Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Hazelnut & Chocolate Tart

The Idea

I needed a Thanksgiving Day recipe and could not decide on a pie or cake. This recipe came along in my inbox just in time to make the decision. I had toyed with an idea for a torte using all the flavors of Thanksgiving dessert- pumpkin, apple and cranberries, but I could not think of the best combination in time. I will work on it for next year. In the meantime this was a great recipe that I tweaked for my own (in)convenience.

The Recipe

Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Tart from Betty Crocker. I do not use Betty Crocker products (unavailable or very expensive where I live) and their recipes are usually more advertisements for their products than anything else, but once in a while they come up with some great ideas. Most of their products can be easily substituted.

Recipe Adjustments

The recipe calls for a hazelnut spread with cocoa. Being in Europe, the grocery store has about 10 choices of hazelnut chocolate spreads on the shelves, but for some reason I decided to make my own using this recipe. If price was my motivation, I am not sure that I came out on top, but I did figure out that a coffee grinder is an excellent tool for making nut butter. I have tried making nut butter in my small food processor that I burn the motor out on in about 10-20 months from purchase and have not been successful. The coffee grinder zipped the hazelnuts into butter in a fraction of the time it would have taken in a food processor. Good to know. My home made "nutella" was not quite spreadable and had the consistency of play-dough, so the chocolate layer came out thicker than it was supposed to be. I also whipped the egg whites and folded them into the filling thinking this would lighten up the filling and give it more volume.

The Result

I was happy with the result and my guests were very complimentary, but I am never sure if they are just being nice since I am such a nut about my deserts. I do have to say by the end of the night there was none left which is always a good indicator. I concentrated on not making such a gigantic monstrosity as usual so I would not have much left over.

If I were to make this recipe again, I would almost double the pumpkin filling. Even with whipping the egg whites, the filling was just barely there and the chocolate, which was supposed to be more of an accent, was the main part of the tart. My guests even commented, "There is pumpkin in this?"

The tart was not very sweet, which I liked, but still rich and chocolaty.

I could not find my camera as usual during the dinner party, so you will have to do with the one picture I took during preparation ;) I will update if my guest who took a picture emails it to me! (Done!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Step One to a Tiramisu Torte

The Idea:

Faced with preparing an Italian dinner, only one option jumped to mind for dessert-tiramisu. Of course I inevitably toyed with making it into a torte, but better take one thing at a time and try to master tiramisu before I turn it into a torte. Rome wasn't built in a day after all. Oh boy, I kill myself.... but moving on. I was never a big tiramisu fan until I was in Italy with a die hard tiramisu fan and he managed to turn me into a tiramisu lover. Not a big challenge, who doesn't love coffee, booze, custard, cake and chocolate?

The Recipe:

I chose this recipe because after sorting through hundreds of recipes online, calorie guilt got the best of me and I decided to try for a whipped egg white vs. whipped cream version. More or less any colored alcohol was mentioned in all recipes from rum to chocolate liqueur to brandy. This one has brandy. This recipe also uses shaved chocolate vs. cocoa.The Result:

I was happy with the result. I have tasted better and worse. This was lacking certain decadent richness, but I can accept that due to the egg vs. cream issue. I definitely over soaked the lady fingers and have no one to blame but myself. The recipe clearly said QUICKLY soak lady fingers in coffee. The chocolate shavings were too big, cocoa would have been better for dusting the top.

What I would do differently next time/how I would use this info to get a torte recipe:

Next time I would try making a coffee, brandy and sugar glaze and make giant lady finger recipe disk for torte layers. For the filling I would incorporate a combination of heavy cream and egg whites- perhaps more fat would hold up better between the layers. Instead of chocolate shavings I would use sweetened cocoa to dust the filling and if making a torte I would top the whole thing with a ganache.

If you happen to have a good tiramisu recipe, please leave me a comment!

(Update: Since I can't seem to comment on my own blog, In response to Dace:

Man bija personīgais strīds, bērniem ēst jēlu olu tiramisu vai nē. Visi pārdzīvoja. Arī nezinu, vai tiramisu varētu ganache noturēt, bet tas būtu neautentiskās tortes versijā. Nepretendēšu uz autentisku tiramisu torte, tikai tiramisu "inspirētu" torti! ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy halloween!

