Sunday, May 27, 2018

Salted caramel chocolate cake

This show-stopping salted caramel chocolate cake will knock your socks off! Each layer contains a luscious chocolate sour cream cake, topped with an amazing homemade caramel sauce and sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Then the cake is covered with a rich and creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. This will be your favorite dessert of the year!

Do you guys ever dream about dessert? Or at least daydream about dessert? If so, what is it? Ice cream? Macarons? Brownies or cookies? Me? I'm always daydreaming about dessert, which is probably why I write a dessert blog.

One dessert that I can't seem to get out of my mind is the salted caramel chocolate cake from a dessert restaurant we visited about a year ago. Their 5-layer (!!!) monstrosity was out of this world. Each layer was bursting with a decadent salted caramel sauce and topped with the richest chocolate buttercream I had ever tasted.

Oh yes, it was that good.

I hadn't found a good reason to recreate this cake until now. As you all know, I like to bake myself something for my birthday and for Mother's Day. This year was no different. I wanted to make the salted caramel chocolate cake for myself. Believe me, I was tempted not to share this with anybody but like a good mother and wife, I allowed my husband and daughter to try some (ha!).

Don't let the multiple ingredients and steps intimidate you. You can absolutely do this over a few days. Make the caramel sauce ahead of time and let it hang out on the counter. The frosting can be made a few days in advance (store it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw to room temperature; you may need to re-whip it). Or you can even make the cake earlier and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble. Each element doesn't take that much time and the assembly isn't hard either.

If you're in hunt for a show stopping cake, this is it.

Salted caramel chocolate cake
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Flaky sea salt, used for layering the cake
Chocolate buttercream frosting
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line three 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add these dry ingredients with the sour cream and mix well, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Add in the cocoa mixture and mix well.

Evenly distribute the batter into your three baking pans. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. If the cakes have a dome on top, shave it off with a serrated knife.

Make the caramel: In a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat, mix together the sugar and water. Let the sugar mixture sit and heat up (do not stir) until it reaches a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up the cream (do not allow it to boil). Once the sugar turns amber, slowly drizzle in the warm cream. Stir vigorously, as it will bubble up. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and mix well. Set aside.

Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and cocoa powder on medium speed until it is free of lumps. Alternately add the powdered sugar and mix, beginning and ending with the powdered sugar. Mix until well blended. Add in the vanilla and instant espresso powder. If the frosting appears too liquidy, add more powdered sugar. If it appears too dry, add more milk. Once the frosting is ready, set aside.

Assemble the cake: On a cake stand or on a plate, place one of the cake pieces flat side down ("flat side" refers to the side that was on the bottom of the round baking pan). Top with a generous layer of buttercream, leaving about 1/4" - 1/2" unfrosted along the circumference. Drizzle on some of the caramel and sprinkle on some flaky sea salt.

Top with another cake layer, again, with the flat side down. Repeat with layering with the buttercream, caramel, and salt. Top with the final layer, this time flat side UP.

Apply a thin layer of frosting on top and all around the cake. A bench scraper or offset spatula will be helpful here. Put in the refrigerator to allow the frosting to set (about 30 minutes). Then add a generous layer of frosting on top and all around the cake again. Decorate the tops and sides with whatever you like, but I find that leaving it plain and simple is also very effective.

Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature again before serving.

Yield: One 3-layer, 8" cake; about 8-10 servings

Source: Inspired by Shyndigz; cake from Taste of Home; caramel from Bobby Flay via the New York Times; frosting from Add a Pinch

Friday, May 25, 2018

Skating Fridays

The Power of Our Skating Family

I've partaken in many organized sports in my lifetime - like swimming, tennis, competitive gymnastics, and softball, to name a few. None of these sports offered me with a sense of family or togetherness like the skating family. I'm here to share a story of how I recently experienced the power of our bond.

In my short 4 years as a competitive figure skater, I've met hundreds of new friends from across the country. I've attended their weddings, stayed at their homes and shared many fun moments with them on and off the ice. We've laughed and shed many tears together and built some strong friendships that will last a lifetime and more.

A few weeks ago, I was having a terrible day on the ice. Nothing I tried was working, and I felt defeated. I was having a pity party for myself when a skating friend (that I had only met once in person at a national competition) lent me an ear and allowed me to vent about my challenges.

Several days later, this arrived in the mail:

Brian happened to know that the koala was my favorite animal and somehow knew that I needed to be cheered up. He sent this stuffed animal to brighten my day and let me know that he believed in me.

I was floored by his thoughtfulness and am humbled that he would take the time out of his busy day to do something this kind. And even though we've only been face-to-face once, we have already built a strong bond through the sport that has given us so much.

This skating family is truly remarkable. I've never seen anything like it, but I am grateful to be part of it.

