Japanese-Inspired Banana Spongecake

Japanese desserts tend to be a bit lighter and less sugary than Western desserts. Also, bananas and banana-flavored treats are very popular in Japan. This banana spongecake is inspired by desserts we enjoyed throughout Tokyo. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 very ripe banana

2 eggs Continue reading

Irish Cream Icebox Cake

cake-3I don’t recall exactly how the topic came up, but recently my mother and I got to talking about something called “Icebox Cake.” I was completely unfamiliar, but she knew exactly what this was. To me, it sounded like an interesting concept… layers of chocolate chip cookies and creamy filling, refrigerated overnight until the whole thing took on a cake-like texture. I filed the idea away for a future rainy day.

Mom did better than that, and actually created an icebox cake for us to try. It was fantastic! This cool, creamy indulgence has definitely earned a spot in the dessert rotation here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. I hope you enjoy Irish Cream Icebox Cake as much as we did!

cake-2Ingredients (Serves 12 – 16)

24 ounces of “Chips Ahoy” cookies (packages vary in size; check the weight)

3/4 cup (about 12 ounces) Marscarpone cheese

1 3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

Garnishes such as powdered sugar, whipped cream, and/or miniature chocolates

cake-1Directions

Step 1) Combine Marscarpone cheese, heavy cream, Irish cream liqueur, sugar, cocoa powder, and almond extract. Blend with an electric mixer for one minute, then beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Step 2) Cover the bottom of a large Springform pan (or other round pan, approximately 12″ in diameter) with Chips Ahoy cookies. Do not overlap the cookies. Instead, break a few cookies to fill in the spaces.

Step 3) Top the cookies with a thin layer of cream (about 1/4 of your total filling mixture).

Step 4) Repeat layers of cookies and cream filling until the cream filling is used up. The top layer should be cream.

Step 5) Cover your Irish Cream Icebox Cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Don’t rush this – the cake really does need to rest in the fridge for about 12 hours!

Step 6) If using a Springform pan, run a butter knife around the edge before removing the side of the pan. Immediately before slicing and serving, garnish as desired.

YUM!

 

Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

Lemonade Bundt Cake

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Lemonade Bundt Cake

Have extra summer squash lurking in your garden? Here’s a fun, summery way to enjoy this plentiful veggie! This recipe works for zucchini, too.

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Yellow Summer Squash

Ingredients (Makes 1 Bundt cake or 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups grated yellow summer squash, such as patty pan squash (cut the peel off before grating if the peel is tough)

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup applesauce

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Patty Pan Squash, peeled

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar Continue reading

Chocolate Kiss Date Cake

WIN_20160109_090746This recipe is a variation on the chocolate date chip cake that my Great Grandmother Helen used to make. It’s a chocolate cake so delicious, it doesn’t need frosting… seriously. The dates simply “disappear” in the cake, adding sweetness and preventing the cake from drying out, but otherwise are a secret ingredient. The Hershey’s Kisses sink down into the center of the cake, providing surprise bites of chocolate in each slice. I recommend Chocolate Kiss Date Cake as a fun variation on classic chocolate cake for dessert, and also as a decadent coffee cake for Sunday brunch. Enjoy!

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Ingredients (Makes a 10 inch round cake)

1 cup chopped dates

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup boiling water

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cup flour

3 tablespoons cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

16 Hershey’s Kisses

WIN_20160108_205429Directions

Step 1) In a small bowl, combine dates and baking soda. Pour boiling water over the top and allow to sit until cool. The dates will mostly dissolve – this is normal.

Step 2) In a separate bowl, cream together butter and 1 cup of sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.

Step 3) Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Add dry ingredients and date mixture, alternating a little at a time, to the butter mixture. Stir until well combined.

Step 4) Grease a 10 inch round Springform pan (a cheesecake pan), or a 9 inch square baking pan. Dust the greased pan lightly with flour. Transfer batter to the greased and floured pan.

10 inch Springform Pan

WIN_20160108_210238Step 5) Arrange the Hershey’s Kisses evenly on the top of the cake. Don’t press down; just set them lightly on top. [As the cake bakes, the Hershey’s Kisses will sink into the middle of the cake.] Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Step 6) Bake your Chocolate Kiss Date Cake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 7) Sprinkle the baked cake with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Mardi Gras King Cake

King Cake wholeThis cake is so very, very delicious.

It’s “Why can’t every day be Fat Tuesday?” delicious! It’s “Please Mom, why can’t I have a third piece?” delicious! It’s “To heck with that resolution, life is short and I want CAKE!” delicious!

 Mardi Gras Beads & Feather Masks Party Pack With 6 Mardi Gras Tattoos

King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras festivities, Mardi Gras being the joyful and exuberant two week period ending with Fat Tuesday. Throughout much of Europe and the Southern United States, Mardi Gras is when Christians indulge in butter, eggs, sugar, and other luxuries, in preparation for the coming austerity of Lent. As you can see from the recipe below, King Cake is chock full of rich and delicious ingredients. Lent is approaching… let’s enjoy this King Cake now!