In order to get this up before Halloween is completely over this year, I will quickly post my Halloween/Birthday cake for my son's shared birthday/Halloween party on Saturday. THE IDEA: Pretty clear :) Based on this recipe from blogger I Am Baker.
Cake: Red Velvet Cake
Frosting: Italian Meringue Butter Cream
Ganache: Just plain Ganache
Ghosts: Spooky Meringues with green frosting pen eyes

All in all ok, but a few lessons learned:

  1. Frost cake before hitting the punchbowl.

  2. Use just a little bit of ganache. You can always add more. I still have some that dripped down off the cake, off the cutting board onto the garage floor. I really must go clean that up before the cats get at it! (Then I will have a whole different kind of mess to clean up, but that is really not the most important point here...)

  3. Red velvet cake really needs allot of red food coloring. I used everything I had at home (3 tubes/bottles) and it was not enough. The result was a bit more on the pink velvet side!

  4. I really must stop hurrying. The effect and effort would be so much better if I slowed down while decorating. I will get there one day. A yummy messy cake is in the end, still yummy.
Good question. I have a bit of a pause from family birthday celebrations right now, but a national independence day torte (Latvia) may revisit the red velvet cake again! I need to experiment more with different frostings. The IMBC is great, but getting a bit old.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chocolate Mocha Vertical Layer Torte

The Idea:

Since my favorite & inconveniently located bakery discontinued making what they called "Coffee Torte," I had mentally added this type of torte to my "must copycat" list. I love Mocha tortes of any kind, but what made this torte unique was its vertical layering. I always wondered how they do it at the bakery and if I could make it myself. The delicious repeating mocha frosting coupled with cherries and sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake then smothered in ganache in my mind comes very close to the perfect torte. The bakery used to always put some elaborate shaved chocolate decorations on top for an aesthetic touch, perfecting this creation.

The Recipe:

Frosting and decorating frosting: Janet is Hungry Mocha Walnut Torte frosting

Fruit filling: Raspberry low sugar preserves

Pink decorations: Leftover strawberry chocolate pieces from Barbie's dress No Alterations on recipes

The Construction:

I usually do not comment on the actual building of the cake, but since that was such an important part of this torte, I will elaborate. I decided to make a giant, stout roullade which would be tipped on the side and frosted, then covered in ganache.

The chocolate cake was baked in thin layers on cookie sheets covered in parchment, then immediately rolled up so that it would bend:I then measured and cut the rolls into 8 cm pieces, which I frosted and covered in the preserves: Then the strips were rolled into a giant roll and put in a springform pan to cool and solidify in the refrigerator for easier frosting: (I admit at this point I thought I was going to end up with a giant, crumbly mess!) The Result:
As far as rough drafts go, I think I did OK on this one. The result was much better than I thought it would be structurally. The frosting was a bit too heavy under the ganache and not quite enough between the layers. If I attempt this torte again, I will use a different cake recipe, because while this chocolate is delicious on its own, it is too rich for this multifaceted cake. The recipe has to be a bit more simple and not quite as rich and sweet. The original bakery version had cherries, but due to my own snafu I had to use raspberry preserves I had on hand. The preserves were fine, but I would have liked to have some stewed, crushed and drained cherries instead. Another mistake was making the cake strips too wide (8cm). This resulted in a higher, more narrow torte which was fine, but I was aiming for a wider, flatter torte. I have little experience with ganache and I definitely learned that it should be made and used immediately, not put aside to be reheated and applied to the torte the next day! All in all I was impressed and happy with the results.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Strawberry Daquiri Barbie Doll Cake

The Idea:

For a long time I have wanted to bake a Barbie doll cake. It seemed like quite the challenge to build something tall enough to encase Barbie's unnaturally long legs. And of course a frosting dress just sounded fun. This together with strawberries which are currently in season, the desire to stick a cheesecake in the middle of a torte and a strawberry daiquiri cake recipe I have been saving led me to end up with this final "masterpiece."

