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Red Velvet White Chocolate Cheesecake Layer Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

27 Jul

One night my husband and I were watching MasterChef, and the challenge was for the contestants to bake 6-layer cakes. Those cakes looked so scrumptious that my husband instantly got the idea that I should bake him a similarly extravagant cake for his upcoming birthday. *Gulp* Yes I love to bake (especially for special occasions like birthdays), but the only layer cakes I’ve ever made paled in comparison to MasterChef standards.

Yet I was up to the challenge. I spent days scouring over recipes for layer cakes. I showed him some of my final picks, but nothing was piquing his interest. That is, until I found this recipe for a red velvet cheesecake layer cake. We immediately knew this was “the one.” A layer of silky white chocolate cheesecake, sandwiched between layers of red velvet cake, all enveloped by a nice thick layer of cream cheesecake frosting? What’s not to crave?!


So I embarked on the somewhat daunting task of baking this cake on Sunday in preparation for his birthday on Monday. It really is a two-day task, since the cheesecake has to chill overnight. It was most certainly the most involved dessert I’ve ever made, but nothing so challenging that your average home cook couldn’t pull it off and impress everyone 🙂

I’ll get to the recipe and my process in a minute, but let me spoil the story for you: It tasted freaking amazing!! The cake was simply decadent. Each of the individual components (e.g. red velvet cakes, cheesecake, frosting) tasted wonderful on their own (I know from all of my “taste testing” along the way), but when you put them all together, you get an entirely new experience.


The Cheesecake Factory
‘s got nothin’ on me 🙂


So here’s how I did it: On Sunday I baked the cheesecake in a 9 inch springform pan. I also baked two red velvet cakes, both in 9 inch cake pans. Side note: When they came out of the oven, I was disappointed because they looked more like mauve velvet cakes than red velvet cakes. But as you can see, they became redder over time (or something).

After the cheesecake cooled, I removed the outer ring of the pan and stuck it in the fridge. When the red velvet cakes had cooled, I leveled them. For lack of a fancy leveling tool, I just used a long knife and it worked fine. The tops had rounded quite a bit in the oven, so I felt like almost 1/4 of each cake came off before I wrapped them in plastic wrap and stuck them in the frigde too. But that was OK! Because that meant that my husband and I got to eat the scraps 🙂

The next day, after work, I assembled the cake. The first step was to simply stack them. Although all three components were baked in 9 inch pans, the cheesecake layer was sticking out a little bit. So I just chopped off the excess (more scraps!). It looked like this:


I put the cake in the fridge as I made the frosting, which was simple as could be. The cake then got a crumb coat. This was my first time using this technique, and let me tell ya, it makes all the difference! I put a smaller amount of frosting in a separate bowl from the rest of the frosting so I could add the first layer of frosting to the crumby cake, without getting those red crumbs in the rest of my white frosting. It looked like this:


I let the cake with the crumb coat sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes so the frosting could harden a bit. While I was waiting, I made some white chocolate curls from an extra white chocolate bar I had. I didn’t use any fancy techniques…the warmth from my hands softened the chocolate just enough to make curls with the vegetable peeler. The curls went on parchment paper and joined the cake in the fridge to harden.

When the crumb-coated cake was ready, it was the perfect canvas for the rest of the frosting. Thanks to the crumb coat, I could frost the rest of the cake with no fear of crumbs ruining the look! The recipe made A LOT of frosting, so, not wanting it to go to waste, I plopped it all on the cake and smoothed it out the best I could.  Admittedly, it became so rounded at the top that I don’t know why I bothered to level it 🙂 It looked like this:


Then it was time for some decoration. I just sifted a little cocoa powder over the top and then added the white chocolate curls. It looked like this:


So back in the fridge the cake went  while my husband and I went to dinner. The waiter asked us if we wanted dessert. We politely declined and told him about the dessert we had waiting for us at home. I think he wanted to come over to have some, and who could blame him? 🙂


So all-in-all, I think my first foray into layer cakes was a success. As long as you have some time to spare, it’s really not all that bad! And what better way is there to show your appreciation for a loved one on a  special occasion? After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

Red Velvet White Chocolate Cheesecake Layer Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Red Velvet Cakes-

Ingredients:

  •  2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
  •  2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  •  1/2 tsp red gel-paste food color
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
  • With an electric mixer on med-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  • Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisk well after each.
  • Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam), add mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.
  • Butter the bottom of two 9-inch pans, and line with parchment paper. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Transfer pans to a wire rack. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the pan. Use a knife to level the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if assembling the next day.

For the White Chocolate Cheesecake-

Ingredients:

  •  2 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 16 oz cream cheese (2 packages), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream

Preparation:

  •  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Melt the white chocolate per package directions and set aside to cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, using an electronic mixer, mix the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar and mix slowly until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add one egg at a time and mix until smooth. Scrape down again. Mix in the vanilla and cream until the mixture is smooth. Using a large spoon, stir in the melted white chocolate until incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into a parchment paper lined 9 inch spring form pan.
  • Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set when you shake the pan slightly.
  • Allow to cool before removing outer ring of springform pan. Refrigerate overnight.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting-

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz cream cheese (3 packages), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again.

To Assemble-

  • Remove parchment paper from red velvet cakes, and place the bottom layer on a cake stand. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and remove parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the bottom layer of the red velvet cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, trim it with a knife. Place the top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting to act as a crumb coat. To avoid getting red velvet crumbs in the big bowl of frosting to be used later, add a smaller amount to another bowl and frost the crumb coat from there. Refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes. As you wait, use a vegetable peeler over parchment paper to make white chocolate curls, and then refrigerate. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and coat with as much frosting as you like. To decorate, sift cocoa powder over the top of the cake and sprinkle the white chocolate curls over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sources-

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

14 Mar

I am so excited about Indian food lately! I have been trying a lot of new Indian recipes, thanks to Aarti Sequeria from the Food Network. She makes Indian food so much more accessible. I’m totally rooting for Sudhir on America’s Next Great Restaurant because it would be so cool to have fast casual Indian restaurants around the country! 🙂

The recipe I am sharing today is for Vegetarian Tikka Masala. You may be wondering how tikka masala can be vegetarian, as it usually includes chicken. Really, the recipe is just Aarti’s Chicken Tikka Masala, but with potatoes and cauliflower instead of chicken. I have also made it with tofu, using the marinade that would have been for the chicken. It was yummy, but I found the marinade didn’t add much flavor.

You could really add whatever protein or veggies you want and it would taste delicious because the creamy tomato curry is freaking awesome. And, the ingredients are not hard to find. Once you have the garam masala, you’re set!

When I made this dish the other night, I also made naan as a side. This was my first time making it.  It was pretty close, but didn’t quiet taste like the real thing. However, I think it was more of my fault than anything else. I was in a hurry and didn’t roll out the naan thin enough, so it didn’t get as brown and puffy as it could have. I am going to be trying another Indian recipe (aloo gobi) later this week and will try making the naan again. I ventured to the Indian grocery store today to get stocked up on some chapati flour, which may make the naan taste more authentic. Hopefully I’ll get better results and can share it with you!

But for now, try this amazing, flavorful, vegetarian tikka masala…


Vegetarian Tikka Masala (adapted from “Chicken Tikka Masala” by Aarti Sequeria)

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 8 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for roasting
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place potatoes and cauliflower onto two separate baking sheets. Drizzle both with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes for approximately 20-25 minutes, and the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes, or until both are tender. Flip them halfway through cooking time.
  • Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors.
  • Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.
  • Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and bring back up to a boil. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and stir through.
  • Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or a crusty piece of bread!

Makes 3-5 servings.

Indian Roasted Vegetable Jumble & Polenta

23 Jan

I’ve been trying to experiment with cooking more ethnic food. Thus, I was so excited that Aarti won Next Food Network Star (although, I also liked Tom…he’s hilarious). Last night was my first time trying one of her recipes. I decided to try this one out because, surprisingly, I had all the spices on hand. All you really need is cumin and coriander, which we always use in making Mexican food. But as Aarti pointed out, it’s the proportion of each spice that makes it Indian– usually about twice as much coriander as cumin.

The only thing I changed about her “jumble” (which, by the way, is just a mixture of vegetables), was to substitute cauliflower for fennel. I really do not like fennel or anything licorice-flavored. Aarti contended that fennel, when roasted, becomes more mild– but I wasn’t willing to risk it.

I served the jumble with polenta. Again, this was my first time trying it. I’m not sure if the texture was right because I had some issues with timing and it ended up sitting too long before the jumble was done…but nevertheless, it did taste really good. It seemed like the perfect vessel upon which to serve the flavorful, healthy jumble.

Indian Roasted Vegetable Jumble (adapted from “Roasted Root Jumble” by Aarti Sequeira)

Ingredients:

* 2 tsp gruond cumin
* 1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* Salt & pepper, to taste
* One head cauliflower, cut into florets
* 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
* 1 large lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
* 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
* 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
* Minced fresh cilantro or parsley, to garnish

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the ground cumin, ground coriander, and olive oil. Add 1/2 tsp salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
  • Lay the cauliflower, red onions, lemons, and carrots in a baking dish. Pour the spiced oil over the vegetables and toss to coat.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top and bake until the vegetables are caramelized and soft, another 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Savory Polenta (adapted from recipe by Alton Brown)

Ingredients:

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
* 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
* 1 quart vegetable broth
* 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
* 3 tbsp unsalted butter
* 1 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp pepper
* 2 oz Parmesan, grated

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In  a large, oven-safe saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
  • Turn the heat up to high, add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps
  • One the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Simple Indian dish w/ complex flavors

I was very happy with this dish. It’s amazing how much the flavors change and intensify when you roast the veggies, lemon, and feta. Next on my Indian to-do list: samosas, pakoras, and naan.

Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce

3 Jan

I’m excited about Worst Cooks in America starting up again. It’s a good show. I think it would be cool to pretend to be a worse cook than I am, get cast for the show, then impress them enough to win $25,000!

Last night I made pasta with vodka cream sauce. This is one of my favorite new pasta dishes because it is so quick and simple to make, yet it tastes very impressive.

The only problem I have is that every time I try to buy shallots at Target, the cashiers never know the code (apparently it’s a relatively new item there), and I end up holding up the whole line while they try to find out. I need to just memorize the code myself! =)

Here’s the recipe from the November 2010 Food Network Magazine for Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce:

Ingredients:

* 1 lb pasta
* Salt
* 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
* 1 tbsp unsalted butter
* 2 shallots, minced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup vodka
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
* Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for topping

Preparation:

– Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.

– Empty the tomatoes into a bowl and crush with your hands.

– Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka, tomatoes, and salt to taste. Return the skillet to medium heat and simmer, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off, about 7 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and basil.

– Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if necessary. Season with salt. Serve topped with more parmesan and basil.

I used bow-ties...and I need to improve my food photography

Some comments about the recipe:

  • It’s perfectly OK to use dried basil in this if needed– I do sometimes
  • I only very lightly sprinkle some red pepper flakes into the pasta– I don’t like mine too spicy
  • I’ve never had to add extra cooking water to loosen the pasta– it’s a great consistency for me without it
  • I think it’s fun adding vodka to the pan and hearing the sizzle =)

Enjoy!