Everybody loves dessert, right?

Sometimes I feel guilty about what I share with you, rather, what I don’t share. See, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, which is unusual when you consider desserts are my family’s business. Maybe it’s because I could smell the scent of baked goods wafting through the house almost every day of my life since age 12 or so. Or maybe I just didn’t get that gene, I don’t know. What I do know, is that I don’t share desserts with you guys very often.

I will try to pay more attention to your sweet tooth, starting with this post. It’s cake time. It’s really good cake time. This is again my mom’s basic recipe for vanilla cake, this time, though, I added some guayaba paste (known stateside as guava paste) and a frosting that includes Nutella. What else could you ask for?

Whenever I go back home to Panama I make a grocery store run, picking up all the goodies I cannot find in the US. On this last trip, I found some guayaba preserve that came in a pouch. I was transfixed by the sight of the magical, colorful pouch. Pourable guayaba preserve? Oh my.

If you have purchased this delicious paste in the US, you’ve likely found it in a round tub or a long brick. The consistency of it would’ve been pretty thick, sticky¬†and solid. Nothing wrong with that one, it is the one I’ve purchased most of my life. But being able to pour it out… Think of how you felt the first time you saw mayo in those new squeeze bottles. Heaaaavennnn.

OK, back to the guayaba business. If you are dealing with the tub or brick of guayaba paste, all you’ll need to do for this recipe, is dissolve the paste so it is liquid. I used some of the paste so I could give you some guidance. For about 1-1/2 cps of cubed guava paste, add 1/4 cp of pineapple juice, melt it over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let it cool.

Pastel de Guayaba con Glaseado de Nutella

1-1/2 cps butter (3 sticks), softened
1-1/2 cps sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cp pineapple juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cps flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 cp guayaba paste, melted

Preheat oven to 350¬į.¬†Prepare a 9×13 baking pan: use the butter wrappers to grease the cake pan, then add a bit of¬†flour to coat. Set aside.¬†Combine the milk, vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl and beat until the sugar grains are dissolved and the mixture is smooth and light in color. If the butter is at room temperature, this will take about 10 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to beat each one in completely.

Add 1/3 of the flour and mix until incorporated, then alternate with 1/2 of the juice. Then another 1/3 of the flour, followed by the rest of the juice and end with flour. Take care not to overbeat, just mix long enough to get all the flour evenly incorporated.

Spread half of the batter on the bottom of the baking pan. Then drizzle half of the the guayaba and top with the rest of the batter. Drizzle the rest of the guayaba paste over the top, going in the opposite direction you did the first time.

Use a knife or spatula¬†to swirl the guayaba into the batter. Try not to push all the way to the bottom of the pan, otherwise you’ll have problems unmolding it. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you pierce the center of the cake.

Allow it to cool for a few minutes, while you make the frosting. See recipe below. Unmold the cake onto a platter and spread on the frosting while it is still warm.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cp butter, softened
1-1/2 cps powdered sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tub Nutella, approx 1-1/2 cps

 In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, cocoa and extracts until smooth. Add the Nutella and mix until smooth and completely incorporated.

Add enough cream to thin out the frosting, it should be about the consistency of yogurt or sour cream. Not runny, just thin enough to smooth it easily over the cake. 

You’ll need a glass of milk to go with this one.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

The Deliciousness of Tres Leches Cake

I can’t tell you when was the first time I had a taste of this magical dessert, but I CAN tell you it’s been one of my favorites ever since. And when I realized how simple it is to make, it was all over. I don’t make it often. Not because I don’t want to, it’s because I would require a crane to leave home IF ever I did. “When” I do make this thing, I eat most of it all.by.myself. And I reserve the right to begrudge anyone who dares have some.

The debate over the origins of this little treat will likely continue ’til kingdom come. And why not? I would totally claim it as my own! I mean, this thing is perfection on a spoon or fork. In any case, rumor has it the dessert originated in Nicaragua, so that’s the story I’m sticking to. It is possible that the recipe was featured on the label of Nestle’s evaporated and condensed milks in the early 1900s. A clever marketing move that may be responsible for one of the most coveted desserts around.

Let me count the ways I love theeez¬†here dessert. It’s super moist. Light and dense all at once. It is served cool. It isn’t overly sweet (depending on the baker’s preference). And the cream can be flavored with almost anything you’d like. Me myself, I prefer the basic vanilla-ey¬†recipe. Call me a prude if you must, but I like what I like. I’ve tried variations of it flavored with chocolate. I’ve heard of adding coconut milk (that one intrigues me), but I’ve not made either of those. I do, from time to time, add a bit of alcohol–bourbon, Amaretto, rum. I also prefer to flavor the sponge cake with almond extract instead of lemon extract.

Ok, I’ll shut up now and give you my version of it. Most recipes will suggest equal amounts of milk, but I find that ends in a very sweet cake. I’ll still eat it, but I can eat a LOT more of it when the sugar content is toned down, so I add more of the evaporated milk and heavy cream. Also, even though I’m a big proponent of generic brands, I must admit that when¬†I make this one, I go for a well-known brand name. It may be in my head, but I won’t take any chances when it comes to my tres¬†leches.

Pastel de Tres Leches

For the sponge cake:
6 eggs, separated
1 cp all-purpose flour
¬ľ tsp salt
1 cp extra fine sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350¬į. Separate eggs and place the yolks in the bowl of your mixer. Beat the yolks until they change to a creamy yellow and are the consistency of yogurt. While the yolks are beating, sift the flour and salt together and set it aside.

