Chocolate Cake with Plum Basil Jam and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cake with Plum Basil Jam and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

   I’ve written many chocolate cake recipes, most of which have made it here on the blog. Every time, one comes out better than the last one. I’m often tempted to go through and change all the previous chocolate cake recipes- especially my very first post(a chocolate cake), but what would be the point in doing that. Honestly, if I knew all that I know now I would’ve never posted that first cake recipe. I was just learning about ratios and recipe writing, so of course, the cake was far from being perfect. I failed so many times on it, but that last try seemed good enough to post. I made it again sometime later and let’s just say it’ll probably go down in history as the dryest chocolate cake ever made. Embarrassing as those first blog posts are, I’m leaving it up as a reminder of where I was when I started this blog, but also a reminder to myself to never again post a recipe I’m not 100% satisfied with. Good things take time, even if weeks go by without a single blog post. I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. I was trying to post a new recipe three times a week when I first began my blog. Some can do this, others cannot; I’m definitely the latter.  Not only was I wasting money, I was also wasting all my creative energy. 

  There’s nothing more delicious than a slice of chocolate cake that looks like it’s made entirely of fudge and tastes even better. You know what I’m talking about? Dense, rich, and ultra chocolatey. I’ve yet to accomplish this, but it’s my ultimate goal in baking to make a four-layered cake just like that. It may weigh about ten pounds afterward, but I’m sure it will taste amazing. This chocolate cake is nothing like that of course, but it’s a bit on the heavier side, with a moist, tight crumb and rich chocolatey flavor. Oh, and the plum basil jam! So good with this cake. I went a little overboard with the jam on the first bottom layer(as you can see in some of the photos), so don’t do as I did- you want some of that liquid goodness to soak into the cake, but not too much. Now, onto that chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. It’s my first time using it and I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I will admit, I thought it was a fail at first because I added too soft of butter, so the buttercream just ran off the spatula- not good. But, this problem is easily fixed, so if you happen to have this same problem, pop the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes and then whip the mixture until it’s velvety smooth.


Chocolate Cake with Basil Plum Jam and Swiss Meringue Buttercream

   ingredients for the cake:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour { 240 grams }

2 cups raw cane sugar { 380 grams } 

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cups cocoa powder { 60 grams }

3/4 cups boiling water { 6 oz }

1 cup buttermilk, room temp.  { 8 oz }

3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted { 6 oz }

2 large eggs, room temp.

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    for the swiss meringue buttercream

4-ounces egg whites (3-4 large eggs)

8-ounces raw cane sugar (1 cup)

12-ounces butter, room temp. (1 1/4 cup)

10-ounces fine dark chocolate, melted (80% cocoa)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   for the plum basil jam:

1 pound red plums (or pluot plums)

1 1/4 cups raw cane sugar

3 medium-sized basil leaves

   Method:

   for the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Grease and line with parchment paper two, 6-inch cake pans.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the boiling water and cocoa powder until combined. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl, then whisk in the sugar, baking powder/soda, and salt- set aside. In another bowl, melt the butter, then stir in the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until they’re mixed in well. Combine the liquid ingredients to the dry, including the cocoa. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and there are no more flour streaks. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 35-43 minutes. Check for doneness at 35 minutes. It’s ready when the cake springs back quickly after lightly touching it, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

  for the jam:

  1. Pit the plums and cut into small chunks. Add to a saucepan with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture breaks down and most of the liquids have come out of the fruit. Add the basil leaves and remaining sugar and boil on medium-low heat, stirring and mashing the fruit occasionally for 10 minutes.  It will be done when some of the jam is placed on a cool surface and becomes thick as it cools. Drain most the liquid from the jam, leaving just a few tablespoons. Pour the fruit into a rimmed pan and remove the basil. Cool the jam completely before using.

   for the swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Chop the chocolate and heat in the microwave safe bowl until smooth and melted, set aside to cool.
  2. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place a heatproof bowl over the top(do not let it touch the water!); add the egg whites and sugar and whisk to combine. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture and heat, stirring often, until it reads 160°F / 70°C and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer with whisks attached. Beat on medium-high speed for 8-10 minutes until the bowl is cool to touch and the meringue is thick and glossy. Turn the mixer on low and begin to add the cubed butter, one cube at a time, making sure each cube is incorporated before adding the next. This will take a few minutes. The end result should be a thick, velvety smooth buttercream. If your buttercream didn’t whip well and is a bit runny, place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes until somewhat firm(but not hard). Return to the mixer and beat on low until smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and cooled melted chocolate. Beat on low until combined.

 assemble the cake:

