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Blueberry-Lime Sheet Cake

I was a bit hesitant to take this to a party this weekend, as I modified the original recipe a huge amount (among other things, I halved it and made it not vegan). And it’s not like you can take a bite of a sheet cake to find out if it’s good or not! Luckily, it was and I didn’t have to take any leftovers home. Even my husband, who whined “I don’t like liiiiiime,” ate a piece of this one.

The original recipe also called for raspberries, we got a box of Texas organic blueberries in our Greenling delivery this week so I used those instead. I’ve used the blueberry-lime flavor combination once before when I made blueberry-lime frozen yogurt and it turned out wonderfully, so I was reasonably sure that even if the consistency didn’t turn out right, the flavors would be spot on.

Inspired by BitterSweet

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 3/8 c. (6 Tbsp.) skim milk
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-3/8 c. (1 c. + 6 Tbsp.) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. fresh blueberries

For the glaze:

  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Water, if needed

Directions:

  • Combine the milk, lime zest and lime juice in a small bowl and let sit for ~5 minutes, allowing it to curdle.
  • Add the oil, cream cheese and vanilla to the milk mixture, stirring until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Wash the blueberries and with the berries still damp, add them to the flour mixture and toss to coat (this will ensure that they don’t fall to the bottom of the cake).
  • Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring continuously to combine.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for ~25 minutes.
  • While the cake is baking, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and the lime juice together in a small bowl to make the glaze. If more liquid is needed, add a bit more lime juice or water (if you don’t want it to be as “lime-y”).
  • After the cake is cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake before serving.


Thanks to Amy of Skinny Food by Amy for the tip about coating blueberries in flour to prevent them from sinking!

Verdict:
This cake is quite moist and has a lovely chewy texture, which really surprised me. I hesitated at first to sub the silken tofu with cream cheese, but it was a fine choice in the end. The recipe uses just enough lime with just enough berries so that the sour flavor of the lime doesn’t overwhelm the cake, even with the glaze. It’s pretty sweet though; next time, I will cut the amount of sugar back to 1/2 c. The sweetness is probably a function of the fact that my blueberries were fairly ripe; if yours are less so, you might want to keep the whole 3/4 c.

Our friends weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the cake:

“Where did my piece go?”

“Buster!! You ate my cake!”

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Flag Cake

This is the first of a few posts celebrating all-American food for the upcoming holiday weekend. Enjoy!

I’ve made this once before, but I was sent to the emergency room before I got to try a piece. I was racing up the stairs from the basement, camera in hand, thinking that this was the coolest thing I had ever made and thus, definitely photo-worthy (come a long way, huh?). Looped around the banister was a strand of glass lights, one of which was broken. I grabbed the banister at just that spot and sliced my finger open. Fortunately, I managed to get my picture. Unfortunately, even though I was only at the ER for a few hours, the cake was gone by the time I got back.

I had to scan this picture in. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last made a flag cake!

I made this again for Memorial Day this year, and it turned out so well. It would be a perfect dessert for a 4th of July barbecue, especially since we’re in the midst of blueberry season here in Central Texas.

You could certainly choose to use boxed cake mix and frosting if you’re short on time, but homemade tastes so much better! Make sure you use a white cake (not yellow) to preserve the red, white and blue theme.

Cake recipe from Sara Moulton

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 12 Tbsp. (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 large egg whites (3/4 c.)
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting: (Keep in mind that buttercream should not be left outside in warm weather. I’d use another kind of frosting if you’re planning on keeping the cake outside.)

  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ~4 c. confectioner’s sugar

For the decoration:

  • 2 lb. strawberries, washed, dried and sliced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries, washed and dried

Directions:

  • Set rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 13×9″ pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for the cake and granulated sugar for about 5 minutes with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
  • Stir together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  • Stir together egg whites, milk and vanilla extract and set aside.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate the two, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scape the bowl and beater often.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a metal spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove the paper and let cool completely.
  • Beat the butter for the frosting in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy (~5 minutes).
  • Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar until the frosting is stiff.
  • When the cake is cooled, using a long slicing knife (or one of these), slice the cake in half to make 2 layers.
  • Frost the top of one of the bottom layer with the buttercream, then arrange 1 lb. of the sliced strawberries on top of the frosting.
  • Put the second layer on top of the strawberries and frost the rest of the cake with the remaining buttercream.
  • In the upper left corner of the cake, arrange the blueberries in a rectangle-ish square to form the stars. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, use the remaining buttercream to pipe on the stars. I usually skip that. People know it’s the flag without the stars.
  • Using the other 1 lb. of strawberries, make horizontal rows across the cake to form the stripes.

