Super Vanilla Cookies

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the new cookbook from Shauna Sever called Pure Vanilla to review. It is a beautiful cookbook with elegant recipes and superb pictures. And it is all dedicated to the lovely aromatic-ness (new word there for you!) and deliciousness of vanilla!

The first few pages are all about vanilla – the history, varieties and some “FAQs” and then there are chapters dedicated to breakfasts, cakes and pies, cookies and bars, candies and confections, custards and creams, and drinks. The recipes all look amazing and I can’t wait to try more!

I started with what is called the “Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies”. They are described to be “sandy textured but tender with a gorgeous pale-golden hue” and that seems pretty accurate! I love the tenderness of the cookie with the delicious “super-vanilla” taste of vanilla. They are definitely worth making again and although there is no reason you can’t make them regularly throughout the year, they would work beautifully as a new addition to your Holiday baking!

Super Vanilla Cookies

adapted slightly from Pure Vanilla, makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or another 1 tsp of vanilla)
  • about 1/4 cup Vanilla sugar (I have some as shown in the picture but you can make your own by putting a vanilla bean – even an empty one that you have scraped the bits out of – into 2 cups of white sugar and leaving it for about a week)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  3. In a small measuring cup, measure the oil and then add the egg and whisk.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar (regular sugar & icing sugar) and butter together until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the oil and egg mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Scoop dough (I used both a 4Tb and a 1.5Tb cookie scoop to get both big and small cookies) onto the cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, dip the glass into the vanilla sugar to coat it and then press it onto the ball of cookie dough to flatten it. The first one won’t pick up a lot of sugar but the moistness of the cookie will provide the moisture to pick up enough sugar for each cookie after (you can re-sugar the first one of course!) You can then sprinkle the cookies with decorative sugar if you want a more festive cookie.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until pale golden and just slightly browned on the edges. Allow the cookie to cool on the baking sheet 2-3 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

 

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Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Raspberry Curd and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Fluffy Cake Batter!

I must start this post with a confession. I completely forgot to take a picture of the completed cake. It may have been partly due to the fact that I iced it when it was way too hot (yes, it was awhile ago that I made this and I keep blogging other things instead of catching up) and it was therefore not very pretty but I should have at least made sure to get a picture of inside the cake so you could see how pretty it looked to have the delicious raspberry curd layered between the fluffy lemon poppy seed cake. And then you could also see the fun flecks of vanilla bean in the buttercream. Instead you will have to picture it in your head! I have the pics of the building the “dam” to hold the curd in, and I have pictures of how I used the 2nd “layer” as a separate cake that I just piled high with raspberry curd & no buttercream but that is it. Oh well. This will have to do!

The important thing is actually how good it tasted anyways! The lemon was perfectly fluffy & lemony without being over powerful and the raspberry complimented it perfectly. And the buttercream had the sweetness to contrast with the sour of both the lemon and the raspberry. And more importantly, my friend’s lemon poppy seed obsession was quelled for a few days! We often have seminars at work that serve muffins and I have many coworkers that are seriously addicted to the lemon poppy seed muffin. Myself, I am quite loyal to the blueberry bran muffins but I understand that the lemon poppy seed ones are amazing. So for my friend’s birthday, I figured I had to make this cake!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  • Beaten egg whites!

    2 1/3 cup flour

  • 2 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablepoons of lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  1. Grease cake pans: either one 13×9″ or two 8×8″ or two 9×9″ (I did one 9×9″ and one 7″ round and took them to separate parties that did not require big cakes!) Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds) in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until stiff.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar, lemon extract and lemon zest until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes).
  5. With the beaters on low add 1/4 cup of the milk, then half of the dry ingredients, the rest of the milk, and finally the rest of the dry ingredients.
  6. Fold 1/4 of the egg whites carefully. Next, fold in half of the remaining egg whites. And finally the rest.
  7. Bake 24-26 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack at least 15 minutes before removing from pan(s) to cooling rack.

Beautiful, delicious raspberries!

Raspberry Curd

Note: As mentioned above, I made this cake for a birthday and took the other “layer” to another party. For the second layer I made raspberry curd in the same way I made strawberry curd previously and it turned out almost as good.  Either one will work well – just depends if you want to use up those 5 yolks you just separated from the 5 egg whites above!

  • Bubblin' Curd! Let it thicken.

