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Posts Tagged ‘Cream cheese’

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Happy Christmas everyone! I hope your holiday has been, and will continue to be filled with love, joy, family, friends and endless layers of sweetness like this fluffy carrot cake.

Carrot cake isn’t necessarily a conventional Christmas dessert, not like a steamed pudding or trifle anyway, but it does make a nice addition to the holiday feasting because it incorporates a lot of the foods we associate with the holidays.  The delicate layers of cake are full of sugar, spices, nuts, fruit and shredded carrots layered between thick, creamy cream cheese frosting for a smooth and satisfying finish to any holiday meal. It’s not overly sweet and can be a welcome change to some of the sweeter desserts being whipped up right now.

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Though I usually wrap the whole cake in frosting, this time I wanted to cut back on the richness a little and thought I’d just layer the cake with frosting and top it off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  I placed a doilie upside down on top of the cake and sprinkled powdered sugar with a little sifter around the edges until the holes in the doilie were covered.  The result was a pretty outline of the doilie to decorate the cake, without the heaviness of a lot of cream cheese frosting. My family was delighted with the results as they raved about the rich and satisfying taste of the cake without some of the extra calories that usually come with a lot of frosting.

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Wrapped entirely in frosting or filled just between the layers, this carrot cake is a delicious way to entertain family or friends during the holiday season because the ingredients can be adjusted to suit your preferences by changing golden raisins for dried currants, shredded coconut (my personal favorite) or pineapple chunks.

My sincere best wishes for a wonderful year of sweetness and joy!

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

11/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 pound peeled and coarsely grated carrots (approximately 3 cups)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, untoasted

1/2 cup golden raisins

Method

1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars with the oil on low-speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend for 3 minutes.  The thick batter will increase in volume and lighten in color. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not over-beat the batter. Fold in the carrots, golden raisins and the walnuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between four prepared pans.  Place the pans in the center of the oven and bake until the cakes are golden and spring back when lightly touched in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Promptly run a knife around the edge of the pan to help the cake retract evenly from the sides while cooling. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10-12 minutes, taking extra care as they are fragile and could crack. Leave them to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature and you are ready to assemble the cake.

6. To assemble the cake, place one of the layers, top side up, on a serving plate. If the cake is domed in the middle you may need to use a serrated knife to trim off the domed area.  Using a metal spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the cake, spreading it slightly to the edge. Place the next layer of cake, top side down, on top of the frosted layer, remembering to trim any excessive doming first, if necessary.  Repeat again, ending with the last layer placed top side up on the frosting. Place a doilie upside down on top the cake and press it down until it sticks slightly. Fill a small sifter with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, taping it gently with your hand over the edges of the doilie until you have gone all the way around.  Carefully remove the doilie by lifting it gently up and away from the cake and you should have a lovely decorative pattern that will last for several hours.  If left overnight the powdered sugar will be absorbed into the cake so if you are entertaining, it may be best to leave this part until just before your guests arrive.

Notes:

This cake is fabulous the day it’s made but can be kept fresh for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator due to the frosting.  Allow at least 1 hour for the cake to come to room temperature before serving. I’ve also frozen this cake with great results. Just let it defrost at room temperature and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Food Network Website

Ingredients
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter and it was just as good)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method
1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.
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I love Christmas and all the baking and festivities that make the season so joyful. Every year I imagine all of the wonderful treats I’m going to whip up and regardless of the many baking books and clippings I already have stashed away, a new magazine of Christmas baking is always hard to resist.  This year wasn’t any different as I carried home a new, 100 Best Desserts, Special Edition of Best-Loved Recipes from Taste of Home for 2012.

The funny thing is, that after poring over every single page, the very first recipe I opted to make were these decadent Black Bottom Cupcakes that I actually discovered a couple of years ago and simply cannot resist.

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The first time I discovered them, I was looking for something that my youngest son could take to school.  The idea of cupcakes that didn’t require icing was appealing, given that he and not me, would be transporting them. They turned out to be so easy and delicious that I’ve been making them for the holidays ever since.

Chocolate and cream cheese are a delightful combination and these cupcakes are sure to fill any craving you may have during the holidays for a lush, moist, deep chocolate flavoured cupcake paired with a smooth, creamy cheesecake centre.

