Category Archives: fruit and nuts

Kiwi Vanilla Cupcakes with Kiwi Buttercream Frosting

Do your lips pucker up at the mention of a kiwi? Maybe it’s just me… All too often I’ve eaten sour kiwis, especially in the winter, no matter how long I let them ripen on the counter. Luckily in the summer, sour kiwis aren’t a problem, and in fact I ended up with a surplus of ripe kiwis recently. So I’m excited to be sharing with you some refreshing kiwi vanilla cupcakes with kiwi buttercream frosting that taste just like eating a ripe kiwi, and hopefully you’ll have a chance to try it out before the summer is over!

Kiwi vanilla cupcakes with kiwi buttercream frosting

When my box of kiwis from the wholesale club decided to all ripen at the same time, my gut instinct was to make kiwi cupcakes. But having never done it before, and given that kiwis have quite a bit of moisture to them, I looked to the internet for guidance. As it turns out, not too many people have done straight up kiwi cupcakes with kiwi frosting. Almost all the posts I saw were strawberry kiwi cupcakes, which sounded great, but I didn’t have any strawberry. I ultimately ended up combining two recipes: a strawberry cupcake base that substitutes kiwi for the strawberry, and a delicious-looking kiwi buttercream recipe that uses the surprising ingredient salt for a great kiwi flavor. It was important to me that the kiwi flavor would come through in both the cupcake base and the frosting, and I loved the idea of having flecks of the jewel green kiwi fruit and black seeds throughout.

I also recently purchased a set of fluted silicone cupcake liners, in the hopes that I would be to save money on cupcake liners when I’m baking for myself or small parties, since I never seem to have cupcake liners on hand when I want to use them.  The interesting part was being able to pop out the finished cupcakes from the silicone cups without needing to grease them, they came out like magic! I also liked the smooth fluted sides of the cupcakes that looked so neat and clean compared to the crumbs and mess that comes with peeling back a paper liner.

Cupcakes slide neatly out of the silicone cupcake liners

Unfortunately, the lesson learned is that silicone is neither good for heat retention nor heat conduction, so my cupcakes took WAY longer to bake than they should and ended up getting very browned on the tops and bottoms before the inside was even cooked through. When they were finally done, the taste was still wonderful, just the tops were a bit over-done with all that extra time. The silicone was a huge disappointment, so I think I will go back to using regular paper liners. Alas, we were not meant to be. I suppose I’ll hide the silicone liners away until I find another use for them that doesn’t involve heat and baking. I bet they’ll be good as molds for things like gelatins, mousses, and no-bake cheesecakes.

Kiwi vanilla cupcakes with kiwi buttercream frosting



Kiwi Vanilla Cupcakes with Kiwi Buttercream Frosting (makes 1 dozen)

Cupcake base recipe adapted from Trilogy Edibles
Frosting recipe adapted from Sideways Sweet

Ingredients:

Cupcake base:

  • 1-2 whole fresh kiwis (enough to make 1/3 cup of mashed kiwi)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • slightly over 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites

Frosting:

  • 1 whole fresh kiwi, mashed
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • slightly over 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • a pinch or two of sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners (I do NOT recommend using silicone liners).

2. Peel the 3 kiwis you will need for the cupcakes and frosting, and mash them well using a fork, trying to break up large chunks. See the consistency of the mashed kiwi below for reference. If your kiwi is not soft enough to mash with a fork, puree it in a food processor or blender. You will use 1/3 cup of the mashed kiwi for the cupcakes, and the remainder can be set aside for the frosting.

Mashed kiwi

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt for the cupcake base. In another small bowl, mix together the milk, vanilla, and the 1/3 cup mashed kiwi.

4. In a large bowl, cream the 1 stick of butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, then add sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Turn down the speed to medium and blend in egg and egg whites until just blended.

5. Turn mixer to low speed and add half the flour mixer, mixing briefly until just blended. Then add the milk and kiwi mixture, blend briefly until just combined. Finally add remaining half of the flour mixture, scrape down sides of bowl, and finish mixing just until blended.

