Any child’s birthday cake out to be memorable, right? Over twenty years ago, I made our oldest son a Ninja Turtle Birthday Cake for his sixth birthday. It was quite memorable. Most memorable: It took HOURS just to decorate! Ah, but it was worth it.
So I asked my six-year-old granddaughter what kind of birthday cake she’d like last week. Me: “Honey, would you like chocolate, yellow, or strawberry cake?” She said, “Yes.” Then she excitedly informed her brother that I’d be making her a Chocolate Yellow Strawberry Cake. Time to get to work!
I found plenty of decorating ideas when I did a search for “images of girls birthday cakes”. Practically all of them used fondant. Humm… The last time I used fondant was on my own 50th birthday cake. That was when I discovered (after the fact) that it’s best to let ribbons and bows dry separately, overnight, lest they “melt” a little onto the main layer of fondant.
I cheated that time; bought packaged fondant. It made life easier, even if it didn’t taste particularly yummy.
I had saved this on Pinterest (recipe here, at “Annie’s Eats”), to remind me of an easy marshmallow fondant recipe. That particular recipe used extra ingredients; I found simpler versions on many other sites. This one (on the “What’s Cooking America” site) seemed most straight-forward, although I would sub butter for the Crisco. Also, most recipes call for 16 oz. , but I’d picked up a 10 oz. bag of marshmallows, so I made a smaller recipe using that. It was enough for one two-layer cake. I posted the recipe here.
I’m all for easy decorating. I had bought some dipped marshmallow “pops” at the church bake sale, figuring that would help decorate Elizabeth’s cake. Wow- they tasted delicious, too! I saved this pic on Pinterest, to remind me to make those myself sometime. Melted chocolate chips would also work to dip the marshmallows into.
You could also use leftover fondant to create simple pieces to add on top of the main fondant. Even white leaves on top of white can look pretty cool. (See my pinterest pic here.)
Side note: yes, cake pops are all the rage. But isn’t that a lot of bother, when one might much more easily use marshmallows to dip? Says daughter-in-law Michelle, “I’m not real big on marshmallows, but these are awesome!” Easy too!
I guess the main point is: We celebrated a memorable sixth birthday over the weekend, and our granddaughter thoroughly enjoyed herself. So did we!
One might add different flavorings, or tint the fondant. Some recipes call for corn syrup and salt, which doesn’t seem necessary. (Using salted butter adds sufficient flavor.)
This particular cake was “Baba Rum” (alcohol-free version, recipe here). It was cut into layers which were spread with strawberry puree and whipped chocolate cream. When making a taller, layered cake, whatever cake recipe is used should be heavy enough to withstand the weight of the fondant. Red velvet might be another option.
This recipe makes enough for a 9″ round two-layer cake.
1 (10 oz.) package marshmallows
Scant 3 TBS. hot water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional: Coloring or other flavorings
1 1/3 lb. confectioners’ sugar (5 c. or more)
3 TBS. butter, room temperature
1. A day ahead, microwave in a microwave-safe bowl for 30-60 seconds, until marshmallows start melting: > 1 (10-oz) bag marshmallows
2. Add water and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth: > scant 3 TBS. hot water > 1 tsp. vanilla > Optional: Coloring or other flavorings
3. Butter a mixing bowl, a dough-hook (or beaters), and a large square of plastic wrap. Also butter hands, for easier cleanup! Use: > 3 TBS. butter
4. If there’s extra butter, it can be added into the fondant after the confectioner’s sugar is mixed in. Add much of the confectioner’s sugar to a mixing bowl, adding melted marshmallow mix on top. Mix on low until blended. (Or, mix everything by hand, greasing hands extra well before mixing/kneading the ingredients together.) Start with: > about 3/4 lb. of the confectioner’s sugar
5. Slowly add: > Remaining 1-2 c. confectioner’s sugar (using about 1 1/3 lb. total)
7. The dough will be very stiff. Mix and knead until pliable (5 minutes or so). Turn fondant out onto the buttered plastic wrap. Pat it flat, into the necessary shape (round or rectangular). Wrap fondant in more buttered wrap and let sit out overnight to rest. (The fondant can be made days earlier; it keeps several weeks).
8. To use, roll out on a flat surface, buttering the rolling pin and the countertop (or plastic wrap) as needed. Roll it out large enough to drape over the shape of the cake; edges can be cut off afterward.