Remove the yolks from the bowl and set aside. Make sure to wash the bowl and beaters very well before adding the egg whites; this is important because if there’s any residue of the yolk, the whites will not stiffen into a meringue. Beat the whites until they form soft peaks, adding the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time. Add the almond and vanilla extract.

Fold in the egg yolks until evenly incorporated. The purpose behind folding egg whites into a batter, is to end up with a batter that is airy and light. This is a good how-to link.

Once the eggs are incorporated, fold in flour a bit at a time. Make sure to check the bottom of the bowl for any flour that may have found it’s way to the bottom.

I used a generously buttered (not floured) 9-1/2×14″ Pyrex to bake this. It makes it convenient, it bakes and works as a serving dish to keep all that milky goodness in place. Bake at 350¬į for 20-30 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. While the cake is baking, prepare the milk bath.

For the milk bath:
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
2-1/4 cps evaporated milk
2-1/2 cps heavy (or whipping) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp bourbon (or your preferred liquor) optional

Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream, vanilla and alcohol in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended; the condensed milk will tend to hang out at the bottom of the mixing bowl.

Once the sponge comes out of the oven, pierce holes all around the top. Give it about 10 minutes to cool then invert it onto a tray lined with wax paper, pierce holes on the bottom cake. You can use a fork or a small knife for this task. Before returning the cake to the baking dish, use a paper towel to wipe any butter that may have dried while baking. Pour half of the milk bath into the baking dish, then place the warm cake bake into the dish. Pour the rest of the milk bath over it. At this point you may have to wait a few minutes to allow the cake to soak all of the milk before adding any more.

Once all the milk has been added, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. IMHO, the longer you allow it to cool, the more enjoyable tres leches becomes.

Note: If you have a deep-lipped serving dish, you can use it to add the milk bath and as your serving vessel. I usually leave my tres leches in the container I use to bake the sponge cake.

¬†If you wish to top it with a frosting of sorts, you can opt for a plain meringue–this seems to be the traditional topping. I don’t like it. Instead I whip more heavy cream, about (1-1/2cps) and fold in 2-3 tbsps¬†of condensed milk. You could add sugar, 2-3 tbsps if you don’t¬† have any condensed milk left. Spread the topping over the cooled cake. Serve and wait for the sounds of pure enjoyment.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

And chocolate makes 3!

Have you ever tried those chocolate lava desserts? The ones served hot with chocolate oozing from the center? They are delicious and not terribly difficult to make. But in the spirit of¬†an easy Valentine’s menu, I will help you cheat to achieve a similar result.

I used a Duncan Hines mix as the base, added chocolate chips and baked it in large muffins tins for individual servings. And, OOH! Was it good (for effect, you could imitate the Christopher Walken doing Lady Gaga voice). I served it with the Strawberry Coulis, but vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would be fantastic too.

It goes a little something like this:

Easy Molten Chocolate Cakes
1 Duncan Hines Super Moist Chocolate Fudge cake mix
3 eggs
2/3 cp whole milk
2/3 cp water
1/2 cp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 cp semisweet chocolate chips, approximately

Mix all the ingredients (except for chips) using a mixer, set aside. Preheat oven to 325¬į and prepare muffin pan.

To prepare muffin pan: Rub butter into each muffin section, then¬†dust with cocoa powder instead of flour. This will ensure you don’t have any white spots on the muffins.

Drop about 2 tbsp of batter on the bottom of each muffin, then pile about 20-30 chocolate chips as close to the center of the muffin as possible.

Next create a damn around the chips by carefully dropping more of the batter. You want to make sure the chips stay in the center and don’t spread around the muffin. Then add more batter on top to cover the chips. Allow it to stand undisturbed while the oven comes to temperature, this will give the batter time to settle and even out without having to shake it.

Bake for 18-20 minutes (for large muffins). Remove from the oven and invert them right away, this will make them more compact if there was any overflow. Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, trim any edges from batter overflow and serve while pretty warm with ice cream or this yummy strawberry coulis.

You will enjoy!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Sometimes you feel like a NUTELLA!

There’s this beautiful blog I lurk around in, it makes me feel all perp-like and hungry. Paula from Bell’alimento¬† puts out the most amazing Italian¬†recipes, she also started a Nutella Challenge. This being one of her favorite food items, she opened her blog to foodies who would like to try their hand at making life better one Nutella bite at a time.

So, I’m taking a bite at the challenge; this one is not a complicated treat. Yesterday was so rainy in Houston that I wanted¬†some sunny homey comfort, I halved my mami’s basic cake recipe and added Nutella to make it a marble cake. I also baked it in a tart pan, but you can use a regular 9-inch pan.¬†Easy, breazy and oh so yummy! Give it a try.

mmmNutella!

Mami’s Nutella Marble Cake
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
7 ozs sugar (just under 2/3 cp)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-1/4 cp flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cp Nutella
Preheat oven to 350¬į. Get ingredients ready: combine the milk, vanilla and almond extracts in measuring cup, separately combine the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

This is best done using a mixer, add the butter and sugar in the bowl and beat until the sugar grains are dissolved-if the butter is soft, it will take about 10 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time.

Add 1/3 of the flour and mix until incorporated, then alternate with 1/2 of the milk. Then flour, rest of the milk and end with flour. Take care not to overbeat, just mix long enough to get all the flour into the batter.

Grease and flour the cake pan and add the batter to it. Drop Nutella by tablespoonfuls on top of the batter.

Use a knife to swirl the Nutella into the batter. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you pierce the center of the cake.

Enjoy it plain or with some ice cream!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris