Friday, February 18, 2011

The Gluten-Free Layer Cake

Peach Schnapps Layer Cake

Last semester while talking to one of my roommates, it was discovered that she likes peach schnapps. She really likes peach schnapps, and, it's not something that makes her sick. Well, in moderation. I'm sure if she got a little too excited and drank a bit too much, she wouldn't feel so great. But since schnapps happen to be gluten free, she can imbibe in the candy-sweet alcohol as long as nobody's carding her.

It's not a secret that I don't shy away from baking, cooking, or lowering freezing points with alcohol, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I decided to challenge myself to make a gluten-free cake incorporating the sickeningly sweet smelling schnapps.

Unfortunately, she never did get to try the cake that was originally imagined for her birthday, but all the gluten-tolerant tasters thought it was quite tasty. One even remarked, "Is this really gluten-free? It's really good." And, unless my checking all the labels failed me, it really is!

Making this cake was not without some slight hitches, mostly because of my lack of sleep and attention. I took all the ingredients out to bake the cake layers at 7pm last Friday night, after sleeping a mere 2 and a half hours in the previous 36. I failed to notice that I was looking at a recipe that made 80 mini cupcakes. A 6" cake does not require 4 pounds of batter, which I think is what I ended up with. I started divying up the batter by weight, hoping to make equal layers, and when the first one came out of the oven, I realized if I used more than just that for the cake, I'd end up with a leaning tower. I baked off a dozen cupcakes and a slightly smaller cake layer that I ended up omitting from the cake, deciding to go with a slightly shorter cake (If you follow the recipe below, yours may end up a bit taller than pictures from this recipe, but no worries! There's just enough frosting to take care of that!) Plus, it never hurts to have an extra 12 ounces of cake lying around. With the addition of some whipped cream and frozen fruit, it can be turned into a tasty (but extremely unphotogenic) mango trifle later in the week!

Peach Schnapps Layer Cake
Peach Schnapps Layer Cake That Just So Happens To Be Gluten-Free
makes 1 6" 3 layer cake

For cake layers:
1 cups (200 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups gluten-free rice flour all-purpose mix (I used 200 grams of Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose Flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
*add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, especially if you want to skip out on the schnapps

2/3 cup peach preserves

For peach schnapps syrup:
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons peach schnapps

For peachy buttercream:
1 cup/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch salt
1/4 cup peach preserves

To prepare cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 6" round cake pan (mine's 3" deep).

Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed for one minute. Add flour, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, oil, milk, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for about a minute, or until batter is smooth.

Scoop batter in prepared cake pan. Place pan in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick in the center comes out with only a crumb or two. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, remove from pan and cool completely.

To prepare sugar syrup:
Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in schnapps.

To prepare frosting:
Place butter in a medium bowl and beat until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and salt and beat until smooth. Beat in peach jam. (If planning on piping frosting, you may want to set aside some frosting before adding jam to prevent getting clumps stuck in your bag.)

To assemble cake:
Level the top of the cake. Slice cake into three layers. Place the base of the cake on a cake plate or large plate, sliced side up. Brush with syrup. Spread 1/3 cup peach preserves over cake layer, and top with another layer of cake. Brush with syrup and spread remaining 1/3 cup preach preserves over the layer. Top with the remaining layer of cake and brush entire cake with remaining syrup.

Scoop about 1 cup of frosting on the top of the cake and spread over the top and sides of cake, adding more frosting as necessary. Smooth sides and top, and, if desired, pipe designs with remaining buttercream.

Store in refrigerator for up to 2 or 3 days. Take out about 20 minutes before eating or it'll be too cold and not taste as awesome.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Truffles for Your Valentine

Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Truffles

It was approaching seven at night, and upon receiving a text from my friend about receiving a box of chocolates, I realized that it was Valentine's Day. And with Valentine's Day comes an excuse to eat chocolate whether you're single or otherwise preoccupied.

The dessert cases here at school had heart and red-themed treats within them, but if I was going to enjoy something chocolate or red, it was going to be on my own terms, and while celebrating the nice break from schoolwork. I was going to make truffles a week or so ago and bought the ingredients, and decided, what's a better thing to treat myself to on Valentine's Day?

Raspberry Jam

I decided to add a festive twist, and with that, I cranked up the Taylor Swift, whipped out the cream cheese, chocolate, and raspberry preserves, and while covering the table and microwave in chocolate, made these yummy little morsels. I wiped the chocolate off my face, and then proceeded to wander around and share them with a grin upon my face.

Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Truffles
Raspberry Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles
makes about 36

1 8 oz. package cream cheese or neufchatel, softened
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1/3 cup raspberry preserves
10-12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (melted but later on)
decorations (i.e. sprinkles, chopped nuts, etc), optional

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy and beat in the chocolate and raspberry preserves. Chill until firm enough to handle and then scoop and shape teaspoonfulls into balls.

Chill for half an hour or so, and then dip into melted chocolate and place on a sheet of wax paper or silicone mat (and top with sprinkles or something if desired).

Refrigerate for a few hours until chocolate is set.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

An Alternate Stir Fry

refried stir fry

Being at school, it's rare that I make my own dinner, unless you count the chips and leftover bean dip from the super bowl that I called "dinner" Monday night. Or there was that time I had brownies for dinner last semester...

Neither of those really qualify as dinner. However, repurposing leftovers to make something similar, but different, counts. And that's exactly what I'd been planning to do as soon as I realized that there was no way I would finish my original stir fry from dining services here.

The leftover stir fry (brown rice with some assorted veggies, tofu (that I'd eaten all of), and a sesame ginger sauce) served as my base. It was kind of old, so I made sure to heat it really well, meaning I brought it practically to a boil, which was probably terrible for the integrity of the vegetables, but I really don't want to die.

I added some torn up spinach (leftover from a tuna fish sandwich I made a week or two ago. I really need to work on using things quicker) and a bit of chili garlic sauce. I made a well in the center of the pan, added a bit of sesame oil, and cracked two eggs into the well, breaking up the yolks with my spatula. I let them cook a bit and then stirred everything together and left it in the pan as I washed some dishes, broke it all up so it wouldn't be a gigantic egg and rice patty, washed out the pan, and then came back up to my room to enjoy it as I did some reading for my environmental psychology class.

For the effort, I'd say it was quick, easy, tasty, and affordable. Unlike the cake I plan on attempting this weekend. Let's just say I should have a peachy time.