world.  But when they are bad, they are sour, dry, and make you wonder why they even exist. Each year, early in the summer, I see pints of blackberries pop up at farmers markets and grocery stores, and I have the same internal debate with myself: do I risk the money on what are, more often than not, disappointing sour berries?  I usually take the risk, and many years it doesn’t pay off.

Well I don’t know about you, but up in the Northeast we’ve been getting the sweetest, juiciest blackberries this year, which have led to many a smile on my face.  So when I saw this recipe by the talented Jessica over at her lovely blog Oh Cake, I couldn’t resist making it.  It looked like the perfect way to incorporate into a cake some of the several cups of blackberries in my fridge.

What I like about this cake is its sheer simplicity and versatility.  It’s a pretty basic cake batter that comes together fast, and is slightly rich from the addition of cream (or in my case, half and half), but not overly so.  The addition of ground almonds and a little almond extract compliments the peaches perfectly.

You can also play around with the fruit.  I fully intended to use conventional yellow peaches in this cake, but accidentally bought white peaches instead.  I ended up loving the white peaches, as they have a sweet honey flavor that goes beautifully with the cake.  You could substitute another berry for the blackberries, and substitute another stone fruit for the peaches.  Raspberry apricot, blueberry nectarine – the possibilities are endless!

One year ago: Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Jacques Torres-style

Blackberry Peach Teacake

Adapted slightly from Oh Cake

Makes one 9-inch-cake

Total time: 75 minutes


1 cup slices of fresh yellow or white peaches (about 3)
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/2 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 dash
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350º F.  Spray a 9″ springform pan with baking non-stick spray, or butter and flour.  Set aside.

2.  Mix peaches with one tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon flour. Add a dash of cinnamon and toss to coat. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, sift together flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

4.  In the bowl of a standing mixer or with a hand-held mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, beating on high for 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a spatula halfway through.  Next, add eggs one at a time, incorporating after each addition.  Add vanilla and almond extracts and cream (or half and half), and mix until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed, add almond flour or ground almonds, and gradually add flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Do not over-mix.  Spread into pan and top with the fruit.  I fanned out the peaches and then dotted the spots in between with blackberries. Bake for about 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then remove sides of the springform pan and let cake cool completely. I had a slice when it was still a little warm and it was delicious.  Top with powdered sugar or a little fresh whipped cream.


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