  1. Once the cakes have cooled completely, cut each one into two, even layers, giving you a total of four layers (two bottoms, two tops).  Always start a layer cake with the bottom part of the cake on the bottom, the two tops in the center, and end with the other bottom part of the cake facing up. This ensures your cake is standing upright and the top will be flat and easier to frost.
  2. Spread a bit of frosting in the center of your cake plate/cake stand. Add your bottom layer on top of this spot so it stays in place.  Spread a very thin layer of frosting on the first layer, then pipe a small wall around the edge of the cake (so the jam doesn’t ooze out if it wants to). Spread about 1/3 cup of the jam in the center, then add the second layer. This layer will have only frosting and no jam, so spread about 2/3 cups of frosting on. Place the third layer on top, and repeat step 1: spread a thin layer of frosting, pipe a wall, then slather 1/3 cup of jam in the center. Place the fourth and final layer, flat side facing up, and spread 2/3 cups of frosting on top. Use the remaining frosting on the sides of the cake. Cut and serve.
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Summer Blackberry Bourbon Pie

Summer Blackberry Bourbon Pie

  Pie tends to be a neglected dish on my site. I’m not sure why this is, but I think one of the reasons is because I’m a perfectionist and assembling the top crust of a pie to look decent can be difficult. There are many ways to style a pie; so many creative people out there coming up with all sorts of elaborate designs. But every time, I fall for a simple lattice pie. I like the rustic look it gives a berry pie, as well as it’s moderateness on difficulty.

  I have to remind myself I’m not at all about extremely elaborate recipes, but I’m not about taking the easiest route, either. It can be strenuous staying on this road in the internet world, where the theme most favored seem to be, “what crazy, extravagant, and excessively sweet thing can I come up with quickly in order to go viral?”.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing other people being creative with food, I myself am creative with it; but on my own blog, I try to keep the things I bake simple, delicious, and seasonal so people can recreate it without too much difficulty. So, what do I do? I walk outside and find a thicket full of plump blackberries, pick as many until my hands are stained purple, and soak them in bourbon. The next step is to spend quite some time working the flour, butter, and water together with a spatula. It’s a trick I discovered from Serious Eats a few days ago for a flakier pie crust, so I used the method with the pie crust I made for my cherry hand pies. It turned out so flaky and delicious.  Nothing says summer like a pie filled with tart, freshly foraged blackberries(spiked with bourbon at that)- along with a great scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tip for a scrumptious tasting pie crust: use a good quality butter (preferably unsalted); so good you could eat it alone! It may cost a few more dollars, but it’s worth it.


Summer Blackberry Bourbon Pie

   ingredients:

240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour { 2 cups }

2 tablespoons raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8-ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

7 tablespoons water, ice-cold

   filling:

1.5 pounds fresh blackberries

1/4 cup bourbon

1 tablespoon raw cane sugar

1 cup raw cane sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

   Method:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add to a food processor along with the cold, cubed butter. Pulse 27-28 times until most the butter is coated with flour and the mixture resembles small pebbles(it’s okay if there are larger pieces as well). Pour the mixture back into a bowl and sprinkle with the ice-cold water. Use a spatula to work the dough together until it forms a ball. This may take a few minutes. It will be dry and crumbly at first, but once the flour absorbs the water it will begin to come together. Divide the dough into equal halves (using a scale is the best way) and press into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, combine the blackberries, bourbon, and sprinkle with the one tablespoon of sugar. Give a slight stir and cover the bowl. Soak the blackberries for 30 minutes. 
  3. Once the dough has chilled, turn one-half out onto a floured surface (leave the other half in the refrigerator) and roll into a large circle that will fit into a 9-inch pie tin and still overlap along the sides slightly. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer to the pie tin. Using your fingers, carefully press the dough to fit the tin. Place the tin in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling:
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tsp of cornstarch until combined, set aside. Drain the juices from the blackberries, add the sugar mixture, and gently toss until all the berries are coated. Remove the pie shell from the fridge, pour the berries inside, and gently spread them around with a spoon. Place the pie back in the fridge while you roll out the remaining half of dough to cover the top. Cover the pie with your preferred style(I prefer to lattice, but you don’t have to do it that way) and crimp or flute the edges to seal them together.  If you aren’t doing a latticed pie, cut slit vents for steam release. Place the finished pie back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to chill. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F and make sure the first rack is placed in the middle position in the oven. Place a large baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any juice that might fall.
  5. Once the pie has chilled, brush the top with egg wash(1 egg + 1 tsp milk, beaten), and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes until the pie filling is bubbly and the crust golden brown. Cool completely before serving, about 1-2 hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.