6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, and bake for 22-25 minutes until tops are golden and just dry to the touch, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (If you so happen to be using silicone muffin cup liners, you may need to add an extra 10-15 minutes of bake time on top of this.) Remove from oven and cool thoroughly before frosting. If using silicone liners, remove them as soon as the cupcakes have cooled just enough to handle.

Batter in silicone baking cups

Kiwi vanilla cupcakes at end of original baking time – centers still raw in the silicone baking cups, but probably what yours will look like if baked in regular paper liners

The cupcakes after another 15 minutes in the oven, finally cooked through but clearly overbrowned using the silicone liners!

7. Make the frosting: Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add approx 3-5 tbsp of mashed kiwi to the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and blend well. You can always add more kiwi but you can’t take it back once it’s in there. Just make sure the mixture is still light and fluffy and doesn’t become watery. Now add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar, and blend thoroughly.  Stop to taste the frosting, making note of the degree of sour versus sweet. The final step is to add the salt and mix well, and taste again.

Kiwi buttercream frosting

The frosting flavor should really round out and come together at the end, without being too sweet or too sour. You won’t taste the salt, but it will balance out the kiwi and the sugar so that the uniqueness of the kiwi flavor shines through. I swear the frosting tastes so addictive and refreshing, like a perfectly ripe kiwi, mmm!

Kiwi vanilla cupcakes with kiwi buttercream frosting

These cupcakes are best the day of, and look beautifully summery when garnished with slices of kiwi. The frosting comes out a very pale pastel green, with flecks of the black kiwi seeds throughout. You’ll find the kiwi pairs surprisingly well with the buttery vanilla in the cupcake, brightened up by the bold kiwi flavor in the frosting. I couldn’t believe how fresh of a taste it was, considering how rare it is to hear about kiwi cupcakes as a concept. Everyone who had one of these asked for a second, which must be a good sign right? ;) I know I’ll be making these again and again when I have all those extra kiwis in the summertime!


Easy 4-Ingredient Lime Cracker Pie

Sometimes a recipe is just so simple that you have to try it. This 4-ingredient lime cracker pie, which requires no baking and takes all of 10 minutes to put together, is definitely one of those recipes. In fact, you won’t believe how good it tastes until you finally get to take it out of the fridge and try it yourself. This recipe is a fantastic shortcut to key lime pie, with a similar taste and none of the work. All you’ll need is limes, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and some Ritz crackers (or the like). The amount might not seem like much, but a little goes a long ways with this dessert because the flavors are intense! And when you bring it to a potluck, you’d better be prepared to answer all the questions when people start gawking at you for finding such a neat dessert idea that is so easy to execute.

4-Ingredient Lime Cracker Pie

You would think that so many Ritz crackers in the pie would come out funny and taste nothing like a dessert. But this pie uses the same technique that icebox cakes use: by layering crackers with a cream, custard, or pudding and letting it chill in the “icebox”, the crackers absorb the moisture and become soft and cake-like in texture. The saltiness of the crackers also balance the sweet and sour of the lime custard perfectly. The lime zest gives it a slight bite as well. The end result really ends up tasting like a key lime cake. Try it and I bet you’ll love it! So are you ready??

4-Ingredient Lime Cracker Pie



4-Ingredient Lime Cracker Pie (makes 6-8 servings)

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 limes, juiced and zested (1/4 cup lime juice and 1/2 tbsp zest)
  • 1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk – I used fat free
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 sleeves of Ritz crackers (6 oz)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and the heavy cream, mix well.

Wonderful sweetened condensed milk

2. Add lime juice and stir for about 2 minutes – the mixture should magically thicken to a custard consistency. Stir in half of the lime zest, and reserve the rest for garnish.

lime custard finished

3. To assemble the pie, you may choose to do so in a casserole dish, trifle bowl, or small cups and ramekins. Layer the bottom of the container with crackers, breaking them as needed to fill in gaps. Top with 1/3 of the lime custard mixture. Repeat with layers of crackers and custard, ending with the custard on top to cover the crackers. You should have 3 layers of crackers, but you can do 4 layers if you prefer. Garnish top with remaining lime zest.