9. Frost the cake with a simple frosting first (a mix of butter, confectioner’s sugar, and a splash of cream will work). The fondant will stick better, and edges get more smoothed out, with an extra layer of frosting.
10. Make shapes with leftover fondant, adding to the main fondant layer, if desired.
Most of us are trying to eat healthier at The New Deli. But Stephanie still wondered if we’d make our usual Valentine’s Day chocolate torte–a decadent butter/sugar/chocolate concoction. Well, yeah, we will make that (we have an easy recipe for it). But I must say, I’ve been more preoccupied with my latest project: “Healthy Truffles”.
There are varying levels of “healthy”. Some of us are comforted to know that the semi-sweet chocolate we just ate is a tad more nutritious than milk chocolate. Others among us might go a few steps farther, making confections using raw cacao nibs, virgin coconut oil, and red palm oil (all extremely nutritious and beneficial).
Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more cacao it contains, which is high in flavonoids, which can help regulate blood pressure and prevent heart disease. (Is this why chocolate and hearts go together on Valentine’s Day?!)
Chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, and contains a healthy sort of fat. Yes, even though it’s monounsaturated, that’s the very kind of fat that can improve the immune system, and brain functioning. I feel smarter already, just thinking of eating chocolate.
When recent developments with my mom suggested a potential Alzheimer’s diagnosis (which, thankfully, was not correct), research led to two key healthy ingredients that might help with age-related decreases in brain function. Coconut oil and red palm oil can both nourish the brain and keep the blood circulating, relieving inflammation even (which has been linked to hardening of the arteries too). Red Palm Oil is also loaded with carotenes and tocotrienols (a lesser-known component of Vitamin E).
These chocolate truffles can be a welcome afternoon treat that keeps the metabolism going, or a healthy dessert to satisfy chocolate cravings. I’ve tried making them with both coconut oil, and red palm oil. The latter is a unique, stronger flavor that might best be recommended only to the “hard-core”.
Coconut palm sugar can be left out of the mix, but it will add extra sweetness and texture. It is much like brown sugar, but is metabolized slowly (being low on the glycemic index). The recipe can be adjusted according to personal taste.
Makes 20 or so truffles (1/2 oz. ea.)
1/3 c. coconut oil (or red palm oil), melted in warm oven (or double boiler)
Mix the melted oil with honey until smooth. Add the unsweetened cocoa powder, palm sugar, and toasted nuts. Refrigerate until almost firm (an hour or so); roll into small balls. Add to bowl of palm sugar (or cocoa powder), if desired, to coat outside.
Call this “Great Chocolate Torte” for short! Originally, the recipe called for a bar of chocolate, hand-grated. For convenience, chocolate chips may be substituted, “grated” by chopping in a small electric coffee/spice grinder.
This is a flour-free recipe, using toasted bread crumbs and almond meal instead, combined for a great texture. With an easy mousse of Chocolate Cream filling, topped with confectioner’s sugar and chocolate curls, it’s an elegant dessert. Serves 12 or so.
Several slices wheat bread (yielding 2/3 c. dry crumbs)
1 c. raw almonds, ground (or 1 1/2 c. almond meal)
2/3 c. chocolate chips (or 4 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate bar)
1/2 c. additional chocolate chips (or 3 oz. bittersweet or other bar chocolate), for chocolate curls
1 c. butter (plus 1 rounded TBS. for chocolate curls)
1 c. sugar
6 eggs, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. whipping cream
2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1. The dry bread crumbs can be prepared a day early. Process into crumbs: > 3-4 slices wheat bread
2. Spread crumbs on cookie sheet and dry overnight in oven (preheated, then turned off). Or let dry in a 300 degree oven for 10-20 minutes (stirring once or twice), until dried.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cheesecake (spring form) pan.
4. If processing whole almonds into a meal, 1 c. will yield about 1 1/2 c. Set aside 1 1/2 c. almond meal, or process the raw nuts into a fairly fine meal. In blender or food processor, start with: > 1 c. whole almonds (unless 1 1/2 c. almond meal is available)
5. If using a bar of chocolate, hand-grate the 4-oz. bar. If using chocolate chips, grate in a food processor, blender, or electric coffee/spice grinder, until chopped medium-coarse: > 2/3 c. chocolate chips
6. In mixing bowl, beat together: > 1 c. butter > 1 c. sugar
7. Add yolks and continue beating until light and creamy: > 6 yolks > 1 tsp. vanilla
8. Whip until stiff but not dry: > 6 egg whites
9. Mix dry ingredients together: > 2/3 c. dry bread crumbs > the almond meal > the grated chocolate
10. Into the bowl of creamed butter, sugar, and egg yolks, fold in until blended: > The dry ingredients > The whipped egg whites
11. Pour into buttered, floured 9-inch cheesecake pan and bake at 375 degrees 35-40 minutes.
12. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan.
