Desserts

Vanilla Cheesecake with Strawberries

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Alright, I gots power back (huzzah!)  And I gots a job offer (another huzzah!).  So let’s celebrate with a pretty cheesecake!  This is definitely one of the prettier cheesecakes that I make.  Of course, it is one of the more labor intensive ones to construct, but it’s easy to switch it up by using peaches, oranges, kiwis, or what’s ever striking your fancy that day.  And the cheesecake recipe is such a great staple to have.  This particular recipe is a little bit extra special because I do use a vanilla bean here instead of the extract.  Just a nice touch that really stands out.   Plus you see all the nice tiny vanilla beans, which I just love.

This I made for my Summer Mullet Party / Wine Tasting (you know — business in the front, party in the back).  Unfortunately I was not able to take any pics of any slices, but it was a big hit from what I understand.  I was too preoccupied tasting wine at the time.  And rum.  And bourbon.  Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

For the crust:

  • 12 big graham crackers (before you break it into four pieces)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 6 T. butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with heavy-duty foil.  Lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  Slightly break up crackers and place in the bowl of a food processor with the sugar and salt.  Pulse until fine.  Stir in butter well, and transfer to prepared pan.  Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides of the pan.

3.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until crust starts to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Set aside.

For the filling:

  • 5 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
  • 1 c. sour cream

1.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Gradually add the sugar and salt while mixing on low, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Now add the vanilla seeds and mix to combine.  Stir in the sour cream, again scraping the sides to mix well.

3.  Pour the batter into the cooled crust.  Place the pan in a roasting pan.  Now fill the roasting pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake.  Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until set in the middle.  If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.

4.  Remove from the oven and run a pairing knife around the edge of the cake to help release it.  Cool completely and then refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

For the topping:

  • 1-2 pints strawberries, hulled & sliced thin, leaving one whole
  • 1/2 red currant jelly
  • 2 t. water

1.  In a small saucepan on low heat, combine the jelly and water.  Gradually melt until mixture is easily spread with a pastry brush.  Set aside to cool but still stay liquid.

2.  Brush the edge of the top of the cheesecake with the warm red currant jelly glaze and make a ring of the sliced strawberries around the edge.  The glaze should re-set when chilled which helps hold the strawberries in place.

3.  Start layering overlapping concentric circles of strawberries, brushing each with the glaze.  Once you get to the middle, place the whole strawberry and brush with the glaze.

4.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.  Then you can slice and serve!  And then you visit Jereme’s Kitchen and Daisy Cakes on Facebook and tell me how the recipe went for you 🙂

Notes — I’ve found it helpful to sort the strawberries according to size first before slicing.  I use the slices of the larger strawberries on the outer layers, saving the smaller ones for the inner circles. . . Try different patterns.  Instead of pointing the tips of strawberries out, have the points run along the edge of the cake.  You can then alternate directions with each successive circle.  I really hope that I explained that well.

Rhubarb Pearl Empanadas

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So this is another one of those clean-out-the-pantry kind of recipes.  I had some fresh rhubarb to use up so I thought to myself, “Waterlily, how should we handle this?”  So looking around, I found some shredded coconut left over from some German Chocolate Cakes and I had some Tapioca pearls that I had no idea that I had.  Let’s throw this all together and make some empanadas!  But somewhere along the line, I lost track of how big things should be and ended up making a half-pie or a calzone kind of thing.  Just think of it as a “family sized” empanada!

Yay! Empanadas! And there’s some peonies in the background!

And I was surprised with how they turned out and how the flavors worked together.  You get some tartness from the rhubarb, some sweetness from the coconut, some chewiness from the tapioca, and the crispy, flaky crust.

Again, since the recipe falls under the category of clean-out-the-pantry, it’s a rough approximation, at least for the filling.  The crust does have exact measurements, but like with any pie crust, it will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen.  Here’s what you need.

Now that’s a “family sized” empanada!

For the crust:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold butter, cubed
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. cold water, at most

1.  In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together to combine.

2.  Add the cubed butter and cream cheese.  Pulse until the mixture becomes coarse, maybe 15 seconds or so.  With the processor on, gradually stream the water through the feed tube until the crust starts to form a ball.

