Perfect Party Cake for the Daring Bakers:

This month’s challenge for the Daring Bakers was the Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s book “Baking from My Home To Yours” I was so pleased to see this as the challenge recipe. I got this book as a birthday gift from a friend and ever since I’ve been eyeing this cake in the book. This challenge came along almost like a God sent gift :-D!!

After last month’s French Bread challenge I was hoping this month wouldn’t be bread again. I bake, but not breads…atleast not yet. So this month’s challenge being cake, I was only too happy!

You will need:

For the Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsps grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry/strawberry/blueberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Baking a cake is a pleasure for me at all times, and this was no different. The taste was unbelievably good.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Allowed modifications:

We were allowed to use toppings of our choice and also substitute the buttercream with sweetened whipped frosting. I have never made buttercream before (like this one) so I didn’t change a thing and went ahead with Dorie’s recipe.

The cake was incredibly easy to cut and was a definite no mess cake. I used strawberry preserves. I skipped the coconut topping as we are not a fan of coconut. I instead decorated the cake using the buttercream with rosettes and shells on the bottom.

A cake true to its name!!

I was under the impression that we were supposed to post this tomorrow (31st) and was taking it easy, I hadn't even prepared this post. It's been a busy weekend with a big catering order, got time off now and hurriedly did this! Thankfully I hadn't forget to make the cake sooner too..hehe!

My second Daring Bakers Challenge is completed! Thanks Morven for the wonderful challenge :)

Black Beans and Corn cutlets:

There’s something about black beans and corn combo that has me going back for more all the time. I’ve done a Salad and a Salsa before and this time made these cutlets.

You will need:

1 large potato, boiled, peeled and grated

1 Cup Black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup Corn kernels, drained

¼ cup finely chopped Green bell pepper

1-2 tsp Hot sauce

Salt and Pepper

Handful of your favourite cheese, shredded

4 tbsp Oil

In a medium bowl, partially mash the black beans and corn. To this add the grated potato, chopped bell pepper, hot sauce and grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Divide into equal portions and flatten into patties.

Heat oil in a non stick pan. Place patties on the pan and cook on low heat for 5 minutes on each side. Since everything except the bell pepper is already pre cooked, these patties don’t need more time on the pan.

Drain excess oil on paper towels and serve hot with your favourite ketchup.

Black Beans and Corn cutlets are my entry to “Waiter, there’s something in my Pulses hosted by Jeanne at the Cook Sister.

Fusilli alla Caprese

The name itself should tell you that this recipe is either straight from a book or from a cooking channel. And for those who know how much I watch Food Network the latter should ring a bell. I recently saw this on Giada’s show and was waiting to try it since it looked very simple.

Instead of using jarred Marinara sauce, Giada gives a quick and simple way to make a chunky yummy sauce from Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic. I didn’t have Cherry Tomatoes on hand so on my next visit to the farmers market I bought some and made this without further ado. The original recipe calls for fresh Mozzarella but I didn’t find any at my grocers, hence used the packaged mozzarella. It tasted just fine.

You will need:

2 Cups Fusilli(Rotini) pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp Sugar

½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ Cup Mozzarella cubed or shredded

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender Drain pasta into a large bowl.

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. As the tomatoes cook and soften, smash them with a fork. Continue to cook until the tomatoes make a chunky style sauce. Transfer the tomato sauce to the bowl with the pasta. Toss to combine. Add the basil leaves and mozzarella. Stir to combine. Serve immediately…or in my case eat immediately.

I added sugar to mellow the tartness of the cherry tomatoes since I’m not a big fan of tart foods. It was a perfect bowl of pasta for any night of the week.


When RCI: Bengal was announced the first thing that came to mind was the juicy Bengali sweets. I had two favourites as a kid (and still do), Champakali (Cham Cham) and Malai Sandwich. I googled to find out which sweets are actually possible to make at home and to my surprise came across a recipe for Cham Cham. A few months ago I had tried to make Rasagollas at home, and they were perfect.I was pleasantly surprised that the method was so simple and easy.

Most Bengali sweets have Paneer as the starting base. Like so for the Cham Cham, which also has a mawa filling in between. Making this mawa/khoya was another procedure. More on that later. Now back to the juicy yellow Cham chams.

You will need:

For the outer layer:

5 cups Whole Milk
2 tbsp Lemon juice
1/4 tsp Lemon Yellow food colour
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Sugar

For the filling:

1 Cup Plain Khoya
3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping cream
3 tbsp Powdered Sugar

Bring milk to a boil on the stove top. Stir frequently to prevent burning. When the milk begins to boil add the lime juice, this will curdle the milk and the whey will begin to split. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Strain into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth or any thin cloth. Run under cold water to rinse off the lemon residue.

