Citrus Poppy Seed Cake

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Citrus Poppy Seed Cake by twocarolines.com

Every now and then I want to bake a show stopper – something that isn’t easy, and it shows.  I was asked to bring a dessert to a church event and now that I have a pretty well established rep I decided to up my game – and I have to say, this gorgeous Citrus Poppy Seed Cake was greeted with loads of ooh’s and aaah’s, but the real satisfaction came when people tasted it, OUTSTANDING!  I love when a cake is even better than you want it to be.  All the fresh citrus made for such an amazing bright flavor and the cake itself was the perfect texture which is sometimes elusive with from scratch cakes.  Martha’s cream cheese frosting is the ideal combination of sweet and tart and the lemon glaze adds even more incredible flavor and texture.  Yes, it will take you a minute, but TRUST ME, it’s so totally worth it.  I can’t wait to make it again!

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature – plus more for pans
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon each finely grated lemon, orange and lime zests
1/4 cup poppy seeds

For the Filling:
12 ounces cream cheese room temperature
6 tablespoons butter room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar

For the Toppings:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 small lemons)
poppy seeds for sprinkling
lemon and orange peel, cut into thin strips for garnish

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside.  I didn’t have 8 inch pans so I used 9 inch which meant my bake time was reduced to 25-30 minutes.

  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until lightened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until color has lightened, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until batter is no longer slick but is smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop to scrape down bowl once or twice so batter will combine well. Beat in vanilla on medium-low speed.

  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Alternately add reserved flour mixture and milk, a little of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl once or twice. Beat in lemon zest, orange zest, lime zest, and 1/3 cup poppy seeds.

  5. Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes (less if your using 9 inch pans like I did), rotating pans often for even browning. My oven is the pits so I set my timer and switched them around every 7 minutes or the cake on bottom would have burned.  If you have a double oven that’s the best way to go so you don’t have one cake baking so close to the heat – or use convection.  I have neither of those things 😦 Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean.  Transfer to wire racks to cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and set on racks, tops up. Cool completely.

  6. Remove parchment from bottom of each layer. Save best-looking layer for the top. Place one layer on the serving platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups cream-cheese frosting over the top. Place second cake layer on top, and spread remaining 1 1/2 cups frosting over top. Place reserved layer on top. Chill cake, loosely covered with plastic wrap, 1 hour.

  7. To make the lemon glaze whisk together the 2 cups powdered sugar with the 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.
  8. To serve, stir lemon glaze well, then pour onto center of top layer of cake, letting it run down the sides. Using a single-hole zester, cut long strips of zest from orange and lemon, if desired. Arrange zest in loose spirals on the top of cake, and sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook

Peanut Butter Buckeye Brownies

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Peanut Butter Buckeye Brownies by twocarolines.com

Us Caroline’s obviously enjoy sweets, but the area where we display the most alarming lack of self control is in the “peanut butter/ chocolate” category.  We have posted a number of desserts with this combo such as our Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cake, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Peanut Pretzel Brittle….the fact that there are quite a few more is making me wonder if we should ease up on the peanut butter chocolate desserts…..yeah, not going to happen.  These Peanut Butter Buckeye Brownies are a King Family Classic made originally from our matriarch Joyce King and then repeatedly enjoyed by our sister Kristin’s family and mine (CK 2.0) who can only make them on occasion because of the aforementioned lack of control around perfect peanut butter chocolate combo’s like this one.  If you also want to eat ALL of the peanut butter chocolate desserts maybe make these for a crowd, because they are insanely irresistible.