 

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Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

 Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

It was about to rain and the temperature quite hot that day, but I came home with eight pounds of scrumptious peaches. Peaches are one of my favorite aspects of early summer; they’re one of those fruits I could eat morning, noon, to dusk and never grow tired. And they’re absolutely delicious and juicy when you find them local.Per my usual, I set aside one day out of the week and drove eighty minutes to one of my favorite orchards, just twenty miles west of the quaint city that is Charlottesville, Virginia. The orchard is nestled amongst rolling mountains and the drive there and back is always so peaceful.

Per my usual, I set aside one day out of the week and drove eighty minutes to one of my favorite orchards- just twenty miles west of the quaint city that is Charlottesville, Virginia. The orchard is nestled amongst rolling mountains, making the drive there a scenic and enjoyable one, which is why I love it so.

Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

This recipe makes the first time I have baked an olive oil cake or eaten one for that matter. It took me quite a few times to get it to my liking. At least my chickens were happy with the first few tries. Olive oil cake is on the lighter side when it comes to sweetness, but it’s nevertheless moist, rich, and airy in texture due to the olive oil. The oil flavor is noticeable, but not in an overpowering way. To make it even more delicious, I added freshly cut peaches which are speckled about in each slice of cake. It’s usually eaten with an addition of fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or with some sort of glaze; I thought it best with a pillowy layer of crème Chantilly (whipped cream), sweetened and flavored with honey and a bit of vanilla. 

Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly


Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

  ingredients:

240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, { 2 cups } 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

150 grams raw cane sugar, { 3/4 cups }

3 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cups good quality olive oil { extra-virgin }

3/4 cups milk, room temperature

3 large ripe peaches

1/4 cup raw cane sugar

   crème chantilly:

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons good quality honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   method:

  1. Chop the three ripe peaches into small cubes and place them in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, gently stirring often. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the peaches are soft, but not mushy(make sure to stir every few seconds or so so it doesn’t burn) and there seems to be a lot of liquid. Remove from heat and pour the peaches over a sieve to drain the sugary juice*. Cool the peaches before adding to the cake batter. You can cool them quickly by placing them in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF / 177ºC. Grease and line with parchment paper one, 8-inch cake pan (or two 6-inch pans) and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric hand mixer until pale, fluffy, and thick (3-4 minutes on high speed). Add the oil and beat on low until just combined. Add the flour and milk and stir gently with a wooden spoon or spatula for three turns, then add half of the peaches and stir (gently) until all the ingredients are combined, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl for flour. Do not over-mix.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and sprinkle in the remaining peaches. Bake for 40 minutes, but check for doneness at 35 minutes. It’s done when lightly golden in color and a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted into the center. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then gently invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Place a medium sized bowl and a whisk in the freezer for 3 minutes to chill. Add the cream, honey, and vanilla and whisk by hand until stiff peaks form. This may take up to five minutes. You can also use an electric mixer if you’d like. 
  6. Place the cooled cake on a plate and dollop on the whipped cream. Top with fresh fruit and more honey if you’d like. Store -covered- in the refrigerator for up to three days.

*You can re-use this sugary peach juice in iced tea for a sweet, peachy flavor; or, you could stir it into plain, unsweetened yogurt. Even better, you could pour it all over this cake! 

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Cherry and Thyme Hand Pies with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

Cherry and Thyme Hand Pies with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

  It’s officially cherry season in the state of Virginia. My first thought at the beginning of any fruit season is to bake a pie with the fruit I’ve obtained from the farms in my area. And that’s precisely what I did when I discovered my usual grocery store of choice was selling fresh, local sweet cherries from one of my favorite orchards. Such a find can be a rarity in my small town, there’s a slim selection of local vegetables in the summer if any; in the fall there might be apples. But, when it comes to common fruits such as strawberries, peaches, or blueberries, you can only find them at the farmers market once a week. Many times I’ll drive up to an hour to pick fruit from the local u-pick farms in my area, as I love going out and about to visit beautiful places.

  Each pie is filled with a delicious cherry jam, subtly flavored with fresh thyme. Accompanying these hand pies is a creamy, no-churn vanilla bourbon ice cream. There are many no-churn ice creams out there that commonly call for heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk- a canned milk with the water removed and a copious amount of sugar added to make a sweet, sticky dairy product. The condensed milk is usually folded into the whipped cream and the flavoring(s) of your choice is added. Once frozen, the result is a rich and creamy ice cream. To avoid so much sugar, I simply made my own sweetened condensed milk that doesn’t use any canned dairy product, but instead raw cashews and maple syrup. Just blend until smooth and creamy and fold into the fresh, whipped cream along with a good quality bourbon and vanilla.