The Recipe:
Layer 1 & 4 (from the top): Strawberry Daiquiri cake
Layer 2 & 5: That perfect yellow cake
Layer 3: Lime cheesecake (family recipe- I will get around to posting about this recipe one day)
Initial frosting recipe: Sturdy Whipped Cream Frosting* (failed & ran low on time, turned to tried and true IMBC recipe)
2nd frosting recipe for between layers and base of the dress: Italian Meringue Butter cream
Frosting for decorating (pink) and for damming the frosting and strawberry layers: Magnolia's Vanilla Butter cream Frosting
Silver decorating beads, strawberries, strawberry white chocolate "chips," one Barbie :)
As I was going for a strawberry daiquiri effect, I replaced rum for vanilla extract for all recipes and added grated lime peel almost everywhere. The pink layer has food color added since the jello required in the recipe did not color the batter much and pink was requested by the birthday girl.

The result/lessons learned:
Except for a few snafus such as under cooking the first layer and disastrous results with trying the first recipe for frosting, I was very satisfied with the result. I ran out of time, so Barbie's top was a bit messy, but overall I was pleased. The taste was good. I don't know if I would make the pink layers again, but the yellow cake was good as usual (see cake competition blog post) and the frosting yummy. Although I vowed never to use the Magnolia's frosting recipe anymore because it has a cheap, overly sweet taste, it was fine for decorating purposes and for damming the cake, because it really hardens well in the refrigerator. Some research indicated that this cake should be frozen so it does not topple. I did not do that because all my freezer space is jam packed, but the result was just fine. And none of us died from eating potentially dangerous silver decorating beads.
I did have to shave the layers to make them skirt-like before frosting

Front view, pre-Barbie insertion:Rear view:
The chips were a bit messy looking, but my daughter picked them out, so I felt the need to put them somewhere!

*- I stepped away from the mixer for one minute only to return to find it over whipped apparently. So I kept on whipping and saved a lot of ingredients from being thrown away by ending up with a big blob of sweet butter and a milky type byproduct which I can only guess tasted like evaporated milk. Either way they will eventually go in some pancakes or cookies, etc. But quite honestly I don't think the initial recipe would have worked anyway on this cake since I needed something that could stand up to the weight of all the layers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Country Torte Competition

(Blogger somehow messed up this blog, resetting to an incomplete version. I will fix and edit soon!!)

The Idea:

I received information from a friend that for mother’s day a local „celebrity” chef was going host a country torte contest for his TV show. My first task was to find out exactly what was meant by „country” torte. The only printed requirements were 1) it has to be sweet; 2) 20 eggs must be used; 3) butter must be used. Well, these requirements only made me realize that I was going to be making a huge torte since most of my recipes for a single cake require about 3-5 eggs. I asked around and the best information I received was that it was supposed to be something your country grandmother would make. My options were wide open. I eliminated chocolate as an option and tried to think of what torte ingredients were „local.” This led me to base my torte on blackberries and hazelnuts. I imagined three cake layers separated by frosting and berry filling. I had no clue what it would look like, as decorating is not my strong point, but I was inspired by a local children’s author when I decided on the title of my entry: „Woodland Mystery.” (It sounds better in Latvian- Meža mistērija).
The Recipe:

Starting from from the bottom:

Layer 1- I googled moistest yellow cake and used the recipe from

Layer 2- Frosting and this layer were Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) with almond extract.

Layer 3- My friend BethAnne a while ago sent me a recipe for a french hazelnut cake, Creusois which is basically egg whites sugar and hazelnuts.

Layer4- Blackberry Filling from

Layer 5- Same as layer 1.

Layer 6-Frosting- IMBC.

Decorations- Standard buttercream (basically butter & enormous amounts of powdered sugar). Before decorations-about 12kg!


