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Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace (Piece of Cake)…

The Prodigal Child Returns…. I know it’s been a long time since my last post :-(. In my last post–don’t ask me when it was–I made a big boo boo, I made a promise I couldn’t keep.  I promised to post about Chocolate Box Cakes.  Well, the cakes came out marvelous, but the pictures didn’t.  Determined to keep my word, I have made numerous attempts at making the pictures postable (is that a word?).  So far, no luck.  So, like the parable of the Prodigal Son I left in err, but now realizing my mistake, I’ve returned ready to post like crazy because I’ve been Divaliciously busy since I went away… 

For example,  I got the pleasure and had the good fortune to design and create Jeffrey and Shauna’s wedding cake/cupcakes.  The bride-to-be chose yellow roses for her bouquet with teal accents.  She wanted 150 cupcakes and a bride and groom’s cake. The cupcakes and cake were to be red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  

Perfect!  When choosing a design for the cupcakes, I decided I would mix things up a bit, so there were three different designs for each of  fifty cupcakes.  The first design was an individual yellow rose bud.  Yes, I hand made fifty yellow gumpaste roses, sprinkled them with a little edible glitter, and a whole lot of time patience and love.  The second design was a nice sprinkling of yellow glitter. Originally, the second design was going to be sugared rose petals.  After I made them, I didn’t think they added enough drama, so they didn’t make on the cupcakes.  But, they did make it to the party; the petals were shrewn on the table around the cupcake stands.  The last design included edible pearls arranged to look like a flower.  Thanks to Earlene Moore, I created the yellow pearls using her soft pearl method.

Rose Bud, Yellow Glitter, Pearl Flower

 
Then, there was the bride and groom’s cake.  It was a four layer, six inch cake.  The icing was made of cream cheese frosting.  I airbrushed the frosting with a Pearl Sheen.  Being whimsical seemed fun so I created collars to go around the cake–two floating on top and one around the base.  I had to free hand the pattern because I had a specific design in mind. The collars were made of royal icing and they came out beautifully.  Handpainted yellow roses adorned the sides of the cake.  I wanted an applique look, so I made a mold and things came together nicely.  And, the finishing touch was my signature butterfly–I try to put a butterfly on everything :-).  The butterfly sat quietly on the floating top watching the bride and groom dance and float around on cloud nine.  BTW, beware something happened to the sizing of the picture so it’s smaller than the others–sorry.

Floating on Cloud Nine

Terrific help made the set-up run smoothly, but for awhile before all the cupcakes and bride and groom’s cake were finally on the stands, there seemed to be a sea of yellow rosebud covered cakes.

The ceremony was beautiful–sometimes I stick around to see the service, what can I say I’m a romantic.  The weather was perfect for the outdoor event.  The blushing bride was beautiful as she was escorted down the isle.  And, the personalized exchange of vows was icing on the cake (pun intended, hehehe).

The cupcakes were wildly received and rave reviews were given (I heard after-the-fact people who didn’t attend the wedding who got to try the cupcakes loved them; NICE).  As a matter-of-fact, some of the cupcakes disappeared before the cake cutting ceremony began…

All in all, it was good day.  Everthing went smoothly.  To Jeffrey and Shauna, all the best.  Your life together will always be great as long as you remember, “whatever it is…it’s a piece of cake.”

Like I said in the beginning, I’ve been pretty busy since the last post, I have more cakes and cupcakes from special occasion events–weddings, birthday’s, baby showers, basptisms/first communions, etc.–to post.  So, hang in there with me and I’ll catch up on my postings.

In the meantime and until next time…

Be Sweet and Divalicious.

The Desserts Diva

Orange “OMG” White Chocolate Dipped Cupcakes…

Orange ya glad we're stuck in cupcakes instead of the mud?

MIA (Missing in Action) should be my middle name–except, I haven’t been totally MIA… I’ve been tasting and making some of the most divalicious desserts I ever imagined.  So, it’s been hard to put pen to paper but one of the last yummies I made, I just have to share.

