RECIPE: Vanilla Cake filled with Passion Fruit Cream

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I had to whip up a cake quickly for a dinner with some dear friends of ours, and I have a go-to vanilla frosting and a simple vanilla egg cake in my repertoire, but I wanted a little something special in the middle of the cake to spice things up. I was given some amazing Rare Bird preserves as a Christmas gift, and one was a jarred passion fruit curd. Curds are a nice way to fill a cake, and there are quite a few jarred at the grocery store in the jam aisle to make things easy for you if you don't have passion fruit. I often buy a lemon curd and have it on hand in the fridge for emergencies.

Curds and custards can be tricky to fill a cake with, but my method below does help the filling from seeping out the edges. You build up a mini wall of frosting around the edge of the cake layers. It works like a charm!

The cake was a hit. Our friends liked the unexpected tropical twist in the center. A coconut frosting might be a neat variation for an even more tropical flavor profile. Maybe next time!


Vanilla Cake filled with Passion Fruit Cream

Ingredients:

Cake

2 2/3 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs

Whipped Vanilla Frosting

1 cup milk (full fat or low fat) 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 well rounded teaspoons vanilla

Filling

1/2 cup frosting
1 cup jarred passion fruit curd
(we used rare bird passion fruit curd. You can replace it with a jarred lemon or lime too for more of a citrus twist!)


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray 9" round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, and lay a cut-to-size piece of parchment onto the bottom of the pan. Set pan aside.


In a medium size bowl mix the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.


Whip the butter until fluffy and creamy using a stand mixer. Add the sugar and whip until light and fluffy, scraping the sides as you go. Add the eggs, and the vanilla extract, and whip until light and fluffy. Alternate the flour with the milk until just combined. Pour the batter evenly into the pans, and bake on a center rack for about 25-30 minutes.


Toothpick in the center should come out clean, and the cakes have a light golden color on top. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then invert to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cakes cool, make the frosting.


In a small saucepan over medium low heat, whisk flour with the milk and the vanilla. Whisk constantly, moving to a spoon midway until mixture becomes very thick. Take off heat and cool completely. It may be a good idea to get this done earlier so it has time to sit and cool. If this mixture is warm in any way, the frosting will not come together, but separate and get congealed and well...weird.










With a mixer, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Gradually add the milk mixture a few Tablespoons at a time until all combined. It should look like a fluffy butter cream, and quite spreadable.

Quickly make the filling by mixing the curd with 1/2 cup of the frosting. Chill until ready to use.

Assembly:







Take the first layer of cake and place on your cake platter, and pipe or spread a "wall" around the edge of the cake. Then spoon the curd filling at the center. The frosting around the edge allows the filling to stay at the center. Gently place the 2nd cake layer on top, and do the same thing. Then place the third. Spread a thin crumb layer all over the top and sides of the cake. Chill the cake for 10 minutes, then frost the cake completely and serve. Keep chilled.




LIFESTYLE: 2nd Annual Top Ten "WTH? Finds" at Goodwill

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This year's picks validate the quote: "Just because you CAN make something doesn't mean you should". I am a BIG thrifter, and you can certainly find some great treasures. But there is also no shortage of crap, the whole reason stuff is given away in the first place, right? It takes patience and a trained eye to pick through the crap for treasure.

My friends and I during our annual  Girl Scout leader retreat visit a Wisconsin Goodwill to see what we can find, and try and find the most ridiculous things for a good laugh, and share them with you.

Enjoy!

*****************

1:
Ok, I want to say that first, I am first generation Italian, so the amount of Catholic “bling” I grew up wearing or was around would make the Vatican jealous. St. Christopher’s medals, golden crosses in various metals and stones, Virgin Mary charms…the religious accessory list goes on. I don’t have a problem wearing religion, just do it tastefully and stylishly.

This is neither. Looks more like a Tim Burton Halloween prop.


2:
This looks like zombie apocalypse meets the a gingerbread house. We think it may hold spoons in the hole the arms make, which will look like it’s getting impaled. Beyond the frightening design, it’s not very functional if it can only hold 2 utensils.


3:
So what's more disturbing, this creepy hobo looking guy thrusting up in the air, using a "tree" for support, the weird inappropriate "bulge" in his pants, the hybrid clown-hobo face, or the fact that you need to hold him to drink whatever you would put in this thing?
All the things.

