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cakes Recipe

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake is a three layer masterpiece of light sponge cakes with pecans,  and luscious cream cheese frosting with toasted coconut, and vanilla and almond flavors!

Italian Cream Cake

I’ve made several versions of this Italian Cream Cake over the last several months. I’ve toyed with my recipe a bit here and there. This version is mostly based on the recipe from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen.

I think this is a FABULOUS party cake! Three layers always impress guests. The almond, vanilla, pecan, and coconut makes this cake a little more sophisticated than your average chocolate or yellow cake. It’s so easy to decorate this cake too. It’s SO forgiving… the coconut and pecans hide any frosting mistakes.

I photographed this cake recently at my mom’s house. I perched it on her milk glass cake stand. I think it looks just stunning! I’ve got to get one of those cake stands for myself!

Italian Cream Cake

5 from 1 vote
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Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake is a three-layer masterpiece of light sponge cakes with pecans,  and luscious cream cheese frosting with toasted coconut, and vanilla and almond flavors!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 16 Slices
Author we are all magic

Ingredients

Toasted Pecans & Coconut:

  • 14 ounces sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans

Cake:

  • 2 sticks salted butter, softened 1 cup, 225 grams
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 7 ounces toasted coconut (mentioned above)
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans (mentioned above)

Frosting:

  • 2 packages cream cheese Two 8 ounce packages
  • 2 sticks salted butter, softened 1 cup, 225 grams
  • 2 lbs confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • remaining toasted coconut
  • remaining toasted pecans

Instructions

Toasted Pecans & Coconut:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Chop up the pecans, they don't need to be too small.

  3. Spread pecans evenly on one of the baking sheets and repeat with the coconut.

  4. Put both sheets in the hot oven and toast for 5-10 minutes. CHECK ON THEM FREQUENTLY! The coconut goes from toasted to burnt very quickly! I really like the toasted coconut because it gives a lot of texture to the cake, but I suppose you could skip the toasting part if you wanted. 

  5. Remove both sheets from oven and set aside to cool.

Cake:

  1. Grease and flour three 8-9 inch round cake pans. (I actually used aluminum disposable pans at my mom's house and the cake turned out fine!)

  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars for about 5 minutes until light in color and fluffy.

  3. Add egg yolks and extracts to the butter/sugar and mix until incorporated.

  4. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix into batter alternately with the buttermilk in a few parts.

  5. Add coconut and pecans and mix well.

  6. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter.

  7. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow layers to cool completely before decorating.

Frosting:

  1. Cream together butter, extracts, and cream cheese in a large bowl or stand mixer.

  2. Slowly add confectioner's sugar a little bit at a time until it's all incorporated. Beat the frosting until light and fluffy.

Assembling the cake:

  1. Position first layer on a cake stand and top with a hefty dollop of frosting. Spread evenly across the layer. Top with the second and third layers in the same fashion.

  2. Frost the sides of the cake. Use all of the amazing frosting and make it really thick!  Don't worry about making it too pretty, the coconut and pecans will hide any mistakes.

  3. Pat handfulls of coconut onto the side of the cake. Sprinkle pecans on top of the cake.

Recipe Spain

Roscón de Reyes: Spanish Three Kings Cake

Roscon de Reyes

One of my favorite parts of celebrating the holidays in Santander, Spain with my inlaws is the day we get the Roscón de Reyes. In Spain, epiphany is the main Christmas holiday. On January 5th everyone goes to the city center to watch the parade. At the end of the parade the three kings, los reyes magos, each have their own float and they throw candy out to the kids along the route. Imagine a parade with Santa Claus x 3.  Each kid has their favorite king and they shout out their names as they pass by- “Melchor! Gaspar! Baltasar!”. Later that evening everyone in the family leaves a shoe out for the kings to fill with gifts… or… if you’ve been bad you’ll get carbon(coal).

Rosco de Reyes

My brother-in-law always gets two large cakes for us all to enjoy.  One of them is big and filled with sweetened whipped cream(nata), and the other is called a “borracho”(drunk) and has a streusel filling and the whole cake is dipped in a sweet fortified wine.  The roscónes in Spain always have a little prize inside. The prizes vary from bakery to bakery and city to city. In some parts of Spain there’s a lime bean inside, and sometimes it’s a little toy or figurine. Folks have different rules about what the winner of the prize needs to do. Sometimes it’s pay for the roscónes, or buy them the next year, or maybe host the celebration for Candlemas on February 2nd. In my family there are no rules, the person who finds the prize is just lucky!

Roscon de Reyes

My brother-in-law brought my husband and I to a legendary bakery in Santander that’s known for it’s roscónes (or roscos as they are sometimes called in Cantabria). Check out this video showing some images from our visit to La Gondola bakery:

There are thousands of authentic recipes for roscón de reyes online. I didn’t come across a recipe that I liked on any American blogs or sites. I based my recipe on a post on one of my favorite baking blogs in Spain, La Receta de la Felicidad.  I have two of Sandra Mangas’ cookbooks and have followed her work for years. I’ve even been luck enough to trade emails with her on a few occasions over the years.