-My blackberry filling was made with my own blackberry preserves rather than fozen fruit, so I reduced the sugar amount in the recipe.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Light*" Coconut Torte

The Idea:
Faced with the reality of how many calories a real torte has, I searched my mental recipe book for light torte ideas. The frosting packs ALOT of calories, so finally trying out Italian meringue frosting was the way to go. Cooking Light happened to post a beautiful picture of a Fresh Coconut cake a little while ago on Facebook, so I thought I would give it a try for a Sunday BBQ we were having. The Recipe: Fresh Coconut Cake online at MyRecipes (from Cooking Light magazine)

Alterations: I had no water in the 3 coconuts I bought, so I used coconut milk. I don't think that this was the reason the cake came out a bit dense. I also added an extra egg white to my frosting, because I incorrectly thought I would not have enough.

Lessons Learned:
-Italian meringue is prepared with hot syrup poured into egg whites, vs. Swiss meringue which is baked. I think that is right. This is more of a clarification for me because I have seen these two distinctions repeatedly lately.
-While I was sceptical of the frosting at first, the second day (or after completely cooling in the refridgerator) the frosting was very good, but deflated a bit. When I first put it on it was a massive layer. So it will deflate.
-That said, the frosting in between the cake will also virtually disappear, so it is important to "dam" the frosting between layers with a heavier frostin or something so it does not squish out. Duh- this was a lesson learned from a torte a while ago.
-Egg whites are a tricky thing. I really have to be careful of overbeating, because I think I overbeat them this time and they were not so easy to fold into the batter.
-Must find cake flour. I use the 3/4c flour +2Tbsp. corn starch substitution for 1c cake flour currently because I do not know where and if I can find cake flour in this country. This is probably making my cakes too dense.
-Finally this recipe is delicious and I will be repeating it again. The toasted coconut gave such a rich buttery flavor to the cake. YUM. All reviews were very good. Sadly I found out one guest was actually allergic to coconut! But yay! more for me....

What's Next:
A friend alerted me that there is a national torte competition on Sunday in honor of Mother's Day. So I entered. We will see! Criteria: 20 eggs and must include butter. Egs and butter no problem, but 20 eggs?? We will see. There may be some marzipan sculpting involved in my idea!

*- Light= 332 cal per serving, 10.8g fat. Not too bad for a torte, except it just made me want a bigger piece of this delicious torte!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Russian* Apple Pie (or when desserts go wrong)

The Idea: I will not dwell much on this recipe or the result, but some times good intentions do not result in good outcomes. For our semi-regular "Ethnic" night, my family made Russian fare and while it was a great opportunity to make a recipe I found for "Russian Torte**" online, the 1350 calories per serving turned me off and I settled on something different- a simple, 4 ingredient dessert that had positive reviews.

The Recipe:
Russian Apple Pie on

No Granny Smith Apples available (unless I want to go to a high priced import shop) so the cheaply available Polish apples went in this version. No chance on blaming the apples for the negative result. I did sprinkle a bit of baking powder in the batter because I had my doubts as soon as I realized what was going into the batter that my result was going to basically be a thick pancake with apples in it. It reminded me of the times way back when when my sister and I used to have recipe free bake-offs which 9 times out of 10 resulted in thick, oven cooked pancakes since we were pretty clueless about what actually should go into cake batter... but back to this flop of a desert. At least I had some assistance from my trusty sous chef:
Lessons Learned:

  • I should have known better.

  • Stick to tortes.

  • In all fairness this was ok sprinkled with powdered sugar as a afternoon snack for kids. The recipe only has 1/2c sugar in the whole thing, so at least it is not too sweet. Or sweet at all.

What's Next:

My next post will be about an excellent light torte for a BBQ the next day, but I will keep the calorie laden Russian Torte Recipe in mind for future use. When I need to stock up on calories for a long winter or something.

*I cannot vouch for the authenticity of these recipes, so I hold no one accountable for this sad excuse for a "desert." :)

**I will be trying that one later, despite calorie count because I am well aware that is probably the average calorie count for a good sized piece of torte! I am not ignorant about where the cups of sugar and 100s of grams of butter go to...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marzipan covered Easter Egg Cake

The Idea:

Ever since I tasted a wedding cake covered in marzipan seven years ago, I have wanted to try it myself. So I figured what better time than Easter. I couldn't just do a simple princess cake in natural marzipan, I had to go all the way a make a big colored egg. I had planned on an egg shaped torte, but I miscalculated the batter and ended up with a single layer of cake topped with everything that I wanted to layer.