    8 Tablespoons of butter

  • 12 oz (1 pkg) raspberries
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add everything else while stirring.
  2. Mash the berries and continue to cook (stirring frequently) until thick, about 10 minutes.
  3. Strain into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir in 2-3 tsp of lemon juice.

Straining the raspberry curd

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons of cream or milk
  1. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter for 5 minutes on medium speed. The butter will become pale and creamy.
  2. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time while the mixer is on low. Add vanilla and then enough cream until desired consistency is reached.

    Prepping for the 2nd layer: build a dam and fill with the curd

  3. Beat on medium for 5 minutes.
Assembly:
  1. Slice cake layer in half.
  2. Pipe a “dam” of buttercream around the edge of the layer. Add the raspberry curd to the centre and spread out evenly.
  3. Cover with next layer of cake. Repeat if you are using two layers for a tall cake.
  4. Cover entire cake with the rest of the buttercream & decorate as desired.

The 2nd cake with just cake and curd! No icing...


Vanilla Bean Strawberry Filled Cake

I made fondant strawberries for the top!

I was paid for my first cake recently! It was very exciting really. A friend from my gym was going to buy her daughter’s cake from the grocery store or something but realized instead she could buy it from me! I think she was almost as excited about the idea as I was! Her only real request was to decorate with strawberries – although not necessarily real. But it didn’t have to be strawberry flavoured. Well to me, it did have to have some strawberry flavour because I couldn’t just put strawberries on the outside and then make a chocolate cake or something! Anyways, I decided on trying one of the vanilla cakes from Sweetapolita that she keeps raving on about, pair it with a strawberry curd filling and cover it with fluffy vanilla buttercream.

My mini cake - and inside to see the layers!

Unfortunately I couldn’t actually take a picture of the inside of the cake so I made a mini one for me! (I needed to taste test it too!) I ran out of vanilla icing so I iced it with chocolate fudge icing that I had left from something else. It is one layer short of the real one but the picture still shows the inside. It was pretty tasty although next time I would make thicker cake layers rather than such thin ones as I did this time. I think this is an excellent vanilla cake but I don’t know if it is THE best as has been posted on Sweetapolita… I think I need to try a few others!

Fluffy Vanilla Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita) with Strawberry Curd and Whipped Vanilla Frosting
makes  one 2-layer, 8 inch round cake

  • 6 large egg whites, room temp
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean scraped (or increase vanilla to 2 1/4tsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb + 1tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp & cut into cubes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease & line with parchment paper two 8″ cake pans
  2. In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, and the vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or regular & use a hand mixer), combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup of milk and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 90 seconds.
  5. Scrape down the bowl if needed. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches and beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each.
  6. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Straining the Strawberry Curd

Strawberry Curd (this works perfect for Raspberry Curd as well)

  • ~15oz fresh strawberries, stems removed  (or ~12oz raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 TB lime juice
  • 5 tsp cornstarch
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice and cornstarch until mostly smooth.
  2. In a food processor or magic bullet, puree the berries with the sugar. Add the cornstarch/lime juice and puree again.
  3. Strain into a medium saucepan through a mesh seive.
  4. Cook over medium until it comes to a boil. Stir constantly and cook for another minute until somewhat thickened.
  5. Strain again into a heatproof contained and allow to cool to room temperature. Chill slightly to make sure it is thick before using in the cake.

Whipped Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 6 cups icing sugar
  • 2tsp clear vanilla
  • 3-5 Tb cream/milk
  1. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. The butter will become pale and creamy.
  2. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time while the mixer is on low. Add vanilla and cream until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Beat on medium for 6 minutes.

Assembly:

  • I actually made this a 6 layer cake and made 3 9″ layers (I did an extra ‘half’ recipe on top of what is written. I think if I did it again, I would actually double the recipe for 3 thicker 9″ layers) and sliced each of the layers in half. I also used 2 cups of butter & 8 cups of sugar for this size of cake.
  • I layered it as such: cake, vanilla frosting, cake, strawberry curd, cake, vanilla frosting, cake, strawberry curd, cake, vanilla frosting, cake. Cover the entire cake with frosting.
  • When it comes to the layers with the curd, pipe a good “dam” around the outside of the cake prior to adding the curd. This will ensure that the curd doesn’t leak out.