Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

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Each time a new year rolls around people make resolutions to lose weight. I’ve done this before, and last year actually had some real success. The secret to losing weight isn’t that difficult, more calories out than in. You don’t have to make huge dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Just get off the couch and do something that is going to elevate your heart rate, and eat less. For many of us that just means eating smaller portions. Also, don’t swear off any food. Eating several slices of pizza everyday isn’t good for you, if you have a slice on a Friday night it won’t derail your weight loss hopes. Sometimes you need to give into your cravings, in a controlled manner of course. For example, if you crave something salty, have some popcorn instead of a whole bag of potato chips.  If you crave something sweet, have one of these delicious cookies.

When I first tasted these cookies I was impressed with myself. You can taste the cranberries and the oats. You also can taste the orange, ginger and a hint of vanilla. All the ingredients stand out and work so well together. These cookies are sweet and delicious, and with only 92 calories per cookie, you won’t have to spend hours in the gym burning off those calories.  If you are concerned about those calories, my friend Jessie has 20 great ways to burn them off.

*If you are not concerned about calorie content, I would recommend adding some white chocolate chips to the dough. I haven’t tried it yet, but when I first took a bite I thought white chocolate chips would be really good in this cookie.

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OATMEAL CRANBERRY COOKIES
Yield: 18 cookies

1 1/4 c oats
3/4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
6 T smart balance, softened
2 egg whites
1/2 c brown sugar
2 T honey
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange peel grated
1/2 T squeezed orange juice
3/4 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a separate bowl mix together oatmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger, set aside. In your mixer cream together Smart Balance and brown sugar until mixed uniformly. Add egg whites,  honey, vanilla, orange peel and orange juice. Slowly mix in dry ingredients. Take your bowl off the mixer and stir in the dried cranberries by hand. Drop about 1 1/2 T of cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies look golden and crispy at the edges. ENJOY!

The BEST Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

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Last week we had a cookie decorating play date. We had so much fun decorating our gingerbread people and our sugar cookies. Many cookies were “lost” during the decorating process. Our little friend M concentrated so hard on completely covering her Christmas tree cookie in yellow frosting that I don’t think she decorated that many cookies. Sasha and Penelope were more into eating the cookies than worrying about whether or not they were adequately covered in frosting.

I found my sugar cookie recipe on one of my favorite blogs (Pinch My Salt). Nicole made her recipe for Halloween cookies. She uses powdered sugar and a tiny bit of almond extract, which I believe makes these cookies the BEST COOKIES EVER! I will be using this recipe for my Christmas cookies from now on; I may even use them for my Valentine’s day cookies, St. Patrick’s day cookies, April Fool’s day cookies, and every other holiday they are THAT good. Thank-you Nicole, we now have a family favorite that I am sure is going to become a tradition. I am sure her recipe for cream cheese frosting is lovely, however I decided to use a powdered sugar frosting that would harden. You must make these cookies, at least once. ENJOY!

Check out her recipe here.

If you want to read more about our gingerbread people check it out here.

Here are some photos of our decorating.

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Here is M concentrating so hard on her yellow Christmas tree.

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Sasha enjoying her hard work!

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Penelope ate her cookie so fast. I told you these cookies were good!

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Here are some of our sugar cookies and gingerbread people.

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Here is M’s cookie that she worked so hard on. More sprinkes ended up on the plate than the cookie, oh well.

Gingerbread Men and Women

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This year I made real gingerbread people. Last year I made them from a dry mix I bought in a box. The real deal is no comparison, these little cookie people get better each day. The girls and I had some friends over for a cookie decorating extravaganza. I think everyone involved had lots of fun. I told the girls that we were going to “paint” the cookies with frosting, this excited Sasha (2 1/2) and our friend M (almost 2). We used popsicle sticks as our paintbrushes, which worked wonderfully for our needs. The cookies may not win any awards for beautiful design, but I think they are the best looking gingerbread cookies I’ve ever seen.

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My girls kept eating the cookies. As you can see Sasha hardly has any frosting on her cookie, just enough to say she frosted it.

I got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s website, and it was delicious. This week I will be making more gingerbread people for our families. We also made cut out sugar cookies, I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Martha’s Gingerbread People

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The frosting is a powdered sugar, a tiny splash of vanilla, and a splash of milk. I used Wilton’s Icing Color in red, blue, green and yellow.

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Low Fat Pumpkin Bars

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Tis the season for stuffing our faces. Sounds pretty doesn’t it? From October 1 until January 1 is when my willpower is tested constantly.  In October I had celebrated  three years of marriage with my husband, two birthdays (next year it will be three), and Halloween. November brought three Thanksgiving dinners (eek!), now December we celebrated my SIL’s 30th birthday, and we will have a Christmas Eve dinner and three Christmas dinners. Now I wish I could say that I did not over indulge; I did however, try to eat consciously. It must have worked because the first time in a long time I am actually losing weight during this long holiday season (WOOP WOOP!).

