Fluffy Italian Meringue Frosting

Also known as the “7 Minute Frosting”.  It is white and fluffy (like marshmallow fluff!), which makes it a great alternative if you prefer something lighter than the traditional buttercream frosting.  Because of its airiness, it definitely works best as a frosting or topping and not as a filling.  I used it in between the layers of a coconut cake, but didn’t like how the frosting was deflated by the weight of the top layers.

For the bronze swirl effect, cover the cake with a thin crumb coat and spread a thick layer of frosting over the crumb coat with an offset spatula.  Next, draw decorative swirls with a toothpick.  Using a kitchen blow torch, lightly toast the meringue (keep moving the torch and don’t hold the flame steadily in one spot), darkening the peaks and swirls.

And then smile and wipe your brow as everyone oohs and aahs over the beautiful presentation that must have taken forever to prepare.  The frosting part probably took less than ten minutes.  But you don’t need to tell them that.

Fluffy Italian Meringue Frosting
(makes about 3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup water
3 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cook sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil until a candy thermometer registers 248°F, about 5 minutes.

While the syrup boils, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the syrup in a small stream into egg whites, while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer, until the mixing bowl is cooled to the touch, about 7 minutes.  The mixture should be thick and glossy.  Stir in vanilla.  Frost the cake immediately.

*The frosting can keep for about three days in the fridge in an airtight container.  Re-whip the frosting right before you’re ready to use it.

*Use a different flavor extract for a different frosting flavor.  And feel free to add food coloring.  Personally, I just love the white glossy look.


Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart

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I’ve been posting plenty of dessert recipes as of late.  Is your brain in a delightful sugary fog yet?  If not, here is one more sweet treat for you before we ring in the New Year!

Every once in a while, an idea for a recipe pops into my head, and I can’t believe I’ve missed something so obvious.  My original plan for this pecan pie was to drizzle some melted chocolate over it after it cooled.  As I was mixing the pie filing, I had a light bulb moment and decided to fold in the melted chocolate as well.  And it was the best decision ever!  I’m thinking that this would be a great addition to your party dessert lineup.  It’s traditional enough, but won’t get lost in the shuffle.   Perfect for chocolate lovers and pecan lovers alike (I happen to be both!)

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Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart
Recipe adapted from Karo Syrup
(makes 9″ tart)

1 unbaked pie crust
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1½ cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare the crust by rolling out the dough and fit it into a tart pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla extract. While stirring, drizzle melted chocolate into the mixture steadily.  Stir in pecans.  The mixture will be glossy and thick.

Pour filling into pie crust and bake for 70 minutes, or until the filling appears set in the middle.  Cool tart for at least half an hour before serving.  Top with whipped cream or ice cream.

*If the filling is not yet set but the crust is getting browned, cover the crust with aluminum foil and continue baking.

*Whenever I’m working with liquid pie or tart filing, I always put the pan in a disposable aluminum pan before placing it in the oven because the filling might overflow during baking.  When it comes out of the oven, the filling will likely puff up, but will shrink down once it is cooled.  If it doesn’t, just gently press the filling back into the pan with a spatula.

*To serve, you can cut them into slivers- or bite-sized squares if you’re using a square or rectangular tart pan- for your guests to sample.


Chocolate Ganache Cake Truffles

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Merry Christmas to you!  I hope your day has been nothing but merry and bright!

Every year around the holidays, I make a long list of sweet treats that I want to bake.  These cake truffles have been on my list for a couple of weeks now, and for some reason I keep pushing them back.  The shortage of baking ingredients in my local grocery stores doesn’t help at all.  I’ve been hoarding the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and unsalted butter for the things I really, really must bake, and since it’s Christmas, I have to make them!

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My original plan was to make cake lollipops, but while rummaging through my pantry, I found these red mini cupcake liners and decided to make cake truffles instead.  I topped these bite-sized morsels with some crushed peppermint candy for a festive flair.  How elegant do they look?  And they are a lot of fun to eat, too.

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Let the record show that the best way to remove chocolate ganache from your hands does not involve soap and water…

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There was a dusting of snow around these parts yesterday, but not enough to give us a white Christmas.  But that’s alright.  I’m currently hanging out at my parents’ place and am trying to fill the next few days with as much family time, food, and holiday cheer as possible.  So far, I’ve eaten a fair share of my mom’s ribs, seafood salad, and plenty of snacks (my parents’ attempt to feed my inner junk food junkie).  I can already feel my stomach bulging!  Anyhow, I shall resume watching the NBA Christmas Day special and helping my mom with the dinner preparation.  I heard that her oxtail stew is on the menu tonight.  Let’s see if I can coax her into giving me the recipe.

Wherever you are, I wish you a happy, safe, and delicious holiday season!

Chocolate Ganache Cake Truffles
(makes about 16 truffles)

4 cups chocolate cake crumbs (recipe for chocolate cake here)
1½ cups warm chocolate ganache, divided (recipe below)
Colored sprinkles or sanding sugar for decoration (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.  Set aside.

Combine cake crumbs and ½ cup of chocolate ganache in a bowl and mix until well blended. Mix in additional ganache if necessary.  Roll them into 1-inch balls and let them set in the refrigerator for one hour.  Use a melon baller or small cookie scoop to form cake balls.  Dip them into the remaining chocolate ganache, one at a time, making sure that they are coated completely.  Using two forks, lift out the cake truffles and then let the excess ganache drip off.  Place them on a baking sheet and transfer to the refrigerator for the chocolate coating to set.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

*Depending on how moist your cake crumbs are, you may have to add more or less ganache. Start with ¼ cup and add more for the crumbs to become a dense, moist dough, but not so much that the mixture becomes soft and mushy.

*To make cake pops, dip about 1 cm of lollipop sticks in melted chocolate and insert into the cake balls.  Let it set in the refrigerator before dipping them into the ganache for coating.

*If you prefer a thin coating, heat the ganache in the microwave.  The hotter it is, the easier for the excess to drip off.  If you prefer a thicker coating, let the ganache cool and thicken before dipping the cake balls into it.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
(yields 1 ½ cup)

3 tbsp corn syrup
6 oz heavy cream
12 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, combine corn syrup and heavy cream, and bring to a simmer.  Add the chocolate and stir until it is melted and the ganache has a smooth and shiny consistency.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.

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