Brownie Layer (these are Kristin’s Brownies – more detailed instructions on that link):

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Buckeye Brownies by twocarolines.com

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Peanut Butter Layer:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temp or softened)
8 ounces creamy peanut butter (I find the Jiff/Skippy variety work best because they don’t separate, but you could try using all natural peanut butter if you’d like)

Chocolate Ganache Layer:
2 cups chocolate chips
10 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 – spray or butter a 9×13 pyrex dish.  Mix all the ingredients for the brownie layer and spread into your prepared pan.  Bake for about 23-26 minutes and let cool.
2.  For the peanut butter layer, mix the butter and peanut butter until well combined then mix in the powdered sugar until it’s all combined.  I use a stand mixer because this layer gets thick so it would be tough to mix by hand.  Spread on top of your brownie layer and try to even it out pushing it into the corners etc.  Put in the fridge to cool about an hour.
3.  To make the chocolate ganache layer (it’s not really ganache, but we are going to go ahead and call it that because we’re fancy) melt the butter and chocolate chips in a saucepan until totally combined then spread over the peanut butter layer.  It will harden as the chocolate cools.  Serve at room temperature.  Side note this dessert freezes nicely, just let it come up to room temp before serving.  Enjoy!

Grapefruit Orange Custard Pie

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Grapefruit Orange Custard Pie by twocarolines.com

As you might have gathered by now, us Caroline’s enjoy food that is not just sweet, but sweet with a twist, such as sour, spicy, salty etc.  I’ve had my eye on the grapefruit custard pie in my Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie book for some time now, and Caroline 1.0 was in town so making a new exciting pie was first on the agenda.  But to our dismay, one of the grapefruits we were planning to use was no good, so we scaled my orange tree (the only ones left are up high in the very middle) and ended up combining our grapefruit juice with backyard orange for a bright, subtly sweet, citrusy, dreamboat of a pie that was fun to make and even more fun to eat.

Traditional 9″ Pie Crust – par baked (about 5-6 minutes at 450 if you’re using ours)

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Unbaked grapefruit citrus custard pie by twocarolines.com

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice
a few dashes angostura bitters (totally optional)
1 cup heavy cream

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325.  Place your par-baked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and melted butter.  Whisk in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Whisk in the grapefruit/orange juice, bitters if using, and heavy cream.  Strain the filling through a fine sieve directly into the pie shell.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 47-55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30-35 minutes through baking.  The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly.  Don’t overbake or the custard will separate.  The filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.  Allow to cool completely about 2-3 hours and serve at room temperature or cool.

Recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Panko Cookies

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Of all the sweet treats in the world—of which I love SO many—I think the chocolate chip cookie is my Number One choice. There’s something about it that is so comforting and just the perfect morsel of goodness. They are sweet with a little bit of salt, they have incredible texture, and are easy to make and even easier to eat (maybe too easy). I love experimenting with different combinations of ingredients for the basic chocolate chip cookie. Typically, I tend to like the addition of oats, and another one I like to add is wheat germ. With this recipe, I tried panko crumbs. People have talked about pretzels or potato chips in their cookies, but I though panko would add just the right amount of saltiness and sandiness to the texture. You know what? I was right. SO RIGHT. These are one of my favorite cookies of all time, now. And legit the best cookie dough you’ll ever have. Don’t believe me? I dare you to try it and find out!

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (1 1/2 cups if you like a flatter, chewier cookie)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with silpats or baking paper.
Whisk flour, baking powder, wheat germ, flax seed, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
In another bowl, beat butter until soft and creamy. Add sugars at medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats, panko, and chocolate, and mix until well incorporated.
After sampling the best cookie dough you’ll ever have in your life, roll the dough into three equal sized logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Once properly chilled, cut off pieces that are about 1/2″ thick and round the dough. Place on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart, 8-12 per sheet—they will still spread a lot.
Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are deep golden brown, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Let cool completely before gently moving cookies to wire rack. They will be fragile, especially on the edges.

*Bonus, the dough freezes really well, too.
-CK 1.0

Lemon Cream Pie

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Lemon Cream Pie by twocarolines.com

For sure at the top of my lemon dessert list, this Lemon Cream Pie is so tangy and tart with just the perfect amount of sweet.  I found it many years ago in Real Simple magazine but I’ve made some changes over time and it’s become a King Family classic.  In the original recipe they use gingersnaps for the crust – but I love it with speculoos or biscoff cookies.  Even if all you have around is graham crackers it will taste fantastic.  It tastes like sunshine, so it’s a great pie for a bad mood, there’s no possible way to be grumpy when eating a slice of sunshine!

