Celebrating Life

Six weeks before we got married, my husband and I were in a car accident. A bad car accident. The kind of accident that the paramedics show up to and expect fatalities. Amazingly, we suffered only relatively minor injuries (a concussion and broken shoulder-blade for me, and a badly sprained ankle and a head laceration for him). We were incredibly lucky, and we knew that. Our wedding took place as planned, both of us in some pain, but very happy to be alive and very happy to be together.

According to Jewish tradition, when you survive something that could have killed you (a car accident, a potentially deadly disease), you celebrate every year with a party, a feast of thanksgiving for being alive.

Last Sunday we held that party. We kept it simple, pizza and salad in the backyard, with family and friends joining us to celebrate.

However, I couldn’t resist making three desserts. The first, a cake, I made for our wonderful friends,Sam and Yulia who were celebrating their 4th wedding anniversary on that day. I made a vanilla bean white cake with vanilla buttercream because I love vanilla. And I made it turquoise because I wanted it to be pretty, but not too girly 🙂

This was my first time making a ruffle cake (I did not practice it at all), and I think it came out pretty well. I love how it looks so impressive, but it’s really very easy to make(HERE is a video tutorial).

I also made some fabulous fudgy brownies with chocolate ganache icing. I used my go-to recipe for brownies. I usually leave them plain, but decided to dress them up with the icing and some fun gold star sprinkles.

The last dessert I made was blueberry crumble bars. Perfect for the summer, and they got rave reviews from everyone there.

(Note: Sorry about the not-so-stellar pictures. I was running late and had to take them at the party, before it all got eaten up!)

Recipes:

Vanilla Bean White Cake

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar

9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature

4 1/2 cups (630 g) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (6 g) salt

2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk

1 tablespoon (15 mL) Nielson-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste, or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla paste (or seeds from the vanilla bean) and the vanilla extract into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. if possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset spatula, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.

5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. cool completely.

* Adapted from Sweetapolita

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

You will need to triple this recipe for a ruffle cake, using at least a 5-quart mixer.

5 large egg whites (make sure not to get even the slightest bit of yolk in there, or they will not whip up!)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Gel food color, optional

1. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with vinegar on a paper towel, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and heat over a pot of simmering water (not boiling), whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140°F (or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot).

2. With whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. Switch over to the paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if it curdles just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add fruit purees, other extracts or flavorings, or coloring.

3. Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes. Or freeze for up to 6-8 weeks.

*Adapted from Sweetapolita

Fudgy Brownies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar

1 cup (3 ounces) Dutch process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

2. In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it will become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

3. Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, then add the flour, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake the brownies for 29 to 32 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a tiny amount of crumb clinging to it. The edges of the brownies should be set, but the center still soft. remove the brownies from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Makes 24 2-inch brownies

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Chocolate Ganache Icing

1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream

2 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, heat the cream until it’s very hot. you should see wisps of steam beginning to rise from it, and some very tiny bubbles around the edge. Add the chocolate to the cream and stir until smooth. At first, the mixture will look very soupy, but keep stirring it and it will become a rich brown, thick shiny spreadable icing (I just let it sit, stirring occasionally, until thick).

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Blueberry Crumble Bars

Crust and topping

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup ( 8 ounces) brown sugar

1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) rolled oats

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats

 Filling

3 cups (15 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)

1/4 cup (2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest from 1 lemon), or 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour

Glaze

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted

2 to 3 teaspoons water

1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

2. To make the  crust and topping: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Using a mixer, pastry blender, or your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. transfer 2 cups of the crumbs to a bowl and set aside. Pat the remaining crumbs into the pan. bake the crust for 15 minutes and remove it from the oven.

2. T make the filling: While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, mix the berries with the brown sugar, lemon juice and zest, melted butter, cinnamon, and flour. Distribute the filling over the baked crust.

3. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top of the filling and return the bars to the oven. bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crumbs have browned. Remove from the oven.

4. To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle the glaze over the bars while they are still warm. Cool completely before cutting.

Makes 24 bars

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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3 thoughts on “Celebrating Life

  1. Pingback: Vanilla Bean Latte Ruffle Cake {A favorite Cake, Revisited} | Life Tastes Good

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