I have this issue with cheesecake. The issue is that if it is in my fridge, or available for purchase on a dessert menu, or available for purchase within walking distance, or even capable of being created with ingredients in my apartment, I have exactly 0% ability to resist it. As a result I make a point of not buying cream cheese very often. If I don’t have that one essential component, I can pretend that I’m happy living a life where I don’t eat cheesecake every single day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, right? Right??
I live for good cheesecake. But I am kind of picky about what makes one good. There are few things more disappointing than cheesecake that looks delicious and is, well, meh. If it’s too lemony or too dry or too rich or too dense or has too much topping or not enough or has too many mix-ins or just a gross combo of them or the crust is too thick or some crazy person put CINNAMON in it I get really cranky.
Most of the time, when it’s time to make cheesecake again, I fall back on two, trusty recipes I’ve used for a long time. The first is a classic, baked cheesecake that, actually, I’ve only shared here in a version dressed up for Thanksgiving. The other I fashion exclusively in miniature form, a holiday tradition in my family as essential as the tree and the Home Alone soundtrack.
But this summer, I’ve been reveling in the availability of locally-grown sweet cherries (difficult to obtain in both Columbus and Durham), and a cherry cheesecake seemed like just the ticket. And while we are “enjoying” the high-nineties here in Denver, I’m pleased to report that the oven was only on for a few minutes, and even that is not totally required if you don’t want to.
Last summer, while in the midst of packing up my Ohio life for our pending move to Colorado, I was also menu planning a dinner for almost 20 people at a remote, 9700′ mountain lodge with gas refrigerators, gas ovens, and limited electricity. For dessert, I wanted something that was easy but impressive, required neither baking nor freezing, was cheap to make but wasn’t boring, could feed a crowd, and overall, was heartbreakingly delicious.
A unicorn, I thought.
BUT THEN. Icebox cake. To the freakin’ rescue.
Why, in the name of all that is good and delicious in this world, did I only start making this last summer? I mean, who knew such a perfect summer dessert could exist?
Did you guys know?
WELL. If you, like me, were in the shadows, let me show you the light. (more…)
The arrival of summer, in Ohio, means that trips to the farmers market finally yield treasures beyond eggs, meat, and cheese. I grew rather spoiled in North Carolina where there really is a selection of fresh produce all year long. Sure, January is primarily sweet potatoes and greens, but even the flashy summer-show-offs like asparagus and strawberries begin to appear in early March.
But here, I stalk the market every Saturday in May hoping that this is the week when those photogenic strawberries will finally make their annual debut.
The trouble is, I have very little self-control when I secure, at last, these scarlet gems. The bulk discounts for buying more than one quart literally always get me, and I arrive at home suddenly doubting that I’ll be able to use up multiple quarts of berries before they wither and rot in my fridge.
It’s another Earth Day and another 30 Pounds of Apples birthday! Four years ago today, I launched this little corner of the internet to archive tales and recipes from my kitchen, my garden, and my farmers markets forays. And despite some near-death experiences, the blog still continues to give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to share my successes and my failures with friends, family, and those of you I’ve never met. Thank you to all of you who read and cook with me, here’s to another four years!
And as any celebration should, this one features cake. A continuation of my citrus-y love affair, this is one of the most delightful cakes I’ve made in quite some time. Fluffy chiffon cake filled with bright lemon curd and Swiss meringue and iced with clouds of lemony whipped cream? Let’s just say I highly recommend it for your spring and summer soirées.
The cake part of this cake is a chiffon cake, lightly lemony in flavor. It’s spongy and light, so it provides a nice base for the bold lemon curd and the meringue.
For the first several years of my training as a cake decorator, I used an icing composed primarily of Crisco and powdered sugar. And I’ve gotta admit, for someone decorating 1-2 practice cakes (and in later years, simply styrofoam cake forms) every month, there was nothing better: it’s snow white, doesn’t take long to bring to room temperature, holds it’s shape and consistency even as it gets warm in the piping bag, and seemingly never spoils.