Here are two of the beautiful roscónes on Sandra’s site:

Roscón de Reyes. Cómo preparar Roscón de Reyes casero.

Roscón de Reyes

One of the main things that makes the rosco different from other sweet breads is the orange blossom water(agua de azahar). It was a bit difficult for me to find this ingredient in the US, neither Whole Foods nor Wegmans had it, but I finally found it at my favorite specialty store in Brooklyn, Whisk.

Here are some links to order it on Amazon if you’re not able to find it locally:

Typically the roscos are decorated with orange blossom water flavored sugar, or pearl sugar, and almonds or candied fruit. There are tons of options for prizes online. Sometimes it could be a little baby Jesus or a little ceramic figurine or toy. I didn’t bake my prize into my cake, I added it in the whipped cream layer, but in Spain they’re often wrapped in plastic and baked into the cake.

I’m not being specific in my recipe as to how to make your whipped cream. I used a full quart of heavy cream to make mine. I also added a bit of confectioners sugar and vanilla. I also used some whipped cream stabilizer because you typically want the cakes to stay edible for more than just one day.

Here are a few other products that might help you out if you’re making this recipe:

4.5 from 2 votes
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Roscón de Reyes: Spanish Three Kings Cake

A traditional Spanish cake that's served to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. This is based on a fabulous roscón recipe from the blog La Receta de la Felicidad.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Spanish
Prep Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 57 minutes
Servings 2 Cakes
Author we are all magic

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 70 grams lukewarm whole milk 1/3 cup
  • 1 packet instant yeast 7 grams
  • 130 grams all-purpose flour 1 cup plus 1 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp sugar

For the dough:

  • the sponge made from the ingredients above
  • 450 grams all-purpose flour 2 1/4 cups
  • 120 grams confectioners sugar a scant cup
  • 1 packet instant yeast 7 grams
  • 1 pinch salt
  • zest of one orange
  • 60 grams lukewarm whole milk a scant half-cup
  • 2 eggs extra large
  • 30 ml orange-blossom water 2 tbsp
  • 70 grams salted butter 5 tbsp

To garnish:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • a few drops of orange-blossom water

To serve:

  • lots of fresh sweet whipped cream

Instructions

For the sponge:

  1. Mix all sponge ingredients together and form into a ball. Place the ball in a deep bowl and cover with lukewarm water. 

  2. Allow to proof until the ball doubles in size and floats to the surface of the water. It takes about 20-30 minutes for me usually. It depends on the ambient temperature and how active your yeast is.

To make the dough:

  1. Measure out your flour, yeast, sugar, zest, and salt and put it into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix for a second on low to incorporate everything.

  2. Remove your proofed sponge from the water bath and add it to the mixer along with the milk and orange-blossom water. Mix well.

  3. Add eggs one at a time mixing in between each egg.

  4. Knead the dough for 5 minutes in your stand mixer on low using the dough hook attachment. You can also knead by hand for 5-8 minutes.

  5. Add the butter to the stand mixer and knead on low for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic, soft, and all the butter is incorporated. You can also knead by hand for 10-13 minutes.

  6. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

  7. After it's doubled in size, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into two halves.

  8. Shape each half into a ball and then form a ring from the ball. place the dough rings onto two baking sheets lined with parchment. (I also used silicon liners in my pans below the parchment.) The finished rings should be about 8-9 inches in diameter.

  9. Cover the rings loosely with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm place for about 2 hours, until they have about doubled in size.

  10. Preheat oven to 375F/190C.

  11. If you wish to garnish the rings with sugar, simply mix a few drops of orange-blossom water with sugar. Add the water a drop at a time until the sugar is the consistency of damp sand. Sprinkle the damp sugar around the rings.

  12. Bake the cakes one at a time for about 15 minutes each. They should be golden brown.

  13. Allow the cakes to cool completely on wire racks.

To serve:

  1. Make a big batch of your favorite whipped cream. I like to make mine SWEET and add a bit of vanilla too.

  2. Cut the rings in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Pipe a thick portion of whipped cream on top of the bottom half and then top it with the top half like a big whipped cream sandwich. 

  3. In Spain there is often a prize and/or lima bean hidden in the roscón.  In Spain it's often baked into the bread, but I like to wrap a little trinket in plastic wrap and hide it in the whipped cream layer.

Roscón de Reyes

cookies Recipe

Anise Cookies

Anise Cookies

 

I loved making cookies with my mom when I was a boy. I don’t remember doing a lot of rolled cut-out cookies, but I do remember doing a lot of “ball” cookies.  My mom is famous for her Italian-American “Meatball Cookies”. They’re a chocolate cookie with walnuts and raisins. I’ll try to post her recipe soon! Meatball Cookies are formed by rolling dough into a ball and baking, they don’t rise very much so they retain a dense ball shape. This recipe also makes A LOT of cookies… and believe it or not… they’re pretty quick to make! The batch I made for the cookie swap made 60 cookies, but mine were on the large side.

