Archive for March 2011

Chocolate Torte

I did some experimenting with some gum paste orchids– rather complicated for flowers but fun once you get the hang of it.  I’ll hopefully post a video in the future.  For now a recipe based on on of my latest cakes– Chocolate torte.  I realized only after doing this recipe that torte usually indicates that the cake contains ground nuts as opposed to flour…this recipe only has flour, but was a dense, rich chocolate cake all the same– not light and fluffly, but thats fine with me.


Chocolate Raspberry Torte


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine your dry ingredients: Sugar (yes this time its a dry ingredient), flour (sifted), cocoa (I used 1/3 dutch processed, 1/3 valrhona), cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix till combined and set aside.

In a small sauce pan heat milk– I only warmed it, don’t scald.  Melt butter– over the stove or via the microwave.

Lightly beat eggs. Add vanilla.

Slowly pour in warmed milk.

Add butter.

Add dry ingredients.

Mix until just combined. Bake (in 2 8″ pans-greased and floured) at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Finishing a chocolate torte can be simple– the cake is dense and sweet enough that fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit are perfect.  I went more on the choco-holic side of things.

To Finish:

Each layer will be about 2- 2 1/2″ tall.  I leveled both rendering four layers and iced with a raspberry butter cream (I added a teaspoon or 2 of raspberry extract and 2 tablespoon of raspberry jam.  Seedless is preferable– but I had trouble finding it, even in New York City.

**Careful when added jams or syrups to icings.  In my experience your frosting can get gummy and hard to deal with aka it starts oozing all over the place unpredictably. Between layers I spread raspberry jam.

A little trick to getting you icing super smooth.  With traditional buttercream (butter and powdered sugar) you’ll find that the icing “Crusts” or dries to the touch after about 10 minutes.  Sometimes it even crumbles a little. If you find that you have some spatula marks on your cake you can dip a metal spatula in warm water– don’t get the spatula too wet lightly swipe your spatula against the dry frosting and you’ll notice the marks melt away.  The finish of the frosting will be a little shiney — careful not to use too much water else the cake will look melted.

I finished the cake with Chocolate Ganache— which isnt too complicated to do, but I think is best described in a video…to come.

Chocolate Ganache

2 c semisweet chocolate

1 c-1  1/2c heacvy cream

Melt in a sauce pan over low heat stirring constantly.  Ganache should be cooled but still runny.  I also placed the cake in the freezer to settle and firm up a bit.  Place cake on a cooling wrack, on a large tray.

Pour ganache over the top of the cake letting it drip over the sides.  Push ganache over sides with spatula.  Give one or two passes around the sides of cake to smooth and make sure ganache has totally covered the whole cake.

The best thing about ganache is that if you allow it to cool a little longer its just like chocolate frosting– if you don’t want to pour it over your cake you and spread it like frosting or pipe it with a pastry bag. If it gets too cool warm it up in the microwave or roll the pastry bag filled with ganache between your hands until it softens enough to pipe again.


3 comments March 23, 2011

BRUNCH: Banana Pecan Belgian Waffles

I’m breaking my tradition of posting brunch inspired recipes on Saturday nights because I finished out my last day of the weekend this Monday with a day off from work.  I spent Saturday managing the many patrons attending a long week of performances of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Lets talk about Martha for a minute, because I for one, having seen bits and pieces of her repertoire many times over the years I’ve been working in theatre, strangely knew little about her.  I knew only that she basically invented modern dance– which as a kid who studied tap dancing for (cough) fourteen years thought modern dance was just ballet without shoes.

Martha Graham is often mentioned with other great artist like Picasso– because they both invented and redefined their art– turning traditional form on its head.  She invented her own technique which is widely studied today and only at the tender age of 75 did she reluctantly retire from performing.  Her choreography can be severe, stressed, and emotional, and always includes eccentric costuming and makeup. Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, and Oscar De LaRenta designed many costumes for this week’s performances (see above).

Martha Graham has little to do with waffles, in fact I’m sure when you are a professional dancer you steer clear of waffles, carbs, and this blog in general. I did feel a little inspired with my plating and adding a carmel head dress as it were.