4:
This is pretty self explanatory. I mean. WOW. 
However, this turned into a valentine gift/joke for one my friends for her husband, complete with Raisenettes. It was well received and the kids thought it was hilarious. Kudos to their relationship! My husband would not talk to me for a week if I gave him that. 

5:
We couldn't figure what Ziggy was doing, and how functional this thing was. I kept thinking Ziggy was about to dumpster dive into a garbage can. Our conclusion was a pool, as a "cup".  A very very small....cup.


6:
Lisa found this box labeled "mask vase". We then opened it up, and sure enough, a creepy, small mask vase was nestled inside. I cannot think what kind of flowers you would put in this thing. It's very short, and not very wide. And any flower you would put in here would completely clash with the tasteful color palette painted on this wonderful piece of art for your home.


7:
How META, finding a yard sale game at a thrift shop? Gather the kids together Friday night to play YARD SALE! The objective, find as much stuff as you can so none of it gets thrown away. Thus the reason why Hoarders is a much watched TV show.


8:
Ok. Cats are fun on the Internet. But on a big, style'n purse? With groovy glasses? Do you get a "Hang in there" cat poster as a gift with purchase?

9: 
You are reading this right. No need to rub your eyeballs. This is the "Potty Golfer". Skip the fishing magazines for the hubby, and get this! What if the ball goes too far while doing your business? Don't think too hard about it. You'll throw up in your mouth a little bit.


10:
 This sweater looks like a yarn garden threw up all over it. I saw later in the day a paper gift bag and a pillow that looked much like this. It looked much better on a pillow.

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Chicken, Bacon and Kale Gnocchi Soup

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When hubby goes on his fishing weekends, it's basically a girls' weekend at the house. We get to cook a lot of what we like, and because I am on my own, I rely on the crock pot for at least one meal to help me out. This recipe caught my eye from a great food blog, 365daysofcrockpot.com. We love gnocchi, and I was able to find some gluten free gnocchi for me. I just cooked the gnocchi separately (normal for my daughter and the GF ones for me) and set the aside until soup assembly time. It worked out great, and kept the consistency more soupy. If you cook gnocchi in the soup for the last ten minutes, I would imagine it would thicken up the soup a bit.

I did make other alterations to the recipe, the main one being using real bacon, and cooking it at the beginning of the recipe, and using the pan and the drippings to cook the other ingredients so there is a smokier, deeper flavor throughout the soup. I also added the red pepper flakes for a little kick. If you want to skip the heat, the original recipe used a bay leaf instead.

Give this recipe a try for a busy day. Prep as much as you can the day before and assembly should be quick.

Slow Cooker Chicken, Bacon and Kale Gnocchi Soup
Adapted from 365 days of crock pot

Ingredients:

4 oz. (5-6 slices) bacon
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts 
1 medium onion, grated
3 medium carrots, grated
3 celery stalks, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
5 cups chicken stock 
4 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed in 4 Tbsp. water
2 cups fat free half and half
1-2 lbs gnocchi
3 kale leaves, veins trimmed out, leaves roughly chopped 
1/2 cup Parmesan for topping

Directions:



Grate the vegetables, and mince the garlic, and set it all aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl add the red pepper flakes with oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper and set aside. First, cook the bacon until crispy over medium heat. Set the bacon aside, and store in the fridge until ready to use in the recipe. Drain off the drippings except for about 1 Tbsp. and return the pan to the stove.


In the pan over medium heat add the chicken to the bacon drippings and sear both sides until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to the crock pot, and return the pan to the heat. 


In the same pan over medium heat, now add the grated vegetables and the minced garlic. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the spices, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables are soft, scraping the pan as you stir to get all the caramelization and juices from the bacon and chicken. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours, or until chicken is tender. 

 

 

Remove chicken and place on a cutting board and shred. Turn the slow cooker to high. Mix 4 Tbsp of cornstarch with an equal amount of water and stir together until smooth. Stir into the slow cooker with the chicken, and recover to keep the heat in. 

Warm the half and half in the microwave for 1-2 minutes (or else it will curdle) and add it into the slow cooker. Stir well.




Chop the bacon up, and it to the soup with the kale. If you want, you can add the gnocchi in at this point to cook the gnocchi with the soup. Alternately you can cook the pasta separately and add it to the soup to serve. Let the kale and bacon cook on high for 10 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Ladle into serving bowls and top each serving with a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

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