Cracker layer

Lime cracker pie in tea cups

4. Chill lime cracker pie in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably 6 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Lime Cracker Pie in Parfait Cups

4-Ingredient Lime Cracker Pie


Chinese birthday cream cake with strawberry mousse filling and fresh fruit

Since I posted about my Chinese birthday cake recipe a few years ago, it’s been my most popular post on the entire blog, and I’m thrilled that so many of you find it helpful! I’ve since made this cake several times for family and friends, and I’ve done a few variations for the original custard filling that have all been great. The simplest is to fill the center with cream and fresh fruit, which allows you to skip the custard-making step entirely. I’ve also made a taro paste filling, which is surprisingly easy to do and very popular in Chinese bakeries (post to come at a later time). Eventually I’d like to do a chestnut paste filling too, which is a favorite from my childhood growing up in Shanghai.

Chinese birthday cream cake with strawberry mousse and fruit filling

Today’s post, keeping in theme with the recent recipes for using fruit, is a Chinese birthday cake with fresh fruit and cream on the outside, and a strawberry mousse with fruit on the inside. As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to go through 2 pints of strawberries in just 4 days, which is no easy feat when there’s just me and my boyfriend consuming all the food. The first pint went into making the lazy man’s fancy strawberry shortcake. The second pint went into this Chinese birthday cake. Well, technically it wasn’t anybody’s birthday… I just wanted to make this cake to eat, and my boyfriend has never tried my Chinese cakes before, so of course I had to make it for him, birthday or no birthday. I enjoy spoiling him silly :P

The strawberry mouse filling here takes its inspiration from the beautiful strawberry mirror cake. I adapted a couple of strawberry mousse recipes together to fit my needs, and used a springform pan to help form the mousse so that it would sit in-between the cake layers and surround the cake on the outside. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough mousse to cover the entire surface I wanted to cover, but it was easily fixed with a layer of stabilized whipped cream frosting on the outside. The strawberry flavor of the mousse filling really shines through here, and all the fresh fruit along with the moist cake and fresh whipped cream just give the whole cake a refreshing taste, light yet creamy and indulgent at the same time. Even better, I was able to use the leftover macerated strawberry juice from the strawberry shortcake, which was delicious. Now that’s efficiency! I topped the cake with fresh strawberries, golden kiwi (I hadn’t seen this type of kiwi until I came to California, it’s sweeter than the green kiwis), and a few cantaloupe melon balls, which my boyfriend requested, but since I had no melon baller, I had to improvise and scoop them using my measuring spoons! He approved :)

Fresh fruit toppings on the cake

If I were to make this cake again, I would add more gelatin or use less strawberry juice and milk in the mousse because I would have liked it to set up more firmly in the cake. The amount I used here set up more like a very thick yogurt rather than a firm mousse, but I couldn’t determine that until I had let the whole thing set up fully. So without further ado, here is the recipe below. I use the same cake base as my original Chinese bakery style birthday cake, but the filling recipe is described below as well as the assembly process. Have fun!

Chinese birthday cream cake with strawberry mousse and fruit filling



Chinese Birthday Cream Cake with

Strawberry Mousse Filling and Fresh Fruit

(makes a 2-layer cake, 9″ diameter)

For the cake base: please see my previous Chinese bakery style birthday cake recipe. Note: you will need 1 pint total of fresh strawberries for assembling this cake.

For the strawberry mousse: (recipe adapted from Joy of Desserts and Viet World Kitchen)

Ingredients: 

  • 1/3 pint of fresh strawberries (approximately 1 1/3 cups cut up)
  • 1/4 cup macerated strawberry juice (see strawberry shortcake recipe, or you may substitute with more fresh strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 packet of unflavored gelatin (1 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 tbsp Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier (may substitute with water)
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar (use 1/4 cup if not adding macerated strawberry juice)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:

1. Sprinkle gelatin powder on top of 2 tbsp of liquor or water in a small bowl, allow to soften for at least 5 minutes.

2. Wash and hull strawberries, chop roughly and puree in a blender. I obtained about 1/2 cup of puree. Add macerated strawberry juice and milk to make approximately 1 cup of volume total.

3. Stir in sugar, and heat puree on medium heat until just starting to simmer. Remove from heat, and stir in softened gelatin until it dissolves. Set aside puree in a mixing bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

4. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form (for a firmer mousse, whip until stiff peaks form). Fold whipped cream into the room temperature strawberry puree. Now it is ready to use for the cake!

