It was simple and boozy. And beautiful. And boozy.
In trying to brain storm a way to use those leftovers, I decided it wasn’t quite right for The Cranwich and I definitely didn’t want to be tied down to a big cake or full batch of cupcakes so close to “Pie-palooza.” And that’s when I spotted the box of Ghirardelli brownies I keep on hand in case of emergencies.
(And now you know how we define “emergency” in this house.)
I simply prepared the brownies as directed on the box and then I dropped the leftover boozy cranberry sauce over top by the tablespoon, swirling it together.
I don’t know why it took so long to come up with the idea of cranberry brownies. Cranberries and chocolate are a delicious and under-appreciated pair. Around the holidays, Costco used to (and maybe still does?) sell dark chocolate-covered cranberries. Those things were like crack, if crack made you gain 3lbs in 3 days. The dark fudgey brownie was the perfect compliment to the cranberry sauce.
Use your favorite brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Triple Fudge, it’s insanely chocolatey… and has chocolate chips!) and leftover whole berry sauce (homemade is easy and takes almost no hands-on time).
Rich, fudgey brownies swirled with leftover cranberry sauce. Dessert couldn't be easier.
1 box brownie mix (or your favorite recipe) prepared in an 8x8 pan, according to package directions
~1/2 cup leftover whole berry cranberry sauce
Preheat oven according to the directions in your brownie recipe.
Prepare the recipe according to directions and transfer to a greased 8x8 pan.
Drop small spoonfuls of leftover cranberry sauce over the top of the batter (I used about 1/2 cup).
Using a knife held vertically, swirl the cranberry sauce and the brownie batter together.
Bake as directed in your recipe, (take note that my recipe needed an extra 8 minutes).
Let cool and then cut into 4x3 or 4x4 servings.
Leftovers should be covered and stored at room temp.
Today is the very last Project Pastry Queen challenge. Over 2 years ago, Ashley and I met up in Austin to attend a cooking demo with The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather. I’d forgotten about several great recipes in the book and decided that I’d cook and bake all the way through the book.
100-ish recipes later, it is my most used, most stained, and most beloved cookbook.
The final challenge is pretty representative of the book: an involved, multistep, Texas-sized, show-stopping dessert with 9 eggs, 26 ounces of chocolate, 2+ sticks of butter, and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Y’all…
It’s an intensely rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake that’s topped with a semisweet chocolate mousse, and then coated in a chocolate glaze. The Pastry Queen calls it The American Beauty Cake. My husband calls it The PMS Cake.
It’s similar to the Chocolate Overdose Cake but has one less component. And it’s one of those recipes that require you to read all the way through first because there’s an overnight step. One I missed last night but welcomed the “quiet time” in the kitchen this morning for a little baking therapy.
The cake is meant to be served from the freezer, so if – like me – you were born with a negative amount of will power, there’s still hope. I cut the cake into wedges, placed it on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, and froze the slices solid (~2 hours) before individually wrapping them in more plastic wrap.
Check out the other PPQ members’ take on American Beauty Cake. Thanks to all those who’ve baked and followed along with the project over the last couple of years. It has been fun.
I’ve already started to work up a fun twist for Project Pastry Queen, Part Deux. Stay tuned
American Beauty Cake
An intensely rich flourless chocolate cake, topped with mousse and a chocolate glaze.
For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp dark rum or liqueur of choice
For the mousse:
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
For the glaze:
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh fruit, like raspberries (optional)
Make the cake:Preheat oven to 350.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch sprinform pan (outside wrapped with a triple layer of foil to protect from leaks in the waterbath) with a parchment round and lightly spray the bottom/sides with baking spray.
Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in a large bowl, on 30-second intervals until melted.
Whisk in the eggs and sugar until well combined.
Stir in the vanilla and liqueur and then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Place the pan in a larger pan (like a 13x9) and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come up level with the batter.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch, and then remove from the oven (but let cool completely in the waterbath).
After the cake cooled, I cut ~4-inch wide strips of parchment and lined the sides of the springform pan, pushing the parchment down between the cake and sides (shrinkage made this possible). This helped with removal later.