WIN_20160128_133351Ingredients (Makes 1 large King Cake, serves 16)

For the cake:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

WIN_20160128_1542502 envelopes of yeast

4 eggs, lightly beaten

6 – 7 cups flour

For the filling:

3/4 package (6 ounces) cream cheese

WIN_20160128_1544181 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup raspberry jam

For the frosting:

1/4 package (2 ounces) cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup milk

food coloring (if desired; I used purple)

decorations (I used gold dragees/nonpareils and green sugar)

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Directions

Step 1) Heat 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup butter in a large pot (the pot will function as a mixing bowl, so use a big pot). Once butter is melted, remove saucepan from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Step 2) After the milk mixture has cooled slightly, stir in yeast and beaten eggs. Slowly stir in 6 cups of flour. Dump the dough onto a floured counter top.

Step 3) Knead dough with your hands until the dough is nice and smooth, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add additional 1 cup or so of flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Step 4) Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth (a clean kitchen towel works well) and set dough in a warm (not hot) place to rise for 1 hour.

Step 5) After 1 hour, divide dough in half. On a lightly floured counter top, roll into two approximate rectangles, each approximately 2 feet long and 6 inches wide.

Step 6) Spread raspberry jam down the center of one rectangle. Fold the sides over the jam to make a long, skinny rectangle of dough with the jam trapped in the center.

Step 7) Blend together 6 ounces of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Spread this mixture down the center of the second rectangle, and fold the same way as the first rectangle (see photo, above).

WIN_20160128_163110Step 8) Place the long, skinny rectangles right next to each other and simply twist them together. You can leave them in a long line to make a straight King Cake, or shape the twisted dough into a wreath as shown.

Step 9) Carefully transfer the unbaked King Cake to a well greased baking sheet. Use a big baking sheet, as the King Cake will expand in the oven! If possible, have someone help you move the dough.

Step 10) Bake your King Cake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sounds a bit hollow when tapped with your fingertip. If you are baking a wreath-shaped cake, place a few well greased canning jars in the center to help retain the shape.

WIN_20160128_172259Step 11) Remove King Cake from oven and immediately remove jars from center of wreath. Use the largest spatula you can find to help transfer your King Cake to a wire rack for cooling.

Step 12) While your King Cake cools, blend together 2 ounces of cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and milk to make frosting. Add the milk only 1 tablespoon at a time – you don’t want runny frosting! Add food coloring if desired, keeping in mind that traditional King Cake colors are purple, green, and gold.

Step 13) When your King Cake is completely cool, drizzle ribbons of frosting all over the top. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other decorations. Enjoy!
King Cake slice

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa John’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

WIN_20160130_121602Grandpa John likes chocolate cake. No, Grandpa John loves chocolate cake… but Grandpa John is watching his carbs. No worries. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love a good baking challenge!

This cake was inspired by the Chocolate Heaven Cake posted at ditchthecarbs.com. Suspecting that Grandpa John’s sweet tooth was just a bit stronger, I used dark chocolate chips with a lower cacao content to cut the bitter undertones. I also added a bit of almond extract and peanut butter, because we love peanut butter around here!

WIN_20160130_100016Ingredients

10 oz bag of dark chocolate chips (53% cacao)

3/4 cup real butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 eggs

6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar or other sweetener (I used stevia crystals)

1/4 cup “real” creamy peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

WIN_20160130_103228Directions

Step 1) Melt chocolate chips and butter together in a large skillet over low heat (you’ll be glad you used a LARGE skillet later). Stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate.

Step 2) Once chocolate is melted and mixture is completely smooth, remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Step 5) In a separate bowl, whip together eggs, whipping cream, and sweetener on high for 5 minutes. The mixture will fluff up very slightly and will turn a pretty lemon yellow color.

Step 5) After the egg mixture is beaten, your chocolate mixture will have cooled enough to proceed. Stir your extracts into the chocolate mixture.

Step 6) Take your time here… slowly fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Add about 1/4 of the egg mixture at a time, carefully whisking everything together before adding more egg mixture. Aren’t you glad you used your larger skillet now?

Step 7) Once your batter is thoroughly mixed (you shouldn’t see any streaks of egg), carefully pour your mixture into a well greased baking dish. I’m using a 9 inch Springform pan, but a pie pan ought to work just as well.

WIN_20160130_103911Step 8) Spoon peanut butter into a snack size bag and snip off one corner of the bag as shown above. Use this homemade pastry bag to draw a design with peanut butter onto your chocolate cake batter.

Step 9) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until set.

This cake slices easiest when very cold. Enjoy!WIN_20160130_121719