A couple months ago, I happened to be at one of my new favorite cake supply stores–The Cake Cottage–buying goodies for the next project when I realized I was terribly hungry and my blood sugar was low.  Argh!  As it turns out, they sell these amazing jumbo-sized cupcakes.  I tried the Lemon Filled; all I can say is WOW!

This cupcake drove me insane and I knew right away I had to figure out how to make it!  I love lemon, but I wanted to try orange especially since Halloween–one of my favorite holidays– was around the corner.  After some trial and error, I nailed it–at least my way.  I made orange cupcakes, with homemade orange curd filling, topped with orange whipped crema, dipped in white chocolate, drizzled with orange-flavored white chocolate–sooo Divalicious!

Then, I got a lucky a break, a chance to share my discovery.   Some friends of mine were having a poolside potluck-style party and gave me an opportunity to make the desserts–thanks L&R.  The theme of the party was a day at the horse races.   So for fun, I decided to decorate the cupcakes with embellishments that went along with the theme–horses and riders and dice to symbolize “picking the ponies.” 

I'll race ya...

The reaction to the cupcakes was insane!  After biting into the white chocolate, the response was Oooh… The second bite into the whipped orange crema layer also resulted in the same response: Oooh!  Again, on the third bite, Oooh… But biting into the whole thing all at once resulted in OMG!  Mind you these are just cupcakes, but the unexpected layers of flavor illicited unabashed squeals of delight.

Needless to say, the cupcakes were a hit.  And, the party was really fun too.  I sure am glad I stumbled upon these little gems.  The Orange “OMG” White Chocolate Dipped Cupcakes definitely have a permanent home on my list of Divalicious Desserts.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been tasting and testing and I have a lot more goodies to share with you.  So, check back soon for my next post– “The Chocolate Box.”

Until next time,

Be Sweet and Divalicious…

The “Desserts Diva”

P.S.  Please leave a comment or e-mail me at Diva@TheDessertsDiva.com

“Chocolate” Champagne & The Wonka Bar

"Chocolate" Champagne & The Wonka Bar

Divalicious desserts don’t have to be just cakes, pastries and pies.  Instead, you may choose to satisfy your sweet tooth with a great cocktail; whether by itself or along with a divine dessert, chocolately cocktails are sublime…

Recently, I was reading one of my tea books–I’m very fond of Afternoon Tea so I collect books on the art of “taking” High or Afternoon Tea.  Well, while I was exploring venues for tea, I came across a few places that offer “Chocolate Lovers Tea.”  Since I like chocolate, see Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate , I thought the idea of tea for chocolate lovers was terrific.  Naturally, I presumbed the sandwiches, scones & desserts at these teas would all be  prepared with chocolate, but then out of nowhere one of the menu items jumped off the page and  in my face there it was: “CHOCOLATE” CHAMPAGNE.  OMG, I had never heard, seen nor tasted Chocolate Champagne.  But think about it, could any cocktail be more Divalicious than Chocolate Champagne? I don’t think so.  You’ve got the best of both worlds, chocolate & champagne in one dreamy drink.  So, I experimented with several liquer combinations before I finally came up with a recipe that’s really divalicious (trust me I had to take one for the team with many tastings before getting the formula right), so try it and see what you think…

“Chocolate” Champagne

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz chocolate liquer (Creme de Cacao or Godiva)
  • 1 oz coffee liquer (Kahlua or Tia Maria)
  • 1 bottle Almond champagne 
  • chocolate dipped strawberries or marachino cherries for garnish

Directions:

Pour the chocolate and coffee liquer in a champagne glass and top off with almond champagne. Garnish with chocolate covered cherry or strawberry and enjoy.

