Florentine Cookies + The Cookiepedia Book Giveaway {Winners Announced}

Happy Spring!

Well, sort of. It’s still snowing on and off here in Southern Ontario, but I’m hopeful. The good news is that this week is the first week in over 9 months during which I’ve been able to frolic freely in the kitchen and bake anything I wish. So Florentine cookies it was. And you guys, these are amazing. See, quite awhile back, I became enamoured with my talented friend Stacy Adimando’s cookbook, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, and I’ve been dying to make something, or everything, from it. 

So when I spotted a recipe for Florentines in her book, I knew I had to make them. And although Florentines are known to be an Italian treat (as the name suggests), I first fell in love with these crunchy, nutty discs of caramelized delight back when I was a teenager working at an Austrian bakery. When I googled this, I realized that appears to be a small debate regarding the Florentine cookie’s origin, but it’s safe to say that it is celebrated in not only Italy and Austria, but now here in my kitchen.  These are the most decadent and surprisingly simple cookies to prepare in all of the land, and I’ll just never get over them. I won’t.

So what exactly is a Florentine? Well, there are some variations, but typically they are super-thin, round, caramelized almond cookies made from butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt and of course almonds, and there is usually some form of dark chocolate added. As you probably noticed in my photos, these ones are drizzled with chocolate as Stacy’s recipe includes, but many have their entire bottoms dipped in chocolate with a distinct pattern added, and include additional ingredients, such as candied fruit. Think of them as individual, lacy almond brittles that shatter in your mouth like little round sheets of nutty, buttery, caramel crack. Sometimes it actually kind of freaks me out that we have the power to create such deliciousness in our own kitchens, especially when it only takes a matter of minutes.

Stacy explains that the idea behind her book was to give 50 classic cookie recipes, and then offer ways to spin them into more modern versions with tons of ideas for adapting the recipes for countless variations. So, for example, she shares a chocolate chip recipe, but also a dark chocolate sea salt chip. And a peanut butter cookie, but also a pistachio butter cookie, and so many more. One of the reasons I love Stacy’s book most, aside from the gorgeous photography and charming illustration work, is that the recipes range so greatly–think everything from frosted animal crackers to French macarons, sables to sesame crisps, and so many more.

I know you guys will adore this book, if you don’t already that is, so I’m excited to host a The Cookiepedia giveaway! I have 3 copies of this go-to cookie book, courtesy of Stacy and Quirk Books, and I will be sending a copy to 3 lucky readers!

I’m also excited to share this recipe for the Florentines–they truly are of the most exquisite cookies I have tasted in a long time. I’ve listed the recipe just as it is in the book, but I have also added the ingredient weights, just in case, as well as some of my own notes below.

