Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For My Bonnemaman - a Mocha Genoise

When I was young, my bonnemaman (french for grandmother) would make a mocha cake whenever my parents and I would come to visit. Unlike American Mocha, the traditional European (or maybe just Belgian) is just coffee flavored. It was an excellent cake, that both my parents and I have very fond memories of. Unfortunately, no one ever got the recipe from my grandmother. We do, however, know some of the elements. The frosting was a coffee flavored buttercream, which she added texture to by including granulated sugar. The trouble with this is that most buttercreams can hold very little liquid, and so just adding coffee to a buttercream won’t make a frosting, and extracts don’t provide the same flavor. My grandmother also had a philosophy that when the frosting contained as much fat as hers did, the cake shouldn’t contain any fat, and so she used a genoise with no butter added to it. Based on this I set about trying to construct a version of the recipe. Finding a genoise recipe was easy, I used the one from Bakewise. The frosting recipe was more complicated, but then my mother found a recipe for a Flemish crème-anglaise based coffee buttercream, which she sent to me. Armed with these two recipes I decided to take a shot at it. Of course, I have nothing to do with a full cake, so instead I made the cake in a jelly roll pan, and turned it into petit-fours. I made 1 ½ times the genoise recipe, and half the frosting recipe, which ended up with my making way too much cake, and way too little frosting. My genoise was also far from perfect, the first attempt failed utterly (I underbeat it massively), and the second, while a vast improvement, was far from perfect (the flour was not evenly mixed). I have reprinted the recipes here in the proportions I made them, you might want to adjust accordingly (this is also why a lot of the measures in the cake are strange).

So how did they turn out? Pretty good I would say. The cake itself definitely reminded me of my grandmothers, though it wasn’t quite there. I thought the frosting was a little too buttery, but this might have been because the butter ended up far too soft when I put it in, and so it might not have fluffed up as much as it would have otherwise. I also didn’t add any granulated sugar to the frosting, and it really could have used that added texture, as both the frosting and cake are very tender. I did add espresso beans to the tops of the cakes, which added some much needed contrast.

Simple Genoise

Makes one 11 x 17 jelly roll pan (at least, mine was probably overfilled)

9 large eggs, in the shells 
¾ cup plus 1 ½ T sugar, divided 
1 cup plus 2 T cake flour, spooned and leveled 
¼ cup plus 1 ½ tsp cornstarch 
1/8 tsp pinch of salt 
1 ½ tsp vanilla

1. Arrange shelf in the lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 11 x 17 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment, grease the parchment

2. Put the eggs, in their shells, in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Mix together the flour, the 1 ½ T sugar, the cornstarch, and the salt.

3. Put two inches of water into a skillet over medium heat. Separate three of the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of your mixer. Add the remaining 6 eggs and the remaining ¾ cup sugar. Place the mixing bowl into the skillet of water. Whisk the mixture constantly until it reaches between 86 and 9 degrees.

4. Attach the bowl to a mixer set with the whisk attachment. Beat on high for two minutes, and then reduce speed to medium and beat for another 10 minutes. Mixture should be thick and foamy, and should fall in thick ribbons from the whisk.

5. Sift ¼ of the flour mixture over the egg mixture. Gently fold the flour into the egg, repeat in 4 to 5 batches until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the vanilla.

6. Pour the genoise batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until puffed and golden. The center should spring back to the touch. After removing the cake run a knife around the edges so the cake can settle.

Coffee Buttercream

1/3 cup espresso coffee beans 
1/2 Cup milk 
3/4 cups granulated sugar 
4 large egg yolks, at room temp 
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened

1. Coarsely crush the espresso bean in a mortar and pestle processing in small batches so that none of the coffee is crushed finely. Combine the crushed espresso beans with the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through fine sieve, pressing down on the beans to extract as much milk as possible. You should have about 1/3 of espresso-flavored milk. If necessary at a little milk to get back up to 1/3 cup. Discard the coffee grounds and rinse out eh sieve so it will be ready to use again for straining the custard.