So here is a great addition to your brunch menu. Banana Pecan Waffles…ohhhhh I sigh just thinking about them. I actually had one this morning, though I made this recipe about a week ago…These waffles freeze well too.  So if you are serving breakfast for a small crowd or just treating your self this Sunday or Tuesday morning, don’t worry about all that extra batter going bad in your fridge throughout the week.  I’ve managed to comendere my boyfriends waffle iron for the last couple weeks, so when I had a minute I pressed the remaining batter into waffles and threw in a gallon size freeze bag, and have been indulging, with the help of my toaster ever since.  ALSO, thoses chocolate stout waffles, from my last brunch post freeze even better!

Banana Pecan Waffles from


2 c Flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp sugar

3 eggs

2 c buttermilk (2 c milk with 2 tsp vinegar)

1/3 c sour cream

1/4 c canola oil

3/4 c ripe mashed Bananas

1/2 -3/4 c chopped pecans

Combine dry ingredients (flour, powder, soda, salt, and sugar) and set aside.

Mash bananas.

Beat eggs, sour cream, buttermilk and oil.

Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Fold in Bananas and Pecans, careful not to over stir.


Pour about 1/3c batter on to iron.  Cook for 3-5 minutes. Follow the directions on your waffle iron.

Fresh bananas, whipped cream, and some caramel I had hanging around my fridge made for a fabulous finish. (my carmel topper wilted shortly after this picture…) maple syrup or agave nectar work just as well.

Add a comment March 22, 2011

The March Hare


My dear friend Rachel just turned 29  the other day, on the Ides of March.  Beware the Ides of March…  Have I mentioned I love Shakespeare? How can I not having been a theatre major? The ides of March really means nothing more than the half way point in the month. Theres an Ides of May, July, and October. I think Rachel’s always enjoyed having her birthday on an infamous day.

Once upon a time when we were young fresh twenty somethings and roomates we used to take turns making her bomb a$$ recipe for Carrot Cake. People have said I quote “You could make money off of that cake.”

Rachel’s Carrot Cake

2 c sifted flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

(1/2 tsp nutmeg -my addition)

2 c sugar

1 1/2 c oil

4 large eggs

(2 tsp vanilla- my addition)

2 3/4 c coarsely grated carrots

1 can 8.5 0z crushed pineapple in heavy syrup

(2/3 c raisins- my addition)

(2/3 c walnuts- my addition)

Sift dry ingredients– flour, soda, powder,  spices and set aside.

Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil in a separate bowl.

Add dry ingredients.

Fold in carrots and pineapple (with syrup). Add raisins and walnuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.


Frost with cream cheese frosting.

I got kind of tired of the same old piped carrots on the cream cheese frosted carrot cake, so I thought I’d embrace the warm spring like weather of the past few days and take a different spin on a carrot themed cake.  The Basket weave is a fun– not as hard as you think- way to decorate. In the future I’ll post a video on how to go about it say around Mother’s day?

Piping tips used on this cake:

#67 and #352 for leaves

#3 for blads of grass

#2 for vines and petit flowers

#48 for the basketweave

#12 for rows of crop– dusted with finely chopped walnuts

open ended parchment bag (about a size #5) for carrots

4 comments March 18, 2011

The Little Engine that Could

This week is just trucking along! How is it that its already Thursday?!! As you can see I spent the first part of my last weekend completing a Thomas the Tank Engine Cake for my friend Peter’s son Jasper.  Thomas the Tank Engine was a big part of my childhood as my kid brother was obsessed with Thomas and trains, this of course was when Ringo Star played Mr. Conductor. Then it was George Carlin and these days I don’t even know who holds the magic whistle.  The rest of my weekend was spent ringing in an early St. Patty’s day upstate with the Master and Mistress of Cheesecake Machismo…Stout Chocolate Cheesecake should be a sin to eat.

And somewhere between Saturday and day light savings its suddenly  Thursday and I haven’t posted a thing.  So here is what you can look forward to:

Friday: Carrot Cake-– the most to-die for recipe I’ve got thanks to my friend Rachel who’s now celebrating that last year of her 20’s just this past Ides of March.

Saturday Evening look for a Brunch recipe for Banana Pecan Belgian Waffles

And Next Week: Tiramsu Pops— cause lets face it what Starbucks debuted last week in the way of petit confections–as far as tiramsu goes was just Yucky!!

An old favorite Cupcake Cones in honor of my favorite girl Aela and her upcoming 7th Birthday

And by the end of the week I’ll have three more additions in galleries by way of spring inspired cakes!!!