"Chocolate" Champage

 

The Wonka Bar Cocktail is another chocolatey divalicious drink that’s out of this world.  You remember Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, right? Charlie was the kid who won the last golden ticket and a trip to the chocolate factory by eating a Wonka bar.  As a child, I imagined Charlie (wishing it were me) scooping yummy warm dark chocolate into his cup while he rode in the little boat down the chocolate river, if you don’t remember this part, you’ve got to read the book again–just thinking about it makes me what a cup of hot chocolate.  Anyway, at the time, I thought Charlie’s river chocolate was probably the best tasting chocolate in the world–since then, I’ve tasted the best hot chocolate in the world and I’ll post about that in the near future.   For now,  the adult version  of the Wonka Bar is your golden ticket to a fabulous cocktail.

The Wonka Bar

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz Chambord
  • 1/2 oz Irish Cream
  • 1/4 oz dark Cream de Cacao
  • 1/4 oz light Cream de Cacao
  • crushed ice
  • chocolate syrup (optional garnish)

Directions:

Pour ice  in a martini glass to chill it.  Add ice to a martini shaker along with the vodka, chambord, irish cream, and both cream de cacaos. Give the martini shaker a few really good shakes.  Pour the ice out of the martini glass.  If using chocolate syrup, swirl a design on the inside of the glass.  Strain the contents of the martini shaker into the martini glass. Swirl more chocolate syrup on the top. Voila! The Wonka Bar.

The Wonka Bar

I hope you’ll try one or both of these cocktails,  I know you’re surely going to love them…

Decisions, Decisions, Which one will you try first?

BTW, watch the Wonka Bar Cocktail video to see how it’s made by bartender, Jeff Capri.

Until next time,

Be sweet & Divalicious.

The “Desserts Diva”

P.S.  Please leave a comment or e-mail me at Diva@TheDessertsDiva.com

Hey, Baby Cakes…

Baby Cakes

Hi Everyone.  Since my last post, I’ve been really busy with creating and sharing new desserts.  If I don’t get a chance to blog about all of them, here’s a couple treats I made over the last month: Lavender cupcakes with lavender cream cheese frosting and a four-layer chocolate and strawberry cake with chocolate mousse & strawberry filling–both desserts were Divalicious!

My latest project was a labor of love (they all are); speaking of labor let’s talk about Baby Cakes before Jacob is born–he’s due any day now….

There are few things more precious in life than new born babies, they’re so cuddly and cute when they first arrive, that’s why I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to participate in a baby shower for one of my girlfriends.  In March and knowing her favorite flavor, I asked her if she minded if I make cupcakes for the shower because I found a fantastic over-the-top idea, a “new born baby” topper for a cake or cupcakes.  Because I specialize in Personal-sized, Personalized desserts and treats,  I just knew making miniature “new born babies” as cupcake toppers was a perfect project for me.  She agreed and that was the beginning of “Baby Cakes.”  By the way, she also told me she needed 25 cupcakes for the shower…

I knew making the Red Velvet cupcakes was going to be a breeze because I’d  made the recipe so many times it’s burned into my memory forever; but the “new born baby” topper was another story and left me wondering, “What had I gotten myself into?”  Needless to say, I started out really motivated and enthusiastic as I began gathering the tools and ingredients, but then I began to procrastinate.  In fact, I made a number of other personal-sized personalized desserts, including Petit Fours.  A concern that came to mind was “what if the ‘new born baby’ topper doesn’t work out, then what?”  Rather than continue to worry about the outcome, I decided to jump in with both feet and get the project started…Wow what an outcome!

From start to finish, the babies took nearly a week to make.  And, when the first baby was born I was thrilled and relieved because I could see everything was going to turn out just right, then my enthusiasm & motivation returned.  The “new born babies” are all made of gumpaste (a white sugar dough) that was mixed with gel food color in order to create the skin color.  The babies were cast from a mold that required trimming and polishing upon their release. Petal dust was used for shading to bring the babies to life.  The hair was painted on with gel food color.  Jacob’s colors are green, so the diapers that were made separately from the mold were colored green in his honor.  I, with the help of my number #1 fan, made a total of 28 babies.  We were so pleased with the finished product. 

