Recipes 12.15.16

Desserts That Wow ’Em

Chocolate Sponge Cake

This recipe for sponge cake comes from Real Simple magazine. You need a 9-by-13-inch jellyroll pan and some parchment paper.

Butter for the pan

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

4 large eggs, separated

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp. sour cream


Preheat oven to 350. Butter the jellyroll pan and line with parchment. Butter the parchment.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt in small bowl.

Beat egg yolks, vanilla, and a quarter cup of the sugar on medium high for about three to four minutes, until light yellow. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites on medium high until foamy, one to two minutes. Then add half a cup of the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about two to three minutes more.

Gently fold the yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. Gradually fold in dry ingredients. Transfer to buttered pan and spread out in an even layer. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cake springs back lightly when pressed. Let cool.

Whip the cream with sour cream and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form, about one to two minutes.

Spread the whipped cream on the cake, leaving a two-inch border at one short end. Starting at the other short end, roll cake toward uncovered border, letting parchment paper fall away as you roll. 

Place cake, seam side down, on serving platter. Drizzle with chocolate ganache or frost with buttercream or other frosting. Rake bark patterns with the tines of a fork. If you want, you can cut one of the ends at an angle and place it somewhere on the log to resemble a cut branch.


Choux Puffs

This is a basic recipe for pate a choux dough. From this dough you can make cheese gougeres, eclairs, and profiteroles.

Makes about 20.

1 cup milk

1 stick butter

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 cup flour

4 eggs


Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat silicone pad.

Heat milk with butter, salt, and sugar until it just comes close to a boil. Add flour and stir vigorously. Take off the heat. Keep beating for a few minutes until dough comes away from edges. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Put dough into a pastry bag or large, sturdy Ziploc bag. If using Ziploc bag, cut a small edge of a corner off so you can pipe the dough onto baking sheet. Pipe small dabs of dough (about the size of Ping Pong balls) onto a baking sheet, or spoon them onto a sheet with a tablespoon. 

Bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. When they are almost done, I like to poke a hole in each with a straw. This allows the interior to get crisper rather then be moist-eggy. I like a crisp shell for filling.

After the profiteroles have cooled, poke a hole in them and fill with pastry cream or whipped cream, dip in caramel, and arrange on a platter.

You can make and freeze the pastries and make the pastry cream a few days ahead as well, but the dessert should be assembled the day of serving.


Pastry Cream

This may seem like a tricky recipe, but if you are careful, it is easy to make homemade pastry cream. This is my recipe.

Makes about 4 to 5 cups, more than you will need. 

1 quart whole milk

1 stick butter, softened, cut into pieces

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

3 eggs

4 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste, about 1 to 2 tsp. should be good


In medium-size bowl whisk eggs, yolks, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat milk just to boiling. Add a little bit of this to the egg mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly. Reincorporate this egg-milk mixture back into pan of hot milk. Over medium low heat, whisk constantly until mixture thickens. This will take some time, 5-10 minutes. Once it starts to thicken, keep whisking and getting all the edges so no lumps form. When it has thickened and it has released a few burbling bubbles, take off the heat immediately, keep whisking, and add butter a bit at a time. Then add vanilla. Strain this mixture through a sieve, then place in shallow bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to use.