2. Combine the espresso-flavored milk with 2 T of the sugar in a heavy 1 quart saucepan and bring to a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks with the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until smooth and lemon-colored. Pour in about half of the hot milk, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and stir until thoroughly blended.

4.* Place the saucepan over medium heat and stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, stirring the custard almost to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly with the spatula until the custard thickens and coats the spatula heavily. (When you draw a line across the back of the custard-coated spatula with your fingertip, the custard should not flow back over the line). Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting (moving the saucepan to the side of the burner as needed) and keep the mixture hot, again stirring constantly, for 4 minutes to pasteurize it. – This is the original instruction, and I hate instructions like this, I cooked mine to 175 degrees, which was nice and thick, but not overdone.

5. Immediately strain the custard through the fine sieve into the bowl of the mixer. Beat the custard with the wire whip at medium speed until is light and cool. This is the buttercream base.

6. Gradually beat in the softened butter at medium speed, using the flat beater if  your mixer has one. When all of the butter has been added, beat the buttercream vigorously to make it as light as possible.

7. Use the butter cream right away.


Espresso beans

1. Cut the cake into  1 x 2 inch rectangles. Slice each rectangle of cake in half horizontally (so that you now have two layers).

2. Generously put about a tablespoon of frosting between the two layers. Press together. Use a butter knife to spread a thin layer of butter cream over the outside of the cake (this is the crumb coat, it doesn’t need to look great). Refrigerate the cakes until firm, which will take several hours, or place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

3. When the crumb coat is firm, use a butter knife or offset spatula to apply a second layer of frosting. I’m not great at this, so have no tips here.

4. Top the completed petit-fours with espresso beans, or other decorations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Celebrating the Blogoversary with a Chocolate Cake and a Guest

Here it is, the promised second post celebrating my blogoversary. As mentioned, this post was going to be a little different: It is my first posting by a guest blogger! The guest is my good friend, and frequent assisster, Jess, who kindly volunteered to make this cake for me to celebrate. And Jess, I can tell you, people were not just being polite, this is a truly excellent cake! Thanks again for making it for me, and for all the assistance you've given me on the various recipes throughout this blog.

When amicus cupake mentioned to me that his blog was coming up on its first anniversary and that the anniversary would coincide with the 100th post on his blog, I begged him to allow me to make a cake to celebrate.  Ever since this blog started he has made the desert for every party that I can remember.  This is wonderful, as his deserts are always divine, but it is also sad because it means I seldom get the chance to bake for anyone.  Accordingly, when this anniversary rolled around, I saw my opportunity and I seized it.  The cake was served to amicus and a group of friends after we tried out a new dinner spot.  The combination of friends, food, and cake made for an excellent evening.

In deciding what to make I knew I needed something that is celebratory (chocolate), something to please a crowd (chocolate), and something that amicus would enjoy (chocolate).  When I hit on a recipe for Chocolate Crunch Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting on epicurious.com, I knew I was on the right track.  I really didn’t make any modification to the recipe, except that I prepared the dry and the wet ingredients before I melted the chocolate and that I greased the pans with Pam rather than bothering with waxed paper and butter.  The cake seemed to be a hit, or at least everyone was very polite!  


  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar 
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2/3 cup whole milk


  • 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 pound milk chocolate, chopped


  • 4 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath Bars or Skor), cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 7 ounces milk chocolate (I used one large Heresy’s bar and one normal sized bar)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 3/4-inch-high sides.  Combine chocolate and 1/2 cup hot water in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm, stirring often.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla extract. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating just to blend after each addition. Divide batter equally between pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cake just begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 5 minutes. Cut around pan sides. Turn cakes out onto racks; peel off waxed paper. Cool cakes completely.

Combine cream, corn syrup and butter in heavy large saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer. Add chopped chocolate. Reduce heat to low and whisk until frosting is smooth, about 1 minute; transfer to large bowl.