We currently live in an apartment that does not allow for entertaining the whole family, so until I am able to host my first holiday meal, I will have to bring something to the dinner table that I know will not completely sabotage my waist line. These pumpkin bars are fabulous if I do say so myself, and they are a dessert that isn’t going to ruin your diet.  This recipe was emailed to me from Sparkpeople.com recipe of the day. These bars are delicious and moist, a great alternative to pumpkin pie. No one will know that they only have 67 calories per serving if you don’t tell them! ENJOY!

PUMPKIN BARS
serves: 48

2 cups flour
1-1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light butter or margarine, softened (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 large egg whites
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin pie filling
1 cup carrot, finely shredded

Cream cheese topping:
4 oz light cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon skim milk

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 15 x 10 jellyroll pan.
Prepare Filling:
In small bowl: combine flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder & baking soda.
In larger bowl: Beat sugar, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Add eggs, egg whites, pumpkin pie mix and carrots. Beat until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix until well blended. Spread onto greased pan.
Prepare Cream Cheese topping:
Mix together cream cheese, sugar and milk until thoroughly blended.
Drop teaspoonfuls of topping over pumpkin batter and swirl mixture with a butter knife.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester (inserted in center) comes out clean.
Cool in pan completely on wire rack before cutting into 48 squares.

NUTRITION INFO (per serving)
Calories: 67.2
Fat: 0.9 g
Carbohydrates: 13.6 g
Protein: 1.4 g

Apple Pie with Strudel Topping

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What’s more American than apple pie? Apple pie is probably one of my favorites pies. There are all sorts of variations of this pie. You can find double crust, lattice top, strudel top, crumble top and so on. I have never made my own pie crust, this is something I want to try and have several recipes bookmarked. For this pie, I used store bought pie crust, the kind you unroll and place in your pie dish. I did however, make my own studel topping. This is a great dish to serve during the holidays.

APPLE PIE WITH STRUDEL TOPPING
1 (9 inch) pie shell
5 cups apples (it is nice to use a variety)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

STRUDEL TOPPING
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Unroll pastry shell into pie pan and place in freezer. Place peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons flour, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Toss with apples until they are evenly coated. Remove pie shell from freezer. Place apple mixture in pie shell. Cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, do not seal. Bake 10 minutes.

Make Strudel Topping: Combine flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats. Mix thoroughly, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Remove filling from oven and sprinkle strudel on top.

Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake pie 35 to 40 minutes, until strudel is browned. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.

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    Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Eclaires

    August’s Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Meeta of What’s for lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice.  Meeta chose Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs. An éclair is a delicious French pastry, which is made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with a glaze. In the United States the closest thing to an eclair in your local bakery may be a cream-filled long john (however long john’s are made with dough pastry).

    I have read about choux pastry before and was excited to try my hand at making my own. It was unbelievably easy to make. When I first saw that this month’s challenge was going to be éclairs I was afraid they would be difficult to make. Difficult, no. Time consuming, yes. Many of my daring bakers thought the choux was a little eggy tasting, and I have to agree. After seeing how easy it was to prepare, I look forward to experimenting with the pastry dough, and hopefully will find a less eggy tasting result.

    The rules for this month’s challenge were:

    1. We had to use the choux recipe provided
    2. Had to use at least one chocolate element (either chocolate glaze and/or chocolate pastry cream)

    I decided to make an éclair with a chocolate glaze and a whipped cream filling. Other than the egginess of the choux, they were delicious. Unfortunately my choux did not rise as I had expected; so instead of cutting them in half to fill, I put a layer of whipped cream on a whole baked choux, and topped it with another whole baked choux. It worked wonderfully. I also froze my eclairs right after filling and glazing. I did not want to be tempted to finish them in one weekend. They froze wonderfully, and I can take out as many as I need to thaw when I need them. Set them on the counter for 10-15 before you are ready to eat; they will be delicious.

    Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
    (makes 20-24 Éclairs)
    Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
    (makes 20-24 Éclairs)

    • ½ cup (125g) whole milk
    • ½ cup (125g) water
    • 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
    • ¼ teaspoon sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
    • 5 large eggs, at room temperature

    1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the
    boil.

    2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
    and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
    quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
    need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
    will be very soft and smooth.

    3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
    hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
    beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
    You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
    not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
    have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
    should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

    4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

    Notes:
    Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

    Baking:

    1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
    positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
    waxed or parchment paper.