The recipes:

The cake was Poppy Seed Cake from

The frosting & decorations were Italian Buttercream topped with black currants and colored bulk purchase marzipan. Unfortunately I do not have a reference for the frosting recipe. Google and you will find something very similar.


The cake recipe seemed a bit heavy, so I whipped the egg whites and folded in at the end.

Lessons learned:

  • I really liked the result- the tart black currants unfrozen from last year's pick were a good contrast to the sweet marzipan and cake.

  • I will not be afraid of covering a cake in marzipan- it was quite easy to do following some online tutorials. (

  • That said, if I ever want pink marzipan, which was the color I was going for here) I will remember to add very little red food coloring. I freaked out a bit when I realized my undecorated cake looked like a giant stomach:

  • I definitely need more practice with my decorating gun. while happy with the end result, I was not all too certain of how the egg would look at the end. Maybe I will make a big batch of mashed potatoes and practice!

  • next time I use this cake recipe I will skip the sugar. The cake mix the recipe calls for was sweet enough. (Yes, I used cake mix even though it is against my principles of baking. Oh well.)

What next? A friend of mine had a birthday in May and I am debating on incorporating cheesecake into a torte. We will see if this works out and if he is game to let me deviate from his preferred birthday "order" the basic cheesecake! But after 3 cakes over 4 days I will take a break for a while. Although I do have a few ethnic dinners coming up. If anyone has any recommendations for a Russian torte recipe, let me know!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Martha's Lemon Meringue Cake

(My biggest fans:)The Idea:
I had some guests coming over for lunch and the weather had actually become something resembling warm, so I decided that it would be the ideal time to try out Martha Steward's Lemon Meringue Cake. All the benefits of a lemon meringue pie, but it resembles a torte- well, judging by assembly anyway.

The Recipe:
Martha Steward's Lemon Meringue Cake ( Alterations:
none this time. I figured I would make it just like Martha, she must know what she is talking about! Lessons Learned:

  • The cake recipe was very light. The result was delicious, but it was definitely a cake vs. a torte. I expect a rich, decadent intermingling of flavors; this was more a cake with a topping as the lemon curd filling was scant and gave good flavor, but none of the benefits of a layered dessert.

  • The meringue topping was definitely something other than frosting. It was a bit reminiscent of marshmallow fluff.

  • That said, this meringue topping would be an excellent addition if there was ever an occasion for a S'mores torte (a bit of a contradiction that may work).

  • The result left me craving more in the layers, so I would be tempted to make this recipe again, but add a bit of Italian meringue buttercream icing between the layers. But, since you bake the meringue on the cake, a butter rich frosting would melt.

  • Perhaps the Swiss meringue could be baked on to a top layer which was then added to a torte- none on the sides unfortunately, but you would not end up with a melted, buttery mess.

  • If you are craving a lemon meringue pie, skip this recipe and make the pie. If you insist o this recipe, make 1.5 or 2x the lemon curd.

What next?

It being Easter weekend, I am sort of slacking and bringing a standard cheesecake to a friend's tomorrow, but for a Monday visit I am planing to attempt my first marzipan covered torte... it may be egg shaped though. ;)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Brazilian Contribution

The Idea:
We once again had a theme night with Brazil as the country. I came across this recipe which claimed to be Brazilian. not finding a torte recipe, I went with this Gingerbread Roulade with Lemon sauce.

The Recipe:
Gingerbread Roulade with Dulce de Leche Cream Filling

I had no candied ginger available and instead of creme fraiche, I used high quality plain yogurt

Lessons Learned:

  • Dulce de Leche may be a possible sweet topping/filling for a cake, but it is too runny for frosting.

  • not much else here to work with for future tortes.

  • If I were to make a roulade again, the batter must be spread very thinly on the cookie sheet. I hesitated to make it so thin, but as you can see, it turned out to be more of a tube than a roulade.