Fill another large bowl with ice. Set bottom of bowl with frosting atop ice. Whisk until frosting is cool and begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Place bowl of frosting on work surface. Using electric mixer, beat until color lightens and just until frosting becomes thick enough to hold peaks when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (frosting will continue to thicken as it stands).

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on 8-inch-diameter tart pan bottom or cardboard round. If desired, place pan bottom with cake atop 8-inch-diameter cake pan to make simple decorating stand. Top layer with 1 1/2 cups frosting, spreading to edge. Sprinkle evenly with diced toffee. Top with second cake layer, flat side down; press slightly to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake to seal and set crumbs. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake (if frosting becomes stiff, stir gently with spatula to loosen).

Stand chocolate bar on 1 short end. Using vegetable peeler and starting at top edge of 1 side, run peeler down length of bar (chocolate will come away from side of chocolate bar in curls). Pile chocolate curls atop cake. Chill at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.) 

One Year Blogoversary #1

Hooray, it is the one year anniversary of the launch of Amicus Cupcake, and my 100th post! (Yes, I launched this blog on tax day). This is the first of the two posts celebrating the auspicious ocaission. I haven't actually had time to bake anything to celebrate, so instead I'm reposting some pictures of my original post, tiramisu cupcakes. When I did the original post I didn't have any good pictures, but I remade them a few months ago and took better ones. I decided not to reprint the recipe below, since I feel like that's cheating, but if you're interested in making them (still highly recommended and some of my most requested cupcakes), free feel to follow the link above. The second post celebrating should be up a little later today! 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies, Who Could ask for More?

It’s been another bit of a break since my last post. I keep apologizing for the long breaks, but they’re going to keep happening for awhile. It just seems like baking it taking a back burner to other, more pressing concerns these days. I have done some cooking, but nothing really worth posting about. I’ll try to get better I promise. In those lines I may have a guest blogger joining me later in the week...

In the meantime, here are some awesome chocolate and hazelnut cookies. I got the recipe here, at Cookie Madness. The recipe calls for stuffing the cookies with nutella, which is always a good call, but to make things interesting I decided to fill half the cookies with dulce de leche. While the nutella was good, I thought the DDL was better, it contrasted a little more with the surrounding cookie, and so I was a little more aware of it. If you’re too lazy to make your own DDL (recipe is below), you can use store bought DDL, or barring that, you could probable just stick one of those Kraft caramel cubes in there. These cookies were really excellent though, and they make a pretty small batch, which has its advantages.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Lava Cookies

Makes 8

2 oz chopped hazelnuts plus about 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup lightly spooned and leveled flour1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 teaspoons Nutella or Dulce de leche

1. Place the nuts and accompanying butter into a skillet over medium high heat. Cook until butter is melted and nuts are aromatic, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted at the chocolate, stir constantly until mixture is smooth, remove from heat and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a mixer (hand or stand mixer will work) combine the egg, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the cooked nuts.

4. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Pour the flour over the batter, and stir together. Once dough is fully incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop generous tablespoons of dough into balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make a depression in each ball, and fill it with nutella or dulce de leche. Use more dough to cover the filling. (pictures below)

6. Bake cookies for 12 minutes. Remove and let cool on the sheet for 5-7 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.

Dough Balls
Depressions made


Dulce De Leche

If you’ve never made it before, dulce de leche is the easiest thing to make. Take a can of sweetened, condensed milk (not non-fat, I’ve tried and it tastes funny), and remove the label, as well as any glue. Submerge the can in water in a large pot, making sure the can is completely covered with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pot and let it boil for at least 2 hours*, checking every half an hour or so to add water (Important – Never let the water level dip below the can, if the can is not covered, it may explode!). Remove the can after two hours (using tongs), and place on a cooling rack. Let the can come to room temperature, when you open it, you will have dulce de leche.

*I’ve experimented with this, letting one can boil for up to four hours. The longer time you leave the can to boil, the darker and thicker the dulce de leche will get, and the more complex the flavor. It’s sort of fun to put 3 or 4 cans in one pot, and remove them at different times to compare. 2 hours is fine though, and makes a nice, light, milky dulce de leche.