Assembling the cake:

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup macerated strawberry juice
  • pastry brush
  • 9″ diameter springform pan
  • chopped fresh fruit for the filling of the cake
  • fresh fruit to decorate top of cake
  • stabilized whipped cream (from Chinese bakery style birthday cake recipe)

1. Trim the brown skin off of the cake rounds, and trim the rounds so that they are the same size. Brush both sides of cake rounds and edges generously with macerated strawberry juice. Place  first cake round in a 9″ diameter springform pan (it should sit centered, with a rim of space around the edge).

Cake round in springform pan

2. Pour strawberry mousse over cake, letting it settle in the rims, until there is a 1cm layer of mousse covering the top of the cake.

First mousse layer, starting to put strawberries on top

3. Spread chopped fruit on top of mousse, gently, until covered. Pour more mousse on top and spread to sides. Reserve some mousse for the next layer!

Tons of fruit layered in the middle!

More mousse to cover the fruit layer

4. Place second brushed cake round on top of mousse and fruit filling. Spoon remaining mousse on the side to fill the rim. If you have made enough mousse, ideally it will come up evenly on the side of the cake, but as you can see below, I came up short. I think if you used less mousse in the middle layer that would work too (by placing fruit directly on top of the bottom cake round and then pouring mousse on top, instead of trying to get the fruit in the middle of the layer).

5. Place springform pan into refrigerator and allow to set at least 3 hours (preferably overnight).

6. When ready to unmold cake, take the springform pan out of the refrigerator and wrap a warm wet washcloth around the edges for 30 seconds. Carefully unmold the springform pan ring to release the edges. (Do you see how I didn’t have enough mousse to fill the rims to the top? Oops, underestimated how much mousse I was using in the middle layer. No worries, it’ll get covered with whipped cream frosting!)

Wrap with hot wet towel to unmold cake

Cake unmolded

7. Place cake back in the refrigerator to firm up while you prepare the stabilized whipped cream recipe. Frost the cake around the edges and on top with stabilized whipped cream. Be gentle around the strawberry mousse to avoid disturbing it. You’ll want to frost the top surface of the cake more thickly than the sides, as there is already that rim of strawberry mousse on the sides.

Cake frosted with stabilized whipped cream

8. Finally, decorate top with prepared fresh fruit. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. The cake will keep in the fridge for at least 3 days, but hopefully it will be gone long before that! Enjoy!

Chinese birthday cream cake with strawberry mousse and fruit filling


The Lazy Man’s Fancy Strawberry Shortcake

I know, this post sounds like an oxymoron. But ever since I’ve discovered this way of making strawberry shortcake, I have been too lazy to make it from scratch, because it passes so well for made-from-scratch. Now, if you’re really truly lazy, you’ll probably end up making pseudo-strawberry-shortcake, which is that thing where you throw some strawberries on top of those store-bought yellow cake shells and then spray on some whipped cream and call it a day. I think that is so far removed from the original thing that I would call it an entirely different name if I could. I call this recipe a “fancy” strawberry shortcake because it looks like the real thing, and has a good texture and taste that you could definitely serve to your guests for a nice occasion. And it does require a little more work than having everything store-bought, but it is so much easier than making the shortcake from scratch. These strawberry shortcakes helped me use up the first of 2 pints of strawberries, a yummy way to eat my fruit indeed!

lazy man's fancy strawberry shortcake

Anyway, I found the recipe on the back of a box of Bisquick, which I bought to make pancakes on lazy weekends. As it turns out, you can just use the biscuit mix to make the shortcakes, which turn out like big biscuits with a golden crunchy outer crust (actual shortcakes are just the sweeter variation of a biscuit). They also look lovely with their crackly round tops. Just cut them open and fill with macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream, and you have an impressive dessert that was a total no-brainer and put together quickly just before dinner. Yeah… that’s why I have been too lazy to make these from scratch haha.