Baby Jacob

Just like real babies no baby was perfect, but for that reason they were all perfect and precious– they were Divalicious.  The Baby Cakes were a huge success at the baby shower, they inspired awe in adults as well as the children who attended.  Although the babies are totally edible, I must say I was shocked to see someone take a big bite out of one (I called her a cannibal).  Sugar has a long shelf-life if stored properly, so those who chose to save the babies, including the mom-to-be, will have a memento that will last a lifetime, or at least until Jacob goes to college…

Update:  Before I got a chance to publish this post (I started writing it a couple of days ago and had to stop to make a cake–Grazie E) Jacob was born.  He’s beautiful weighing in at 7.10 pounds and 20.5 inches long.  Congrats to his loving parents and entire family and friends. 

Until next time,

Be Sweet and Divalicious!

The Desserts Diva

Petit Fours–Little cakes with a lot of style…

Eat me, I'm Divalicious

It’s been about a month since my last post because I’ve been creating and changing a few things.  In fact, I changed the look of my blog–a work still in progress.   Needless to say, I have a backlog of posts to make so they probably won’t be in order of completion.  That being said, let’s talk about Petit Fours…

I first fell in love with Petit Fours, as a child, after reading Alice in Wonderland.  I know you remember the cake Alice ate that was labeled “Eat Me,” right?  Like any other kid, I was thrilled with the idea of eating my very own miniature cake that was just my size (in other words, a cake not too big that I’d have to share it with someone) .  As I grew older, I never lost that love of personalized & personal-sized cakes.  But, I did realize finding Petit Fours wasn’t always easy.  In fact, I noticed the only time I seemed to see Petit Fours was at Christmas when they’re being offered by Swiss Colony–nothing against Swiss Colony, but not my idea of Divalicious…

If you’ve had a Petit Four, you’ll probably recall it was a small cake that fit in the palm of your hand.  It may have had a “hardened” icing/glaze on the outside.  And, when you bit in to it you noticed three to four layers of cake filled with some type of preserves or curd.  In french Petit Four means “small oven.” Interesting fact, just about any small treat or cake can be classified as a Petit Four.  Common to all Petit Fours is the fact that they’re usually a bite-sized small dessert.  So, since I specialize in personalized, personal-sized Divalicious desserts, The “Desserts Diva” has been making a variety of Petit Fours for years.  But, my lastest creation was actually inspired by Peggy Porschen, a cake artist extraordinaire from Europe.  About a year ago, I bought Peggy’s book “Pretty Party Cakes,”  and fell in love with her version of Petit Fours.  I decided eventually I’d get around to making a couple treats like hers, but something always came up…

Two for me and two for you...

Fast forward to now and many Divalicious desserts in between, I finally got around to making “bollywood” inspired Petit Fours.  This project took a little time from start to finish because of the many techniques involved; but for those folks who know me, I rarely do quick and simple.  My cake for the Petit Fours is a strawberry pound cake, four-layered with lemon curd.  The icing is a homemade pourable fondant.  The roses and leaves are rolled fondant.  And,  the “bollywood” design is royal icing painted with gold luster dust.  Sprinkle edible glitter on top and voila, I’m done!

I have to say, this Petit Four project was truly a labor of love but it paid off because the results were amazing. If you decide you’ld like to make Petit Fours like these, I have to warn you–set aside a fair amount of time.  Otherwise, have them professionally made by someone like The “Desserts Diva.”   This was like a Bucket List item so I’m glad I made them almost exactly like Peggy’s.  In the future, however, I’d probably make more modifications to the flavors and designs…

A Petit Four Party

Until next time,

Be Sweet and Divalicious.