Verdict:

This cake is a cross between sheet cake and strawberry shortcake, and in turn, it’s got the best of both worlds. The rich flavor of the buttercream is counterbalanced by the freshness of the berries, ensuring that the cake isn’t too heavy. The cake is moist and spongy, and a good vehicle for the berries and buttercream (sorry cake fans, I’m the kind of gal that always goes for the corner piece — the one with the most frosting). Although you can make this cake a single layer without the strawberries in the middle, it’s much better with it; the juice from the strawberries soaks into the middle of the cake and you get the strawberry taste in every bite.

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Mango Mini Cheesecakes

We’ve been getting mangoes in our Greenling box for a while now, and I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to pair it with ginger (I love pairing fruit with ginger, as evidenced by my cranberry-ginger sorbet). Plus, given that I have very recently found the inserts to my mini-cheesecake pan, I’ve had a hankering to make mini cheesecakes. Perfect — I’d use mango in the cake batter and ginger in the crust. It was settled.

I found a number of recipes for mini cheesecakes online and most of them didn’t call for a water bath. I had debated on and off about using one, but eventually decided not to. Using a water bath allows you to better regulate the temperature of the cake, thereby preventing cracks, but as I was garnishing the top with chocolate shavings anyway, I didn’t really care. Plus, I always manage to splash the top of my cake batter with the water.

I want to say that this recipe yields 24 mini cheesecakes, but I make pretty thick crusts, so I think for me it would only yield ~18 cheesecakes. I only made 1 batch (12 cheesecakes) and I had a ton left over.

You can adapt this recipe to fit a large springform pan, but if I’ve motivated you to bake minis and you need a mini-cheesecake pan, I purchased mine from Williams Sonoma about 2 years ago. I’m not sure if they still have it, but if they don’t and you’re in the market for one, make sure you get one with a non-stick surface (making for easy clean-up) and with removable inserts in the bottoms of the cups (making it easy to remove the cheesecakes from the pan).

Adapted from Cake on the Brain

Ingredients:
For the crust:

  • Pam spray
  • 8 graham crackers, crushed (yields ~1 c.)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted (The original recipe called for 2 Tbsp. butter, but the crust just didn’t have the right consistency. I’ll probably add another Tbsp. for a total of 4 next time.)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt

For the batter:

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • Puree of 1 large mango, yielding ~3/4 c. (for best results, puree with a food mill)
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Pinch of salt

For the garnish:

  • I used bittersweet chocolate shavings, but a bit of chopped mango or candied ginger would be nice also.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the inserts in the mini-cheesecake pan and spray each cup with Pam spray. Set the pan aside.
  • Combine the crust ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Add ~1 tsp. of the mixture (I used ~1.5 tsp. because I like crust) into each cup of the pan. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the cup with the back of a teaspoon or your fingers.
  • Bake the crusts for ~10 minutes (took closer to 12 minutes for me), or until they have browned and baked together.
  • Set aside on a rack to cool.
  • Reduce the heat to 300 degrees.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed for ~2 minutes until it’s smooth.
  • Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time and mango. Blend until the mango and eggs are fully incorporated.
  • Add the heavy cream and mix until fully incorporated.
  • Add the sugar and salt and mix until fully incorporated. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Pour the batter into the cups on top of the crusts. Bake for ~20 minutes (mine actually took 23 minutes) until the batter has set (it may still be a bit jiggly). Set aside on a rack to cool, then keep in the fridge for at least 2 hours before attempting to remove the mini cheesecakes form the pan.
  • When they’re fully cooled, remove the cheesecakes from the pan by pushing them straight up with your fingers. Remove the insert from the bottom of the crust and garnish the top of the cheesecake before serving.

Verdict: These were actually pretty light and fluffy instead of a dense mass of cheesecake, which I was really excited about. The mango worked beautifully in the recipe and turned the batter a beautiful shade of light yellow, while the ginger gave the crust a subtle nuance of heat; together, the mango and ginger gave the cake a bit of an Indian vibe. Some of mine sunk in the center =( probably because I got distracted and let the mixer mix the batter for a bit too long, which aerated it instead of mixed it. Still tasted great though!