Squeeze the cloth to drain as much water as possible. Place in the colander for 20 minutes to allow all the water to drain.

Once the water has drained, transfer Paneer to a smooth, clean kneading surface. Add the food colour and knead the paneer for 5-7 minutes till it comes together into a soft dough. As you knead the ball should give off fat, this is the time to stop. (Over kneading makes the end product very chewy)

Set water to boil in a pressure cooker. Stir in the sugar and bring to a full boil.

Divide the kneaded paneer into equal parts, and shape into long oblong pieces. Remember to make the pieces small,because they will double in size once they are cooked.

Once the syrup comes to a boil, slowly add the pieces into the cooker. Make sure your cooker is big enough to accommodate all the pieces without being too crowded. Close lid, place weight on cooker and pressure cook on high for two whistles. Reduce heat to low, cook for 5 minutes and then turn off heat.

Do not handle the cham chams when they are hot, they are very delicate. This holds true if you are making Rasagolla or Rasmalai too.

This is how they will look once pressure cooked. Let cool and refrigerate overnight or for alteast 6 hours before u make the filling.

In a pan on medium heat, mix cream, plain khoya and the powdered sugar. Stir till it thickens. Let cool well and then knead into a dough. This is the filling.

Slice each cham cham lengthwise, place a long piece of filling in between and press the two pieces together. Top with a halved cherry and serve. Keep chilled. The sugar syrup can be refrigerated and stored for a good while. Use it instead of sugar in milkshakes or anything else.

The same procedure goes for making Rasagollas, except that you don't need to add food colour, make round balls instead of oblongs and of course no filling is necessary.

Note: I probably cooked the filling more than required hence the brown colour, it should remain creamy white.

These yummy Cham Chams are headed over to the event RCI: Bengal hosted by Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook.

Saffron Rice with Bengali Egg Curry

I have been looking forward to the Bengal version of RCI ever since I had lipsmacking Bengali food at a friend’s place. Her mom was here for a month, and she had made around fifteen dishes excluding three varieties of sweets. Phew, just the spread had hubby and me drooling:-D. I kept telling my friend and her mom that they should have invited us for dinner 3 nights in a row then, we could have done justice to all these dishes! I had enjoyed one curry in particular that night, the Bengali Egg curry. When RCI was announced, it was a very good excuse for me to try that curry at home.

Bengali Egg Curry

You will need:

1 red onion chopped

1 Tomato chopped

1” cinnamon stick

2 Cardamoms, cracked, skins discarded

2 Cloves

1” fresh Ginger grated

2 Cloves Garlic grated

4 hard boiled eggs, shelled

1 large potato cut into big chunks

1 tsp Red chilli powder

½ tsp Turmeric powder

Salt to taste

4 tbsp Oil

Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Saute for a few seconds and then add the ginger and garlic. Saute till fragrant and then add the chopped onions. Saute for 3-4 minutes till they are soft. Add half of the chopped tomatoes. Let tomatoes soften. Cool this mixture and then grind to a smooth paste with water as required.

Heat remaining oil in another pan. Add the boiled eggs and fry till outer layer is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Now add the potato chunks and fry till cooked through. Cook on medium heat and flip pieces as they crisp up and turn brown. Remove and drain excess oil.

Reheat the oil in the same pan. Add the turmeric and red chilli powder. Let sizzle for a few seconds. Now add the ground paste and ½ cup Water. Saute on low heat for 7-8 minutes till gravy is thick and has changed colour to reddish brown. Once the gravy is done, oil will float on top. Now add the fried eggs and potatoes, remaining chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and stir well. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Serve with Saffron rice.

Saffron Rice

You will need:

2 cups Basmati Rice

1/3 cup Milk

½ tsp Saffron strands

½ tsp Salt

3 ¼ cups water

3 Cardamoms

2 Cloves

Wash the rice well and place in a medium saucepan with water. Toss in the whole spices (cardamom, cloves) along with salt. Bring to boil, then simmer covered for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, warm up milk and saffron in a small cup in the microwave (2 minutes).

Check if rice is cooked (without being too soft/sticky). Drain excess water and pour saffron and milk mixture on top. Lightly fork together over medium heat. Cook covered for 7 minutes.Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

These are my entries to RCI:Bengal hosted by Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook.

Coming next: Cham-Chams :)

MBP- Banana Latte Smoothie:

When Sig urged us to get drunk on cocktails and drinks from other blogs (well, she didn't say that exactly :P), I couldn’t fall behind and pass up this opportunity:-D I was high on another kind of drink over at The Budding Cook.

I used the original recipe except skipped the vanilla.

