Guinness Applesauce Cake with Lemon Icing

It would be, probably, nice to post it last Wednesday – St. Patrick’s Day, but I’ve been running behind my schedule lately. This recipe is slightly adapted from very old Guinness brewers’ recipe which produces a flavorful, moist eggless cake.

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Candied Kumquat Tiramisu

This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was Italian tiramisu. Deeba from Passionate About Baking and Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen, the hosts of the challenge, chose Carminantonio’s tiramisu recipe from the “The Washington Post”, July 11, 2007. The whole thing was supposed to be made completely from scratch, including the savoiardi/ladyfingers biscuits (the chosen recipe is from the “Le Cordon Bleu at Home”) and mascarpone cheese (thank you for choosing my recipe here).

Frankly, it was quite a surprise for me to read through the tiramisu ingredients list. The recipe is somewhat unusual. It calls for only 75g of mascarpone (it’s a rarity a tiramisu recipe requires less than a pound of cheese) and some pastry cream (my first thought was a cheaper substitute). The recipe creator, probably, was using what he had on hand (there’s always some crème patisserie stash in a commercial fridge). I’ve encountered many different recipes of the Italian classic and mostly everywhere Zabaglione is a must, folded whipped egg whites are quite common, pastry cream…? Really unusual…

I changed a few things here and there (couldn’t help myself, sorry). I tripled the cheese amount (I still made the required pastry cream, don’t disqualify me, please) and reduced the sugar. I used a different technique for mixing the savoiardi batter (I’m a strong believer in the power of well-whipped egg yolks) and higher temperature for baking: it is really a full-proof method that never fails me. I also added a touch of gelatin to the cream filling mixture, just a tiny bit to stabilize the whole thing, so the dessert could be presented free-standing and sliced neatly without freezing in advance. And since there was no need to chill the zabaglione and pastry cream, the addition of gelatin also allowed me to speed up the assembly (as usual, I procrastinated until the 27th and had to rush). I actually was able to unmold and slice it just after 3 hours of refrigerating (although, no doubt, the flavor does improve after overnight chilling).

As for the flavor I stepped out of the tradition (we were allowed to). I used the kumquats – wonderful citrus fruits with a very short season. I flavored the pastry cream and zabaglione with the kumquat zest, and used Grand Marnier instead of Marsala. I dipped the ladyfingers into a mixture of orange juice, Grand Marnier and candied kumquat syrup. The candied kumquats themselves became a topping and a layer at the bottom. Extra syrup was passed around to dribble over the plated slices.

Deeba, Aparna, thank you for hosting! It’s a great idea to master the ladyfingers; they are so versatile!

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Dried Fruit and Nut Cake

These are basically fruit and nuts with a bit of flour and eggs to bind them together. Exceptionally easy to make, delicious and nutritious, this cake makes not just a fantastic snack, but also a perfect addition to the cheese platter. The fruits sure can be varied, and as long as they are natural, unsulfured and of a good quality, the end result will be terrific.

The recipe is from “Pure Dessert”

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“Better than a Fruitcake” Cake

This cake is one of my favorite Christmas things to bake. Not a fruitcake, but a buttery almond pound cake with tons of brandy-soaked fruits, it is still can be made well in advance (about a week beforehand is good enough for me). Orange marmalade and Grand Marnier glaze keeps the cake moist and fragrant.

I have made it before, but this year there’re gumpaste Snowmen instead of Santas. The decorations are obviously quite easy (everyone can roll little balls in the palms), although extremely monotonous and time-consuming. I started tilting the snowmen’s heads to the sides to make them not-so-alike and keep myself from boredom. Anyway, decorated or not, the cake is delicious and perfect for the holidays.

And now, I’m announcing the lucky winner of the Top Chef giveaway. It’s… Irene (comment left on December 15th, 2009 at 11:57 am)! Congratulations! There is also a little surprise: I decided to give away the Top Chef Season 5 DVD as well. The second winner is… Grace (December 11th, 2009 at 3:38 am)! Irene, Grace, please, e-mail me your postal addresses and I’ll ship the goodies to you. Thank you everyone for the participation!

Click to see more photos…

Pumpkin Brandy Mousse Cake with Maple Whipped Cream Topping

I’ve already told you (I’m afraid more than once) about my relationship with pumpkin-based desserts. I like it, but only when the pumpkin is seriously diluted and lightened. This cake belongs to the same category “for pumpkin pie haters”. And this is my family’s favorite autumn cake.

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Apple Cheddar Coffee Cake

I can’t think of a better pairing for apples. With my apple pie I prefer a slice of cheddar to any ice cream. And when making an apple pie myself, I incorporate the cheese in the crust.
Well, this is not the aforementioned pie, but no less delicious treat. The extra-sharp cheddar is in the filling, as well as in the streusel topping.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! (I doubt I’ll manage another post before Monday) And good luck with that turkey!

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