Florentine Cookies with Chocolate Drizzles

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch round cookies

Decadent nutty, buttery, caramelized cookie discs drizzled in dark chocolate. Recipe as printed in The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 grams) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (210 grams) sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set them aside.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup together over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the cream and salt and do the same.
  3. Let cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then add in the almonds and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes until the mixture thickens and starts to move around the pan in one mass. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Drop 4 small spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving as much room between them as possible (the baked cookies will spread to about triple the size).
  5. Using an offset spatula or a wet hand, spread and flatten the batter into 3-inch rounds, creating a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until edges are brown and centers are just turning golden.
  7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and immediately reshape the cookies back into 3-inch circles, using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to drag the batter back into place and round the edges. The cookies will harden within a few minutes.
  8. tip: if they harden too fast, just return them to the oven for a minute or so.
  9. Cool the reshaped cookies until they are firm and cool enough to handle. Then move them to a wire rack covered with parchment paper to set completely.
  10. As the optional (though delicious and suggested) finisher, melt the chocolate, in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the Florentines. Let harden.
  11. Florentine Ice Cream Sandwiches
  12. When the cookies have cooled completely, skip the chocolate drizzle. Let a container of coffee or vanilla ice cream sit out, or microwave at 10-second intervals, until it's soft enough to dollop. In the meantime, lay half the Florentines on a parchment-lined baking sheet flat side up. Drop a heaping spoonful of the softened ice cream (about 2-3 tablespoons) into the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Cover the baking sheet loosely with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop for my cookies, and they spread quite a bit, yielding more of a very thin, large 5 1/2-inch round cookie, but I love them this size, so I simply worked to round the edges when they first came out of the oven. Use about 1 teaspoon size spoon for 3-inch cookies, or somewhere in between.
  • Much like a caramel concoction of any kind, the longer you heat (bake) the cookies, the darker and more intense the caramel flavour and colour will be, so there is a little room for personal preference with the baking times. I baked 1 sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven, and kept the cookies in for the full 8 minutes. Once they start to turn golden, they have the potential to burn very quickly, so I recommend keeping a super-close eye on them at that point, and remove them from the oven quickly.
  • It might seem as though it’s going to take a lifetime to bake 36 cookies when 4-to-a-tray, but at 8 minutes each, time, it goes by really quickly!
  • I just used a fork to “fling” the melted chocolate onto the cookies in a fun drizzly criss-cross pattern.
  • Stacy mentions that these cookies are best enjoyed right after cooling, and I can certainly agree that these are amazing in that window of time (I could not stop eating them), but I then sealed them in a Ziploc bag after the chocolate drizzle set, and they’re still going strong (ahem) and tasting fabulous at the end of day 2.

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Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Twinkie Bundt Cake

Twinkie Bundt Cake via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I’ve never had a Twinkie. How is this possible? Well, I am Canadian after all but that’s still no excuse. With the latest buzz about the Hostess trouble and potential Twinkie production coming to a halt in the U.S., I suppose we Canadians should be excited about the fact that they will continue to be manufactured and distributed here, from what I’ve read. (Isn’t it ironic?) So even though they are available in Canada, I still think of them as an all-American snack.

But really, to have one might just be to say I’ve had one. The truth is I think I’d take homemade Twinkie-ness over the store-bought variety, any day. What I do have fond memories of, however, are Canada’s answer to the Twinkie: Vachon’s 1/2 Moon Cakes (and incidentally, this is the same company who manufactures Twinkies here in Canada). My mom used to buy 1/2 Moons for me, along with a few other Canadian gems, such as Jos Louis cakes (red velvet cakes sandwiching vanilla cream filling and dipped in milk chocolate) and Passion Flakies (flaky pastry filled with cream and fruit filling). There was something about the vanilla-vanilla 1/2 Moons, though, that had my heart. And Twinkie or 1/2 Moons–no matter what you call these treats, the appeal is the same: moist golden vanilla cake sandwiching sweet white vanilla filling. Essentially what childhood dreams are made of. But still, the thought of all of those chemicals and preservatives make me shudder . . .

So when I excitedly opened Shauna Sever’s latest book, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques, and saw her recipe for Twinkie Bundt Cake, I knew that everything was going to be alright with the world again. And if that wasn’t enough, her book boasts countless vanilla recipes supreme, along with a ton of history about and techniques for working with this beloved bean. When it was time to choose a recipe from her book to share with you, I was completely perplexed because I was intrigued by each and every one of them.

In the first week I had the book I made her Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Cookies, Honey-Vanilla Granola Clusters, Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies and Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars. I literally couldn’t stop. They were all incredible and the recipes were, in true Shauna style, all winners. (And let us not forget the delightful Vanilla Bean Marshmallows I made from her first book when I blogged about my Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores.) Then when I made this Twinkie Bundt Cake, I truly couldn’t wait to share it with you.

Twinkie Bundt Cake via Sweetapolita

So what exactly is a Twinkie Bundt Cake? It’s a from-scratch, moist, golden, super-vanilla, cream-filled cake–essentially one big homemade Twinkie. While the flavours are classic, the hit of marshmallow creme in the filling bumps the sweetness of this cake just enough to make it a complete throwback to childhood. What I found most surprising about this cake was that it was so easy to make and fill, it stayed gloriously moist for days, and had so much true vanilla flavour. Shauna pulled the Twinkie-factor off in a big, huge, vanilla parade kind of way.