You will need:

2 Bananas

1 Cup Coffee (1 cup Milk+ 1 ½ tsps instant Coffee powder)

1 Cup Cold Milk

2 tbsps Yoghurt

Sugar as required

Blend all ingredients till smooth. Chill and serve.

We agree T, it surely can't get simpler than this :) We loved the smoothie!!!

This is off to “Monthly Blog Patrol – Mixed Drinks”, an event started by Coffee of the Spice Café and hosted by lovely Sig of Live to Eat.


After the tryst with delicious tea infused Channa curry, I knew the dish would be incomplete without Baturas to go with it. So, I made some!

You will need:

2 Cups Maida (All Purpose Flour)

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Oil

4 tbsp Yoghurt

Milk as required

Oil for frying

Mix the flour with the oil, salt yoghurt and milk as required to form a soft non-sticky dough. Cover and keep aside for atleast 2-3 hours.

Knead gently to make a smooth dough. Divide into equal sized balls. Roll out the balls into flat rounds. Make the size which will fit the vessel you are going to fry the Baturas in. Typically Baturas are anywhere between 10”-12” in diameter. My kadai at home is not that big hence I made smaller Baturas.

Heat oil on medium heat and lower the rolled Batura into the hot oil. Gently press the Batura down with the help of your spatula, this allows the Batura to puff up well. After a minute or so slowly flip to brown the other side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with Channa curry, a wedge of lime and sliced onions.

Channa(Chickpeas) Curry:

My mom always made Channa curry with Bathuras, and most often only when she took classes. So the day she taught Channa Bathura, we had the same dish for lunch/dinner too. My brother and I used to look forward to this combo for two reasons; one, the Bathuras (form of Pooris) were huge and second, the Channa curry tasted different from anything we had eaten elsewhere. Back then it didn’t matter to me what went into the curry as long as it tasted good.But once I began to cook myself, I realized why mom’s curry was so unique and delicious at the same time. It's definitely different from the channa made with the MDH Channa Masala (which I like too by the way). Here’s why.

You will need:

2 Cups Channa/Chickpeas

4 Onions chopped

6 large tomatoes

1 tbsp Ginger Garlic paste

1 tsp Anardana (Dried Pomegranate seeds)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 tsp Garam Masala powder

1 tsp Red chilli powder

½ tsp Turmeri powder

1 tsp Lime juice

1 tbsp Jaggery

1 Tea bag (regular flavour)

1/3 Cup Oil

Salt to taste

Soak channa/chickpeas overnight. Pressure cook with a pinch of cooking soda till done(usually 3 whistles). Strain and reserve.

Puree 4 tomatoes and keep aside. Chop the remaining. Powder the cumin seeds and anardana. Then add a fistful of boiled channa, onions, jaggery and red chilli powder. Grind to a smooth paste, add water as required.

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute. Add the ground paste and sauté for 5 minutes on low flame till the paste thickens and the oil begins to float on top. Now add the tomato puree, boiled channa, chopped tomatoes and 1 cup water. Stir and bring to a boil on medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes. Now insert a tea bag and let the string hang on the side of the pan. Add garam masala powder, salt and lime juice. Let simmer for 4-5 minutes. Do not over boil as you don’t want an overpowering taste of tea in the dish. Discard tea bag,garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot.

Cake, cakes and more Cakes!!

Last week was the busiest week of my entire life…really! I had 3 cake orders and all in the very same week. I was so overwhelmed that I was actually getting orders for cake :) Something I haven’t even advertised for!!!

One was for Wednesday, a friend’s anniversary – her gift to her hubby. Another was for Thursday, a friend’s birthday – her hubby’s gift to her :-D Both were pineapple pastries (pastry..the one we get in India in the pricier cake shops, sponge cake layered with whipped cream, pineapples and cherries) and were easy as I had done them before. One was heart shaped and the other was good old round one. I had to decorate with the whipped cream which was a little tricky as whipped cream doesn’t hold shape when piped. I found a neat trick which actually worked..more on that later. Feast your eyes on the two cakes for now, both friends were pleased.

And finally the big cake for Sunday, a Hannah Montana theme cake. This was for an 8 year old. First when her mom called to tell me the theme, she mentioned Hannah Montana and Bratz. Hannah Montana sounded familiar because I had seen a Walmart commercial on tv for all of her stuff….anything with her face on it! Hannah Montana is a show on Disney channel where a girl is a pop singer but hides her true identity at school so that she is treated just as others (this is what I know :D) Bratz….err…who or what is that? I had to google that while I was still on the call and find out that Bratz is a group of 4 fashionable Diva girls, the latest rave among young girls. Aaagh….what was I supposed to come up with???

Finally after much deliberation and a couple of hours looking for ideas, I decided to make a guitar shaped cake, guitar since she is a pop singer and would be appropriate. Here’s how it looked.