3.  Turn the crust out onto a work surface and form into a ball.  Divide the ball in half and form both halves into discs.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

4.  Roll out the dough into a rough circle about 1/16″ thick.  Return to the refrigerator to chill whilst you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 c. unprepared tapioca pearls.
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour

1.  Prepare the tapioca according to package directions (although I think I made up my own directions).  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, place the rhubarb, coconut, and tapioca.  Sprinkle flour and sugar on top and toss to combine.

So there might be a little bit more coconut than I thought

Make your empanadas:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In your prepared crust, spread about half the filling onto on half of the dough.  Lightly brush some water onto the edge of the crust.  Gently fold over the other half of the dough onto filling and crimp the edges or roll them over.

2.  Brush the empanada with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut some vents in the top to release some steam.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Notes — I didn’t add a lot of flour because, in theory, the tapioca should help absorb the liquid released by the rhubarb. . . I thought that this would be good with just the coconut and the tapioca. . . Still working on taking nice pictures, but I was excited to include my peonies.  They didn’t bloom last year. . .

Summer Crumble with Rhubarb, Raspberries, Dried Figs, and Pecans

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We just had our first official day of summer and it was ridiculously hot here in Michigan — 97 degrees F around these parts.  Now I’m not 100% sure if figs are a summer fruit, but rhubarb and raspberries always make me think of the season.  And when it’s summer, you don’t want to be in a hot kitchen all day, so this is ideal!  What’s special about this recipe are the dried figs.  They can help absorb some of the liquid that is released by the rhubarb and they add some sweetness, texture, and color.  Sure, I was just trying to clean out my pantry but this combination really goes well together.

Just throw all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix it up, and get another bowl to toss the filling with some sugar and flour and you are all set.  You can even make the topping the night before and put it in the fridge for when you’re ready!  Easy-peasy!  Here’s what you need:

Rhubarb and Figs actually look nice together. I toss in the raspberries later.

For the topping:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the topping resembles loose crumbs.

2.  Stir in the oats and pecans.  Set aside.

I really struggled with taking a picture that did this crumble some justice. Again, I’m still trying to figure out photography and composition.

For the filling:

  • 1/2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-in pieces
  • 12 – 15 dried figs, cut into quarters
  • 8 oz. raspberries
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

2.  Place the lemon juice, rhubarb, figs, and raspberries in your baking dish.  Gently toss.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and let sit for about 5 minutes.

3.  Sprinkle the topping over the top of the fruit in an even layer.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the topping is golden.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving so the filling can set up just a tiny bit.

Notes — My pecans got a little bit toasty, but tasted fine.  If burning them is a concern, you could add the pecans to the filling instead of in the topping. . . Store this in the refrigerator. . . You can reheat this in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Red, White, and Blue Velvet Cupcakes (with a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

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I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too).   At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.  I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration.  They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them!  Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag.  Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on.  Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).

Red, White, and Blue!

As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes?  It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring.  Plus, there’s that song about them.  Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet.  Or was it Blue Moon?  But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.

I do love a big box of cupcakes

As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not?  I can never resist a sale!).  I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it.  Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober.  That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language.  And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes.  Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal.  Such is life.  Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!

Not a bad stand in a pinch, but i really should invest in something that’s sturdier and better looking.

There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes.  With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes.  So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have.  I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced.  But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more.  You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint.  But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out.  And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have.  The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red.  Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much.  Here’s what you need:

for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. corn starch
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • gel paste coloring (see above)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla.  Set aside as well.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.

4.  Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture.  Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.

5.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks.  Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Red velvet

for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):

  • 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.

1.  In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined.  Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.

2.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt.  Mix until smooth.  Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides.  Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.

Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂  . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks.  Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection.  I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .

Roulade Marquis — Gluten-Free!!!

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Here’s something that might be good to make for Memorial Day weekend. I think it’s a great choice for summer picnics and grilling get-togethers because it’s fun and it’s actually cool and refreshing. It helps that this cake is stuffed with whipped cream and raspberries.