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The cupcake is made in two parts, first the creamy cheesecake centre followed by the chocolate cupcake batter. The liners are filled 1/3 full of chocolate batter followed by a generous dollop of cream cheese filling. Before adding the dollop of cream cheese filling, however, add a cup of mini chocolate chips to heighten the chocolate factor and add some extra dimension.

Still warm from the oven, the little bits of chocolate are silky and smooth against the rich cream cheese and the moist, almost gooey chocolate cake. I baked these up in some holiday liners I had on hand to give them a festive touch of Christmas holiday cheer. During the holidays, I’ve also been known to add an extra dollop of cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese before baking, so that they’re almost like a piece of black forest cake when they come out of the oven.

Either way is equally delicious and always a hit with visitors and family alike.

Served up with a cold glass of milk, a mug of hot cocoa or packaged up with a bright red ribbon for a friend, these tasty cupcakes are a nice addition to the holidays or pretty much any day of the year.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup water

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Method

1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips; set aside.

2. For batter, in a large bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.  Combine remaining ingredients; add to the liquid mixture and mix well (batter is on the thin side).

3. Fill liners 1/3  full with batter and top with a generous dollop of cream cheese filling.

4. Bake at 350 degree F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake portion comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing to  wire racks to cool completely.

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Surprised?

I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear from me this soon.

I’m making up for lost time.

If that’s even possible.

But I’m determined to try, so you can expect to hear a lot more from me this week as I try to fill these pages with some of the most delicious home baking and cooking recipes I’ve made while I was away.

Yes, even though I wasn’t here, I was still heating up the oven and cleaning up the mess.  Our plates were pretty and our tummies were full. Too full, sometimes.  Good food is hard to resist.  Like this blueberry apple cream cheese pie for instance.

It’s a pie I made a while back that I’ve been wanting to share.  It’s scrumptious. Apples and blueberries are covered in a luscious thick layer of cream cheese topping and  a sprinkle of walnuts.  It really is as good as it looks and it takes the humble pie to soaring heights of deliciousness.

Because I love to use fresh, seasonal fruit whenever I bake, Thanksgiving makes the perfect holiday to pass this around the family table, but you really can make and share it any time of the year and you’ll be sure to get some ooohh’s and awwwh’s.

Sprinkled with your favourite nuts, the rich and creamy, cream cheese topping nestles right into the tart apples and sweet blueberries for a beautiful, dramatic and rustic presentation that will impress even your most discerning of guests.

Cream Cheese Apple Blueberry Pie

Adapted from Pillsbury Kitchens’ Family Cookbook

Serves 10

Ingredients

Your favourite single-crust pastry

Apple Filling

6 cups (6 medium) peeled, sliced apples

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cream Cheese Topping

8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but feel free to use your favourite)

Method

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine apples, blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss lightly.

3. Spoon into your prepared pastry-lined pie pan.

4. Combine all cream cheese topping ingredients except the nuts and beat until smooth.

5. Spoon cream cheese topping over the apples and blueberries.  Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: There is a caramel sauce option for this pie that I didn’t try; but it does sound delicious so I’m adding it, just in case you’d like to give it a try.

For this caramel version, omit the blueberries, using just the apples, and make a caramel sauce that gets poured over the apples just before you add the cream cheese topping.

Caramel Sauce

8-ounces (about 28) of caramels

1/2 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk

In a small saucepan, melt caramels in half-and-half on low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  While warm, drizzle over the apples before adding the cream cheese topping.

 

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Today is a beautiful, apple-icious day!

I love Spring. It just may be my favorite season. It and Summer. The Fall is pretty nice too. It’s winter I’m not so fond of. The snow is pretty, it’s the cold I have issues with, though I know some people like it. This week has been filled with mild temperatures and bright sunny days. It’s almost like a pre-cursor of what’s to come. My husband reported seeing his first Robin already and the Killdeer are quickly taking up residence here. The thing I love most about Spring is feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and I ‘m so looking forward to the heady scent of apple blossoms wafting from the trees. That and flowers popping up everywhere, getting re-acquainted with my Spring bulbs, fresh green grass and buds on the trees. I have to admit it’s been a mild winter here in Ontario, even by my standards, and it seems almost too good to be true, that Spring is officially just a week away. So this may seem rather odd, especially since we’ve just sprung our clocks forward an hour in anticipation of Spring, but I’m going to ask you to indulge me for just a moment.