So here is the recipe just as it is in the book, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques, with my addition of ingredient weights whenever possible:

Twinkie Bundt Cake

Yield: Serves 10

From the book, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. Shauna says, "This cake is essentially an enormous from-scratch version of the iconic American snack cake, with the vanilla flavor amplified and made with pronounceable ingredients. It's golden and terrifically moist, and its cream-filled cross-section is an instant joy-inducer."

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 6 tablespoons (90 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 (7.5 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick)(114 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat overn to 325°F. Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust it lightly with flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and beat until evenly mixed, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in oil. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating additions, ending with the buttermilk, and continue to mix on low speed until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain. Turn off mixer and fold batter several times by hand to ensure everything is well incorporated, and then pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the cake is golden, the top springs back when lightly pressed, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
  6. For the Filling:
  7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together marshmallow creme and butter until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
  8. With the cake still in the pan, use a paring knife or apple corer to cut 6 or 7 deep holes into the bottom of the cake, each about 3/4 inch in diameter; be careful not to cut through top of cake. Discard (i.e., nibble) cake scraps. With your fingers, gently burrow a horizontal tunnel around the center of the cake, connecting the vertical holes.
  9. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into each hold and squeeze in filling, tilting pastry bag back and forth as you work to encourage filling into the horizontal tunnel through the cake. When cake is filled, use a spatula to scrape away excess filling from the bottom of the cake. Quickly and carefully invert cake onto serving platter. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired, and serve.
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Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Weekend! First off, before we talk cake, I want to let you know that the crazy website problems I’ve been having the last few days should hopefully be officially better now, so you should no longer have any issues getting onto my site. My current website server has really let me down (I think a switcheroo is in order!), but it seems that things are back in action and working smoothly. If for some reason you ever do have trouble getting to the site, just know that you can always google “sweetapolita printables” + the recipe you’re looking for, and you should find the printable version (but fingers crossed that won’t be an issue ever again).

Now, onto cake! When I was pondering what type of creation would make the ultimate back-to-school cake for our cakelet Reese, I kept thinking about what ingredients make kids happiest–particularly my kids. My littlest cakelet, Neve, is turning three next week so she’s still home with me for another year, but Reese is starting Senior Kindergarten at a new school and she takes her most favourite snacks at home very seriously: peanut butter, mini pastel marshmallows, popcorn, chocolate and cake. I wanted to make her a back-to-school confection that was as comforting as it was playful, and then I remembered an incredibly inspirational book I received awhile back called Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg. This book boasts unique and delightful cakes, including Rose & Strawberry Cake with Crystallized Roses, Chocolate Dazzle Drop Cake, Chocolate Polka Dot Tower, and of course the cake I decided to make and that answers every child’s sweet dreams: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake was surprisingly quick to make, even with all of the different elements, and what I found hard to believe was that I had never thought to make a peanut butter layer cake before–with the simple addition of peanut butter to a fairly classic butter cake, it gives it a unique decadence and nutty twist. Paired with two types of rich frosting and the ultimate sweet & salty topper, it’s a wonder I didn’t give this one a make & bake the moment I received the book a few months ago.

I love this cake for many reasons, but most of all I love its irresistible call to childhood on all counts: peanut butter & chocolate chip layer cake, peanut butter & cream cheese frosting (with a hint of maple!), chocolate fudge frosting, and homemade caramel corn tossed with mini pastel marshmallows and peanuts (which, I might add, is an amazing little treat on its own).

My cakelets were able to help me with so many of the steps in making this cake: Reese made most of the chocolate fudge frosting herself, Neve helped me make the cake layers and peanut butter frosting, and they both helped me mix the popcorn. As Annie mentions in the book, this cake with all of its components tastes much like a Snickers chocolate bar and makes for the perfect celebration cake for kids. And what better reason to celebrate than the start of a new school year? Not only does the cake taste as decadent as it looks, but I find great joy in creating a dessert that has several elements all combined for one show-stopping finale–particularly when one of the components is as unexpected as it is tasty, as with this whimsical pile of caramel popcorn heaped atop the cake.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Imagine coming home from school to this? I made this prior to Reese’s first day, but I may have to make it again (or in cupcake form–wouldn’t that be fun?) next week while she’s at school for the first day. She’s been counting down the days until school starts, and not only starts school next week but ballet–she can barely stand the anticipation.

We went back to school shopping, and it was a Hello Kitty extravaganza (dresses, pants, ear muffs, lunch bag, school bag, hair clips, sweaters . . . ). Since Hello Kitty was one of my favourites as a child (incidentally, she made her first appearance in 1974, the year I was born), I can’t help but feel the same connection to it as Reese does–between little cakelet Neve, myself and Reese, we’re pretty much like kids in a candy shoppe when we walk into stores with Hello Kitty clothing and accessories. It’s really hard for me to believe that she’s 5 years old and already in her second year of school. At this point I find myself holding on a little tighter and little longer when I hug her, perhaps with hopes of making the time stand still. ♥

Here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg (my notes below):

peanut butter & chocolate cake with salted caramel popcorn

350 g/2-2/3 cups plain/all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of/baking soda

150 g/10 tablespoons butter, soft

100 g/1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

350 g/1-3/4 cups (caster) sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 ml/1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

125 g/3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 quantity Chocolate Fudge Frosting

peanut butter frosting

200 g/6-1/2 oz. cream cheese

50 g/3-1/2 tablespoons butter, soft

75 g/1/3 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons maple syrup

salted caramel popcorn

50 g/1/4 cup (caster) sugar

25 g/2 tablespoons butter

50 g/2 cups plain popcorn (popped weight)

50 g/1/3 cup roasted peanuts

50 g/1/3 cup chocolate chips

50 g/2/3 cup mini marshmallows

three 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and baselined with greased baking parchment

serves 12

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate/baking soda.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until really pale and light–at least 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter in 4 or 5 additions, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the bowl from time to time with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to the cake mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Mix until smooth, then fold in the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake pans, scraping the mixture from the bowl using a rubber spatula. Spread level with a palette knife and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the  middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the peanut butter frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup and beat again until creamy.

To make the salted caramel popcorn, put the sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small, heavy-based saucepan over low heat and dissolve the sugar without stirring. Once dissolved, increase the heat and continue to cook until the syrup turns into an amber-coloured caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, swirling to make a smooth butterscotch. Quickly pour the butterscotch over the popcorn and stir well so that it starts to stick together in clumps. Add the peanuts (chopped, if you prefer), chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving dish and spread half the peanut butter frosting over it. Carefully spread one-third of the Chocolate Fudge Frosting over that. Cover with a second cake layer. Repeat this process, finishing with the last cake layer and the remaining chocolate fudge frosting on top of that. Pile the salted caramel popcorn on top just before serving.

chocolate fudge frosting

350 g/12 oz. dark/semisweet chocolate, chopped

225 g/15 tablespoons butter, diced

175 ml/2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

350 g/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over pan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. Removed from the heat and cool slightly.

In another bowl whisk together the milk, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Let thicken to the desired consistency before using.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Annie’s recipe calls for chocolate chips in the Salted Caramel Popcorn mixture, but I opted to omit them, mostly because I was assembling the popcorn and ready to photograph the cake while the caramel was still a little warm–this would have melted the chocolate chips into kind of a yucky mess. Next time if I was adding the chocolate chips, I would simply wait until the caramel corn was completely cool.
  • I used vanilla sugar (as I did here) when making the caramel for the popcorn–yum!
  • You can make the caramel popcorn ahead of time, but be sure to add it only before you are serving the cake, otherwise it will become a bit soggy.
  • I made the cake layers day 1, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and left them at room temperature, made the frosting, made the popcorn and assembled the cake all on day 2.

Good luck & enjoy!