What’s a little crack(ing) amongst friends?

I got this recipe from Martha, who got this from chef Michel Roux. The one change that I made is that I replaced the potato flour with coconut flour, mostly because I had the coconut flour. I also didn’t dust the pan with the all-purpose flour but used cocoa instead. Otherwise, everything is the same. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. butter, room temperature, for baking sheet
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 4 medium egg whites
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. coconut flour
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. raspberry coulis (see note at the end)
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; butter the parchment and dust with cocoa. Set aside.

Since I didn’t make this for myself, I couldn’t really cut into it, and take some pics of the pretty slices. But I did get a pic of the last little bit.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat yolks and scant 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a bowl until ribbons form; set aside. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until they reach soft peaks; add a scant 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

3. Whisk in one-third of the yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. Fold in remaining yolk mixture using a metal spoon until it is almost fully incorporated. Sift the 1/2 c. cocoa and coconut flour into bowl. Gently fold with a metal spoon until just combined.

4. Using an offset spatula, spread batter on prepared baking sheet to form a 10 1/2-by-12-inch rectangle, about 5/8 inch thick. Transfer to oven and bake until cake springs back when touched, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, line a large wire rack with a clean dish towel. Turn cake out onto prepared rack and carefully peel off parchment paper. Let stand 5 minutes to cool.

6. Now in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until ribbons form. Set aside.

This is what Martha’s looks like. Of course, it’s too pretty for words. I got this from her recipe posting on her website.

7. Carefully transfer cake to a large piece of wax paper. Using a pastry brush, brush 1/4 cup coulis over cake. Using a serrated knife, carefully trim edges from all four sides. With an offset spatula, spread whipped cream over cake, leaving a 5/8-inch border all around. Top with raspberries. Starting from one of the long sides, gently roll up cake, using the wax paper to help you. Transfer cake to refrigerator and let chill 2 to 3 hours.

8. Slice roulade crosswise and serve dusted with confectioners’ sugar and drizzled with coulis.

Notes — Whenever I make roulades / jelly rolls, sometimes (like in this case) I end up cracking them. Most of the time it doesn’t matter because you’ll be putting frosting or whipped cream or whatever on the outside. That can help cover up stuff that’s not ideal. This cracked as well, but you serve it up sliced covered with powdered sugar and raspberry sauce and it’s still fabulous. . . As for the a quick and simple Raspberry Coulis, take a cup of simple syrup, 3 cups of raspberries (I used frozen), and the juice of a lemon. Put everything in a blender and pulse until smooth. Run through a sieve to remove seeds. But you can also check what Martha had listed; there is a link to a coulis recipe on her roulade post.

Chili-Chocolate Truffles

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Hello again everybody!  Sorry for being out of commission for a little bit, but again I’ve been busy trying to keep busy.  Although today, I’m feeling somewhat under the weather and flu-ey, plus my back hurts.  So you know what that means for me — Cheezits and Rum!  But it also means that I won’t be going to the gym (I’m up to lifting 110,425 lbs. now) so I gots me some time to post some fun stuff for y’all!

This is what I made for a little get-together to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  You’ll need some cayenne pepper, which is said to have been used by the Mayans and the Aztecs (cultural nugget — yay!).  It has been some time since I made these and I forgot the heat they impart.  I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but it is definitely noticeable.  It won’t hit you at first, but after the chocolate melts away is when you get that kick from the cayenne.

I rolled some in powdered sugar, and yes, I probably could have shaken more of the excess off.

This recipe came from chatelaine.com, and they in turn adapted it from the book A Matter of Taste by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto.  And if y’all remember my chocolate truffles cake, I prefer a more “natural” truffle — one that actually looks like the truffles you dig out of the ground.  That’s why these chocolates are called truffles after all.  Here’s what you need:

  • 10 oz. (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) room temperature butter
  • 1/2 c. (125 mL) whipping cream
  • 1 T. (15 mL) liquid honey
  • 1/2 t. (2 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) cocoa powder

1.  Finely chop chocolate.  Place in a large bowl with the butter.  Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.