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Blackberry Ice Cream

We’ve been getting blackberries in our Greenling box for a few weeks now, and while they’re perfect just out of the box (literally, when it’s still in the green box), I’ve been trying to think of new ways to use them in recipes.

Since it’s been ice cream season (i.e., 90+ degree weather) here in South Texas for a while now, I thought I might use our blackberries to make my first custard-based ice cream. I’ve previously shied away from custard-based ice creams for a few reasons, namely because they’re so high in fat and because I thought they were tricky to make. Turns out that I was right on only the first count.

I halved the recipe to accommodate 1 pint of blackberries. If you have 2 pints, use the original recipe. What’s weird is that both recipes yield about 1 liter (I stored mine in one of those tall plastic containers that wonton soup comes in, so I’m sure about this). No idea how that happened.

I highly encourage you to check out the original recipe for this one; the pictures on Jen’s site are incredible.

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, via Use Real Butter

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. half-and-half
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 c. strained blackberry puree (You can use 1 pint of whole blackberries. I highly recommend using a food mill for this, as blackberries have large seeds. It’s much easier than pureeing in a food processor or blender and then removing the seeds with a strainer.)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  • Heat half-and-half and sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  • While it’s warming, pour the cream into a bowl and place a strainer over the top. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Set both bowls aside.
  • When the sugar has completely dissolved into the half-and-half and the mixture is warmed through, slowly add the warmed half-and-half to the eggs, whisking constantly.
  • Pour the egg/half-and-half mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
  • Pour the egg/half-and-half mixture (now resembling a custard) through the strainer into the cream. Add the blackberry puree and the lemon juice.
  • Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 4 hours. (The mixture needs to be completely chilled before putting it in the ice cream maker to avoid overchurning, which leads to increased ice crystals and thus a less smooth texture [a tip from Alton Brown]. But the mixture should be used in 4 hours to preserve the fresh berry taste [a tip from David Lebovitz].)
  • Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After it’s finished churning, put the ice cream in a tupperware and cover it with saran wrap before sealing the container (a tip from Alton Brown). Freeze for 2 hours before eating.

Verdict:
This was my first attempt at custard-based ice cream, as I had (incorrectly) thought that it required a ton of work. It doesn’t! This ice cream has a beautiful pinkish-purple color and a wonderfully rich and decadent flavor without being overly heavy. This would be perfect with the blackberry-peach crisp I made a few weeks ago, and would be so easy to make a few days ahead of time for company.

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Sweet Crepes with Whipped Cream and Blackberry Confit

My husband has made me crepes for breakfast before, but he basically used thinned-out pancake batter to do so. It was good, but I wanted to try my hand at a DIY crepe recipe, too.

This restaurant we used to go to when we were in college made phenomenal crepe-like pancakes filled with whipped cream, sour cream, and strawberries. They were so good, but so heavy! This is my attempt at recreating them in my cooking style.

Crepe recipe from Alton Brown

Ingredients:
For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. liqueur (Because I was using blackberries, I added creme de cassis. I’d try to pair it with whatever filling you’re using.)
  • Pam spray

For the blackberry confit:

  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients for the crepes except for the Pam spray in a blender. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours before making the crepes.
  • When you’re ready to make the crepes, put all of the ingredients for the blackberry confit in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for ~15 minutes, mashing the larger berries, until it’s broken down and the liquid is syrupy. Pour the mixture through a food mill before serving to remove the large seeds and set aside.
  • Put the bowl of a stand mixer and its whisk attachment in the freezer for ~10 minutes. After 10 minutes have elapsed, combine all of the ingredients for the whipped cream in the mixer bowl. Whisk for ~3 minutes until the cream stiffens. Set aside.
  • Spray a non-stick skillet over high heat with Pam. When the skillet is hot, pour ~3 oz. in the skillet (depending on how large your skillet is) and swirl the batter around. In ~1 minute, when the edges start to cook, check the bottom and see if it’s easy to pull off of the pan. If it is, flip the crepe and cook for 30 seconds more; if not, let cook for an additional 30 seconds and check again.
  • When the crepes are finished, spread with whipped cream and blackberry confit and fold in thirds.

Verdict:
The crepes were light and not greasy at all, which was a severe departure from Pamelas’ crepes! But the filling was definitely remiscent of them: the whipped cream was rich and sweet, and the blackberries were tangy and syrupy. I was worried that the liqueur in the crepe batter would be a bit much, but it was quite subtle and a nice compliment to the berries in the filling. A wonderful way to start the day!

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