The “Desserts Diva”

Torte Della Nona

 

 

Just like my grandma used to
make if she were Italian

Ciao amici di bella! Come Stai?  Have you ever gone on a vacation and ate something that was so wonderful that years later you could still taste it on your tongue while the smell of it just seemed to waft through the air out of nowhere?  Go ahead, take a moment and reminisce…   

A few years ago, I had a wonderful opportunity and spent two glorious weeks in Florence and Venice, Italy.  Grazie, E.  The trip was absolutely amazing, I have never eaten better pasta, drank better wine, or tasted richer thicker hot chocolate.  But, most memorable was one of the best things I ever ate–a lovely lemon pastry from a place called Rivoire, located in the Piazza Della Signoria, in Florence.  Rivoire is over one hundred thirty-five years old and is the premiere chocolate shoppe in Florence, so not surprisingly their wonderful chocolate was drizzled atop my pastry with a little confectioner’s sugar for good measure.  The lemon and the chocolate just melted in my mouth; I have to say this pastry was truly divalicious.   I still remember thinking the crust was interesting in a yummy way, but at the time I didn’t know why.  Funny thing is I never asked the name of the dessert, so this mystery dessert just remained on my mind and in my heart long after the vacation was over…   

Not too long ago, I met a lady who had lived in Italy for many years, so I began to describe this delightful pastry.  Right away she said it must have been “Torte Della Nona.”  Boy was I happy to have a name and eager to find a recipe.  The kicker for me is the fact that I found out  Torte Della Nona means Grandmother’s Cake in italian.  So, for those of you who know me or read the “About” page you know my blog is dedicated to my grandmother and her influence on my baking.  A coincidence, I doubt it but doesn’t  it make sense that the best dessert I ever ate would be a tribute to grandmothers?    

Finding a recipe was a labor of love because I had to look at many recipes–many in Italian– and so many of the recipes I came across left me wondering if they would make something as good as the pastry I remembered (of course I didn’t find Rivoire’s recipe).  Moreover, would making this recipe in America produce similar or very different results because when you travel outside the US, you find there’s something a little different about our ingredients as opposed to other parts of the world?  And, I realized if I found an authentic recipe, it would require a converting measurements because Europeans use the metric system for measuring ingredients (converting measurements can be a little tricky)…   

By the by, I recently got a chance to make my long-awaited dessert.  I am pleased to say, my Torte Della Nona was pretty good.  I got great compliments, so I’ll make it again after some fine tuning.  What I learned from researching recipes is the crust is called pasta frolla, which is similar to a shortbread crust.  And, that interesting piece of the crust I mentioned earlier is a layer of sponge cake.  The sponge cake is topped with a custard, pine nuts (in my case almonds) and then powdered sugar.  The pastry is baked and topped with more powdered sugar.  Then may be served plain, but I recommend a drizzling of chocolate or chocolate curls (see previous post).    

I look forward to getting back to Rivoire to compare notes, but if it wasn’t Torte Della Nona I had there no matter, because I now have a great new dessert to share.  I suggest if you’re ever in Florence you stop in for a pastry and some hot chocolate, you won’t be disappointed.  But, if you want to try the Torte Della Nona now, I recommend you look at this VIDEO.  I need to warn you, it’s in Italian but there is subtext in case you need translation.  Play with it and make it your own, the Torte Della Nona will go great with your next Italian or “just because” dinner.    

Mangiare e godere.   

Until next time,   

Divalicious Italian Lemon Pastry

Be Sweet and Divalicious   

The “Desserts Diva”

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Have you ever heard the saying: “location, location, location?”  Of course you have.  It’s often used to explain what you look for when you’re buying, renting or leasing real estate.  But when you’re talking about desserts it should be: “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.”  Short of having allergies, some unfortunate childhood experience, or a very very strict diet who doesn’t love chocolate?  There’s something wonderful, like a little flavor explosion, that happens when you first bite into something chocolate.  And, the more chocolate, the bigger the explosion.  Tell the truth, right now you’re thinking about the last time you had chocolate and how great it was, aren’t you?

Recently, I was asked to re-create a chocolate cake I had made for friends during the holidays.  It was a chocolate chip cake with chocolate sour cream frosting.  It’s really chocolatey and just divalicious;  but it needed a little something to make it extra special.  So, I decided to make chocolate curls…

In the past, making chocolate curls with a vegetable peeler* was “easy breezy,” but not this time.  As usual, I used a good bar of chocolate that I slightly warmed in the microwave, so I’d get long beautiful curls.  As you can see, I didn’t get curls I got shavings (not really what I wanted).  