If you are a skater, how has our extended family embraced you? Do you have any stories to share about how others have helped you or how you have assisted others in our community? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Triple chocolate scones

A super chocolate-y breakfast treat that is perfect with a glass of milk or coffee, these triple chocolate scones are a fantastic way to kick start your day!
My 8-year daughter told us that she wanted to watch the Kentucky Derby. I was shocked to hear this statement since we'd only seen it on television once. I guess she saw the commercials for the race and wanted us to record it. I'm not sure what about the Derby appeals to her, but we happily set our DVR that day.

While we didn't watch it while wearing fancy hats (although I would argue that a unicorn headband might count), I thought it would fun to bake up some scones for the occasion. We didn't go all out and drink mint juleps either but maybe we will some other time once our daughter is old enough.
When I told her that I was making triple chocolate scones, my daughter's mouth gaped open and her eyes lit up. She came over to me as I was drizzling on the chocolate sauce and wanted to quality control it. A mouthful of chocolate later, she gave me two thumbs up and promptly went to go wipe her face.
We had fun watching the Derby and being fancy with these scones and her unicorn headband. I can see this turning into a fun tradition for us every year. And as for the scones? Well, you certainly can't go wrong with triple chocolate right? With cocoa powder, chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle, your day is made.

Triple chocolate scones
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (can omit if you don't have any)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk of choice
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternatively, you can mix this together by hand using a spatula.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the butter pieces. Mix until everything resembles wet sand. You will have butter chunks at this stage and that's exactly what you want. Add in the chocolate chips. 

In a measuring cup, mix together the vanilla, egg and milk.  With the mixer on low, stream in the milk mixture and mix until everything just comes together.

Roll the dough out onto your prepared baking sheet until it's about 3/4" thick. You can keep it as a circle or roll it out into a rectangle. Slice the dough into wedges or rectangles (I sliced my circular dough into 8 wedges). Top with additional chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the scones to cool before serving.

If desired, you can drizzle some additional chocolate on top like I did. I heated up some milk and mixed in some chocolate chips and mixed well with a small spatula. Then I drizzled it on top of the scones.

Scones should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days.

Yield: 8 large scones

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mocha chocolate chip brownies

A rich and fudge-like mocha brownie that's bursting with chocolate chips! This brownie comes together very quickly and can be made in one bowl (no stand mixer required)!

I had one of those weeks at work where I felt exhausted for some reason. Maybe it's because I had expected to be gone half the week for jury duty, only to have it cancelled. Mentally, I thought I'd get a break on Wednesday, but with my civic duty cancelled, I would have a full work week.

There's been a lot going on at the office (in a good way), and my brain just wasn't able to function properly. I came home and needed some brownies. Better yet, make that mocha brownies.

Now I'm not a coffee drinker but do adore coffee-flavored things. These brownies were certainly up my alley. Rather than simply adding instant espresso powder to the batter, the powder is dissolved in hot water for a more intense coffee flavor.

I was able to mix up the batter very quickly and in one bowl (minus the dissolving of the espresso powder - that I just did in a very small prep bowl). My brownies were ready to go by the time I had to leave for the rink to teach a class.

Make sure that you don't over bake these. I put mine in the oven for 30 minutes and felt like it was too much, as my brownies were drier than I expected. They were still chewy and fudge-like, but they could have been even more so. I'd recommend baking these for 25 minutes and checking from there. Remember, the brownies will start to firm up while they cool and will be even better if you allow them to chill in the refrigerator (if you can wait that long).

Mocha chocolate chip brownies
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 4 Tablespoons hot water
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips of choice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, microwave the chopped chocolate and butter (I heated mine up for about 45 seconds, stirred and heated for another 25 seconds). Stir well until smooth.

Mix in the sugar until well incorporated. Add in the eggs, one by one, until each one is fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract

Dissolve the espresso powder in the 4 Tablespoons of hot water. Add this to the batter.

Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some moist crumbs. You'll want to make sure you don't over bake your brownies so they're still a little gooey.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing and serving. These are best after they've been refrigerated. 

Leftover brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. Top with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 16 brownies

Source: i am baker

Friday, May 18, 2018

Skating Fridays

Double Salchow Attempt and Analysis

I've declared 2018 the year of my double salchow. I am determined to land one clean this year and will do whatever I can to make it happen.

The best way for me to learn is to video myself and watch it frame-by-frame to see what I'm doing incorrectly. These videos have been invaluable since I can see where things start to go awry.

Another amazing resource for me has been my jump coach. This individual has decades of experience and has worked with top skaters across the globe. He is a self-proclaimed technical "geek" and enjoys analyzing videos for skaters.

I sent him a video of a double salchow attempt last week, and while I am still short on rotation, the jump appears to be more organized. And I'm actually crossing my feet!