Lazy Man’s (Bisquick) Fancy Strawberry Shortcake  (makes 6 shortcakes)

Recipe adapted from Bisquick

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar (for macerating strawberries)
  • 2 1/3 cup Bisquick mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar (for the shortcakes)
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Two hours in advance of serving the shortcakes, prepare the strawberries. Wash and hull them, and cut into small chunks, reserving some whole strawberries to decorate the tops of your shortcakes. Stir in 3/4 cup sugar and allow to sit at room temperature in a large bowl for 2 hours. Place in refrigerator to chill strawberries if you have time before serving.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together the Bisquick mix, milk, 3 tbsp sugar, and melted butter, stirring until a soft dough forms.

3. Spoon dough in 6 scoops onto an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops are a golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly on baking sheet.

4. Meanwhile, whip the heavy whipping cream with the powdered sugar until the consistency of whipped cream, about 3 minutes.

5. To serve, split open warm shortcakes with a knife, and fill with macerated strawberries and whipped cream. They get a little crumbly when you cut them open, so I like to throw the extra crumbs on top of the whipped cream for decoration. You may save the leftover shortcakes after they have cooled off in an airtight container, and microwave them briefly to warm them up before assembling more shortcakes (my boyfriend’s suggested this and it was great). Delicious and easy!

p.s. You can totally save the juice from the macerated strawberries and use them for other things – drizzled on top of the shortcakes or other desserts, reduced on the stove with the addition of some cornstarch slurry to make a thicker strawberry sauce, or put it into the recipe for a strawberry mousse as I did :)


Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Okay, I’m not joking when I say that my boyfriend’s condo is overflowing with fresh fruit. I just recently did away with the cherries, as well as 2 pints of strawberries, and now these cheesecake bars are my solution to the giant box of blueberries his parents gave us when they left for vacation last week. We still have an insane number of peaches, plums, mangoes, and apricots. Maybe I can squeeze in something with the mangoes before I leave California this weekend… In any case, my goal was to make a dessert that would use up the blueberries and only ingredients I had on hand, which included a box of cream cheese and a lemon, both things I bought in anticipation of baking and now need to get rid of before I leave. Wouldn’t you know it, Tyler Florence apparently had the same thought I did, and has generously shared with the world a recipe for lemon blueberry cheesecake bars. My lucky day!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

These bars are super easy to make, and has 5 stars with over 100 reviews, so a pretty sure bet if you’re baking for a BBQ or a potluck. My only qualm was that I thought the tartness of the lemon in the cheesecake was a bit much for me, but I’m not a fan of sour things in general, and I cringe whenever I have to eat fruit that is not very sweet and ripe. I don’t even really like sorbets because they’re too sour for me, shrug. But with some good summer blueberries and a heavenly crust, these creamy bars are a wonderful treat. My boyfriend said it tastes just like cheesecake, except it took me so much less effort! I halved Tyler’s recipe because I only had 1 box of cream cheese, and it made 8 bars that were about 2×2″, which I think is the perfect size. I also made a few minor changes, including adding more butter and cinnamon to the crust, using neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese, and adding more blueberries than called for (I was trying to use them up!) It all worked out well, and the crust was sturdy and rich. Just the way I like it!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars



Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars (makes 8 bars, 2×2″ each)

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

For the base:

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 sheets graham crackers
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. (1 box) cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat neufchatel), at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ bread pan, and line with parchment, leaving tails to allow you to pull the bars out of the pan later. Press and fold the parchment to make neat corners in the pan.

2. Prepare the crust first – in a blender, grind the graham crackers until you get fine crumbs. Pour out into a bowl, and stir in the 1 tbsp sugar and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Add the melted butter and stir well to distribute evenly.

3. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the baking pan, and press down evenly with the bottom of a flat glass (I used a shot glass because it was nice and small for getting into corners). Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, stir together the egg, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the room temperature cream cheese, and beat on low with an electric beater until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into the pan on top of the crust, then sprinkle the blueberries on top. If you are using as much blueberries as I am, you will basically cover the entire top with blueberries. They will sink about halfway into the filling.

5. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees F, or until the center only slightly jiggles (I could not tell with all the blueberries on top, so I just went with 30 minutes, which is 5 minutes less than the original recipe in a 9×9″ pan). Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan. Then place pan in the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.

6. When set, gently remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment lining. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar to serve.

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 79 other followers

%d bloggers like this: