Lemon Almond Butter Cake

A few weeks ago, I was an extra for a cake baking competition TV show, but sadly no cake was served during the shoot.  I was so disappointed that I went home and baked a Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  Disappointment turned into elation when the cake turned out to be one of the most amazing things I’ve baked.  The combination of rich, tart lemon curd nestled throughout a light fluffy almond cake makes this cake dangerously irresistible.  It takes a bit of extra time to make the lemon curd from scratch, but the cake itself comes together pretty quickly.

A few days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good the cake tasted, so I experimented with adding Nutella (instead of lemon curd) which made the Nutella fans in my life very happy.  Fast forward to a few days after that, I wanted to pull together a quick dessert and used strawberry jam as the add in.  Again, deliciousness ensued.  It appears you just can’t go wrong with this cake recipe.

Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  The globs of lemon curd make the flavors of this cake over the top in the best possible way.

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Lemon Almond Butter Cake.  My brother ate three slices of this.

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Nutella Almond Butter Cake.  How can you not get excited about a dessert that involves Nutella?

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Strawberry Jam Almond Butter Cake.  Another successful flavor pairing.

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Lemon Almond Butter Cake

Makes 8 servings
(adapted from NY Times Cooking)

Ingredients

Lemon Curd

Grated zest and juice of 2 medium or large lemons
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Cake
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
3/4 to 1 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 3/4 cup when I baked this with the Nutella topping)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ cup almond flour

Directions

Lemon Curd

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, beat together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add the butter, and place over a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.
  3. Over low-medium heat, cook the mixture while stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until it thickens into curd (I like to do this slowly over lower temperature so that the egg doesn’t cook too quickly.  Depending on the heat you use, it could take about 5-12 minutes to get the curd to the right consistency.  Do not let it boil!  For a visual of how to tell when your lemon curd is ready, check out this page.).
  4. Using a fine sieve, strain the lemon curd into a bowl (this will help get rid of any cooked egg whites and ensure the curd is smooth).
  5. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cool (at least 1 1/2 hours).

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon of butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon of flour, shaking out the excess.  Or line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment (no buttering or flouring needed).
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 8 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 (or 1 cup with you want your cake a little sweeter) cup of sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until combined (don’t overmix).
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough.
  7. Add the eggs and the almond flour to batter, and mix until well combined.
  8. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly.
  • Drop 8 individual tablespoons of lemon curd (or whatever add-in you’re using) around the perimeter of the batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and space the drops evenly.  Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd into the center of the batter. (You will have leftover lemon curd which you can refrigerate for another use.  It’s also OK to use all of the lemon curd.).
  • Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional.  I did this for the lemon curd version but not for the Nutella or strawberry jam add-in versions).
  • Bake the cake until it is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the curd) comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.
  • After letting the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove the sides of pan, and cool completely.  Or if you’re baking in an 8×8 inch pan, remove the cake by using the parchment paper.

Note:  The lemon curd version of this cake should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.  The Nutella and strawberry jam versions can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars (Gluten-Free)

For years, my skepticism that gluten-free flours could produce the “right” baked goods texture made me highly resistant to experimenting with gluten-free baking.  But during a recent trip the to the Williams Sonoma outlet, a bag of Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour developed by a chef, finally made its way into my shopping basket.  My first experiment was with Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars, and what a perfect recipe to start off my foray into gluten-free baking.  The cookie bars were soft but not crumbly or dry, and the Nutella made these even more over the top delicious.  I can already hear the much rejoicing among my gluten-free friends.

Cup4Cup gluten-free flour is pretty amazing.  It’s the only gluten-free flour I’ve tried so far, but I still think it’s amazing.
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The Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars don’t look too impressive from above, but…
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…the side view reveals all the delicious layers.  Nutella Sugar Cookie Bar-C4C3

Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars (Gluten-Free)

(from Cup4Cup)
Makes one 9″x9″ pan

Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups Cup4Cup flour
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup Nutella

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a non-stick 9” x 9” pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl mix together the Cup4Cup flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix on medium speed until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture, and mix on low until a dough is formed.
  6. Place half of the dough into the bottom the baking dish, and use your fingers to spread it out into an even layer.
  7. Spread the Nutella evenly over the top.
  8. Take the remaining dough and scoop it by the tablespoon to cover most of the Nutella. Spaces of Nutella between the dough are ok.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes until baked through and light golden brown.
  10. Cool to room temperature, cut into squares and serve.

Caramel Nutella Cashew Graham Scotcheroos

Hello Gorgeous!  Have you ever seen a better looking cereal bar?  This beauty is a combination of caramel + Nutella + chocolate chips + butterscotch chips + cashew butter + honey graham cereal with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.  Sounds fancy, but it all comes together in one pot, and the chocolate-butterscotch spread can be melted in the microwave.  All you need is a slightly strong arm to stir together all the ingredients and some patience to wait for the slab to firm up before cutting into squares.  If you’ve made rice krispie treats before, then you can make these “gourmet” Caramel Nutella Cashew Graham Scotcheroos.