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Lemon Meringue Milkshakes & Mini Swirl Meringues

If you hear a muffled cry for help or cake, it’s likely me from under the endless boxes and stacks of stuff I’ve been getting ready to move in a few weeks. This is the first time we’ve ever moved a full house-load of things, and after 5 years of collecting cake tools, baking supplies, cake pedestals, food props, little girls’ toys, and more (oh, so much more), I may not make it out unscathed. And the thing is, when you’re in the thick of a move and the peak of the hot summer months, creating fancy cakes isn’t as likely as I would have hoped, but that doesn’t mean delightful desserts aren’t possible and, if anything, they’re more necessary than ever.

I recently received this irresistible book, Milkshake Bar by Hanna Miles, and it hit me–milkshakes are where I need to be right now, and vice versa. This book is filled with so much chilly inspiration (think creamy, jelly-filled Doughnut Floats served with a skewer of mini doughnuts; sweet and sponge-candy-topped Honeycomb Shakes; and refreshing, bright and bubbly Raspberry Ripple Floats) that can come to be in just moments–a concept that is much-welcomed in my world right now.

After first flip through the book, I was immediately drawn to the creamy & sunshiney awesomeness that is the Lemon Meringue Milkshake. It seems that my dessert-choices have been colour-driven lately, and bright yellow has my heart these days. And, as you probably remember, I have a real thing for lemony desserts (such as these and this), and since I always have Lemon Curd in my freezer, this recipe was super-simple to make.

What’s funny is that I made these meringues the day before with the intention to blog something totally different (which I will still do), so when I saw the recipe for the Lemon Meringue Milkshake called for a mini meringue topper, I knew it was all meant to be. To make life easier, you could certainly buy some mini meringues to top yours with, but if you do have the time to make these, they are incredible on their own and really satisfy the need for a little hit of sugar–2 for the shakes and 43 for you to innocently sneak, one-by-one, from the airtight container in which they happily sit. Makes good sense, right?

Made with whole milk, ice cream, lemon curd and lemon yogurt, this milkshake is a chilly creamy, dreamy, lemon confection that is sure to hit the sweet spot. ♥ And okay, okay–I did intentionally coordinate Nevie’s jumper with the milkshake, but I simply couldn’t resist!

Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Milkshakes          {click to print}

 

 

 

 

shared with permission, as written in the book Milkshake Bar by Hanna Miles

Lemon Meringue

3 tablespoons lemon curd

300 ml/1-1/4 cups lemon yogurt

3 scoops lemon or vanilla ice cream

300 ml/1-1/4 cups milk, chilled

2 mini meringues

2 soda glasses, chilled

2 straws

a squeezy bottle of piping bag with a small round nozzle tip

SERVES 2

Put two tablespoons of the lemon curd in a squeezy bottle or piping bag and pipe a lemon spiral onto the inside of each glass.

Put the yogurt, ice cream, milk and remaining tablespoon of lemon curd in a blender and whizz until smooth.

Pour into the prepared glasses and top each with a meringue. Serve immediately with straws and a spoon to eat the meringue.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • I typically have this Lemon Curd in my freezer at all times, because it’s such an easy way to add sunshine to any dessert, frosting, ice cream or even drink. You don’t need to thaw it, just pull what you need and it quickly softens back up.
  • You could certainly simplify the process by using store-bought lemon curd and prepared mini meringues (if you’re lucky enough to find those in the shops near you).
  • After pouring the milkshakes and topping with the meringue, they actually kept really nicely while I photographed Neve with hers, so if you’re preparing for a group at a luncheon or party, they should present nicely, even after you prepare an entire tray of them.
  • For my mini meringues, I used the Swiss Meringue method (heating the sugar and egg whites to 140°F, then whipping until reaches stiff peaks), but you could prepare the meringues any way you’re used to or prefer. You could simplify this process by creating pure white meringues, rather than the swirl variety.
Here’s the recipe for the meringues, and although this would be a lot of work for serving a couple of milkshakes, these are crispy, melt-in-your-mouth confections that you can serve by the platter-full and they would be gobbled up in seconds. They also make delightful cupcake toppers and cake decorations. I’ve also been told that they taste particularly Keep them at room-temperature in an airtight container.