13. Refrigerate several hours to cool and set completely, then cut through torte to create two layers. It may be slightly moist inside; set the bottom half (cut side up) on cake plate, spreading with Chocolate Cream filling. Add top layer and dust with confectioner’s sugar (best done by shaking it on with a sifter or strainer). Decorate with chocolate curls.
CHOCOLATE CREAM FILLING, PREPARATION
1. To prepare chocolate filling, mix well (or sift) to remove lumps: > 2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar > 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2. Whip until light: > 1 c. whipping cream
3. Fold in: > the confectioner’s sugar/cocoa blend
CHOCOLATE CURLS, PREPARATION*
1. Microwave 30-60 seconds until melted; mix until smooth: > 1 rounded TBS. butter > 1/2 c. chocolate chips (or 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, or your favorite)
2. Mix the melted mixture together until smooth. Spread as thinly as possible into a rectangle on a cookie sheet (about 12-inch x 16-inch).
3. Set in freezer 10 or more minutes, until almost hard. If fingerprint remains, it’s probably still too soft. When just cool enough, take metal spatula and scrape across the chocolate rectangle, like a snow plow would across a street of snow. Chocolate will curl up as it is scraped up off the cookie sheet. If still too warm, chill some more. If it’s gotten too cold, set in warm oven a few moments.
4. Let chocolate curls chill again, to be firm enough to arrange on the cake.
* Pioneer Woman has a great picture tutorial of the chocolate-curling process, here. I tweaked the recipe because I didn’t want to use shortening. Butter (or coconut oil, for that matter) substitute just fine! Also, I prefer to use chocolate chips, because they’re usually cheaper than something like “Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Squares”.
There are a lot of cheesecake recipes out there, and many variations on the theme. Add pumpkin at Thanksgiving, cranberries at Christmas, or any variety of toppings. This New York Style Cheesecake can be made the traditional way, without the chocolate. But a bit of chocolate swirled into the recipe before baking can satisfy most chocoholics. Serves 12 or so.
1 1/2 c. almonds or pecans
8 stone-ground wheat thins (or other)
1 TBS. sugar
2 1/2 TBS. butter, melted
3/4 c. cream
2 tsp. vanilla
3 TBS. lemon juice
1 lb. 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3/4c. sour cream
1 c. + 1 TBS. sugar
4 room-temperature eggs
For Chocolate Version: 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
For Chocolate Version: scant 1/2 c. cream
For Topping: 16 oz. bag frozen strawberries
For Topping: 2 TBS. sugar
1. To make crust, chop fine in a food processor (or hand-chop): > 1 1/2 c. almonds or pecans
2. Crush in a plastic bag to make crumbs (a rolling pin works well): > 8 stone-ground wheatthins
3. Add to the processor, mixing: > The chopped nuts > The crushed cracker crumbs > 1 TBS. sugar > 2 1/2 TBS. butter, melted
4. Butter 9-inch cheesecake pan, pressing above mix in pan and up sides. Bake 6 minutes at 350 degrees, then cool.
5. Make filling, blending in a mixer: > 3/4 c. cream > 2 tsp. vanilla > 3 TBS. lemon juice > 1 lb. 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
6. Add, stirring just till mixed: > 3/4 c. sour cream
7. On low-speed, slowly add: > 1 c. + 1 TBS. sugar
8. Last, blend in one at a time: > 4 room-temperature eggs
9. Pour in cooled pie crust.
10. Continue with instructions below, for Chocolate Cheesecake, or bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Leave in turned-off oven 30 minutes with the door ajar. Remove, cool to room-temperature. Remove from pan and refrigerate.
(For Chocolate New York Style Cheesecake)
1. Microwave 1-2 minutes until melted: > 1 1/2 c. chocolate > scant 1/2 c. cream
2. Gently spoon the chocolate in a spiral-design, on top of the cheesecake batter. To get the swirl-effect, take a knife, pulling in gently across the top of the cake, starting at the center and going towards the edges.
