Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Layer Cake

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Now, this cake, my friends, is not for the faint of heart. It is not a cake that can be easily whipped up in a spare hour or two. However, believe me when I say that this cake is well worth the effort. I mean it. The finished product is absolutely incredible. Three layers of rich chocolate cake. Each layer is topped with a generous serving of chocolate ganache, which also forms a seal and keeps in a beautiful layer of raspberry filling. Finally, after assembling, the entire cake is coated in a luscious, yet delicate, raspberry swiss meringue buttercream and a chocolate ganache glaze finishes off this masterpiece.
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I made this cake for a potluck style dinner party with some friends of ours… we each made half of a meal, and then came together for a full on feast. A feast it was as well! There was elk schnitzel, a stuffed crusted pork tenderloin, awesome cheesy potatoes, maple pepper carrots, sourdough with spinach dip, and for dessert, pavlova and this cake. Like I said, it was a feast. We probably could have served six, but there was only four of us and that was fine with me.

Either way, back to the cake. This amazing concoction I got from Annie, and her recipe is here. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, except I couldn’t find espresso powder, so I ended up buying a small jar of instant coffee, and it made no difference. The reason bakers add coffee to a chocolate cake is because the coffee amps up the flavour of the chocolate and really makes it stand out.
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If you have some time, and want to immerse yourself in a great recipe that is complex but not complicated, with multiple components that really combine to create a phenomenal finished product, then this cake is the perfect solution. I will probably be dreaming about this cake for a while.
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Ingredients

Yield: 1 9-inch cake

For the cake:

1½ c. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
1½ c. boiling water
¾ c. sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
1½ c. (12 oz.) butter, at room temperature
2½ c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
3 large eggs
1¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt

For the raspberry filling:

16oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
1/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice

For the ganache filling:

8oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. heavy cream
3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

For the raspberry buttercream:

1 c. sugar
4 large egg whites
21 tbsp. (1¼ c. plus 1 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. strained raspberry puree
½ tsp. vanilla
Red or pink food colouring

For the chocolate glaze:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ c. heavy cream
¼ c. corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch pans. I used my miracle cake release and my bake even strips here. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa and the espresso powder. Add in the boiling water and whisk until smooth and slightly cooler. Whisk in the sour cream.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, then add the eggs in one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. Turn the mixer on low speed an add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the cocoa/sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat everything until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then transfer from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the raspberry filling, drain the thawed berries, draining the liquid into a liquid measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1¼ cups of liquid. Add the liquid to a medium saucepan with the sugar and the cornstarch, and whisk together. Heat over medium-high heat, until mixture starts to thicken and bubble. Continue whisking until mixture is thick so no lumps form. As soon as the mixture thickens, remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice. Fold in the drained berries with a spatula. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

To make the ganache filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan or in the microwave until it is quite hot, but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk into a smooth ganache, then whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Let the ganache sit to thicken to a spreading and piping consistency. This can be sped up if you put the ganache in the refrigerator for a few minutes at a time, stirring occasionally. Once the ganache is spreading and piping consistency, transfer about ¾ of the mixture to a piping bag. Reserve the rest.

To assemble the cake, place a cake layer on a serving platter. Of the reserved ganache not in the pastry bag, spread half in a thin layer on top of the cake. Pipe a thick layer around the outer edge of the cake with the ganache in the piping bag, making a well to hold the raspberry filling. Spoon half of the raspberry filling into the well. Carefully place the second cake later on top of the fillings. Repeat the process of spreading the remainder of the reserved ganache, piping a well around the outer edge of the cake, and filling with the remainder of the raspberry filling. Top with last layer of cake and place in the refrigerator while you make the frosting.

