ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ode to Dessert Club

Ode to Dessert Club 

By Jeff Y***


Wednesday, blessed Wednesday,

Usually the third Wednesday, but sometimes the second, of the month.

The weeks and days before, recipe books piled up.  Experiments in the kitchen.  Wrinkled brow.  Please taste this?  It just needs 5 more minutes.  Stay here, I need to run to the store.  Well, I dunno, honey, maybe more chocolate?

Waiting at the oven, thinking, wooden spoon against the mouth, hmm, what are those crafty M's - McNair and McMullin - dreaming up this month?

They are so sweet and nice but they are trying to beat my wife.

And then, 8:20-ish, out the door, carrying her dessert.  Always perfect of course.  But she is still grumbling that it needs something extra.

Daughter is in bed and I wait.  Reading, surfing, exercising, but mostly waiting for the sound of the screen door.  She's home!  It's like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and a Leprachaun appearing.  A cute one with short brown hair and lipstick.

Pour a glass of milk for proper palate cleansing, grab a fork and take a look.  Oh, yum and yum and yum and yum.  And yum.

Mm-hmm, I'll bet this is a Stratton special.  What's this?  Hickman?  Ah, yes, should have known, so creative.  Pause while we all praise Kari Hickman, the genesis.  Okay, done.  Mmm, yum, Jonny Jacobs will like this one.  And this?  Sheri, so perfect as usual.  Ah, yes, Bowman, amazing, but maybe Bowman squared?  Ah, this must be Joelle's, it's as wonderful as her husband.  How about Michelle?  Delightful.

What, you did not win?  How is that possible?  You were robbed.  I'm sure you came in second by maybe one vote, honey.  You'll have to try again next month.

Next third Wednesday, blessed Wednesday.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dessert Club - Cheese!

I found my headphones I thought I lost on my trip last month.  Which means I'm listening to more music.  Which means I'm in a good mood.  A sassy mood.  A creative mood.  A blogging mood.  Here's last month's Dessert Club.

The theme was Cheese, and we specified this was a sweet cheese challenge.  When I suggested we open it to sweet or savory, everyone exclaimed then they would have to make two things, so we stuck to sweet this time around.  The offerings were truly incredible.  

Pear Caramel Tart with Walnuts and Gorgonzola Dolce

Hazelnut Crunch Chocolate Cake with Orange Marscapone 
(one of my favorites!)

Carrot Cake with Marscapone Lime Frosting
(another of my favs)

Gorgonzola Caramels

Triple Ginger Blue Pear Tart

Brie-Stuffed Dates

Cannoli Pie
(OK, I had a lot of favorites - this was another)

Chocolate Cottage Cheese Cookies

Quark Cookies

Italian Ricotta Cake

Blue Cheese Ice Cream with a Poached Pear Reduction

And amazingly, I actually won this time (!) with my...
Rich Coffee Cake with Sweet Cheese Filling
 I was proud of this win - the pastry for this coffee cake was a several-day affair.

But just as good, if not even better, than all the cheesy desserts we sampled, was a surprise.  DC member Rebecca brought...what shall I call it?...a poetic essay, written earlier that day by her husband Jeff, one of Dessert Club's biggest fans.  It is called Ode to Dessert Club, and it deserves its own blog post.  Watch for it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lemon Ginger Muffins

Lately I've been craving my Tuscan Lemon Muffins, but I forgot to get ricotta cheese at the store, so the craving has been put on you can do that.  I've also been missing baking.  Which is ironic because it feels like I'm always in the kitchen, and I'm monumentally behind on this blog - like months behind on posting the things I've made.  But it's been a long time, probably almost two months, since I just baked to bake.  No Dessert Club, no birthday, no event, no dinner swap.  Just for the pleasure of the process and product. 

This morning, rummaging through the cupboards, I came across a bag of (admittedly, I don't know how old) candied ginger, and still on the vein of lemon muffins, I foodgawkered Lemon Ginger Muffins.  Breakfast is done.

Foodgawker is a two-headed beast.  The pictures, and associated recipes, are inspiring and saliva-inducing.  Then I click through to the blogs, and get depressed.  They have advertising.  How do they take such amazing pictures?  How do they have time to make that food?  The blog is so...sophisticated.  Et cetera.  Blog inferiority complex.  Can't really be helped, unless I don't look at them.  But once in awhile, I just can't help it.  What has foodgawker got for me today?

Today, it was just the thing.

Lemon Ginger Muffins (print recipe)
Makes 18 muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 T lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 T lemon juice for glaze
1 cup powdered sugar for glaze

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.

2.  In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt; set aside.

3.  In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the crystallized ginger, lemon zest and lemon juice, then mix that in.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until each is just incorporated.  Alternate the addition of the milk and dry ingredients  by thirds, making sure not to overmix each addition.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and fill each nearly to the brim of the liner.  Bake them for 15 to 18 minutes until the tops are a nice golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Transfer them to a cooling rack.

5.  While the muffins cool, mix together the reserved lemon juice and powdered sugar until there are no lumps.  Drizzle glaze over muffins.

Recipe from

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heaven & Hell Cake

People.  I am so far behind I feel like giving up.  The fact that today is the first 90-degree day of the year, and my air conditioning has broken, might also have something to do with it.  But I've got some cold raspberry-lime seltzer here, and the first couple of quiet hours to myself in over a month, so let's just keep on keeping on.

Heaven & Hell Cake - another one of my favs from Lit Night.  Apparently each component was a beast to master, and this cake's maker, one of Dessert Club's most skilled artisans, had to try several times to get it right.  So if you want to make it, good luck.

Heaven & Hell Cake (print recipe)
Serves 10 to 12

For the ganache:
2 lbs. milk chocolate, such as Valrhona, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the angel food cake:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract

For the devil's food cake:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pan
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

For the peanut butter mousse:
1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan; pour cream over the chocolate and let sit to melt for 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, combine the chocolate and cream. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let rest for 4 hours.

2. Make the angel food cake: Heat oven to 325°. Line bottom of a 10" round cake pan with ungreased parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together confectioners' sugar and flour; set flour mixture aside. In a large bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with a handheld mixer on low speed until frothy. Increase mixer speed to medium, sprinkle in sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, and beat until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle half of the confectioners' sugar–flour mixture over egg whites; using a rubber spatula, fold until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until top of cake springs back when touched, 45–50 minutes. Transfer cake to a rack and let cool.

3. Make the devil's food cake: Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 10" round cake pan with shortening and dust with flour to coat; shake out excess flour and set pan aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder; set flour mixture aside. In another medium bowl, whisk the coffee and cocoa powder until smooth; set coffee mixture aside. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, vanilla, and eggs with a handheld mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the bowl in 3 stages, beating to combine after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean, 30–35 minutes; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

4. Make the peanut butter mousse: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and confectioners' sugar with a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Put cream into a large bowl and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture; set mousse aside in the refrigerator.

5. Assemble the cake: Using a serrated-blade knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place 1 layer of the devil's food cake on a cake stand and spread 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse over the top with a butter knife. Top mousse with a layer of the angel food cake and spread with half of the remaining mousse. Repeat with the remaining devil's food cake, mousse, and angel food cake. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours. Stir ganache until smooth and spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake with a butter knife. Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours before slicing.

Recipe from and DC member J.B.

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