2.  As soon as cream boils, remove it from the heat and then pour it over the chocolate and butter.  Stir until melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in honey and cayenne.

3.  Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil,  or silpat.  To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of the mixture with a melon baller or a very small ice cream scoop.  Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1-2 inch balls.  Set each ball on a baking sheet.

5.  Place half of cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Place one truffle in the bowl and gently roll to coat with cocoa.  Shake off excess and return to the baking sheet.  Repeat, adding cocoa as needed.  When all are coated, place in a container in single layers separated by wax paper.  Refrigerate.  Will keep for up to 5 days.

Notes — Every time I make truffles I always think that it’s a good idea to always have a bain marie ready.  Most recipes I find involve pouring some scalded cream into some chopped chocolate.  More often than not, the heat from the scalded cream is not enough to melt the chocolate.  That’s where the bain marie comes in to finish the job. . . experiment with different types and amounts of chili and see if there’s anything that you like better. . . Don’t forget to like Jereme’s Kitchen and my bakery Daisy Cakes on Facebook!

Lemon Sour Cream Cake

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Perfect cake for Spring or Summer (or Fall or Winter for that matter)

Since working out / lifting weights is taking up a lot of my time lately, this post is a little tardy. It seems like I’m always either lifting or in recovery mode. I am up to moving almost 83,000 lbs. of weight now (I have no frame of reference if that is good or not). But I digress. . . I made this for Easter which was like months and months ago. Better late than never and all that jazz and whatnot.

Again, continuing on my spotlight on Chef Eve Aronoff, here’s her recipe for a Lemon Sour Cream Cake. This recipe (taken from her cookbook eve: Contemporary Cuisine, Méthode Traditionnelle) is a little bit different from cakes that I usually make. First of all, there’s a higher egg content than I’m used to. Secondly, there’s a higher sugar content than I’m used to. Sure, I could have combined those two sentences into one, but I like numbers.

Anyhoo, the higher egg and sugar content make for a cake that is dense, but at the same time it’s not heavy. And the sugar helps create a nice crispy almost candy-like crust. Now, Eve admits that she is not a pastry chef and writes that this is the only cake that she knows how to make. But it is a very versatile cake that can easily be made into muffins or small loaves. The recipe made two 9-in. cakes for me; it can also make seven 4 1/2-in. cakes or 24 muffins. I did make one change — I happened to have some vanilla beans on hand so I used one of them instead of the vanilla extract, but use what you have. Here’s what you need:

  • I luv the little flecks of vanilla in there. Some might want a more uniform color. If so, use the vanilla extract like in the original recipe.

    3 c. sifted all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 lb. salted butter
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 1/2 T. lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the cake pans. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a large electric mixer, cream the butter. Add vanilla and gradually add the sugar. Beat until fluffy.

3. Add eggs, two at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated after each addition, and for a couple of minutes after the last addition. Scrape the sides down to keep the ingredients well mixed.

4. On the lowest speed, add half of the dry ingredients, then all of the sour cream and lemon juice and zest. Finish adding the rest of the dry ingredients, again scraping the sides and beating until smooth. Do not overmix or the cake will get tight.

5. Pour into the pans. Level off by rotating the pans briskly back and forth several times. Bake for about 1 hour for an 8-inch cake, 30-45 minutes for a 4 1/2-inch cake, and about 20-30 minutes for 1-cup muffin pans, or until the cake springs back upon touch.

6. Cool cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then remove by running a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and turn onto another rack to cool completely.

Notes — Eve likes to garnish this with some sliced ripe seasonal fruit, some lemon curd, or some brown sugar cream. . . I made up my own version of a simple brown sugar cream which just involves some vanilla extract, brown sugar, and sour cream. It’s all to taste so no exact measurements here. Just make sure that the brown sugar is dissolved into the sour cream. I use this for things like zucchini bread or carrot cake. . . Don’t forget to like Jereme’s Kitchen or Daisy Cakes on Facebook!