Make the mousse:Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.
Whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and then whisk in the chocolate mixture.
Using a mixer, whisk the whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites in 3 batches into the chocolate. Once an addition is almost completely incorporated, add the next. The texture will look completely questionable but keep going. It gets better.
Place the cream into the mixer bowl and whip that just until soft peaks start to form.
Fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until the texture is uniform - you'll fold this much, much more than a more traditional mousse.
Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, wrap the top with foil, and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours).
Make the glaze:In a small sauce pan, bring corn syrup and cream just to a boil.
Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and chocolate.
Whisk until smooth and then let sit in the pan for 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
Remove the cake from the freezer and turn it out onto a rack set on a baking sheet or on a cake plate, mousse-side on top - remove the ring and peel off the parchment sides.
Pour the glaze into the center of the cake, letting it flood the top and run down the edges (it won't cover the sides completely).
I put the cake in the fridge to set the glaze and then cut pieces for the freezer.
To freeze the whole cake, chill the cake to set the glaze and then wrap with plastic wrap and freeze.
The cake is recommended as best-served just minutes out of the freezer.
Has any single pound of cherries ever been so decadent? I’m not so sure. And I’m not so sure it should ever be again.
The hardest part of buying cherries is not polishing off the entire bag before you even get to your bookmarked recipes. It’s a difficult race to pit the cherries fast enough for the 2-Year-Old. Because when I fall behind, she simply pops a whole one into her mouth, stem, pit, and all.
I roasted the cherries in some of our port to concentrate the rich berry flavors and then folded that almost magical reduction into my current favorite brownie recipe – Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownies. I have a couple of friends who swear that no homemade brownie can touch a from-the-box brownie. And after one bite of the Ghirardellis, I can at least temporarily agree.
For the sauce, I was looking for something less sweet. something to pair with the rich brownies and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. We simmered more cherries in more port to make a very grown-up topping for a very grown-up sundae.
I can’t even imagine how many miles in 863% humidity I’ll have to run to wipe that brownie sundae off the books. It’s probably better if I don’t dwell on it.
Roasted Cherry Brownie Sundaes
A rockstar brownie sundae celebrating cherry season: rich brownies studded with cherries roasted in port wine, topped with vanilla ice cream and a roasted cherry-port sauce.
For the brownies:
1/2 lb cherries
1/4 cup port
1 box brownie mix (I use Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownies), or your favorite brownie recipe, prepared according to direction
What you’re looking at up there, that’s not really a Mahogany Cake. Mahogany cakes usually have coffee or espresso and I skipped on the coffee this week. Because I was excited that I could afford fresh cherries! And I got that wrinkled brow-squinty eye look when I mentioned that dessert this week would be a chocolate + coffee combo.
Cherries showed up in my grocery store two weeks ago at (gulp) $10/lb. I sadly pushed my cart passed, determined not to let a $15 bag of cherries land me in divorce court. Then last week, they were $8/lb. This week – a more affordable $4/lb. Knowing they wouldn’t get much cheaper, I pulled the trigger.
The chocolate cake is moist and just dense enough to warrant using a bundt pan. I did make a few changes to the recipe since I wasn’t using coffee:
– Eliminated coffee/espresso from the cake
– Substituted the candy for 1/2 lb of roasted cherries: I tossed 1 small spoonful of sugar with 1/2 lb of cherries (pits removed and cherries halved or quartered, depending on cherry size) and baked for 20 minutes at 450. Then I tossed the cherries, accumulated juices and all, into the mixer bowl after adding all the other ingredients, mixing for just a few seconds to distribute.
– Replaced the boiling water with 3 Tbsp blackberry liqueur (I was out of cherry) and 2 Tbsp milk (feel free to use all milk if you don’t have a reason to keep blackberry or cherry liqueur around)
– Whipped up a simple chocolate ganache (recipe from Annie’s Eats) for the icing.
Rather than getting a layer of chocolate-coffee candies on top of the cake, you get bites of juicy roasted cherries. And it sets up as a beautiful cake.
You can get the full recipe over at Amanda’s blog and see how everyone else tackled the Mahogany Cake here.