Preparing the Pistachio Cake on VIDEO!

Watch these videos in order as they show segments of the preparation of the Pistachio Torta!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

It suddenly occurred to me, after I received a lovely comment from someone who apparently had been searching for my Carrot Cake recipe for years, that I had not included the recipe here on my blog. Well here is the link. 

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/105-12142007-1456360.html

As Ruth Reichl stated in the Gourmet compilation, “it is one of the best we’ve ever tasted…” Enjoy!

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Hershey's Chocolate Cake

Hershey's Chocolate Cake

Also known as Hershey’s Chocolate Cake.  This recipe was featured on The Barefoot Contessa during a show where she was baking for one of her fabulous gay friends.  I recalled it as strangely familiar.  A little searching in my pantry and  sure enough it was the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box!  She gave credit for the recipe to her florist’s mom (or aunt) I believe, but the recipe is for sure that Hershey’s Chocolate Cake. 

I typically don’t make oil based cakes for I think they are too greasy (with the exception of my Carrot Cake of course).

The cake looked so delicious on TV, well, I made it.  It was delicious.  I doubled the icing recipe, cut the layers in half and frosted the cake.  OMG….so delicious.  We only ate half, froze the rest, and here it is, defrosting on the counter for later.  If we could only cut into it now! 

Note: Do not attempt this cake unless you have professional quality cake pans at least 3 inches high.  It rises tremendously and many people on the comments of Food Network have complained that it spilled all over their ovens.  I did it in my 3 inch high pans and it rose so high, I understood why there might be a problem with a pan of lesser depth.  So don’t do it! Here is the link to the recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beattys-chocolate-cake-recipe/index.html

Secret:  I added 1 teaspoon of Allspice to the dry ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  I add cayenne to almost everything I make…it’s become my signature.  Especially with sweet, that slight burn on the back of your throat with all that sweet is an incredible sensation!

Red Velvet

I’m such a tease.  For my February column (phillyburbs.com) I will be writing a piece on Red Velvet Cake and its effect on me. When I say effect I mean the near obsession I had with this cake last summer. From what I considered a rather bland cake vis a vis flavor, with just a few additions, it was truly transformed.  Read on:

The color red has long been associated with the holiday celebrated on the 14th of this month–Valentine’s Day.  Red abounds everywhere….red roses, red candy boxes and this month’s recipe, a mouth watering Red Velvet Cake.

 

“This is like the best thing I have ever tasted,” said my friend Lisa Capruso at a casual gathering this fall.  She was referring to the Red Velvet Cake which thinking back, never appealed to me as a having that kind of potential. “What could be this cake’s draw?”, I thought.  Basically a buttermilk cake with a small addition of cocoa powder, I was certain that the subtle flavorings would render this Southern favorite, well basically, flavorless. Boy was I wrong. 

 

The irony is that in this butter based red cake, it’s the subtle flavor of every ingredient, including the icing which, when tasted, tantalize the taste buds for more! I enhance the flavor of the cocoa powder by adding a hint of cinnamon and cayenne. After icing and garnishing with crushed pecans and if you like, chocolate curls, the cake is ready. 

 

History? Well, legend has it that prior to the introduction of the more alkaline Dutch processed cocoa, the interaction between earlier cocoa powders and the sometimes addition of vinegar would turn the brown cocoa powder into a red tinged color (read: Red Velvet).  Mashed beets also served to enhance the color of this cake when foods were being rationed in the WWII era. 

 

The blueprint for this recipe came from Bon Appetit years ago.  I of course made a few modifications because no recipe gets past me that can’t be made even better!

 

For Valentine’s Day or any day beyond that, it’s sure to have anyone who tastes it come back for more!  But to get the recipe…come back on Feb 1st!

The Ulterior Epicure

Last night I searched and searched the dark cave of our basement and realized that I had misplaced my 15 minutes of fame.  In June of 1990 a recipe that has been in my family for years was published in Gourmet Magazine.  I can still remember the cover of the magazine, with its dewey fruit in a glass bowl, sitting I believe on a table on the island of Capri.  So, armed with confidence that I would find this now 17 year old publication, I searched on the web’s largest garage sale, Ebay. Low and behold, a few clicks later, and the magazine, along with 11 other issues from that year, are on their way.

 This morning, I thought I would Google the following, Felix Papadakis Gourmet 1990, to see if there was another source for the magazine–just curious I guess.  And what do you think came up?  A link to one of the most fabulous food blogs I have ever read, www.ulteriorepicure.wordpress.com 

And in a June 2007 entry, 17 years to the month, Mr. Ulterior Epicure writes about my Carrot Cake.  The law of attraction in action my friends.  Here I was searching for the magazine piece about the cake, and was drawn to someone writing about the cake.  Powerful stuff.

 The recipe has since been included in the Gourmet compilation published in 2004 and has been the subject of a prior blog entry (of mine) entitled, Celebration.  I’ve included the Ulterior Epicure in my blogroll……enjoy!

Celebration

Brian’s cake

I offered to bake the birthday cake for my friend Brian Raynor, who turned 40 last week.  About 40 guests to feed so I knew an 8 inch cake would not do.  And a sheet cake is so well, institutional.  Why not do a three tier I said?  What flavor Brian I asked? Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese icing, my version of which has been watering mouths for years. No coconut he says, “I’m allergic.”

The recipe has been in my family for 30 years but, as is my usual M.O., I used my instinct to improve upon this classic, and turn it into a real show stopper.  After all, aren’t parties part show biz??? Isn’t life part show biz??

By adding melted and cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting, I assured that the frosting would set in the refrigerator firmly, the toasted and chopped pecans pressed into the white sides of the cake ever so gently.  Before the nuts were processed in the Cuisinart (50th Anniversary chrome edition!), I sprinkled them with a little nutmeg and OMG….the scent out of that machine after the nuts were chopped was just unbelievable!

The filling had to be punched up too, so what to do?  I roasted one chopped mango with some butter, cayenne and nutmeg in the oven at 450F (about 30 minutes), added some Grand Marnier for the final 5 minutes of roasting and the chopped the mango into little bits.  When they cooled, I folded them into some of the white chocolate cream cheese icing to make a mango filling and couldn’t have been happier at the result.  Delicious! 

The three tiers were frosted, decorated with rosettes and white chocolate curls and then chilled until delivery time.  I bult the cake at the party and we carried it out to the tune of Happy Birthday Brian! 

He thanked me profusely after he finished his little slice of heaven. “It’s the coconut,” I said, “that’s my secret.”  His look of horror erased after I quickly told him it was a joke. Happy Birthday Brian!