Anise Cookies

I was invited to a cookie swap holiday party recently. My first thought was to make my mom’s Meatball Cookies, but then I realized there were some nut allergies on the guest list so I opted for another Italian-American cookie, Anise Cookies… or as people in the area I grew up call them “Italian White Cookies”.  I cannot eat just one of these cookies.. they’re dense balls of anise flavored goodness topped with sugary icing.

Anise Cookies

In my opinion, MORE IS MORE when it comes to sprinkles! I have a bit of a sprinkle problem actually, every time I’m in a baking store I gravitate to glitter, sprinkles, nonpareils. NY Cake & Baking Supply is my go-to place for any of this. I found some of the items I used for these cookies on Amazon also: Black Glitter, Gold Star Glitter, Rainbow Nonpareils, Gold Pearlized Sugar, & Silver Pearlized Sugar.

Anise cookies

I couldn’t resist taking a bite! Now some might balk at the vegetable oil and shortening in this recipe, but I love the taste just how it is! I’ve tried to make the recipe substituting the shortening with butter, but the cookies go flat. While vegetable shortening isn’t my go-to fat in a recipe, I’m fine using it from time to time!

Anise cookies

Anise Cookies
5 from 2 votes
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Anise Cookies

A quick and lovely recipe with wonderful anise flavor. This recipe is adapted from my dear friend Michele Mazurowski and has Italian-American roots.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 24 minutes
Total Time 54 minutes
Servings 60 Cookies
Author we are all magic

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 3 eggs large
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortning
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar 334 grams
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour 750 grams
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk whole
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp anise extract

For the icing:

  • 16 ounces confectioners sugar 453 grams
  • 2 tsp anise extract
  • 1/4 cup milk plus more to get to desired consistency

To decorate:

  • various sprinkles more is more!

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C

  2. In a stand mixer, cream vegetable shortening and sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium.

  3. Add eggs, mixing until incorporated between each egg.

  4. Measure out dry ingredients, mix together, then slowly add to the sugar/egg/shortening mixture on low speed.

  5. Add anise extract, oil, and milk and mix until fully incorporated.

  6. Form dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a lined baking sheet. Dough balls can be placed relatively close together because this cookie does not get much bigger during baking.

  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies begin to crack a bit on top. You don't want the cookies to brown at all.

  8. Allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

  9. For the icing, combine all ingredients and mix well. You want the consistency to be thick. Test out a cookie or two and add more milk if you need to think out the icing.

  10. Dip each cookie into the icing, shake off excess, place on a rack and immediately decorate with sprinkles and then allow them to dry completely until the icing is set.

Anise Cookies

 

Recipe

Gin & Tonic Pound Cake

gin and tonic cake hero shot

Gin and Tonic Pound Cake

I spend a lot of time in Santander in the North of Spain. There are a lot of drinks that are popular in Spain but BY FAR the gin & tonic is the most loved cocktail.  For this cake I’ve taken one of my favorite pound cake recipes and replaced the soda pop-leavening with tonic water.  There’s a subtle tonicy taste in each sweet and buttery bite and then there’s a bit of ZING from the lime.

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are the dominant flavor in gin. In Spain it’s very common to put a few fresh or dried juniper berries in a glass of gin and tonic as garnish. They’re very fragrant and add to the experience!

You can order juniper berries HERE. I usually buy a bulk pack and keep them in the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

Gin Simple Syrup

I have used this gin-flavored simple syrup on ice cream, in milkshakes, and on bread pudding. It’s wonderful! I have a large collection of gins at home. My current favorites are Junipero, that I used in this recipe, and I also like Xorigur Mahon and Gin Mare from Spain.

Gin and Tonic Pound Cake Slice

Gin and Tonic Pound Cake

5 from 2 votes
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Gin & Tonic Pound Cake

The classic flavors of gin & tonic in cake-form!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 people
Author we are all magic

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 sticks Butter 340g
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 5 Eggs
  • Juice & Zest of 1 Lime
  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Tonic Water

For the gin syrup:

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 1 handful Juniper Berries
  • 1/4 cup Gin You can adjust this quantity to taste.

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F/160C and grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan.

  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. About 5 minutes.

  3. Add eggs one at a time mixing well between each egg.

  4. Add lime juice and zest and mix well.

  5. Add flour one cup at a time mixing between each cup.

  6. Add tonic water and mix well scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix.

  7. Pour batter into prepared tube pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes until cake is not jiggly and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.

  8. Remove cake form oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes and then invert pan and allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the gin syrup:

  1. Combine sugar, water, and juniper berries in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

  2. Lower heat to low and simmer for 6 minutes.

  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

  4. Mix gin into cool syrup.

To serve:

  1. Cut a slice of cake and put it on your favorite plate and drizzle a ton of tasty gin syrup over your slice and enjoy!