To make the raspberry buttercream frosting, combine the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl and set over a pot of simmering water (double boiler or bain marie), making sure that the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Heat, whisking frequently, until mixture reaches 160°F and sugar has dissolved. As soon as mixture reaches desired temperature, transfer the mixer bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat together until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature (bowl should be cool to the touch). Reduce the speed and add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition is incorporated. If frosting starts to look soupy or curdled, just keep beating. I promise, it will come together. The frosting will turn thick and smooth. Blend in the vanilla and the raspberry puree until completely incorporated. Add in food colouring or gel icing tint if desired.

*To make the puree, just throw some fresh or thawed raspberries in a blender or press through a sieve, getting as much of the berry flesh and juice out without any seeds.*

Frost the top and sides of the cake with the frosting in an even layer, getting the frosting as smooth as possible. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, and heat the cream in a saucepan or microwave. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, and let sit 1-2 minutes, then whisk together. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Let cool for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Transfer to a measuring cup or pitcher (or make everything in a liquid measuring cup to dirty one less dish). Pour glaze slowly over chilled cake, making sure top is completely covered and glaze runs down the sides of the cake. Garnish with any leftover ganache in the pastry bag and fresh raspberries, if desired.

Sourdough Bread

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I finally did it! I have been talking about making homemade sourdough and a sourdough starter for so long, and I finally took the plunge.

Now, I am putting the recipe for both the sourdough starter as well as the bread up, but honestly, go to Annie’s website. She has a beautiful post (with step-by-step pictures!) about Sourdough Basics, as well as a second post on Sourdough Bread. Annie has seriously become my baking guru. I go to her first. If she doesn’t have a recipe for something, I head somewhere else, but I always check her website first.

Now that I have a sourdough starter as well, I can make tons of things with sourdough! Pizza crust, waffles, scones, there are so many things I can make, and I am so excited.

We took one of these loaves over to a dinner party with some friends.
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Ingredients:

Yield: 1 starter, 2 loaves with bread recipe

For the sourdough starter:

2 c. warm water
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 c. flour

For the sourdough bread:

For the sponge:

1 c. fed sourdough starter
1½ c. lukewarm water
3 c. flour

For the dough:

1 tbsp. sugar
2¼ tsp. salt
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. water (optional)

For finishing:

1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
Water in a spray bottle

To make your sourdough starter, pour water in a large (at least 2 quarts) glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the sugar or honey until dissolved. Stir in the yeast. Gradually whisk in the flour until combined.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm spot for 2-5 days, stirring once a day. This develops the sour flavour. When bubbling has subsided and a sour aroma has developed, stir once more, and transfer to the refrigerator. At this point, I transferred the starter to a plastic container.

The starter needs to be fed once every two weeks or so. Each time, a cup of the starter is taken out and either thrown away, or used in another recipe (like pizza crust or waffles), and 1 c. of flour and ½ c. of water is added to the starter and mixed in. Leave the newly fed starter out for about 12 hours before returning to the refrigerator. Each time you take out a portion of the starter, it must be fed again.

To make the sourdough bread, combine the sponge ingredients (starter, flour and water) in a large bowl. Whisk together to combine until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 4 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball begins to form from the dough. If some of the dry ingredients will not mix into the dough, add the water. Continue kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 or 6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about 3-4 hours.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. After dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, shape into a rough torpedo shape, making sure to pinch any seams shut. Place the loaves seam side down on the prepared baking sheet, and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until nearly doubled in side, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone, or a baking sheet turned upside-down in the oven and preheat to 425°F. Allow the oven and stone to heat for at least 20 minutes. Right before baking, slash the tops of the loaves diagonally three times with a sharp serrated knife. Brush all exposed areas of the loaves with the egg wash, and spray the loaves with water.

Slide the entire sheet on the baking stone, and bake for 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The crust should be golden brown, and an instant read thermometer should read 190°F when inserted into the center of the loaf. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

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Well, because pumpkin season is still in full swing, it was definitely time for another pumpkin recipe. The pumpkin cake I made a while back was such a hit that I wanted to experiment with some cupcakes. Enter, this play on pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving was last week, and Paul and I didn’t get a turkey dinner with family. Working in the restaurant industry, there isn’t a lot of holiday time. I love pumpkin pie, and even though Paul isn’t a fan of the texture, I needed a little bit of a pumpkin fix to get me through.

