Lemon Basil Petit-Fours with Strawberry-Red Wine Filling

As Amanda mentioned in her amazing Guava Cake recipe, the prodigal return of the Great British Baking Show to Netflix has taken us by storm. This show has an amazing ability to make me crave baking like no other, and many a Saturday have been surrendered to bread proofing and pie making after even a small binge Baking Show session. As you have probably seen, Amanda also caught the bug. So, for this Distance Dishes date, we wanted to try a bake we’d never done, and play with some techniques we might not have tried.

I’ve been wanting to try petit-fours for a long time, and when I had my first taste one earlier in 2016, I knew I wanted to try to make it for myself. This was the perfect excuse to do it! I also had a basil plant growing out of control and wanted to incorporate it with complementary flavors and now here we are.

The cake is tart and fresh, the strawberries and wine add berry notes which are all to be tamed by the added sweetness of the pourable fondant. Since this was my first attempt, I did not want to invest in a special cutter, but thankfully with a sharp knife and a ruler, we can still achieve some cute little cakes.

Lemon Basil Pound Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded and chopped finely
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, either with a stand or hand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, and eggs, first on low speed until everything comes together, then on high speed for 5 minutes. Incorporate the milk and lemon juice into the sugar mixture, then add your flour mixture slowly. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in basil leaves.
  4. Spread your cake batter thinly and evenly over the lined baking sheets with an offset spatula.
  5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until springy when touched.
  6. Allow cake to cool completely before assembly.

Strawberry-Red Wine Filling:

  • 8 oz strawberries, roughly chopped and greens removed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup fruit forward red wine (I used a red blend with mentions of notes of berries on the label)
  • Pinch of lemon zest, if available

Instructions: 

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat all ingredients over low heat until the sugar granules are dissolved. Increase to medium heat so that the mixture is simmering.
  2. Stir over the heat for about 10 minutes until the strawberries lose their shape and the mixture thickens. The temperature should be around 220°F when finished.
  3. Strain through a sieve to help remove the seeds from the jam mixture.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use for the cake. Can be stored without canning procedures in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to a year.

Pourable Fondant Icing Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot water (I used plantation lemonade tea for something different, but not necessary)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring if desired
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions: 

  • Melt the white chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan or in 10-20 second increments in the microwave stirring in between each session until very smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and hot water into a large bowl and stir gently until smooth. You can also use a stand mixer on low if you have one.
  • Add the melted white chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth. If you’re using food coloring, this is also the time to add until you get the desired effect.
  • It is important to make sure this is still warm when you’re ready to use so make this immediately before you’re ready to dip your cakes (see assembly).

Assembly

  1. Once your cakes have cooled, trim the crust-type edges from the cakes so that you have clean sides.
  2. Portion and cut the remaining cake rectangle into three equal sections as these will make your three layers.
  3. Spread a layer of jam onto one of the new portions. Place another one of the portions on top, and top with additional jam. Top with the final cake portion.
  4. Repeat the trimming, portioning and layering with your other sheet of cake and then freeze all newly layered cake portions for 30 minutes.
  5. Once the cakes have hardened a bit, get out your ruler and a sharp knife and cut the cakes into equal, bite-size squares. I aimed for about 1.25″x1.25″ but however you’re able to portion these equally and what looked right to you will work.
  6. Freeze the cut cakes for another 15-30 minutes and make your pourable fondant just before you are ready to remove them from the freezer.
  7. Once you have your fondant ready, using a fork, slowly lower the mini-cakes into the fondant until submerged and shake off the excess. Carefully lower onto a cooling rack (with liner underneath) to harden. Repeat with all your cakes.
  8. You can decorate your new petit-fours with more melted chocolate drizzled over, sprinkles, or get crazy with traditional fondant if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy!
  9. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: The obvious choice for this would be to suggest the rest of the bottle you used to make the jam. However, if you’re like me and that bottle is looking a little low because you needed something to do while waiting for the jam, cakes and fondants to harden, then I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s Giggle Water Recipe since it’s a light, refreshing beverage perfect for an afternoon treat. 