One more thing before I run back into the kitchen and then go to bed.  To my regular and some times readers a question for you: Are you interested in taking a cake decorating class with yours truly? Let me know!  I’ve taken a leave from the rather rigorous schedule of teaching the Wilton Method while I adjust to my new gig in the middle of the city.  I’ve still got a hankering to make connections with cake enthusiasts and impart some skills with my own technique.  Give me a shout if your interested ( I’m located in the Metropolitan area, but am accessible in the Capital region as well so if you are looking to not just read up on the subject but do some decorating too give me a shout or pass this on to your friends. I love teaching in small groups of 8-10 or more and am hoping to organize some regular classes in basic and advanced techinques.

2 comments March 17, 2011

Fluffy Frosting

Not too long ago my boyfriend’s neice Trinity celebrated her 4th birthday.  This family takes cake very seriously which is why I love them sooo much.  For the small family party Trintiy’s mom and grandma spent a long night making a Tangled themed rapunzel castle cake.  A very impressive endeavour, considering all the wacky cake wrecks I made before taking a hobby class on decorating– and Trinity’s Mom and Grandma have never taken a class!

Cupcakes were the project for later that night as a birthday party with friends was set for Sunday, and the Tangled cake was all but devoured by family.  Ann  clued me in to a family recipe for fluffy frosting which she planned to decorate cupcakes with.  To my shock it actually contains flour.  Weird right! And by the way contains no marshmellow fluff.

Its pretty easy to make especially verses my (favorite) but labor intensive swiss merignue butter cream, but to be honest this won’t be replacing buttercream for me, definelty worth a try.

Fluffy Frosting

1 c milk

1/3 c flour

1 c sugar

1 cup shortening –yeah I know I hate shortening!! So opt for 1/2 c shortening, 1/2 c butter

1 tsp vanilla

In a small sauce pan combine flour and milk, and heat on low.  Make sure to stir constantly otherwise you will have what looks like mashed potatoes. 

The milk and flour will become thick and creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

Meahwhile cream sugar and butter/ shortening together.  Once your flour mixture has cooled down add it to the your sugar and butter and beat on medium/ high.

A word to the wise, this frosting doesn’t harden or dry, its always kind of gooey. But its good and not too sweet.  In fact I’m currently writing from a computer in a class I’m taking on social networking.  It seems I’m a little ahead of the curve already having an established blog, but I’ve got a thing or two to learn about all the  crazy ways to utilize the many social networks.

So tonight I wrote this post  from class and debuted this frosting on cupcakes I’ve made for class…


You can see how mushy the frosting is as my cupcake toppers slide off! But…its good!!

2 comments March 9, 2011

Moment of Zen, Green Tea Cupcakes

So its been awhile!!  I should mention first and foremost Aunt Penny is doing well.  It was a little rough to be honest in the beginning but her spirits are high and things are good on the road to recovery.  I saw her last week in the hospital and she said she couldn’t wait to read the blog again soon and was so thankful for everyone’s wishes of good health.  So from Aunt Penny and Me thanks you for stopping in and thinking of her in the last few weeks, and sending all that good energy.

I’m finally starting to fit into a groove at my new job.  This is a pretty big transition for me consider I’d been working full time at my last job almost 9 years.  Its crazy when I think of where the time went?!

I started working at the Performing Arts Center as a college student, when the campus was in fact my home, and given the sheer time committment my job at the PAC required, my emotional investment was great.  I’ve been thinkng of all the great experiences and people I’ve come across in the years I spent there.  The growing I’ve done, both good and difficult.  One of the biggest parts or perks of the job was all the great performances.

Just last year The Performing Arts Center became the set of Black Swan.  Lincoln Center gets top billing of course, but truly every scene in the dressing rooms, backstage, on stage and the rehearsal areas in the film was shot at the Performing Arts Center.  Yes I saw (Academy Award winner!!!!) Natalie Portman, and Mila Kunis around the “dungeon” as all the PAC staff affectionately call the backstage areas where the offices are.  Can’t say I really had much interaction with actors, lets be honest I just took advantage of Craft Food Services, but nonetheless its a cool thing to have been around for.

One of my favorite performances was watching Savion Glover, tap dance, or hoof as its called, the several times he’s taken the stage at the PAC.  It has always been an inspiration to the part of me that spent so many years studying tap dancing as a kid.

