Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  It’s the season of pumpkins and gourds. The supermarket has an entire section of the store dedicated to them, with several boxes filled to the brim. I realize they’re in season during this time of year, but the one thing I never could understand is why so many people obsess over something as simple as a pumpkin or pumpkin-spice, for that matter. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin in the first place, per the reason as to why I don’t understand the ways of pumpkin lovers. I’ve always preferred the sweet potato, with its subtle sweetness; oh, how it blends so perfectly well with butter and brown sugar! Oftentimes I feel they don’t get the attention they deserve. Well, until Thanksgiving comes around. There’s almost always a sweet potato pie or casserole involved.

  Instead of adding yet another pumpkin spice recipe to the thousands already out there, I decided on a delicious spiced sweet potato cake made with local sweet potatoes and spiced with cinnamon and allspice. Accompanying the cake is a silky-smooth bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream. The chocolate ganache is optional, but if you do decide on it, make sure to sprinkle on a generous amount of flaky sea salt to finish. You will thank me later. 


SPICED SWEET POTATO CAKE WITH BOURBON MAPLE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

   cake
380 grams cake flour, sifted
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
400 grams raw cane sugar
8-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*1 cup mashed sweet potato
¾ cup whole milk, room temp.

*2 medium-small sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

   bourbon-maple swiss meringue buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup raw cane sugar
12-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

   chocolate ganache (optional)
6-ounces fine, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6-ounces heavy cream

Method:

   cake:

  1. Peel and chop two, medium-small sweet potatoes and place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, the maple syrup, allspice, and cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is soft- about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked sweet potato from the water and spices and place in a bowl, then mash with a fork until there are no more clumps. Set aside to cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Grease and line three, 6-inch cake pans.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves; whisk until combined and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla and beat until just combined. On low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined(make sure to scrape down the bowl after each addition). Add the cooled sweet potato and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl of the mixer once more and add one-third of the milk and one-third of the flour; beat until just combined, then continue to alternate the milk and flour, making sure to end with adding the remaining third of the flour. Pour the batter amongst the three prepared pans and spread about evenly. Bake for 35-43 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or until the cake springs back up after a gentle touch. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife to loosen the cake from around the edges, invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

   bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Create a double boiler by placing a heat-proof mixing bowl over a simmering pot of water(make sure the bowl does not touch the water). Add the egg whites and sugar and stir gently but constantly with a whisk until the mixture reaches 160°F / 70°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat the mixture on high with an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment), until thick and completely cool to the touch, about 8 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, begin to add the soft butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until combined. Once all the butter is in, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until silky smooth and voluminous. Scrape down the bowl and add the bourbon, maple syrup, and vanilla. Beat on low until smooth and combined.

  chocolate ganache:

  1. Chop the bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. In another (heatproof) bowl, heat the cream until it’s hot to the touch. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and give it a quick stir then let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir until smooth. Do not pour onto cake until the ganache has cooled and is no longer warm to the touch(it may have thickened a lot by then, but still pourable)

  to assemble the cake:

Level off any dome that may have formed on the cakes during baking. Place the first layer on a cake board/plate/stand, and spread ½ cup of frosting over the top. Add the second layer and repeat with the same amount of frosting, making sure to spread the frosting on evenly. End with the third layer, making sure the bottom of the cake is facing upward; spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Place in the refrigerator so the frosting becomes firm. Pour the ganache into the center of the cake and gently spread towards the edges so it drips down. Serve when the ganache has hardened in place.

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.

 

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.

PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

  With Thanksgiving just a mere two weeks (plus a few days) away, I thought I’d post a classic dessert that is often found on holiday dinner tables this time of year here in the South- pecan pie.  This recipe hails from an old 1930’s church cookbook I found while walking about an antique mall not too long ago.  I adapted it a tad bit as I am not very fond of using corn syrup, so in its place, I used maple syrup.  Which, in my opinion, adds so much more flavor to the pie.  The crust is buttery and the pecans on top are crunchy while underneath is perfectly gooey; combined with the boozy caramel whipped cream, the entirety of it all is delicious.  Like other pies, this one did not last long in my home.

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I really love finding such things in antique malls or thrift stores.  The pile of church cookbooks sitting in small corners of such places is often neglected.  But they can be little treasures, really, especially the really old ones.  You don’t know what you’re going to get from them as it’s a collection of recipes from various people of various heritage. Each person contributed one recipe they deemed as a favorite that was passed down to them from generation to generation.  This cookbook I bought has many interesting recipes inside(some advertisements as well that I can’t help but chuckle at; oh, how far we’ve come!) which had me researching the ones I wasn’t familiar with.  The recipes range from fattigmann, rødgrød, and vanillekipferl; to blushing bunny, chicken cacciatore, and stuffed eggplant.  Then you have American classics like apple crisp, this pecan pie, and many others.

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PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

pie crust:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

5-8 tablespoons ice-cold water

pie filling:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups pecan halves

 

for the caramel

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

caramel whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

1/4 cup bourbon caramel 

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the cold butter in cubes and using a pastry blender or food processor, blend it into the flour till it’s crumbly(crumbles should be pea-sized).  Push the mixture to one side of the bowl and add 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water to the other side.  Using a fork, gently toss the flour into the water.  Add more water by the tablespoon when it becomes dry.  Repeat this until the dough comes together and all the flour is incorporated; it should be a soft, moist dough when complete.  Using your hands, shape it into a disk and loosly wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 25-30 minutes; meanwile, preheat the oven to 350°F.   Once the dough has firmed up some, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it until it’s about 10-inches in diameter.  Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unravel onto a 9-inch pie tin.  carefully press the dough into the pan using your hands and then finish by crimping the edges however you would like it to look.  Place the crust in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2.  In a medium sized saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter; add the brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla.  Whisk over medium-low heat until warm(not hot).  Slightly whisk the eggs together and add to the sugar.  Whisk until all is combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle on all the pecan halves.  Brush the crust with egg wash(1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)  if you would like it browned.  Bake for about an hour to an hour and 40 minutes.  It will be done when tapped with a spoon and the top is hard.  Cool completely and serve with whipped cream.  