Mini Swirl Meringues

 

 

 

 

Yield: ~45 1-inch round mini meringue swirls

Ingredients

3 egg whites (approximately 90 grams/3 ounces)

3/4 cup (150 grams/5 ounces) sugar

A drop of Americolor Electric Yellow  (or colour/shade of your choice)

One Decorating Bag, 14-Inch or 18-inch

Pastry tip #1A 

Small paintbrush

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.

2. Add egg whites and sugar to the mixer bowl and fit onto the top of a medium saucepan filled with about 1-inch of simmering (not boiling) water. (Be sure the bottom of your bowl is not touching the water.) Whisk constantly but gently, 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.

3. Dry the underside of the mixer bowl and transfer to your stand mixer. Whip using the whisk attachment until the meringue is thick and glossy and has reached the stiff peak stage.

4. While the meringue is whipping in the mixer, fit your decorating bag with a plain round pastry tip. Fold over a cuff at the top of the pastry bag and paint 3, equally-spaced, thin lines of yellow gel colour using your fine paint brush (you can use any paint brush, but it should only be one you designate for food) from the pastry tip up toward the cuff.

5. Fill the bag with your meringue (no more than 2/3 full) and pipe small swirls onto your lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart.

6. Bake at 200°F for 60 minutes, rotating the trays after 30 minutes. Lower the oven to 175°F and bake until dry, about 40 minutes more.

I’ll see you soon with some birthday-themed blogging!

Good luck & enjoy!



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Lemon-Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake

Lemon Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Where to begin! I have so much to say right now–I really do. So here’s what happened: I’ve recently been crazy for anything with the combination teal/turquoise and yellow, and since I was planning a visit to see my sister-in-law earlier this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to make her some colourful treats, and not just any treat, but something special. I knew in my heart it was a French macaron kind of week, because they are not only a complete delight to make and share, but I can’t think of a sweet that says colour the way they do. So at first, this post was going to be all about the glory of macarons, sans cake, but then I decided to keep going with the colour and flavour combination, and tie them into a small cake (inside and out).

If you’re not familiar with macarons, they are small (about 1 1/2-inch diameter) and elegant sandwich cookies (particularly celebrated in Paris, but becoming increasingly popular in North America) made from almond flour, egg whites, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar (for the shells) that bake up with a signature “ruffle” or “foot” around the base and slight gloss to the shell. They’re typically filled with anything from buttercream to ganache, and the flavour and colour combinations are pretty much endless, as you can also flavour the shells. What makes beloved macarons so incredibly special, in my opinion, is the way each bite is crispy, chewy and creamy all at once. (And possibly even more, depending on what you fill it with.) Each one is a little parade of texture and taste.

At first glance, aside from the hint of filling peeking through the sides, they may appear sort of dry or innocent, but they literally burst with flavour and melt in your mouth, making them worth every bit of effort. The thing is, the shells are not extremely time-consuming or difficult to make, but the effort required to take special care in the mixing and baking is what will typically result in a successful batch. That being said, they say even some of the most seasoned bakers and macaron makers experience occasional (and sometimes inexplicable) batch failure from time to time. So what does a “failed” macaron shell look like? Well, it might not develop the “foot,” the shell might be cracked, dull, flat, or hollow, and although those are the most common issues, I’m certain that there are more. With so much that can go wrong, it’s hard to imagine it going right, but with the a reliable recipe and instructions, and a bit of extra care and attention, it does, and macaron making is very rewarding.

So which macaron recipe did I follow to make these? Well, since I have not always had perfect luck or success with my previous few macaron attempts, I decided to give my friend Heather’s a try, from her new book SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist. I’ve been reading this incredibly inspiring book every day since receiving it, and I can’t seem to put it away–I truly want to make every single one her of recipes and designs (think glittery Snow Apples, artistic Free-Form Lollipops, innovative Pink Peppercorn Macarons, and more–so much more!). Since I adore Heather and all that she creates, I simply knew in my heart that her macaron recipe and technique would work well.