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Tropical Layer Cake with Guava and Lime

I blame Netflix and The Great British Bake Off for this recipe. Merideth has been a longtime fan and I’ve finally caught on. I can’t help but crave sugary goodness after watching an episode (ok, many episodes).Since I’ve never been great at baking (so many precise measurements!), I decided to start with a basic layer cake. Excited about my upcoming trip to Miami for a long weekend, I decided to go with some tropical fruit flavors. Plus, it has juice so its healthier too, right?

Besides being patient during the cake-baking process, the biggest challenge was molding the fondant – the candy dough that I chose to decorate with. I bought this premade and dyed the fondant myself. My first note to self – make cuts in the fondant to insert the dye, rather than mixing it directly on the surface. I came away with pink hands! Second, and something I wish I had Googled before starting – the fondant can get sticky, especially as you work the dyes in. Like flouring your hands for bread dough, you can use powdered sugar to prevent stickiness.

Ingredients

Guava Cake

  • 1 cup guava nectar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 5 egg whites

Guava Jelly

  • 2 cups guava nectar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbs regular or coconut rum
  • 1 tbs lime zest, optional
  • 3 drops food coloring, or as needed

Instructions

Guava Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cake pans.
  2. Combine guava nectar and vanilla and, separately, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter until creamy, then gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Alternate adding nectar and flour mixture in small portions, beginning with flour, to the butter mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition until fully combined.
  5. Beat egg whites until still peaks form and fold into batter.
  6. Bake until toothpick dipped in center comes out clean, or about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks and allow to cool.
  8. To assemble cake, set aside two layers. Spoon guava jelly into center of bottom layer. Top with second layer and smooth edges with bread knife as necessary.
  9. Spread frosting over the top layers and top with shredded coconut or your preferred decoration. Enjoy!

Guava Jelly

  1. Dissolve sugar in guava nectar in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Make a paste of the cornstarch by adding a bit of water.
  3. Remove nectar from heat and stir in cornstarch.
  4. Once blended, return to heat and boil for 1 minute. Cool in refrigerator before use.

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract until combined, then lime juice and rum, as well as food coloring and lime zest if using. Beat with a mixer until spreadable and fluffy.

 

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Boston Creme Cake Balls

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When I was getting ready for my wedding, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough cake. I wanted to find a solution that would feed everyone delicious sweets and add my personal touch. At the time, I was falling in love with a local Austin shop that specialized in Cake Balls.I meant to serve everyone a few cake balls to supplement the cake we had bought so I started practicing. I ended up having enough cake afterall, but now I love making these cake balls and have added my own twist on the filling.

I’m sure we’ll look back on them as such a food fad, but I think they are the absolute perfect dessert. They are cake, frosting and chocolate all in one bite without the “I just ate a whole tub of sugar in that frosting” kind of feeling. It’s not too much, but just enough–although I have had days of eating these like candy too.

This particular recipe I did because I was coming to visit Amanda for her birthday AND graduation from business school all in one day. Since she and I both have connections with Boston, I decided to do my version of Boston Creme Pie in a cake ball.

I also wanted to celebrate her graduation so I tried to figure out a way to add little hats. They’re not the prettiest, but if you have square molds they might look a bit better. Hats are completely optional obviously, however I used melted chocolate cut into squares attached to a round caramel candy, but anything kind of cylindrical would work and a mini chocolate candy on the top. All of these were “glued” together with melted chocolate and then stuck on the top.