If you are a pumpkin fan, these are for you! A little bit of pumpkin pie, in a more convenient, single serve form!
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Ingredients

Yield: 18 cupcakes

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ c. sweetened condensed milk
2/3 c. flour
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners, and spray liberally with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the pumpkin, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. Once well combined, add flour, spices, baking powder and baking soda. Mix again until well combined. Spoon about 1/3 of a cup into each liner, and bake for 20-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool until room temperature, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Top with fresh whipped cream.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

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Sorry for the silence around the blog for the past few weeks. It’s been a madhouse! Shortly after my last post about those Chai Chocolate Sables, it was my birthday. I was going to actually make my own birthday cake, a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle concoction of Annie’s creation. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that cake. It is sitting in the back of my mind, just waiting for me to crave a cake.

The weekend after my birthday, we were whisked away to a friend’s beautiful wedding, and I didn’t want to bake anything when we were going to be out of the house for three days. Finally, after all the travelling and revelry was done, I wanted to settle down and do some baking.
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Now, these marshmallows are not strictly baking. But, they are candy and dessert-like, so I decided to post them. At my beautiful friend’s wedding, she had a S’more bar (so clever!) and this gave me the initial idea of making homemade marshmallows. I have been tossing around the idea for a long, long time, but going to the wedding gave me the jump I needed.  I also made myself a sourdough starter, so in the next few weeks, there will be a post about homemade sourdough bread. As of right now, though, I made homemade marshmallows!

Thank goodness for Annie and her recipes.The only tool that you need for this recipe that may not be in your kitchen is a candy thermometer. Other than that, enjoy these babies. I’m going to try them next time with a flavouring other than vanilla.

One side note at well. The recipe calls for light corn syrup, which means clear corn syrup. I have almost two full bottles of corn syrup, the Golden kind, in my kitchen, and wasn’t about to go buy a third bottle, so I just used the Golden corn syrup. It turned out perfectly fine, but that was why I added a bit of food colouring so that these marshmallows weren’t a brownish gold colour.

Next time I want to make vanilla marshmallows though, I will buy the clear syrup, because the white colour of pure vanilla marshmallows is gorgeous. However, with a little bit of colour, and double the vanilla because I still don’t have vanilla beans, homemade vanilla marshmallows are within reach. Nor going to lie, I also made a quick little S’more to try, and wow. Amazing.

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Ingredients

Yield: 8-9 dozen marshmallows

1 c. cold water, divided
2½ tbsp. (3 packets) unflavoured gelatin
1½ c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup (golden works as well)
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla (double this if using golden corn syrup)
¼ c. icing sugar
¼ c. cornstarch

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add ½ c. of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water to soften it. In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the other ½ c. of cold water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean and add to the mixture. If using golden corn syrup, add 2 tsp. vanilla.

Heat the mixture in the saucepan over medium heat, until mixture reaches 240°F. Immediately take off the heat. Turn mixer to low, and slowly drizzle the sugar syrup into the mixer bowl. When all of the sugar syrup has been added, turn mixer to high, and mix for 12-15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick and the bowl is lukewarm.

While the marshmallows are mixing, in a small bowl whisk together the icing sugar and cornstarch. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan, and sprinkle some of the icing sugar mixture into the pan, coating the bottom and sides. Once the marshmallow mixture is ready, spread into the greased and sugared pan with a lightly greased spatula. Sprinkle some (but not all) of the sugar mixture over the top of the marshmallows. Leave at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once ready to cut, tip out the marshmallow slab onto a cutting board. Using a knife or pizza cutter, rub blade in the icing sugar mixture and slice marshmallows into squares. If desired, use cookie cutters for fun shapes. Place marshmallows and the rest of the icing sugar mixture into an airtight plastic container. Shake to cover marshmallows and prevent them from sticking together. Store in the airtight container.