Tag Archives: sponge cake

Zuccotto – Italy’s Secret Dessert

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

ZuccottoZuccotto has everything going for it so I’m not sure why it isn’t up there in the ranks of famous Italian desserts.  But I have rarely come across it.  Not exactly a cake, although it includes sponge cake, not exactly not a cake so we’ll settle on dessert.

My first attempt at Zuccotto left me unimpressed.  Perhaps because I am not a fan of ricotta cheese.  Adding whipped cream and mascarpone simply made three neutral flavors predominant.  So I went about using the flavors of Italy – amaretto, hazelnuts, cherries, candied orange, cinnamon, and chocolate to amp up the flavor and give it a lot of character.  As with many European desserts, this is not overly sweet.  Continue reading

L’Opéra Petit Fours

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

L'Opera Petit FourL’Opéra Petit Fours, a combination of chocolate and coffee flavors, are very much a lesson in component parts.  Many pastries consist of several recipes combined to make the whole.  Rearranging which and how the component parts are combined, endless pastries can be made.

There are two types of petit fours – petit four glacé which are those covered in fondant and petit four sec which are small pastries that can be picked up.  L’Opera Petit Fours belong to the petit four sec variety.  At the shop, we made petit four sec as I consider them to be so much more flavorful and beautiful.

L’Opéra Petit Fours are also the best petit four I have ever tasted.  As with much in food, that level cannot be achieved in a quickie recipe.  But most of the component parts can be executed days ahead of time making the final assembly very easy and relatively fast to accomplish.  I recently made 140 of these for a function where four additional petit fours were offered.  These not only disappeared first, but they were also the most talked about. Continue reading

Tiramasu Parfaits

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Finished photoWhile Tiramasu was all the rage a few years ago, it has since been relegated to the “not hot” list of desserts for many restaurants and you don’t see it on menus as much.

However, Tiramasu is a classic Italian dessert and one that is really easily executed once you have made the sponge – which can be done a month ahead if desired and stored in the freezer well wrapped.  Simply thaw it for use.  This amount of sponge is more than you will need  but it can’t be cut down any further and have a quality product.

While  many recipes for Tiramasu use the premade Italian ladyfinger sponge cookies, Savoiardi, we made our own sponge and it worked perfectly for us.  This was a version I made for Tony’s, the restaurant at which I preform my pastry chef duties.  I made it in wine glasses for a beautiful presentation. Continue reading

Lemon Butter Sponge Cake

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Finished photo of 3 layersBy definition, a sponge cake is a light. airy tender cake of the foam variety meaning the egg whites are beaten separately and the egg yolk base is folded into the whites along with flour.  It can be varied easily and is used as a base for many fillings.  The name comes from its open structure which resembles a sponge.  The plain sponge cake on its own is rather neutral and doesn’t have a lot of flavor which is why recipes often brush the sponge cake layers with liqueur based washes..  However, by enhancing it with lemon zest and adding a little butter it becomes a more flavorful vehicle for fillings.  By omitting the zest,  you have a basic Butter Sponge Cake.  By omitting the butter, you have a basic Sponge Cake.

Another characteristic of the sponge is that it doesn’t contain shortening except in the Butter Sponge Cakes.  Sponge cakes can be dry if the egg whites are over beaten.  It is better to under beat them than get them too stiff.  When the whites are too stiff, it is difficult to fold the flour in without deflating the whites. Continue reading

Orange Cranberry Cake – A Holiday Specialty

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Finished sliceOrange Cranberry Cake is one example of my love of cranberries.  Their tartness allows them to be paired with sweet items perfectly.  As oranges and cranberries go so well together, I decided this year to come up with a light but intense cake with depths of flavor that also looks stunning.  This Orange Cranberry Cake was the answer.

The orange chiffon cake is as light as a feather.  It is delicious on its own and can be baked in a tube pan, loaf pan or bundt pan if you want a more simple version.  We paired this at the bakery with a passion fruit buttercream for an unusual flavor combination for wedding cakes.  As with all chiffons, it is easy, easy to make.  Basically all the ingredients except the egg whites and a portion of the sugar are mixed in one bowl.  While the egg whites are beaten with the sugar to the soft peak stage.   The most important thing to watch with this cake is to make sure your egg whites are not overbeaten. Eight to ten minutes later the layers are done.  They will be very thin and that is how they should be. These can be frozen for assembly later if desired.  I realize most people don’t have 5 cake pans.  If you don’t see yourself using multiple cake pans very often, consider buying 9″ foil cake pans that are disposable.  Although I generally don’t spray the sides of the pans, if these are rippled or crimped, spray well.

The Cranberry Filling can be made a week ahead of time.  If tasted seperately, it seems tart.  But every other component in this cake is sweet and the tartness is the perfect addition to cut the sweetness. Continue reading