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So today is the 3rd* and final reveal day of this months Daring Baker Challenge for March and well…..I am writing this actually before I have even begun!!!!

*apparently sometime between the last time I visited the site and yesterday the reveal date kinda changed on me!!

When I first joined the DB, 11 months ago, I was soooo good at gettinig it done early and having the time to contemplate a post, not so much as of late.  Lately, I have been scrambling and today I am scrambling HARD!!!!

Let me first off get the formallity out of the way….

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

…now let me drive this baby home so I can get in the kitchen!!!!!

I am of Italian descent so I am more than familiar with fresh pasta, bechamel, ragu and of course lasagne, so this month didn’t really phase me much.  However, being that this particular version of lasagne is much lighter than mine, I have decided  to deviate very little  from the recipe Mary, Melinda and Enza have chosen.  My version of lasagne is laden with layers of sausage, ground veal, ground beef, garlic scented ricotta and pasta (a typical pan of my lasagne goes at least 15lbs).  This is a much lighter version and I figured give it a go!!!

Why then, if it is something I am comfortable with and actually a bit less work than I normally put into, am I scrambling…..and again, scrambling HARD??  Well, this “cake thing” of mine is kinda “taking off”, this week alone I have done 7 cakes (5 paying, 2 gratis), along side of the normal 2 stores to run, 2 dogs to deal with, a house that NEEDS attention and of course my very own RAY!!!  It’s sunday you say, the day of rest…not around these parts, I have a cake due for tuesday, one I have always wanted to try but was always intimidated by, well today is the day…this cake is a 3 tiered, carved, fondant coated work of engineering….one of those wobbly wacky looking Dr Suess cakes.

That’s the scramble, so why are you now going to laugh?

As I said earlier, I am not deviating from the recipe much, initially I thought we had no choice but to make spinach pasta and Ray doesn’t “do” spinach, so I told a couple people about it and they are waiting for a taste…this then means I have a sunday meal to make as well, and guess what picky boy wants!!!!

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes!

So go ahead and giggle kids, as I am off to …

Peel potatoes

Chop onions

Make Bechamel

Make Pasta

Bake 9 cake layers

Form meatloaf

Put lasagne together




BTW It is 10:58am and I vow to have this post finished, photographed and posted by the end of the day…I refuse to be late this time!!!!!!  So more later.

2:44pm- First snag of the day came at 11:30am, the girl that was to open one store was going to be late, as the subway in PGH was down for some reason, so I had to go in.  Got the pasta made there, here are some bad pics from cell phone camera.

Mise en place!

Mise en place!

a'kneeding we will go!!

a'kneeding we will go!!

Time to rest!!

Time to rest!!

5:34pm-Snag number 2, camera batteries dead, so no pics of me rolling sheets, but it is a quick charge and you will see them drying.  Along with the first of the cake tiers cooling.


6:46pm-Snag number 3, no this one is much more an EVENT!!!  While making the bechamel I let the dogs go out in the yard for a bit, as per usual when they returned they pranced around the kitchen.  However, I was working on my roux and was being careful not to go past “blonde” on it, so I paid no mind to the happy romping pooches.  Long story short…there was a pail of driveway tar out back, somehow it was knocked over and here is the result!!!!

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

Many STEPS!!!!

Many STEPS!!!!

8:18pm-Things are looking up, dinner is done, more cakes in the oven, camera battery is good to go and Mr. Picky Eater is on “floor patrol”!!!!

Cute but bad dog on a clean floor!

Cute but bad dog on a clean floor!

9:07pm-Taking a Celebrity Apprentice break!!!!

To hell with the time checks, the water is boiling and it will be done in time.  The complete recipe can be found here.  The only variation from the original recipe was in my Bechamel.  When I make this sauce I typically dice a small onion and a couple cloves of garlic and simmer that in the milk, I then strain the milk into the roux and cook as directed in the recipe.  I used my own sauce and not the recipe given, I would share that recipe with all of you but then it would no longer be my secret sauce and I would not be a happy boy and let’s face it, after the day I have had we all want me to be a happy boy!!!!!!  So I am in the final stretch, it is finally in the oven, obviously I am not going to be eating it tonight but I can say the cooked pasta was divine!!!!  It was perfectly “to the teeth”, just as any good pasta should!