I’ve seen groups like The B-52’s, Joshua Bell, Matisyahu, Chuck Berry, The Righteous Brothers, Regina Spector, and the Legend James Brown. And comedians like Kathy Griffin and George Carlin.  I’ve gotten to experiences some world class entertainment!!!

One of my favorite memories is of a young concert pianist by the name of Lang Lang (pronounced Long Long) who has performed many times at the Performing Arts Center.  Lang Lang is kind of a rockstar in his own right.  Hes in his 20’s, wears leather jackets, and pattened leather sneakers when he performs, so I think he’s trying to at least be himself, and both old and young people are always in attendance.  Hes also a total prodigy and a completely rare talent and has been playing since he was 3 years old.  And if you still don’t know who I’m talking about– he was part of the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics last year. OHhhhh that guy…

As time passes and my memories become more rose colored, I will still always recall how just about anything in theater can go wrong at the last minute. Its actually one of the things I liked best about my former job– having to problem solve at the last possible second.  Un/fortunately for me I’m pretty good at finding a remedy for a last minute crisis, and putting out fires and its taxing to say the least– always operating on full throttle but totally rewarding.

On more than one occasion I’ve found myself inside the theatre while Lang Lang was rehearsing.  The first time, I went in for a standard walk through of the theatre a few hours before the show.  I walked across the back of the first balcony as he rehearsed.  I didn’t know if it was Mozart or Beethoven.  But it didn’t matter, I took a couple moments to enjoy my secret concert.

The last night Lang Lang performed there was lots of chaos.  Between ticketing issues, technical issues, and lots of important people in the building, my staff and I were running all over the place.  Just as we were about to open the theatre to begin seating for the show, I stepped inside.  I was one of the few people inside the big Concert Hall.  It seats more then 1300 people.  I quietly moved inside towards the seats, the door shut behind me and all the noise and choas of people waiting to get in became quieter and quieter. As I stepped into the seats the melodic sounds of the solo piano grew.  Lang Lang was warming up, and I was the only person in the audience.

This moment didn’t last for more than a few minutes as my staff began to take their positions at the doors inside, but for a moment, a moment, a brief moment of zen, I sat captive in my last private concert, given by Lang Lang at the Performing Arts Center.

In reverence to the phase of my life that have ended and all the great things I learned, and to all the great things in the future….

Zen Green Tea Cupcakes

"E" for Ella, and Eccentric

This recipe is from my favorite (often referenced) cupcake cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

I’ve made many different versions of green tea cupcakes and these take the cake (pun intended).  They are always super moist and fluffy.  And I think Oscar winner Natalie Portman would also appreciate the lack of diary and eggs.

You will need:

1/2 c soy yogurt

2/3 c rice milk ( I’ve used regular yogurt and buttermilk if you aren’t concerned about keeping these cruelty free)

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/3 c canola oil

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 1/4 c all purposed (unbleached) flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3-4 tsp matcha green tea powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c granulated sugar

Green tea powder can be a little hard to find. I’ve found it near the cafe section of Whole Foods.  Its what they use to make those yummy green tea fraps at Starbucks.  Its a little pricey, but let me mention its about $10 for a few ounces.  I’ve been to culinary fairs and festivals where its sold at $100 for a few ounces!!! So if you find yourself shopping online, don’t break the bank.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients (obviously sugar doesn’t count this time) whisk soy milk and yogurt, vanilla, oil and almond extract until smooth. Sift in flour, baking soda and powder, matcha green tea powder, salt and sugar.  I recommend using only 3 tsp of matcha powder, unless you really love the flavor. Its great in more mild amounts, too much?? taste like sea weed if you ask me. Mix until smooth.

Fill lined baking pans 2/3 full. Bake for 18 min
utes approximately or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

Vegan Cupcake Take Over the World recommends a Matcha Green Tea Glaze, but this time around I flavored a couple cups of Swiss Merignue ButterCream with a tsp of Rose Water, and 1/2 tsp of blackberry extract I found at specialty culinary store.  A little burgundy food coloring made for a beautiful and exquisite flavor profile.

3 comments March 7, 2011

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The Cake Eccentric

Sugar, Frosting, and Fondant: an artistic exploration of Cake and other Sweets