CHERRY AND THYME HAND PIES WITH BOURBON VANILLA ICE CREAM


   bourbon vanilla ice cream

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight then drained

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

  cherry + thyme jam

1-pounds sweet cherries, pitted and stems removed

2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 1/2 cups raw sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  pie dough

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon raw sugar

12 tablespoons salted butter, cold

5-6 tablespoons water, ice-cold

   method

  1. In a high-powered blender, add the maple syrup, vanilla, bourbon and the cashews; blend until smooth and creamy. This may take a few minutes depending on your blender. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, then gently fold in the cashew mixture with a spatula until combined. Place the mixture in an air-tight container and freeze for 2 hours until firm, or overnight.
  2. In a saucepan, add the cherries and lemon juice and mash them slightly, then add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then add the sugar. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often until the cherries are very soft and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the thyme. Cool the jam completely before using. 
  3. In a bowl, lightly whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. Pour into a food processor and add the cold butter, cut into cubes. Pulse until small, pea-sized pieces form(it’s okay if there are larger chunks, too). Pour back into the bowl and add three tablespoons of ice cold water to one side of the bowl; then gently work the flour into the water with a fork. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, when needed. You should be able to gently work it into a ball. Split the dough into four, golf ball sized pieces and gently press them into disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to use.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. 
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough disks, one at a time, until they’re about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Move them onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the freezer for about 2 minutes to quickly become firm again. Add the jam to the center of each disk, leaving an inch of space from the edge. Fold one side of the dough over the jam and crimp the two sides together until sealed. Gently press a fork around the sealed edges. Brush the tops with egg wash (1 egg, beaten) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. Cool until just warm, then serve with the ice cream.
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Vegan Blueberry Chocolate Cashew Mousse with Ganache

Vegan Blueberry Chocolate Cashew Mousse with Ganache

 Chocolate is oftentimes my go-to when I’m short on ideas. A quick scroll through my blog and you’ll notice that it’s the most common ingredient in many of my recipes. But, can one really come up with too many chocolate things? I think not. This will make the third chocolate mousse to appear on my site. One of the goals I had for my blog this year was to be more inclusive in different ways of eating and preparing sweets.

And for those who are vegan (or have an intolerance to lactose), you’ll quickly discover traditional mousse recipes call for a lot of egg and dairy products. Although this is far from your traditional mousse, it’s still deliciously smooth, airy, and chocolatey with fresh, local blueberries speckled about giving a subtle flavor of summer with each bite. It’s then topped with chocolate ganache, made with coconut milk in place of the cream that is initially used. 

In my previous recipe, I would use a combination of egg whites and heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks in order to get a smooth, yet light and airy texture. In place of the egg whites, I used aquafaba. The thick, sticky liquid from cooked legumes such as chickpeas. To make things easier, I simply used a can of organic chickpeas. Just drain the liquid into a bowl and whip like you would egg whites until stiff peaks form.


VEGAN BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE CASHEW MOUSSE WITH GANACHE

    for the mousse:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water then drained

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/3 cup organic coconut milk, hot

4 tablespoons coconut palm sugar

2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

6 ounces vegan dark chocolate (80% cacao)

2 tablespoon coconut oil

15-ounce can organic chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained, but liquid reserved

  for the ganache

4-ounces vegan dark chocolate (80% cacao)

5-ounces organic coconut milk (full-fat)

 method

ganache

  1. Chop the 4-ounces of chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium-sized bowl. In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium heat until it begins to simmer; remove from heat and pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate and give it a slight stir. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Use when ready.

mousse

  1. In a bowl, heat the coconut milk until hot. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and stir until combined; set aside until ready to use. In a separate bowl, completely melt the chocolate with the coconut oil (this can be done in the microwave).  Place the soaked cashews in a blender with the blueberries, cocoa mixture, and melted chocolate and blend until smooth and creamy; this may take a few minutes depending on your blender. To test if it’s the right consistency, rub some of it between your fingers. If it’s smooth feeling it’s good, but if it feels gritty, blend it a bit more.
  2. Drain the chickpeas in a strainer over a medium sized bowl to catch the liquid. This liquid is known as aquafaba and it’s a great substitute for egg whites. Beat the aquafaba with an electric hand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  3. With a spatula, carefully fold the beaten aquafaba into the chocolate-cashew mixture until fully combined. Spoon the mousse into small cups(I used small, glass cups that measure to about 1/2 cup) and fill them 3/4 of the way full. 
  4. Gently pour the ganache over the tops of the mousse. Cover each cup and place in the refrigerator until firm. About 2-3 hours. Top with sea salt or fresh blueberries, then serve.
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