Crust:
9 ounces speculoos (or gingersnaps or graham crackers) about 2 cups
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
2 large eggs
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus more for serving
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. In a food processor, process the cookies or grahams until fine crumbs form. Add the butter, granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and pulse until moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate, using a straight-sided dry measuring cup to help. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the edges are dry and set, 16 to 18 minutes. (Note: The bottom will still appear moist and soft but will become firmer as it cools; this is a crunchy cookie crust, not a soft, graham cracker-style one.) Let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Pour the mixture into the crust and bake until set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool and then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
  3. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Spread on the pie, sprinkle with the additional zest, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Lemon Cream Pie

Caramel Pecan Pie

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Caramel Pecan Pie by twocarolines.com

A King family classic and my hubs very most favorite of all of the many pies we eat, so this is MAJOR.  It’s such a perfect crunchy, melty, nutty sensation and it’s a dessert with an old world kind of royal presence that puts a jeweled crown on top of any meal it’s accompanied with.  This recipe came straight from the pie master general Joyce King.  She used to go half corn syrup and half maple syrup but lately she’s been making it full tilt maple which you think will be too sweet but it’s actually less sweet and more of a flavorful knockout than with just the corn syrup.  Of course the pie will turn out and be adored with whatever variety you use, but we recommend the splurge of maple syrup, you won’t regret it.  I was recently commissioned to make this pie for a birthday which is why there is a rather unsightly aluminum pie pan, but the recipients praised it to the last crumb!  And bonus, it’s one of the easiest pies ever! -CK 2.0

1  9″ traditional unbaked pie shell.  We recommend our King Family Pie Crust found here on the blog
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup maple syrup (or you can use all corn syrup or half corn syrup and half maple syrup.  We love the trader joe’s grade B maple syrup – it’s a splurge that’s well worth it)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup whole pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare your pie crust
  2. Beat eggs and sugar then add butter, syrup and vanilla
  3. Evenly spread your pecans into your unbaked pie crust then pour your filling over the nuts making sure they are nicely distributed.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes, it’s okay for your pie to still jiggle in the middle – just a jiggle, not liquid.  Just make sure the sides are set when you take it out – it will set up as it cools, which takes a solid hour or two.
  5. Serve with heaps of vanilla ice cream or fresh whip cream and enjoy!

 

 

 

The Best Lemon Bars

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Lemon is not only the last name of one of my favorite fictional characters, but it’s also one of my favorite flavors for delectable delights. I want lemon cakes, lemon slushies, and lemon bars non-stop! Like any good San Franciscan at heart, I have a deep and abiding love for Tartine. I make it a point of going there every time I visit home and, of course I have their cookbook. I made their lemon bars years ago and it’s been a family favorite ever since. My sister always requests these from me and I recently obliged, so I thought I’d pass on the love.

Crust:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup pine nuts pulverized in a food processor

Filling:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon
6 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch of salt (whisking eggs with salt helps to denature (relax) the protein in the eggs and breaks them up more quickly and thoroughly.)

Confectioner’s sugar to top

Preheat the oven to 350° F. butter a 9×13″ baking pan.

To make the crust, sift the confectioners sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and stir to mix. Add the butter and pine nuts and beat on a low speed just until a smooth dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. To help even out the crust, use the flat bottom of any type of cup, pressing down firmly. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (I used beans cause I didn’t have any weights). Bake the crust until it colors evenly to a deep golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees if the crust appears to be baking unevenly.

While the crust is baking, make the filling: sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until blended. add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed.

When the crust is ready, pull out the oven rack holding the crust and pour the filling directly into the hot pan. (It is easiest to pour the custard into the pan if the pan is in the oven.) If the crust has come out of the oven and cooled before you have finished making the filling, put it back in for a few minutes so that it is hot when the custard is poured into it. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F and bake just until the center of the custard is no longer wobbly, 30 to 40 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 squares, or as desired. If you like, dust the tops of the squares with confectioners’ sugar. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

-CK 1.0

Recipe from Tartine