Lemon Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I went ahead and made a few batches of the classic macarons: 1 teal, 1 turquoise and 1 egg yellow, and I filled them all with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and little dollop of Lemon Curd in the middle (a little zingy gem in the middle). When I decided to create a macaron cake, my first thought was how colourful, textural and tasty it might be to add some actual macarons in the filling layer of the cake (it’s also a fabulous way to use up the shells that aren’t as perfect as the others), and it was! It adds a lovely and unexpected crunch with a little lemony surprise as they burst open upon each bite. I had an epiphany, after the fact, that it would have been even better had I created a blueberry cheesecake-type filling for the blue macarons, and added some of each to the cake, but, that’s just me. (I often have these ideas after I finish the cakes.)

Lemon Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So I made a lemon-blueberry layer cake, filled it with the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream with some swirls of Lemon Curd, then nestled a layer of macarons (I ended up just using the shells, but if you’re macarons aren’t too tall, you can try adding the sandwiched macarons inside) into the filling. I tinted the buttercream teal and went ahead and frosted it as I normally do. I thought it would only make sense to finish the cake with some actual macarons, and remembered how fabulous it looked when Steph perched macarons on this cake and this cakecolour me inspired!

Lemon Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I piped some small swirls where each macaron was to sit, placed them atop the cake, and finished it all off with some small yellow sugar decorations I found at a little shop several months ago–I knew they’d make perfect sense one day, and since they were imported from France they seemed particularly special and perfectly apropos. I love when that happens!

So here we go with the recipes and instructions, and I promise you that it’s worth it.

Lemon Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake          {click to print}

Yield: Two 6-inch round, 2-layer cakes

1 batch Lemon-Blueberry Cake split among four 6″ round cake pans (you can split the recipe in 1/2 for one 6″ round 2-layer cake)

1 batch Lemon Curd (this will fill cake and Macarons)

Double-batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream (this will frost cake and fill Macarons)

2 batches French Macarons, 1 tinted Teal and 1 tinted Egg Yellow and filled with a small dollop of Lemon Curd inside a teaspoon of the buttercream (piping the buttercream around the inner perimeter of the macaron shell works best)

*Note: This combination of cake components works well, because you can use the egg whites for the Swiss Buttercream and the yolks for the Lemon Curd.

French Macaron Recipe

shared with permission from the book, SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, by Heather Baird

Macarons

YIELD: 12 sandwich cookies or 24 individual shells

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup almond flour

2 egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

1/4 cup superfine sugar

Gel food coloring (optional)

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/4-inch plain tip (or use a zip-top plastic bag without a tip and snip the corner after filling).

2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined.

3. Using a hand-mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Start the mixer again and continue beating at medium speed until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high, and beat until stiff peaks form. The finished meringue should have a smooth, shiny appearance.

4. Sift the almond flour mixture over the egg whites and fold together with a rubber spatula until just mixed. At this point you may add a drop or two of food coloring to tint the batter. Continue to fold the mixture until it has loosened considerably and falls in a ribbon from the spatula.

5. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag.

6. Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds approximately 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. As you pipe, drag the pastry tip to the side of the rounds to avoid forming peaks. The piped rounds will spread slightly.

7. Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles.

8. Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to dry. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

9. Just before putting the pans in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the macaron are puffed and have formed the frill, or foot, around the bottom edge of the cookie. The feet may may deflate slightly after the pan is removed from the oven–this is normal and should be expected.

10. Let the macaron shells cool completely on the baking sheets. Carefully peel them away from the parchment paper.

11. Select two same-size macaron shells to sandwich together with 1 teaspoon filling.

Tips

  • If you don’t have time to let your egg whites come to room temperature, you can place them in a microwavable bowl and heat them in microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Microwaves vary in strength, so be extra careful to not cook the egg whites.
  • Macaron shells can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw completely at room temperature before filling.
  • Use insulated baking pans (such as T-Fal Air-Bake) or use an additional cookie sheet under the pan of piped macarons to ensure the shells do not over-bake.