for the caramel and whipped cream:

  1. In a small saucepan, add the water and sugar.  Whisk over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved, once the sugar is dissolves stop whisking and watch the mixture very closely for the next 5-10 minutes.  It should start to turn a light amber, when it does so, quickle remove from heat and stir in the tablespoon of butter.  Once the butter has melted, slowly stream in the cream and stir.  Heat the bourbon until warm and stir into the caramel.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator until cold. 
  2. Place a medium sized mixing bowl in the freezer along with a whisk that attaches to an electric mixer.  Chill for 5 minutes.  Once chilled, add the cold cream, caramel, and powdered sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Serve atop the pie.  

SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

  Ah, September, you came so quickly.  Where did summer go?  I find myself asking this almost every year.  Summer passes by quite swiftly as you grow older.  As a child, I felt as if summer would go on forever(in a good way), even after I moved away from a state where words such as “Fall” and “Winter” were practically non-existent and so were the seasons that matched them.  My favorite seasons have always been spring and summer.  I don’t mind autumn, except when it becomes winter.  This year is different, though; I’m taking the change of seasons quite nicely and actually looking forward to autumn.  At the same time, I can’t help but be a little heartbroken that summer has to end as well.  

  Though the month of September has just begun, I have already felt a change in the air and surroundings.  Most the trees and grass have faded into a different color green over August; they’ve lost their bright euphoria and are on the verge of putting on their autumnal display.  Just today I was able to open all the windows in the house as the weather was beautiful.  As I was standing looking out the kitchen door, a cool breeze swept through the house and outside displayed a shower of yellow leaves falling, like gold, from the black walnut trees surrounding our home.  Here in Northern Virginia, the walnut trees are the last to put on their summer foliage and the first to lose them once late August and September comes around.  It got me giddy about all things fall-ish I will say.

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  I was so sad that I never made it to a peach orchard this year, then on the first of September, I stumbled across an orchard just South of me and about an hour’s drive away.  They had just announced that their gala apples were coming in nicely and were ready for picking, so I took the day off and went apple picking.  Though peaches are almost out of season here, there were still quite a few trees chalked with the delicious fruit.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without picking a few as there’s nothing like a peach straight from the tree.  Just from being there I had recipe ideas pouring out of each side of my brain, so you may be seeing more from my trip to the orchard next week!   

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  Now, let me talk a little about these cupcakes.  They’re a bit addictive!  I could eat them sans frosting because they’re just as good.  The addition of fresh applesauce made them really moist and tender and they pull away from the paper nicely as well.  My favorite part is the top of the cupcake, of course.  It’s chocolate ganache with bourbon, then whipped for a few short minutes with some cocoa powder.  As you’ll see in other places on my blog, I like to use bourbon when chocolate is involved.  That and rum(which you may be seeing soon in another recipe!) are two of my favorite alcohols to bake with.  The ganache piped exceptionally well, you just have to be careful not to have them somewhere hot and rather humid as it will start to soften and may even melt.  

  Can you believe this was my first time ever piping frosting onto a cupcake?  Out of sixteen, just these three made my photo-worthy list.  It really is harder  than it looks, depending on the style you want.  

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*Please read through the instruction and ingredients list thoroughly before you commence baking.  I recommend beginning with the ganache first to give it time to stiffen, which can take close to two hours sometimes; then the applesauce, and lastly the cupcakes.

SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

Makes 16 normal sized cupcakes

cupcakes:

95 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

185 grams granulated sugar

3 fresh eggs, room temperature

112 mL milk, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

200 grams all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup fresh applesauce, room temperature (recipe below)

applesauce:

3 small to medium sized apples ( I used gala)

1 large cinnamon stick

1/4 cup water

whipped chocolate bourbon ganache:

16 ounces heavy cream

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 tablespoons of good bourbon

pinch of salt

METHOD

for the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.  Prepare two muffin/cupcake tins by adding sixteen paper baking cups.

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer with beaters attached, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla, half of the milk, and half of the flour.  Beat on medium speed till just combined, the beat in the remaining halves of milk and flour.  Gently stir in the applesauce with a spatula.  Spoon the batter into prepared muffin/cupcake tin(s) until 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Check for doneness at 18 minutes with a toothpick, if it comes out clean it’s done; if not clean, bake two more minutes.  Once done, cool in pans for five minutes, then gently transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

for the applesauce:

  1. Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters.  Add to a medium-sized saucepan along with the cinnamon stick and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low; cover and cook apples for 10 minutes until tender.  Once done, drain juices and then mash the apples till slightly chunky.  Spread out onto a plate and bring to room temperature (or put in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes for a quick cool).  Make the applesauce before cupcakes

for the whipped ganache:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, chop the bittersweet chocolate into fine chunks and add to a large heatproof bowl.  Once the cream has reached boiling, pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let it sit 10 minutes, then stir till smooth.  Stir in the bourbon and pinch of salt.  Refrigerate until it has become thick(like a paste), but not completely hard.  Before whipping, I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder for stability.  Using an electric hand beater, beat the ganache and cocoa powder till it becomes thick enough to pipe onto the cupcakes, about a minute or so.  Pipe the ganache onto cooled cupcakes and decorate with flaky sea salt (optional).