    2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. (I did not have a pastry bag, so I used a large zip top bag and cut off a small portion of the bottom corner, it worked well in a pinch!) Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

    3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
    handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
    oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
    baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
    time should be approximately 20 minutes. (After making these I read from other bakers that opening the oven could have caused the choux to deflate. Some people recommended baking for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then dropping the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and baking for 15-20. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR)

    Notes:

    The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling

    Chocolate Glaze
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
    (makes 1 cup or 300g)

    • 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
    • 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
    • 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

    1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

    2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

    Notes:
    If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water. It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104  F) when ready to glaze.

    Chocolate Sauce
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
    (makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

    • 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 cup (250 g) water
    • ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
    • 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

    1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly.  Then reduce the heat  to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

    2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

    Notes:
    You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or  a double boiler before using. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

    Chocolate Pastry Cream
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

    • 2 cups (500g) whole milk
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
    • 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
    • 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.  In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

    2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

    3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.  Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

    4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it  remains smooth.

    5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

    Notes:
    The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

    In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

    Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

    * I USED THIS WHIPPED CREAM RECIPE*

    Whipped Cream
    For the filling:
    2 cups heavy cream
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla

    Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together in a chilled bowl until fluffy.

    Assembling the éclairs:

    1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
    bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

    2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
    degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
    the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
    bottoms with the pastry cream.

    3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
    with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
    and wriggle gently to settle them.

    Notes:
    1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
    stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
    bubbles.

    2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

    Enjoy, these are delicious!

    Check out the blogroll and see how my fellow Daring Bakers fared with their eclairs.

    Daring Bakers Challenge: Raspberry Lemon Opera Cake

    This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge is Opera Cake. May’s challenge is hosted by Daring Bakers founders Lis and Ivonne, and two newer members Fran and Shea. Before this challenge I’ve never heard of opera cake. Opera cake is a fancy shmancy French dessert, consisting of five different component –leave it to the French to make a complicated dessert. There is a cake (joconde) layer, syrup (to wet/flavor the cake), buttercream, mousse/ganache, and finally a glaze. Traditionally this cake is made with dark chocolate and coffee flavors, but our creative hosts wanted us to make our cakes light in flavor and light in color.

    I will be honest with you, I was overwhelmed from the minute I read the recipe, so many different parts to concentrate on. Coffee and dark chocolate combination sounded so delicious, but we were once again forbidden to use dark flavors. Raspberry and lemon were the first to flavors that stuck in my head, it seemed to be a popular choice. My husband called home while I was preparing this cake and asked if I was a daring baker, I replied “No I am a challenged baker!” So true –at least with this challenge.

    This cake was delicious, but extremely sweet. I’ve never thought anything was too sweet but this cake is. I ate only a tiny bite and that was enough. Now what am I going to do with all this cake? This was a fun experience, but I don’t think this will make another appearance in our house. Check out all the other flavors my fellow bakers created at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

    ALMOND CAKE (JOCONDE)

    * The cake can be made one day ahead, wrapped and stored at room temperature.

    I could not find almond meal at any of my local grocers, so I had to grind my own. WORD OF WARNING: Buy already blanched almonds… I accidentally did not, and had to blanch my own… a MAJOR pain, and not as easy as it sounded. After I had my almond meal the cake came together very easily.

    6 large egg whites, at room temperature
    2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
    2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
    2 cups icing sugar, sifted
    6 large eggs
    ½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
    3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

    1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

    2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

    3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

    4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

    5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

    6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

    7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

    8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

    9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

    10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

    LEMON SYRUP

    * Can be made up to one week ahead and stored covered in the fridge

    The cake was moistened and flavored with this simple syrup.

    ½ cup (125 grams) water
    ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
    2 tbsp. of lemon extract

    1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

    2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

    RASPBERRY BUTTERCREAM

    *The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.

    I thought this buttercream was more buttery than creamy. I’ve never been a huge fan of buttercream, but people seem to “OOOO” and “AAAHHH” over it.

    1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
    ¼ cup (60 grams) water
    1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1 large egg yolk
    1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tbsp. strained/seeded raspberry

    1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

    2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates

    a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

    3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

    4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

    5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

    6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

    7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

    8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

    9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

    WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

    *The ganache can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

    7 ounces white chocolate

    1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
    1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.) ***I omitted this step***

    1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
    2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
    3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
    4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
    5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
    6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

    RASPBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE GLAZE

    * It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.

    4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
    ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
    2 tbsp raspberry extract

    1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth, add extract.
    2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake.

    ASSEMBLING YOUR OPERA CAKE

    *The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
    1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
    2. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
    3. Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
    4. Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
    5. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
    6. Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
    7. Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
    8. Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze (at least 30 minutes).

    Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.