Remember the Fall.

 It wasn’t all that long ago, really.

 

Think falling leaves, warm winds and crisp green apples.

 Or curly haired sheep with beautiful blue eyes and straw on their forheads.

Or pink pig caramel apples with candy watermelon slice ears, m&m eyes and a marshmallow snout.

Fall for me always includes a county fair or two and a delicious caramel apple. Or two. I know some of you worry about  all that messiness. Not me. No Siree. I’m all for messy, when messy tastes that good.

I love the crispness of the apple and the chewiness of the thick caramel followed by the deliciousness of the chocolate and crunchy peanut coating. Mmmm, so good.

I made this yummy treat last week and it reminds me of all of that minus the chocolate but with peanut butter, apples, Skor bits, caramel and chopped peanuts all on a sugar cookie crust, and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, you won’t miss it. This Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza is a delicious treat and will be sure to delight young and old alike.

It combines the flavours of “Fall Fair” caramel apples on a delightful sugar cookie crust that is so yummy and delicious, it will literally disappear before your very eyes.  Seriously.

You’ll be, like, wait a minute — where’s the Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza I just made?  No seriously, is this a joke?

So my advice is, cut yourself a generous piece before serving, because as soon as you turn around, it will instantly disappear ~ it’s that good.

Now you can go back to blue skies and the sweet smell of Spring. Oh, that does sound good, doesn’t it!!  Happy, happy, happy!

Apple Caramel Cookie Pizza

Slightly adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Serves 8

3/4 cup refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons Skor pieces (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 medium tart apple, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup caramel topping, warmed

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

1. Pat cookie dough into a pie pan or lay it on a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 °F for 12 -14 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Cool completely.

2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Add Skor pieces and stir. Spread over sugar cookie crust. Arrange apple slices on top in a circle.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and dust with cinnamon. Drizzle with warmed caramel topping and cut into wedges to serve.

Notes

To prevent the apple slices from browning, I brushed them with a pastry brush dipped in a solution of 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 tsp vanilla

Method

1. Place the water and sugar into a small, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Cook undisturbed until the sugar starts to color around the edges.  Gently swirl the pot to even out the color and continue to cook only until the mixture turns a light amber. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

2. At arm’s length, gradually stir in the heavy cream. Be careful as it will bubble up.  Stir until the caramel is smooth.  When the bubbles subside, stir in the vanilla extract.

Notes

Like all caramel, this sauce thickens considerably as it cools.  It can be made ahead and refrigerated, then reheated for a few seconds in the microwave or on the stove over low heat. The sauce will be quite stiff when cold and will thin as it warms.

Caramel sauce can be kept covered and refrigerated until the best-by date stamped on the cream carton.

Other recipes with apples:

Vanilla Bean Baker’s Apple Pizza Pie

My Kitchen Addiction’s Balsamic Onion, Apple, and Gorgonzola Pizza

Brown Eyed Baker’s Homemade Caramel Apples

Picky-Palate’s Honeyed Apple Peanut Butter Tart

The Pioneer Woman’s Quick & Easy (and Yummy) Apple Tart

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These muffins are oh-so tasty and delicious!  They’re exceptionally moist

because of the apple sauce and really hit the spot as a mid-morning or after-

school snack.  They’re even great without the cream cheese frosting, (less

messy) for when you’re in a hurry and on the run. Dressed up or dressed

down,  these tasty cinnamon muffins are sure to hit the spot.

 

 Apple Spice Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Whisk  together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. With an electric

mixer on  medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and

fluffy.

3. Add  eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down

sides of  the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, add applesauce and then

the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

4. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Transfer

to a wire rack to cool completely before removing. Store in an airtight 

container. Can be frozen for up to 2 months. Makes 12 muffins.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1/8 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and confectioners’ sugar

until smooth; beat in vanilla and cinnamon, if using.

2. Top each cupcake with frosting using a knife, spatula or piping bag.

Cupcakes can be dressed up for Halloween using a variety of chocolate,

colored sprinkles, candies, caramel and cookies. Frosted cupcakes can be

refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container; bring to room temperature

before serving. 

This recipe can also be found in Southfields Village Voice Magazine, Volume 2, Issue II, September 2011 – November 2011, Page 17.

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