Chocolate Shavings

I gave up the vegetable peeler and quickly resorted to a back-up plan– melted then scraped chocolate.  I got a slightly different embellishment than I planned but with the clock ticking, I didn’t have time for a cake disaster.  It worked like a charm and the final result was as dramatic and special as I had hoped. 

Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients/Equipment: Chocolate, Marble Slab, Chef’s Knife

Melt a cup of chocolate (chips or a bar chopped into chunks) on medium for 1 minute.  Stir and repeat for thirty seconds at a time until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth.  Pour the chocolate onto a marble slab and spread thick or thin depending on the size of the curls you want to make.  If you don’t have a marble slab, I highly recommend you get one, it’s great for this project as well as rolling out dough for pastries.  Absent a marble slab, pour the melted chocolate on an inverted cookie sheet.  Let the chocolate harden. Chill it in the refrigerator or freezer if you’re in hurry.

Hardened Chocolate

When the chocolate is hardened, get your Chef’s knife.  Starting at one end of the chocolate, holding your knife at a 45 degree angle push the knife across the chocolate to the other end.  As you do this, the chocolate will begin to curl. 

The size of your curls depends on how wide you spread the chocolate and how far you push the knife.  Repeat this process as many times as you need in order to get as many curls as you need. 

Big Chocolate Curls

 

 

 Note: the curls will be delicate and quickly melt to the touch, so be careful placing them on your cake/dessert.

 

 
 

 

Give this technique a try, it’s sure to make your desserts divalicious.

Be Sweet & Divalicious…

The “Desserts Diva”

Chocolate Cake Anyone?

*A Good old-fashioned vegetable peeler gave me shavings.  However, the newer “Y-shaped” peelers potentially provide better results.  The chocolate bar needs to be somewhat heated (microwave on medium about 10 seconds, check and repeat as necessary) no matter what vegetable peeler you try in order to get the desired results.

Candied Carrot Curls

Orange-kissed Carrot Cake

Not too long ago, I celebrated my mother’s birthday.  And, as always, I wanted to make her something special for dessert.  My mom is probably my biggest fan, so when I asked her what she wanted for a birthday treat she said, “anything you make will be just fine with me.”    

At first, I thought a chocolate, lemon, pound,  or cheesecake might work.  Then a better idea came to mind–Orange-kissed Carrot Cake.  For health conscious folks, it can’t be too bad–the carrots make it healthy, right?   My Orange-kissed Carrot Cake is a really dense cake packed with walnuts and raisins and iced with an Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (it’s yummy and divalicious).  To make the cake extra special, I decided to top the cake with candied carrot curls.  They take a little time, but they’re easy to make.   And, they make the cake look fabulous.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 lg. carrot  (or two medium) 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • scant cup water
  • 2 T orange liqueur

Equipment: Vegetable Peeler, Parchment Paper/Silpat, 1/2 in. wooden dowel*    

Directions:

Preheat oven to 225 degrees Farenheit and place rack in the center position.    

Peel layers from carrot lengthwise on only one side until the slices become wide stips–the wider the better.  Peel as many wide strips as possible.    

Measure the orange liqueur first then add enough water to make one cup.  Bring the water/liquer mixture and sugar to a boil in a small pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add the carrot strips and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.     

candied carrots, simmering

Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove the carrot strips and lay flat on a plate for 15 minutes (Note: strain and reserve the syrup for brushing on the layers of your carrot cake before frosting because this adds flavor and moisture).    

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange the carrot strips flat in a single layer.  Bake for about 30 minutes until dry but still flexible.  Take the carrots out of the oven but leave it on.   For each carrot strip, wrap it around the dowel making a loose spiral, slide the curl off and back onto the baking sheet, with the seam side down.    

spiraled candied carrots

Return the curls to the oven and bake 35-40 minutes until crisp.  Check the curls after 5 minutes to make sure they’ve held their shape.   If not, just curl them again and throw them back in the oven.  