Sweetapolita’s Macaron Notes:

  • For the macarons, you can grind your own almond flour using raw almonds in the food processor until very fine. It’s also a bit more affordable, as almond flour is $$$.
  • To colour my macarons, I added the gel colour into the meringue, before the flour mixture was added, so I could play around with adding more drops without risking over-mixing my batter. Once I was happy with the colour, I went ahead with adding the almond flour mixture.
  • Macarons, as you’ve probably heard, are a bit unpredictable, even for the most experienced macaron-makers, so don’t give up. I’ve made many batches prior to using Heather’s recipe/method and had many failures, but they’re just too darn amazing to not make, so I kept trying. You’ll notice not all of mine are perfect (far from), but I was very happy with how they turned out in the end.
  • You can fill macarons with pretty much anything you can dream of–ready-made or not, such as jams, buttercream, curd, ganache, frosting, Nutella, etc. You really can’t go wrong!
  • Filling macarons is the perfect solution to small amounts of leftover fillings and frosting from cake and cupcakes projects–you can freeze most in small containers, and thaw when needed.
  • I found the filled macarons increased in awesomeness after sitting in an airtight container in refrigerator for at least a day.
  • Because the topic of macarons is pretty extensive (including troubleshooting, technique variations, etc.), I will be doing more macaron-specific posts along the way. For some amazing information fueled by complete macaron passion, check out Mardi’s blog–it’s filled with macaron posts, troubleshooting, etc.!

Assembly of the Lemon-Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake

1. Trim any doming or top crust and side crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife (I use the Mac Bread Knife for all of my cake trimming, splitting, etc.).

2. Use a cake turntable for filling, frosting and decorating, if a possible. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 6″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, top side up (face up).

3. Pipe a dam (a rim around the top perimeter of the cake layer) of buttercream around the cake layer using a large round Pastry Tip
fitted inside a Decorating Bag. Then pipe another smaller circle of buttercream a few inches toward the center. Spoon lemon curd into the open spaces and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife, taking care to keep the curd within the dam (otherwise it will ooze out of the sides of the cake). Gently place 5 macaron shells atop the filling. Place the 2nd cake layer, face down, on top.

4. Tint remaining buttercream teal green, and put a generous scoop of teal buttercream on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake (crumb-coat). Chill until set, about 30 minutes.

5. Remove from refrigerator and repeat step 4, but this time using a thicker layer of buttercream and creating a smooth finish. (You can watch me do this on video here).

6. For the top of the cake, place an open star decorating tip (I used 1M) in a Decorating Bag filled with about 1 cup of the buttercream, and pipe 8 small swirls, evenly spaced. Top each swirl with macarons in alternating colours (or your choice), and finish with sugar pearls (if desired).

Store finished cake covered in refrigerator (due to the Lemon Curd filling), but serve at room temperature (you can remove from refrigerator a few hours ahead of serving).

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • Because Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Lemon Curd both take a little longer to make than some other fillings/frosting, I recommend making both ahead of time, if possible. They freeze well, and the buttercream can be simply brought to room temperature the night before you need it. The curd can basically be used straight from the freezer. If you go ahead and make all of the components in one day, there’s a good chance you will be cursing my name at random throughout the day. But even if you do go this route, it will still be worth it.
  • I also recommend making and filling the macarons about 2 days ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator in an airtight container–they really do taste better after sitting!
  • You can bake the cake layers the day before you need them, and keep them at room temperature wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
  • I baked two 6-inch round cakes (1 for photographing and 1 for gifting), but you can divide the cake and filling quantities in half if you want to create a single 6-inch cake (serves 8).

I hope you find as much joy in making, sharing and enjoying macarons (and macaron cakes) as I did. Stay tuned for more macaron love! ♥

Good luck & enjoy!



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