Saturday, July 4, 2015

Italian Cream Cake

My daughter-in-law celebrated a birthday earlier this week. I wanted to make a cake for her to enjoy while opening her gifts, so turned to my son for suggestions.  Without hesitation he said,She would like your Italian Cream Cake. 

I looked at him. My Italian Cream Cake? MY Italian Cream Cake? MINE?!"Huh.
In my considerable lifetime I have only made Italian Cream Cake three times. The first, back in the 80's when I initially got the recipe, the second, in May of 2008 for my son and his then-girlfriend, now wife, to enjoy, the third being this past week.  I felt extremely fortunate to be able to put my hand on the recipe, considering the time that had lapsed. Initially I googled in search of a recipe, only to find, with dismay, that there are any number of different recipes, many of which contain a cup of oil. Gadzooks!  Thankfully, I did find mine, the only one that I've seen, I might add, that requires each layer to be brushed with Amaretto prior to frosting. (Yes, you can now throw your other recipes out. This is THE one!)

(The May, 2008 cake. Note expensive dental work.)
This recipe is the best of the lot. It's a bit labor intensive, but can be made over the course of two days, as I did, making the cake one day and the frosting the next. It is moist and delicious, and quite filling with its three layers and all, so a small piece will do, in which case it yields plenty. It's a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and pretty to boot.

Italian Cream Cake

 For cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup shortening (I used Crisco)
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups chopped pecans, divided
¼ cup Amaretto liqueur

For frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1-pound box confectioners' sugar

To prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Pam, then line each with parchment paper rounds, and spray the rounds.

In the work bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and shortening.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Into another bowl sift together flour and baking soda. Beat flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until just combined. Beat in vanilla, and then the coconut and 1 cup of the chopped pecans. Beat egg whites in another bowl until they form stiff peaks and fold into batter until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter among pans and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cake layers in pans on racks 10 minutes and invert onto racks to cool completely.

Brush the top of each cake layer with Amaretto, this adds great flavor and allows even adhesion of the frosting.

To prepare frosting:
In a medium mixing bowl, mix cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add flavorings and sugar and beat slowly until combined, and then at high speed for another 3 minutes.  Remove ½ cup of frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip for decorating the cake.  Frost the cake with the remaining mixture, covering top and sides evenly.

Garnish with remaining 1 cup of chopped pecans.
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Friday, July 3, 2015

Pepperoni Pasta

I believe in omens. So, the other day, when I pulled one of my favorite cookbooks off of the shelf in search of a known recipe, and it fell open to a page that I never recalled seeing before, I took this as an omen that I MUST make that recipe. It was a recipe for Pepperoni Pasta that looked almost too simple to be any good, but we had all of the ingredients (frankly, I had been looking for something to do with the remainder of the pepperoni that I had bought to use in making the Inside-Out Ravioli), and considering that I had tasty leftovers in the fridge should this prove a massive failure, I figured I had nothing to lose.

What a delightful surprise this turned out to be! Easy to put together and fast cooking, the taste reminded me of a dish that we'd had in Italy called
Spaghetti all'Amatriciana. We both thoroughly enjoyed this dish and I think it is going to become one of my favorite pasta recipes. 
Pepperoni Pasta
Adapted from St. Louis Days St. Louis Nights

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni, cut into narrow strips
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pasta to serve two, cooked al dente
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a medium to large frying pan over medium heat and saute garlic and onion until transparent.

Add tomatoes and pepperoni. Saute to allow flavors to meld, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in cream, salt, and pepper.

Toss with pasta and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

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