Scotcheroos- D Lebovitz5

Caramel Nutella Cashew Graham Scotcheroos

(Adapted from David Lebovitz)
Makes 1 9×13 inch pan

Ingredients

3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 cup (320g) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (130g) cashew butter (you can also substitute peanut butter or almond butter)
1/2 cup (130g) Nutella
5-6 cups Honey Grahams cereal (I like Mom’s Best Cereals because it doesn’t seem quite as sweet as Golden Grahams)
6 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or 1 cup (165g) chocolate chips
1 cup (165g) butterscotch-flavored chips
fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, or line with greased/buttered aluminum foil.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a full boil (the sugar mixture will not change color) and then remove from heat.
  3. Stir the cashew butter and Nutella into the sugar mixture until smooth and well mixed.
  4. Stir graham cereal into the mixture until the cereal is completely coated.
  5. Working quickly (the mixture will start to firm up fairly quickly), press the mixture into the prepared pan.  I used parchment paper to help press/pack the cereal mixture into the pan.  Make sure the top is smooth.  Set aside.
  6. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together over the stove or in a microwave, stirring gently until smooth and well-blended.  The butterscotch chips make take a little longer to melt than the chocolate, but keep gently heating and stirring until they are well combined.  Spread over the rice cereal mixture.
  7. Sprinkle the top lightly with sea salt.  Let cool until set.  I put mine in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to harden the chocolate butterscotch topping a bit.
  8. Once cool, cut into small bars with a sharp knife.

Financiers with Nutella

After several weeks of Nutella-themed baking activities, I thought that my Nutella baking obsession had gone into hibernation for a while.  But all it took was a Facebook friend’s post about Nutella ice cream to pull me back in to the dark (chocolately hazelnut) side.  Armed with a new (impulse buy) Nutella cookbook, I decided to make financiers stuffed with Nutella.   Financiers are typically small rectangular almond cakes with a plain look to them, and as with many French cakes, they’re light and moist in the inside.  Even though I’ve come across financiers in the many pastry displays I’ve oogled, I had never eaten one before because all the other surrounding pastries just looked so much more appealing.  But as I learned after making these financiers, looks can be deceiving.  And when you stuff them with Nutella and bake them up just right (i.e., not overbaked), people start eating them like potato chips (just can’t eat one!).  My only complaint with these is that the silicone pans I used to bake them in were really difficult to clean afterwards.  So, this recipe will be relegated to my “special occasions” dessert list.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have financier pans.  I baked mine in a variety of shaped pans.

Financiers with Nutella- Nutella book 1

My goal was to have as close to an equal ratio of Nutella to cake as possible without causing the cake to explode.

Financiers with Nutella- Nutella book 3

Financiers with Nutella

(from Nutella: The 30 best recipes by Larousse)
Makes:  It depends… I used several different pans/mold including round, square, and rectangular silicone molds.
Note: The recipe I used was kind of vague in its instruction.  So I had to do a little bit of trial and error to determine the best amount of baking time.

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (50 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (130 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (70 grams) ground almonds (I used almond flour from Trader Joe’s)
4 egg whites (from large eggs)
3 tablespoons of Nutella (I used more as I like to include as much Nutella as possible)

Directions

  1. Prepare pans by greasing them well or spraying them with baking spray.  These cakes will stick to the pan, so make sure you don’t skip this step.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or microwave it for about 20-30 seconds.  Set aside to cool a little.
  4. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, and ground almonds.
  5. Add the egg whites, one at a time, to the flour mixture and beat well after each addition.
  6. Add the melted butter (make sure the butter is not too warm so that it won’t curdle the egg whites) to the flour and egg mixture, and mix well.
  7. Fill your greased pans about 1/3 with the cake mixture.  Using a small cookie scoop (if you have one), drop Nutella on top of the cake mixture (make sure to leave room for the top layer of the cake mixture to cover the Nutella).  Then cover the Nutella with a layer of cake mixture.  Leave about 1/3 to 1/4 of the top of the pan empty as these cakes will rise a little as they bake.  Also, make sure that the top layer of the cake mixture completely covers the Nutella.
  8. Baking times are a bit tricky, and I found that the key to determining when the financiers are done is based how they look and feel.  The tops should be only slightly shiny and not all wet (although if they’re dry to the touch, then you’ve overbaked them) and a bit spongey to the touch.  Also, keep in mind that the tops won’t brown very much but the bottoms will.  The financiers will keep baking as they cool in their molds, so it’s better to err on the side of underbaking.  Just to give you a few loose guidelines on baking times, the original recipe used financier pans and recommended a 10-12 minute baking time.  Since I didn’t have financier pans, I used silicone pans with a) round cavities (about 1 1/2 inch diameter for each cavity)

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b) square cavities (1 1/2in x 1 1/2in cavity)

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and c) rectangular cavities (2×3 inch cavity)

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The round and square cavity pans took about 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 minutes to bake.  The rectangular cavity pans took about 10 1/2 minutes to bake.