That icing served me well for a long time. But as I grew older I started to grow wary of the mysterious ingredients in Crisco, and the gritty texture of the powdered sugar irritated me more and more. I started to think perhaps it was time to up my game in the icing department. And it only took a teensy bit of digging around the cake-baking community to know that I needed to learn, above all other things, the art of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
And boy am I glad I did. Each batch I make reaffirms my obsession with this icing: impossibly smooth and creamy, light and airy, shiny and stable, and delicately sweet. It freezes well, so it can be made in large batches even if you only have a small cake to bake. Because the sugar is dissolved, there is no grittiness whatsoever. It’s stable once applied, gives strength to your cakes, and is gorgeous enough to be used as an outer icing with no need for fondant. Plus, it can be adapted to just about any flavor you want.
I’ve now used this buttercream for two wedding cakes, a birthday cake, cookie icing, cupcake icing, and dinner party cakes. It’s extremely versatile and soooo tasty.
So today, I want to share it with you. And it’s not scary! Though it is a bit time-consuming, it’s pretty straight-forward to make. So let’s dive in and make some SMBC!
A little over two months ago (gah, has it already been that long?) one of Brad’s friends from law school invited us over for a dinner with him and his wife, and we were asked to bring dessert. I had a busy week at work, so Brad volunteered to make our contribution. How kind of him to volunteer to prepare a dish to represent us at a dinner with his friends, yes?
It really was very nice of him. But you see I have this slight love of baking cakes, and the night before the dinner, I my control-freak-baking-nature took hold. I wanted to make something easy, tasty, and pretty, and I wanted to make it now.
This cake, you guys, is all of the above.
To be honest, I put this combo together the weekend before when testing a final batch of recipes for Scott & Crystal’s wedding cake. Enrobed in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream was a favorite and made it into the ceremony cake.
But it’s far too good to reserve only for wedding cake. This version is doable in less than 2 hours and doesn’t require the effort of icing the exterior. The cream and berries are icing enough, and it makes a stunning, seasonal dessert for dinner parties, summer barbecues, or birthdays.
I’ve been coaxing cakes out of cake pans for a long time now, and in that time I’ve had a number of really epic failures. Many a tear was shed over ruined Super Mario cakes, layers torn in half and plucked out of pans with a fork… there’s a reason that many of my decorated practice and competition cakes were actually beautifully-iced styrofoam cylinders.
To this day, I still experience a thrill of fear each time I flip a cake out onto a cooling rack. But that fear is rarely founded. Because in spite of the occasional disaster, I learned a few tricks early in my cake decorating days that I swear by for ensuring that cakes cake out of the pan, cleanly and level, every single time.
As we move into the final days before Christmas, I imagine that your holiday baking agendas are already full. That’s cool. Mine certainly was for my holiday party. Every year, I like to make a mix of old, traditional Horvath holiday favorites and new recipes. One of my favorites from this season are these possibly-overly-cutesy-but-outrageously-delicious vanilla Christmas tree cupcakes.
The reallybeautiful thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t have to happen at Christmas AT ALL. It’s simply a vanilla cupcake with whipped cream icing, and therefore is appropriate in all scenarios in the universe. What, you say, another vanilla cupcake? Doesn’t the world have enough of those?
And these vanilla cupcakes are a step above any I’ve had before. They are the softest, fluffiest, smoothest, vanilla-y-est cupcakes, and the clouds of simple whipped cream atop them offer just the right touch. What makes these cupcakes better than anything else? A secret ingredient: whipped cream, folded into the batter ITSELF, in addition to the icing that will finish these little bites of heaven.
I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.
Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.
Spring (though it’s actually starting to feel more like summer here in NC) has officially begun. It seems like the trees were, just moments ago, blossoming in delicate flowers and poking little green buds into the cool air, but they are suddenly enrobed in lush, green leaves still blinking in their new-found sunshine. The daffodils and tulips have come and gone, and the light lingers a few moments more every evening.
But just in case there was any doubt:
The berries have arrived.
Glistening, ruby-red, and more photogenic than any berry I know, strawberries are the first fruit of the season to reach the farmers market in Durham. They’re the first float of the summer produce parade; it’s definitely cause for celebration.
And what better way to celebrate than with a classic, fresh, and simple strawberry shortcake?
Okay, okay, I know you might be skeptical about my use of the word “simple” when discussing a six-layer cake, but I promise, it’s really rather easy AND is so totally worth it once you have your first bite.