Strawberry and Cream Trifle

When a gorgeous slice of cake appears in front of you, tall and gloriously layered, which part is your fork most attracted to?

Much like preferring certain parts of a chicken over others – I’m a thigh girl, in case you’re wondering – I’ve noticed how people like to eat their cake. Some people avoid extraneous fluff, frosting or filling and zero in on their prize: the cake; while others are happy to precisely scrape away and devour only the layers of icing, leaving naked, golden cake all alone on the plate, like Beyoncè after she’s stripped off a pink satin dress at the end of the day.

It must be a trait we carry throughout our lifetime, because it’s not only children who seem to have this compulsion. I know a few adults who would gladly mutilate a harmless cake just to get at the neon-colored icing.

I place myself in the democratic camp; I get some of everything when I dig in to dessert; a bite of moist cake, the crush of sweet juicy fruit, and a lashing of vanilla-scented cream. That’s why I think trifle is such a perfect dessert: It’s cake deconstructed and put back together.

For this trifle recipe, I baked a sponge cake from pastry chef David Lebovitz’s new book Ready for Dessert. It’s super-easy to make and even better made ahead of time – like the day before assembling the trifle. But to keep things extra-simple, a store-bought angel food cake would work just as well.

And – ssshhh – maybe even better, since you can take credit for serving a simply stunning dessert for Mother’s Day (or any day) without having to turn on the oven.

Strawberry and Cream Trifle

Serving Size: serves 4

Ingredients

For sponge cake:

5 large eggs, separated

¼ cup cold water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups cake flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Grated zest of a lemon or orange

For Trifle:

¾ cup sugar

2 cups crème fraiche

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, split with sharp knife and seeds scraped

Juice from one large lemon or orange

4 cups mixed hulled and sliced strawberries and raspberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom of a rimmed 12 x 18-inch baking sheet or a 9-inch springform pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks and water on high speed for 1 minute. Decrease speed to medium, add sugar and vanilla then increase speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture forms a ribbon when the whip is lifted, about 5 minutes. Scrape the batter into another bowl, and wash the bowl and beater.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the beaten yolks. Gently fold in the flour until completely incorporated.
  4. Whip the egg whites and zest in the clean bowl on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Fold one-third of the whites into the yolk batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and the center springs back when gently pressed, 15 – 18 minutes in a baking sheet or 40 – 45 minutes in a springform cake pan.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan. Run a knife around the sides of cake to loosen and invert onto a cutting board.
  7. Whisk ½ cup sugar with the crème fraiche, cream and vanilla bean seeds in a medium bowl until smooth.
  8. In another bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup sugar with lemon or orange juice to dissolve. Gently stir in the berries. Let the berries sit 10 minutes.
  9. To assemble the trifle, cut the cake into circles to fit into 4 wide, shallow glasses. You can use ramekins, dessert bowls or go all out and use a special trifle bowl if you have one, just cut the cake into pieces to fit.
  10. Layer cake, berries and cream into whatever serving container you’re using, ending with berries on top. Refrigerate 30 minutes to one hour before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/strawberry-and-cream-trifle/

Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Everyone needs at least one go-to chocolate recipe, like stashing a little black dress in the recipe file.

This chocolate soufflè cake is like that perfect dress – deceptively basic but oh-so delicious in action. I pull this recipe out of my hat for last minute desserts as well as a last course for my clients requesting a chocolate ending for dinner parties.

I very slightly adapted this recipe from Alice Medrich’s book Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts. Yes, the cake is not only simple to make but not full of calories – that isn’t the reason I like it so much, but still good to know. Despite having little fat, the cake turns out with a soft, pudding-like texture and rich choocolate flavor.

Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Yield: 6 cakes

You can make this into one single cake instead of separate ones by using an 8-inch springform pan.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon softened butter

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup blanched almonds, finely ground

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 egg whites, at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Brush softened butter all over the inside of 6 1-cup souffle cups or ramekins and coat with granulated sugar. Place the cups on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the boiling water and whisk until mixture is smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.
  4. Whisk the flour and almonds together and stir into the chocolate. Fold about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon the batter evenly into the cups.
  5. Bake for 15 -20 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool on a rack 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully run a knife around the edges of the cups and invert to release each cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a sprinkle of cocoa, powdered sugar or warm chocolate sauce.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/chocolate-souffle-cake/

Special Request: Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread

Dark, moist cake with a spiced sugary topping
A and I had a girls-only shopping expedition last weekend. Her little powder-blue shoulder bag was stuffed full of gift-card loot from a recent (10 years old) birthday, so we headed off to the mall, one of my least favorite destinations in this world.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy shopping. I do! It’s just that malls have a numbing and dumbing effect on me; I get as overstimulated and disoriented as a wayward bluejay on acid.

I must have been born without the intricate inner GPS system needed to navigate oneself in large public shopping areas, because inevitably I get lost looking for the bathroom or take a right turn out of Bath & Body Works instead of a left, finding myself miles away from the exit that leads out to the parking garage.

So it was good that A was with me. Since were focused on two stores, Limited Too and Gap, we safely pointed ourselves in their direction…right past a Starbucks counter that pulled me over like a dustball succumbing to the strong suck of a Dyson D17. I decided I really needed the fortification of a Grande Green Tea Latte (nonfat, two pump) to get me through the whole mall thing.

While standing in line, we drooled over the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread, a new addition to the Starbucks pastry array, developed by the hot Swedish-New York-Ethiopian-born chef Marcus Samuelsson.

It turns out that other food bloggers tracked down the recipe and baked it at home with good results, including Foodaphilia and Nicole at Baking Bites.

I made A very happy yesterday when I made this cake, and I have to admit it was worth a trip to the mall for the inspiration.

However, despite the word “bread” in the recipe title, be aware that this is not in any way a quick bread, but more like the dark, dense chocolate pound cake of your dreams. The crunchy spiced sugar on top is a nice touch.

Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread

From the kitchen of Marcus Samuelsson

Chocolate Batter:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
11?4 cups Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1?2 teaspoon baking powder
1?2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1?4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust:
1?4 cup granulated sugar
3?4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1?2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1?4 cup white decorating sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and line the bottom of the pans with overhanging sheets of parchment paper (this will make it easier to remove the baked cakes.)

Make the Chocolate Batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed, until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl several times.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to butter, beginning and ending with the flour and beating just until blended. Divide the batter between the two pans, shake the pans to even the tops and set aside.

Make the Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust: In another small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, ginger and cloves. Sprinkle the surfaces of both batters with the decorating sugar. Sprinkle with the cocoa sugar mixture, dividing evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely, run a thin knife around the sides to release the breads and remove from pans.

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