9.  Remove the pan from the oven, and let the financiers cool in the pan.  After they’ve cooled, you might need to use a butter knife to loosen the edges from the pan.

Nutella Swirled Vanilla Cake

If only I could approach some of my other resolutions with as much fervor as I have been doing to whittle down my Nutella overstock.  Next up in Nutella-themed baked goods is this Nutella Swirl Vanilla Cake.  Because the vanilla cake is based on a pound cake recipe, it’s a little denser and richer than your usual crumbly vanilla cake which means that it solidly supports the thick ribbon of Nutella running through the center.  No frosting needed for this cake as the Nutella provides just the right amount of sweetness.

From the outside, this Nutella Swirled Vanilla Cake doesn’t look very impressive.
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But hidden inside is a thick swirl of Nutella weaving it’s way through the cake.
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And here’s the perfect bite for you.
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Nutella Swirled Vanilla Cake

(Adapted from Food & Wine – http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/nutella-swirl-pound-cake)
Makes one 9×2 inch cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup Nutella

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9×2 inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and lightly spray the sides of the pan with baking spray.
  2.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In separate small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy and light. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated.  Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated.  Do not overmix.
  5. Spread half of the cake batter in the prepared pan.  Then spread the Nutella on top, leaving a 1/4 inch border of cake showing.  Spread the other half of the cake batter on top of the Nutella.  Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife (Do not overmix.). Tap the pan on the counter to settle any air bubbles.
  6. Bake the cake for about 32-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up, and let it cool completely.

Black-Bottomed Nutella Swirl Mini Cheesecakes

Recently I went to Costco and stocked up on Nutella… forgetting that the last time I went to Costco, I also stocked up on Nutella.  So, my current Nutella overstock situation calls for a strong effort to make all things Nutella, starting with these Black-Bottomed Nutella Swirl Mini Cheesecakes (which in a nutshell is cheesecake in cupcake form).  Starting from bottom to top, this tasty little treat consists of a firm chocolate wafer crust (that holds up really well and doesn’t crumble like other crusts), a layer of rich Nutella cheesecake, and a layer of smooth, creamy vanilla cheesecake, all topped with a dark chocolate wafer cookie perched on top of a dollop of Nutella.  After one taste of this, I immediately thought that I may never have to go to the Cheesecake Factory again.

Black-Bottomed Nutella Swirl Mini Cheesecakes- A Dodge 3

Black-Bottomed Nutella Swirl Mini Cheesecakes

(from Abigail Johnson Dodge from Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets – http://www.abbydodge.com/books/mini-treats-hand-held-sweets/;  My notes are in italics between [   ].  )
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the black bottom
3/4 cup (3-3/4 oz.) finely ground chocolate cookies [The original recipe recommends using Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers.  I can never find those at my grocery store so I used Quadratini Dark Chocolate Bite Size Wafer Cookies]
2 Tbs. (1 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup (4-5/8 oz.) granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (10 oz.) Nutella

Directions

Make the black bottom

  1. Line 12 regular-sized (2-3/4-inch diameter) muffin cups with foil liners (paper ones won’t work here) and lightly grease the bottom and sides [I didn’t grease the foil liners because it seemed like a messy process, and my cheesecake released from the foil after baking OK].
  2. Put the cookie crumbs [I used a food processor to pulse the cookies to a medium to fine crumb] and butter in a small bowl and mix with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened.
  3. Portion the crumbs evenly among the foil liners (1 firmly packed tablespoon in each). If you have a tart tamper, this is a great time to use it. If not, tear off a piece of plastic wrap [Parchment paper worked well too], place it over the crumbs, and use your fingers to press firmly to make a compact layer. Slide the tin into the refrigerator while you make the filling. (This helps keep the crumbs on the bottom when you are swirling the batters together.)

Make the cheesecake

  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Put the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium high until very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Continue beating until well blended and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently; there should be no lumps.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed until just blended. Once the eggs have been added to the batter, it’s important to mix thoroughly without overbeating or the cheesecake will puff and crack during baking.
  4. Scoop out 1 cup of the vanilla batter and set aside.
  5. Add the Nutella to the remaining batter and stir until well blended.
  6. Portion the Nutella batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (about 4 Tbs. per cup).
  7. Next, portion the vanilla batter evenly among the cups (about 1 Tbs. in each). The cups should be completely filled.
  8. Drag and fold the tip of a wooden skewer, toothpick, or paring knife through the two batters in a swirled pattern. There should still be solid streaks of each batter visible, and the cups should be filled to the brim. Tap the muffin tin on the counter to settle the batters.
  9. Bake until the centers barely jiggle when the pan is nudged, 20 to 22 minutes [Mine took a little longer to bake; around 25 minutes]. Set the muffin tin on a rack and let cool completely.
  10. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 6 hours.

I love that these can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.