3. Follow instructions above for baking the cheesecake.
To serve with strawberry sauce, puree in blender and serve with the cheesecake: > 1 lb. bag frozen strawberries, thawed > 2 TBS. sugar
I’m quite a fan of Thousand Island dressing, but I’m spoiled now. I don’t think store-bought will ever do again. Instead, we’ve got a homemade dressing at the cafe that’s sweetened with honey and not loaded with artificial ingredients.
I watched a friend of mine, years ago, make “1000 Island” out of catsup and mayonnaise. Not ideal. But we came up a better alternative at The New Deli: a zippy, seasoned tomato paste that serves as a base for various things. It can be added to soups, to get an instantly-seasoned broth, or it can be used to make Sweet N’ Sour dressing (just add some honey, olive oil, red wine vinegar). It can also be mixed into mayonnaise (homemade or a fave brand), to make Thousand Island.
Another cool thing about it: it’s already loaded with herbs and spices, so I can mix it in with ground meat, a few eggs, etc., and make a real quick meatloaf that’s still quite well seasoned. Very cool!
I had been checking out a favorite website (Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s site), and noticed she had a 1000 Island dressing recipe posted there as well. (It can be found on this page .) I’ve posted mine under “Free Recipes” (here), but it’s basically just a simple mix of tomato paste, honey, red wine vinegar, and various spices.
If you don’t want to bother making up a batch, just stop by the deli and get the dressing on a Reuben. Or on a Turkey Muenster Melt. Or in a tossed salad…
At The New Deli, we discovered that a great time saver was to make a big batch of a spice mix, with a tomato paste base. The salt and vinegar in the mix make it keep well in the refrigerator, for months on end. We add the base spice mix to other foods, to make stuff like 1000 Island Dressing, Oriental Sweet and Sour dressing, in meatloaf, and in soups. We use a 7 lb. can at the deli, but even if you make a much smaller batch, it’s bound to save you time. Makes about 3 c.
1 lb. tomato paste (two 8-oz. cans)
4 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoon garlic granules
Scant Tablespoon dried oregano
6 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons minced jalapeños, canned
1/3 c. honey
1 1/2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Mayonnaise as needed, for dressing
Blend all eight ingredients and keep mixture refrigerated, in glass mason jar, for two months or so.
To make 1000 Island dressing, just add some to mayonnaise, until it’s the right color.
This extra-rich, decadently chocolate cake is also a quick and easy recipe, with a minimum of ingredients. The original recipe called for Kahlua liqueur (see recipe here), but this version saves money; just use a homemade blend of espresso and maple syrup. The original recipe called for a cup of espresso and a 1/4 c. Kahlua; because the Kahlua’s sweet, when I left that out I added in some maple syrup.
Throw the ingredients together, bake, and enjoy a dense torte akin to mousse or pudding, with no fuss. Serves 15 or so; can easily be reduced by half to serve a smaller crowd.
1 lb. chocolate chips
1 lb. butter
2 c. sugar
2/3 c. espresso (or strong coffee) (Decaf, if desired)
1/3 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. water
1 c. pecans, chopped
Optional: Whipped cream, berries, or raspberry sauce
1. Bake in unbuttered pan, lined with aluminum foil (heavy duty works best). Use a large, 10-inch pan, or 2 smaller pans. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Microwave in large ceramic bowl, 2-3 minutes, until melted: > 1 lb. chocolate chips > 1 lb. butter
3. Stir the chocolate/butter mix until smooth. Add the following, stir, and microwave 2 min. more: > 2 c. sugar > 2/3 c. espresso (or strong coffee) > 1/3 c. maple syrup > 1/4 c. water
4. Stir in, one at a time: > 8 eggs
5. Pour into the foil-lined pan; sprinkle with: > 1 c. pecans, chopped
6. Bake at 300 degrees for 65 min. for a 10″ pan, or 30-40 min. for 2 smaller pans.
7. Let cool completely (for easiest handling). Transfer to cake plate, cut away foil, leaving a round of foil under the cake. (If completely chilled first, this foil can be removed, otherwise it can be tricky.)
8. Serve with whipped cream or berries. A raspberry sauce can also be drizzled onto the plates before serving.