Listen to what my coach has to say about it.

Hope this was enlightening for you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Smitten Kitchen's perfect one bowl blueberry muffins

Deb Perelman's absolutely perfect blueberry muffins - they are even made in one bowl! They have a beautiful dome and are soft, fluffy with just the right amount of crunch on the outside. Double the recipe so you'll have enough to share!

It may be hard to believe, but I've made about 80 different muffins on this blog. Eighty! That's almost a muffin recipe every week for two years. A good portion of my muffins have been blueberry, since that's the type my family and I enjoy.

Even though there are plenty of muffins to be eaten around here, I'm always on the lookout for another great recipe to try. I received Deb Perelman's second cookbook for the holidays and finally decided to bake something out of it.

The only minor edits I made were to add lemon extract and use Greek yogurt for these muffins. They baked up nice and fluffy, with perfectly domed tops. The turbinado sugar on top made the muffins nice and crunchy and even held up overnight.

Dare I say that these muffins really were perfect in every way. Well, except for the serving size. Even Deb complained that these only made 9 muffins, so I took her advice and doubled the recipe so I got 18 muffins to keep around the house.

Best of all, these are made in one bowl so there's minimal cleanup involved. That's good because you'll want to sink your teeth into one of these as soon as they're out of the oven. No time for dishes - must eat!

Smitten Kitchen's perfect one bowl blueberry muffins
  • 5 Tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (or the juice and zest of one lemon)
  • 1 (5.3 ounces) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (255 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • Raw (turbinado) sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Then add the lemon extract, Greek yogurt and egg. Mix until everything is uniform. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Fold in the flour and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Toss in the blueberries and mix until no dry streaks remain. Do not over mix. The dough will be very thick.

Evenly distribute the batter and portion into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for several days.

Yield: 9 muffins (I recommend doubling the recipe above!)

Source: Barely adapted from smitten kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hawaiian chocolate haupia (coconut) pie

A traditional chocolate haupia (coconut) pie that is very popular in Hawaii - get a taste of paradise with this very easy dessert!

One of the bakeries that Addie and I visited while our in-laws (and my husband) were golfing was this wonderful place called Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop. This place was packed for a Friday morning. Luckily, there was a separate take-out line where we could place our orders and go. Even the take-out section had a line.

Addie and I got two pies - one to share and one to let my husband try. We got a fantastic pineapple macadamia nut one for my husband that we ended up eating as part of our lunch during the trip home. The pie that Addie and I ate in the restaurant was a chocolate haupia (coconut) one. It was smooth, creamy, and bursting with coconut flavor.

I've made a chocolate haupia pie before but it has been a few years. After returning back to the Mainland, I wanted to recreate this beautiful dessert so we could enjoy Hawaii once more.

The pie is very simple to put together. You bake a pie crust (you can totally use a pre-made crust here), make some pudding and then chill everything. The pudding comes together very easily, and you just add melted chocolate to half of it. Then top with whipped cream or shredded coconut and you're done.

I did reduce the sugar in the recipe below because I found that the original version was too sweet. I know - this is a dessert blog so sugar should be my friend, but it needed to be toned down a bit for this pie. I've adjusted it below so it should still be sweet but not so much that it would make your teeth hurt.

Enjoy, and Happy Mother's Day!

Hawaiian chocolate haupia (coconut) pie
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed (note: if you use salted butter, please omit the salt from the previous bullet point)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water
Pie filling
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I used 1%)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 and 1/4 cups chocolate chips
In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together until well blended. Add in the butter and pulse until it resembles wet crumbs. Then slowly stream in the water until a dough comes together. You can also do this by hand and knead everything together. Just be careful not to overwork the dough.

Roll the dough out into a circle and place in a 10" pie pan. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the crust in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the crust starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the crust is cooling, make the filling.

In a medium sized saucepan, mix the milk, coconut milk and sugar together. Turn on the stove and allow the mixture to boil.

While the mixture is warming up, dissolve the corn starch in the 1 cup of water and set aside.

Once the coconut mixture has started to boil, turn down the heat to low and slowly stream in the corn starch mixture. Keep mixing until everything becomes thick and pudding-like, about 3 minutes.

While the coconut mixture is thickening, melt the chocolate chips in a medium sized bowl. Pour half of the coconut mixture into the bowl with the melted chocolate and mix well. Set aside.

Once the pie crust has cooled down, spread the chocolate pudding on top. Even out the top. Then add the plain coconut pudding on top. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

If desired, you can top with whipped cream and/or shredded coconut.

Pie should be stored in the refrigerator and will last for several days.

Yield: One 10" pie; about 6-8 servings

Source: Crust from King Arthur Flour; pie filling barely adapted from Allrecipes


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