With all this baking I had catering orders in between too, so it was one helluva hectic week. But I’m glad I got through it, it will surely be one week I will look back to always.

Black Eyed Peas in Coconut Gravy

It was one of those days when my taste buds were screaming for something new and I had no idea how to satisfy them. I decide to delve into the depths of my freezer (for a change instead of the fridge!) and came across a pack of frozen black eyed peas. Frozen black eyed peas...tucked away in the dark corner of the why in the world did I buy this?? And more so ...when? Well, considering I found the pack at a time like this, I didn't want to pressurize my gray cells and set about making a flavourful new dish.

You will need:

2 Cups Black Eyed Peas cooked

1 Onion thinly sliced

4 Green chillies

2 cloves of Garlic grated

½” pc Ginger grated

1” pc Cinnamon

1 tsp Corriander powder

1- 1 1/2 Cups Coconut Milk (thick)

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Oil

In a blender, powder the cinnamon. To this add the green chillies, garlic, ginger and coriander powder. Also add ½ of coconut milk and blend to form a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a pan. Add sliced onions and sauté till soft. Now add the ground paste and fry till aromatic. Add the remaining coconut milk and cooked black eyed peas. Season with salt and simmer on low heat till gravy thickens. You can add water to adjust the quantity and then simmer to thicken it. Serve with rice.

We had ours with Basmati Rice cooked in a combination of milk and water, flavoured with onions and green chillies. The combination was perfect. That first bite had me satisfied alright!!

Gowdru Pulao

Our neighbours back in Mysore, India are Gowdas. My mom and the aunties next door are good friends. Every now and then delicious aromas of food used to drift over to where we lived and I always wondered what they cooked. My mom gave me this recipe a few months back and said there was no name to it. When I was making the pulao, the exact same pleasing aroma rose from it and took me back in time. I instantly named it Gowdru Pulao. Gowdru is kannada for Gowdas. :-D I have no idea if such a dish even exists! All I know is its one yummy tasting and aromatic rice dish.

You will need:

1 Cup Basmati Rice

1 1/2 cups Water

1 Cup Cauliflower florets

1/4 Cup Peas (fresh/frozen)

2 Onions

2 tsp ghee

Grind to a rough paste:

5-6 Green chillies

1/4 pc cinnamon

2 cloves

3-4 Garlic cloves

½ “ pc Ginger

1-2 Cardamom

½ bunch coriander


Salt to taste

2-3 whole hard boiled eggs (optional)

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add thinly sliced onions. Saute till onions are cooked through. Add ground masala paste, fry for 2 minutes. Now add the veggies and sauté for a minute. Shell the boiled eggs and make small cuts in the eggs, this will allow the flavours to penetrate while cooking. Add measured water, salt and shelled eggs, on high heat and close lid (update). When the steam begins to rise, lower heat, and add the washed, drained Basmati Rice. Stir well and close lid, turn heat to high. When steam begins to rise, place weight on cooker and lower heat. Cook for 6-7 minutes and turn off. Drizzle ghee on top,mix well before serving with raitha.

This becomes a vegetarian dish without the use of eggs, so don't let the eggs stop you from trying this. Trust me, the aroma is heavenly and well worth the try. You can cut the eggs or serve them whole.

This is my entry to Meeta's "MM:One Dish Dinners" over at What's For Lunch Honey?

Anytime I have guests and mom asks what I'm making, I say "Gowdru Pulao" and she knows what I'm talking about...hehe!

My best cake ever!!

Last Tuesday we had the concluding class of Wilton Course 2. The previous three weeks of class went in making flowers and learning to work with two different kinds of icing other than the regular butter cream (used to frost cakes) At the beginning of each class, our instructor usually points to the last page (or the cover) and says” At the end of this Course, you will be able to take home a cake which looks like this…”

And there is a ring of laughter throughout class,and we are loudly declaring…'oh no way can we do that' :-D I can almost hear my instructor now saying, 'oh yes, you can!'

Well, much that it looked like an impossible feat at the beginning of the course, the last class proved it all wrong. This is how my cake looked at the end of Course 2 :)

All flowers were made using Royal Icing, which is a stiff kind of icing and dries very quickly. Once these flowers are dried, they can be stored for a long long time and can be used on any cake.

The bird was made using Color Flow Icing, which is stiffer than Royal and hardens quicker too. We made two birds but I used only one on my cake.

Top of Cake

A closer look at the flowers.

Daisies & Daffodils

Chrysanthemums & Apple Blossoms

Violets & Pansies

Primroses and Victorian Roses

We also learned the Basket Weave design (on the sides of the cake) and the Rope design (border on top and bottom of cake)

This is my best cake so far. It's so pretty that I don't feel like cutting it :)

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