To make these delicious treats you will need:

1 box of cake mix baked with the ingredients and per the instructions on the box*

1/2 to 1 cup of buttercream frosting  (canned is fine, but recipe is below)

1 box of instant vanilla pudding mix & milk made per instructions on the box

16 oz of melting chocolate  or chocolate chips of your preferred sweetness

Your choice of sprinkles or graduation hat topping

*you can make your own cake with your favorite homemade recipe if you’d like but dipping these guys in chocolate is time consuming enough for me–box all the way

Makes : about 24

First, bake the cake according to the box instructions or per your favorite recipe. Allow to cool completely–sometimes I make this the day before. This is also the easiest part because shape and flatness doesn’t matter!

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First, make the vanilla pudding according to instructions on the box and chill until firm.

Funnel the completed pudding into a zip top bag and cut one of the bottom corner tips off to create a hole for piping.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe the pudding in little droplets onto the parchment paper so each one is about a 1/2 tablespoon of pudding.

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You’ll only need 30 pudding droplets at the most so if you’d like to use the rest of the  pudding for something else, you should have some leftover. However, if you’re on a piping roll, these do make good snacks on their own.

Put the baking sheet of pudding drops in the freezer and freeze until hardened.

In the meantime, break the cake into chunks and stick in your mixer fitted with a paddle. S

Spoon buttercream frosting into the cake and mix. The amount of frosting will depend on the kind of day and your preference, but it should make the cake moist enough to form ball that is not crumbly. I typically don’t use as much as other recipes recommend, but it is entirely up to you.

Chill cake for about 2 hours in the fridge. This will firm everything up.

Once everything is chilled, melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. If using microwave, I typically do this in 20 second increments, stir and repeat until smooth.

Also, line a baking sheet or flat surface that is easily transported to the fridge with parchment paper to prepare for the cake balls.

Then, use a disher or spoon to spoon out equal amounts of  the chilled cake/frosting dough and form into a ball the size of a golf ball.

Take a pudding drop from the freezer and stick into the ball like you’re hiding a pill for your pet inside a treat.

Roll the ball in your hands to smooth out and dip in the chocolate.

I am still perfecting my dipping technique but I have had the most luck with a trusty fork and then shaking off excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. When I transfer to the parchment paper I can usually smooth out the chocolate that was disrupted by the fork and cover with sprinkles or the topping.

As stated above, if you are using sprinkles as your topping, this is the time to add them while the chocolate is still wet. If doing graduation hats or something that needs to be “glued” into place, wait until everything is hardened.

Repeat with the rest of the cake and transfer what you have to the fridge for the chocolate to harden.

Keep in  fridge for 4-5 hours so the pudding inside can melt and then they are ready to consume!

Enjoy!

Birthday Cake Ice Cream

This last month was my birthday and graduation from grad school! Not that I need an excuse for birthday cake ice cream, but I thought that this might be the perfect chance to put my new ice cream maker to work ! Truthfully, this wasn’t my first batch of ice cream, because I’ve been a little obsessed. There were a few tricks that  I’d already learned through trial and error:

  • Custard-based ice cream (using egg) takes longer since it usually has to be heated at some point during the recipe and therefore needs more time to cool down. However, it makes a richer, more decadent ice cream compared to the milk base. Delicious! My favorite thus far: browned butter ice cream. Can’t wait to try it on pies this fall!
  • Cream-based ice cream takes less time, since the ingredients are usually combined already refrigerated, but letting the final cream sit and cool to let the flavors combine, even overnight, makes a better finished product.
  • Though you can eat it straight from the ice cream maker (quality control, of course), both custard- and cream- based  ice creams benefit from a quick refreeze to make a firmer consistency.

Being very particular on my birthday cake ice cream, I tried several recipes before finally settling on this one! I used funfetti ice cream (and added more sprinkles towards the end of the process), but this can work with plain yellow cake mix as well.

Ingredients

1 pint heavy cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup funfetti cake mix

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Additional sprinkles (to your preference)

  1. Blend all ingredients except sprinkles. Chill for at least two hours.
  2. Add mixture to ice cream machine and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Add additional sprinkles close to the end of the churning process (I added with approximately 5 minutes to go).
  4. Serve immediately or chill in freezer for firmer ice cream. Enjoy!