TADA, out of the oven with 20 minutes to spare…the only thing is I may not get a plated photo in time, so here is one that has been edited a bit so as not to spoil what I hope will be the surprise!!!!!

A bit more color than it should have...yummy nonetheless!!!

A bit more color than it should have...yummy nonetheless!!!

And now, one last picture and hopefully a surprise… we are the Daring Bakers, which to me means we go a bit beyond the norm on occasion.  Since I have been so into cakes and I have never to my recollection seen a round lasagne…. well, I dared!!!!

Lasagne in the Round!

Lasagne in the Round!

Ok, so all done but it was a LOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGG day and the only way to sum it up would be to quote my dear Mrs. P, “FAAAKKKK!!!”.


Denise’s Birthday…must bake cake…what to do?

She’s Irish (update, I was mislead a bit…she isn’t Irish afterall), born the day after St Pat’s and likes Boston Cream Pie, Viola!, Irish twist on a Classic.

No sordid details on this one other than I have always wanted to bake a “Stout” cake and this seemed the time to do it!!!

Ok, 2 sordid details…

  • The batter is so damn good there is almost no need to bake the cake.
  • The scent of simmering stout, butter and cocoa is heaven and the scent of the cake baking is a must experience for yourself!!!!
Stout, Butter and Cocoa Heaven!

Stout, Butter and Cocoa Heaven!

Your typical Boston Cream Pie consists of three components

  • A Butter or Sponge Cake
  • A Dark Rum scented Custard Filling
  • A Chocolate Glaze or Ganache

My version differs only in 2 ways, The Stout Cake replaces the sponge/butter cake and instead of rum, well of course, I used Irish Whiskey.

Pastry Cream

adapted from Boston Cream Pie recipe from Yankee Magazine

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Irish whiskey

In a saucepan, heat butter, milk, and light cream to just below a boil. While this mixture is cooking, combine sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a bowl. Whip until ribbons form. When the butter-cream mixture reaches the boiling point, slowly whisk in the sugar-egg mixture and cook to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent it from forming a skin). Chill overnight if possible. When thoroughly chilled, whisk to smooth out and flavor with Irish whiskey.


  • 8 oz chopped chocolate bittersweet or semi-sweet
  • 3/4 whipping cream
  • 2 TBS Butter ( I use salted)

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat ( I often use the microwave for this step, of course using a microwave safe bowl). Bring just to a boil.  Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

And now…………

Chocolate Stout Cake

Direct from the KA site using ingredients by weight option.

  • 16 ounces stout or dark beer, such as Guinness
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 ounces Dutch-process cocoa
  • 17 ounces KA unbleached AP flour  (I used Robin Hood)
  • 1 pound, 12 ounces sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8″ or two 9″ cake pans, and line them with parchment paper circles. Be sure your 9″ pans are at least 2″ deep.  Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan, and heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the cocoa powder.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream.  Add the stout-cocoa mixture, mixing to combine.  Add the flour mixture and mix together at slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again for 1 minute.  Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans.  Bake the layers for 35 minutes for 8″ pans, or 45 to 50 minutes for 9″ pans, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and returning to the rack to finish cooling completely before assembly.  Being that I was doing 2 layers and my 9″ pans are only 1 3/4″ deep I was lucky enough to get a very nice 6″ round as well from the batter.

The verdicts are in and all seem to be very positive on this one.  I ended up getting a few orders for this one as it sat, but my personal opinion was it would have been multitudes better without the custard filling.  Not that it was a bad addition but this is such a uniquely flavored cake the custard kind of competed a little more than it should have with that uniqueness.  I had one minor issue and that involved my 9″ pans, which aren’t 2″ deep, as suggested…I should have started testing for doneness a little sooner than I did, I think I could have gotten away with only 40 minutes oven time.

From beginning to batter to baked!

From beginning to batter to baked!

This one is most definitely a keeper!   Although a very special occasion kind of cake as if you take a look at the nutrition information on the KA site, you will see this isn’t a cake for the faint of heart!!!!  It’s slightly malty taste and it’s just shy of sweet chocolatey richness is something everyone should try!!!

Cascades of Chocolate...what better finish?

Cascades of Chocolate...what better finish?

And finally here is why I spoke with such authority against the custard version that everyone raved over… my little 6″ gem with a simple powdered sugar glaze.   Hands off this one is all mine!!!!!!!


Hands off!

Keeping the Flour Flying!!!

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March 2009
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