      

   

*If you can’t find a dowel at the hardware store, you could try making spirals free-hand, it’s a little tricky, but doable.    

 As you can see, the candied carrot curls made mom’s cake extra special.  And, they taste great!  Try them and make your next carrot cake, divalicious.    

 

Happy Birthday Mom!

Keep this site on your radar and tell a friend as new posts will be added regularly :-).
  
Be sweet and Divalicious.
  
The “Desserts Diva”
  
 

  
  
     

  
 
 
 
 
 

  

  
 
 

  

 

 

Apricot Crostata a la Taleggio

About a year ago, I had the good fortune to taste one of the most fascinating desserts.  It was a mixed berry tart with goat cheese.  This was an amazing treat.  I loved this dessert and I’m not really fond of goat cheese.  There was something special about the combination of sweet & savory.  So, I’ve been searching all this time for the recipe or one comparable–not having had any luck but never forgetting the impression the taste left upon me…   

Recently, I watched Giada De Laurentiis make Crostata with Dried Apricots and Taleggio.  I thought: “oh boy, I’m finally going to get my sweet and savory dessert.”  I decided to make it right away and rushed out to get the ingredients.  The first thing I learned was finding Taleggio cheese in my area wasn’t easy.  After Trader Joe’s didn’t work (TJ’s has every specialty food, don’t they?), I finally found the cheese at Bristol Farms…   

First, I grabbed the food processor, the marble rolling-pin and marble slab.  Next, I assembled all the ingredients.  Then, I proceeded to make what I believed would be a  masterpiece.  Making the dough was easy and came together in a snap, but I did add my own variations.  For example, I used frozen butter to make the dough.  Almost all crostata, pie or tart dough recipes call for cold butter.  I use frozen butter to ensure it’s still cold when it goes into the food processor.  The next change I made was swapping vodka for some of the water called for in the recipe.  Yes, I said VODKA.  Some time ago I was listening to a Master Baker talk about baking pies and they said the way to get the flakiest crust you ever tasted was to use equal parts ice water and vodka.  Why? The reason being the vodka wouldn’t create temperature issues that would interfere with the butter’s ability to form a flaky crust.  And, the vodka cooks out so it doesn’t affect the taste making it undetectable.  Keep this tidbit of information because it really works.   

I followed the rest of the instructions, but added raw sugar (demura) to the crust before baking and after a while produced a beautiful crostata.   

Sweet & Savory Crostata

Only one problem, it really wasn’t what I expected.  It was more savory than sweet, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  In fact, some folks who tried it thought it was great just the way it came out of the oven.  I, on the other hand, had to put some whip cream on top (I planned on putting whipped cream on top all along, but I had to put a lot).

In the future, I would make this crostata again but with a few more variations, so it’s more sweet than savory.  I’ve included a recipe below and added the changes I intend to make in the future.  If you’re looking for a more savory crostata, by all means check out Giada’s original recipe referenced above.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or shredded with a grater
  • 1/2 cup cold mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water/vodka (equal parts water to vodka) 

Filling:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) dried apricots
  • apricot preserves (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup honey, plus extra to drizzle when it comes out of the oven 
  • 3 ounces Taleggio* cheese, rind removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Raw sugar (Demura)

*Taleggio is a semi-soft italian cheese that may be difficult to find.  You could use a Port Salut (TJ’s has this) or any other semi-soft cheese you can find.  Alternatively, you could use a brie or goat cheese.     

Directions

For the crust: Add the flour, salt, and sugar to a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the mascarpone cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times. Add the ice water/vodka mixture and run the machine just until the mixture is moist and crumbly, but does not form a ball. Do not overmix. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a disk, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.   

For the filling: Put an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the apricots, walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon, and sea salt. Add the honey and stir until all the ingredients are coated. Stir in 2/3 of the cheese.   

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet and put it on a work surface. Put the chilled dough on the parchment paper. Roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Lift the parchment paper and transfer it to a baking sheet. Spread a generous amount of apricot preserves over the dough. Put the apricot filling in the center of the dough, spreading evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round. Pleat the edge of the pastry and pinch to seal any cracks in the dough. Arrange the remaining cheese on top of the filling.   

Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the crust.  Bake until the crust starts to turn golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cover the crostata loosely with a piece of foil and cook until the crust is golden and the cheese has melted, another 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the crostata from the oven to a cutting board and uncover. Cool for 10 minutes, drizzle honey over the top, then cut into slices. Serve warm by itself, with ice cream or with whipped cream.    

Here’s to indulging your sweet tooth.  Bon appetit.

Be Sweet and Divalicious.

The “Desserts Diva”

Red Velvet Cupcakes (It's all about presentation)

Looks like it we're alone

Have you ever eaten anything that tasted so good, it made your eyes roll back in your head while you licked your fingers and smacked your lips?  Well if not, then you haven’t been eating the right desserts— Red Velvet Cupcakes, done right.  Recently, friends who know I love to bake who have tried some of my goodies in the past asked me to come up with a little dessert for a reception* they were having that would host about 40 people.  I offered them creme brulee or lemon cheesecake tarts which they adored, but they declined because they felt might be too labor intensive.  So, they suggested and requested I make Red Velvet Cupcakes.  And, with that we were off to the races…   

For a moment, let me digress.  I created a blog last summer on WordPress about Cookin’ With Love.  It started off pretty well, but I got busy and didn’t really get a chance to post regularly.  Yesterday, I decided I needed to share my Red Velvet Cupcake story, so I decided to post to my old blog.  Unfortunately, I was unable to remember the password, so I requested it be reset and the new password be sent to my e-mail address.  It turns out, I couldn’t access that account either; I reached out to google support and I didn’t get the results I needed.  After several unsuccessful attempts to access my old blog, I gave up and started this one.  The good news is I hadn’t posted much, so not much is lost and I REALLY like the new blog name, a name I was dubbed after making Red Velvet Cupcakes…   

So, back to the Red Velvet cupcakes.  I tinkered with two recipes before I got it right on the third charming try.  The first recipe was too chocolatey and the second was too dry.  What I learned from my trials and errors was don’t dump the food coloring in the batter, make a paste of it with the unsweetened cocoa powder.  If you dump, you clump.  It’s not a Red Velvet Cake/Cupcake if it doesn’t have buttermilk, vinegar and baking soda.  And, if you’re not careful with the amount of liquid you use, you’ll have dry cupcakes.  There’s so many recipes out there, try a couple and see what suits your tastes.   

Straight from the bakery, not

Now about presentation, which really is  key when turning ordinary treats into great desserts.  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and with my friends’ blessings, I chose to embellish the cupcakes to the hilt.  I placed them in Wilton heart designed cupcake wrappers that I was able to purchase at a local craft store. By the way, I am also really fond of Fancy Flours at fancyflours.com; they have a great selection of cupcake wrappers and more.  I used a large star tip to swirl cream cheese frosting on top (some were tinted pink while others remained cream).  Note: Frequently, Red Velvet Cupcakes are made with boiled icing, but I really think my icing worked well.  I adorned the tops of each cupcake with a heart-shaped chocolate with a lovely lace-like pattern.  I finished them off with a little glitter and they sparkled like perfect little gems.    At the reception, I scattered some purple confetti hearts and arranged the cupcakes on platters of different sizes and heights to create interest.   

Happy Valentine's Day

The presentation was fabulous and the cupcakes were devoured.  Right away, attendees asked me if they could call me “Cupcake” and other affectionate names, but the one that seems to fit me most is Desserts Diva  So, from now on I’ll proudly don the moniker Desserts Diva.   

Thanks R&R for choosing me to provide the desserts for your soiree.   

*The reception was held for Gary Malkin an Emmy awarding-winning composer who is using his music “to promote  peace, environmental sustainability, and integration of mind, heart, and spirit… check out Gary at www.wisdomoftheworld.com.

Be Sweet & Divalicious.

The “Desserts Diva”