black forest trifle

In dessert on January 7, 2018 at 2:43 am

this special new years eve dessert combined two of my other favorite special holiday desserts: a guard’s trifle and a schwarzwälderkirschtorte or black forest gateau (chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and cherries and ganache).


it was (an) insanely good (idea).

the other good idea i had was make it in a very small trifle dish so we weren’t eating it for days. not that i wouldn’t have enjoyed it, but it was SO special that eating it for days might have made it LESS special. this size perfectly served two for two days.

i started with half a basic (and unfrosted) chocolate sponge cake, broken up at the bottom and sprinkled with a mixture of kirschwasser (cherry liquor) and cherry juice.

the next layer was cherry compote i made by cooking down a bag of frozen tart dark cherries and half a jar of cherry jam, a little sugar to taste, a pinch of salt and a splash of kirschwasser (you’ll start to see this as a trend). once the frozen cherries had broken down a little, i strained it and saved the juice separately for sprinkling (see above) and cocktails, etc.

next, a layer of creme anglais. (this is the guard’s trifle component.) IMO nothing is more delicious than creme anglais, and i ate the leftovers a few days later with a splash of bourbon and a spoon.

my recipe calls for 4 egg yolks, beaten lightly with 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. gently scald 1 cup light cream and 1 cup milk (although i used extra regular milk and less heavy cream, since i had it on hand for the topping) and add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. mix slowly into the egg mixture to avoid scrambling your eggs, then cook gently over low heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken. pour into a bowl and let cool with a layer of cling film pressed on the top to avoid it creating a skin. i actually made 3/4 of this recipe and it was more than plenty.

repeat the first three layers again (and again if you have room in your dish!), then top with piped whipped cream rosettes. first sweeten the cream and add a little… you guessed it, kirshwasser. the pomegranate seeds added a really nice little crunch and burst of tart juice. highly recommend.


holiday mini tarts

In dessert on January 7, 2018 at 2:35 am

mini tarts are an easy, high-impact, super flexible dessert that are sure to impress.


these were for a christmas party, and therefore the obligatory red and green.

friends of the blog will recognize the red filling as my favorite cranberry compote that i make every year. it can be made in advance, kept in the refrigerator for several days, and used in multiple applications. this year, i used the cranberry filling for mini tarts, a regular-sized cookie-crust tart, and parfaits with greek yogurt and gingerbread granola (taken to a holiday brunch. big hit. huge.)

the original recipe takes a bag of fresh cranberries, a cup of sugar, half a jar of current jelly, a splash of booze (orange liquor or brandy), and softened gelatin. these days, i never worry about the gelatin anymore. cranberries have a lot of natural pectin, so it’s really not needed. and without it, the filling is much more versatile (and easier to make and vegan).

the green tartlets are filled with ina garten’s lime curd. i love this recipe–fairly simple to make and very flavorful, the curd is tart and sweet at the same time. the extra i jarred and gave away as gifts.

as for the crusts, you can buy tiny phyllo shells in the frozen food section of many grocery stores, or pre-baked at speciality stores. this year, however, my usual source didn’t have them “because of brexit” (???!!) so, inspired by the great british baking show where they are forever making phyllo, i decided to give it a try. this makes the whole dessert much more time-consuming, but not exactly “hard”…


phyllo dough is found in the frozen food section of almost any grocery. is consists of many layers of VERY thin pastry. all you have to do is brush each layer with butter, build up as many layers as you want (i experimented with between three and five for these tartlets, settling on three for the lime and five for the cranberry, which needed a little stronger base), cutting them out with a cookie cutter, lining (mini or regular, depending on the size you want) cupcake tins, and baking per the box instructions.

as i said, it’s not hard, it just takes a while. it’s also not necessary. if you can find the pre-made shells, use them! and think of all the possibilities! any kind of cream, custard, curd (i’ve done them before with lemon), ganache, even jam. or savory fillings like salmon and cream cheese, tiny shrimp salad, tomato salad… really endless possibilities. the only trick is to remember that once filled, the shells stay crisp only several hours depending on how wet your filling is, so do them shortly before serving.

a rosette of sweetened mascarpone in the middle gussied mine up a little.

beet birthday cake

In challenge on December 20, 2015 at 2:51 pm

i don’t know how i got it in my head that i wanted a beet birthday cake. i don’t even like beets that much (although they’re growing on me!). but six or so quite large ones arrived in our winter farm share box this week, and they just screamed birthday cake to me.


i looked at a lot of beet cake recipes online and decided to go with joy the baker’s chocolate beet cake. i don’t think i’ve made anything from her blog before, but i like her voice and the recipe called for cream cheese frosting. what more is there? actually, i also liked that it used more brown sugar than white and buttermilk. good flavors. and it was a layer cake. martha’s and the new york times’ were both single layer, and david lebovitz called his “not overly sweet, which is good for those of you looking for more of a snack cake” which, despite being an intriguing concept, was not what i was looking for.

i decided to boil my beets rather than roast them because i didn’t want to run the oven that long, but otherwise, i stuck to her instructions.


in any case, once you cook the beets, you grate them and beat them into the batter.



i wish the camera picked up the color better – once you add the cocoa, it’s not brown, it’s a delicious pinky-mauve. (has anyone called mauve delicious before? well, it is here.)


joy advises you to put beets in the frosting, too, which is another reason i chose this recipe. they make it gorgeous. i’ve heard people call beets the candy of vegetables, but it never really resonated until now.



happy birthday to me!