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Cake of the Month 2016

03
Feb

Delicious Valentine Drips

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Chocolate Drip Cake

Chocolate Drip Cake

 

 

Chocolate drip cakes are perfect for your Valentine!

Try it yourself, Maria shows Scot and Kara how on Better Connecticut!

Click Here for the all the tips!

Valentine Drip How-to Video

 

Chocolate Drip Cake

This decadent chocolate cake with delicious drippy ganache and chocolate dipped strawberries is a great way to please any chocolate lover. It’s simple to make, just a base coat of buttercream, ganache drip and fresh fruit garnish.

Make one 9-inch round cake, about 15 servings.

for Cake:

1 cup cocoa

1 cup water, boiling

2 cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa.  Stir until mixed. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Set aside.
  4. In an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix on low speed until blended.
  5. Add eggs and cocoa mixture. Blend on low speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.
  6. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat on low speed 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth.
  7. Pour batter evenly into pans.
  8. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out with a fine crumb. Remove pan from the oven.
  9. Remove cakes from the pan and cool on wire cooling rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/2 pound butter, softened

1 cup cocoa

6 cups confectioners sugar

¾ cup strongly brewed coffee

  1. Make buttercream. In the bowl of a standing mixer ( or with hand mixer), cream butter. Add cocoa , 4 cups of the confectioners sugar and coffee. Beat on low speed until blended. Add remaining confectioners sugar. Beat on medium high speed until smooth and well blended. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring frosting to room temperature before using. If necessary, thin with additional water for easier spreading.

Ganache for Drip

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

  1. Make ganache. In a small saucepan, heat cream until boiling. Pour over chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth.  (Can be made 2 to 3 days in advance. Store refrigerated, in an airtight container. Gently microwave to re-heat .)
  2. Assemble cake. Trim the tops of cake layers, if necessary. Place one layer, cut side down onto serving plate.
  3. Pipe a dam of chocolate buttercream around the edge of the layer. Spread additional buttercream in the dam.
  4. Base coat the entire cake with chocolate buttercream.  No need to fuss with the icing and any crumbs. That’s the casual look of this cake.
  5. Refrigerate base coated cake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Pour spoonfuls of ganache onto the top edges of the cake. For proper dripping consistency the ganache should be like thin pudding. If it’s too runny, refrigerate. If it’s too thick, simply microwave to desired consistency.  Let ganache drip down the sides of the cake.
  7. Top with chocolate covered strawberries. Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Maria Bruscino Sanchez

www.sweet-marias.com

 

 

 

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01
Jan

The New Year’s Batch

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Christmas Strufoli

Christmas Strufoli

 

        Every Christmas our family makes Italian Strufoli. For those unfamiliar with strufoli, they are delicious little morsels of fried dough smothered in honey and topped with festive nonpareils. Strufoli is a Neapolitan specialty,  but can vary from family to family. Some are stacked like a tree and harden to a brittle-like consistency. My grandmother long ago tweaked this recipe to be a soft dough, lightly fried and honey coated. Many eat them by the morsel, I eat them by the bowl full.

     Although we quadruple this recipe for our Christmas Eve dessert, it never seems to be enough.  Traditionally, my Mom and I make the large Christmas batch together. Her not-so-subtle coaching to fry them “biondi biondi”  ( trans: blonde!) is my mantra for soloing on the New’s Year’s batch. They are freshly fried, honey and candy coated and ready for 2017!

Strufoli:

3 eggs, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

 Vegetable Oil for frying

1 cup honey

1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Mix eggs and butter and vanilla. Add baking powder, salt and 1 cup of flour. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead in any additional flour to make a soft, not sticky dough.
  2. Roll pieces of dough into pencil size pieces. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
  3. Preheat oil to 350 F. Fry a handful at a time, stirring constantly being sure to fry them very light golden ( “biondi”). Drain strufoli in a strainer. Fry all pieces.
  4. Cool completely. ( Can be made 3 to 4 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)
  5. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine honey and sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and mixture is just about boiling.
  6. Pour over fried strufoli and stir to coat. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with nonpareils.

      Makes about 6 cups ( twelve 1/2-cup servings)

 

 

Strufoli 101

Strufoli 101

 

Cori frying Strufoli

Cori frying Strufoli

This recipe is easily doubled for more! and also makes Bow Ties. 

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough very thin. Using a pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips about 2″ x 4 “. Cut a slit in the center, and twist dough through to make a bow. ( or twist as desired).
  2. Fry bows until light. Cool completely and dust with confectioners sugar.
Italian Bow Ties

Italian Bow Ties

 

For these and other traditional Italian cookie recipes, take a look at our cookbooks!

 

 

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29
Oct

In Style: Dreamy Drip Cakes

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Fall/Halloween Drip Cakes

Fall/Halloween Drip Cakes

Keeping up with the latest cake fashion is always a challenge. Especially after 25 plus years in the business. Many styles have thankfully come and gone; satellite cakes, extremely tall cakes with separator plates ( loved the ones with the swans!) and those crazy cake fountains. Not every trend is right for every bakery.

Current trends we adore; textured buttercream, naked cakes, based cakes, now drip cakes!

So unfussy, so fun and so delicious. Simple drips of ganache and icing , topped with a whole bunch of yummy things.

Stay in style!  Tell us your favorite flavors, party theme and colors, and we’ll create a unique dreamy drip cake for you.

 

Pale Pink and Macaron Drip Cake

Pale Pink and Macaron Drip Cake

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29
Aug

Soaking up the Sun

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe we all share the same sun. Vacation sun is  always bright, vivid, perfect.  This summer’s lack of a true vacation forced me to savor our local sunshine. Fine for a lazy Sunday afternoon. But I couldn’t stop dreaming of last summer’s  retreat on Anacapri. As if the beauty and culture weren’t enough, I was treated, poolside, to the best Rum Baba; perfectly light and sweet and sublimely soaked. It was an afternoon snack, presented unannounced with fresh cream and berries.

 

The babas I know here at home and learned to bake are denser and more buttery .  Both are delicious, heavily soaked with a real rum syrup (no extract please).  I will be obsessing over this light sponge version until my next trip back. In the meantime, this recipe for mini baba  from “Small Sweet and Italian” makes a few dozen of these rich little treats. Soak and savor the sun wherever you are.

 

Rum Baba and other sweets

Rum Baba and other sweets photo: Scott Goodwin

 

 

 

Baby Rum Babas                  

1 package yeast

1/2 cup warm milk

4 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 stick butter, softened

Rum Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze ( optional)

Apricot preserves orange rind

Make baba

  1. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar, milk and yeast. Set aside to dissolve.
  2. In an electric mixer with wire whisk attachment,  combine flour, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.Mix on low.  Add yeast mixture on low speed and mix until blended.
  3. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.
  4. Gradually mix in softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mixture should be smooth and similar to pancake batter.
  5. Cover and place in a warm space. Let rise until almost doubled, about 1/2 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  7. Grease and flour or spray 36 mini muffin pans with non stick cooking spray.
  8. Fill pans, about 3/4 full. Cover and let rise till batter reaches the top of the pans, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean.
  10. Remove from oven. Let babas cool slightly in pans before removing. Carefully remove and add babas to rum syrup. Let soak.

Make rum syrup

  1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Boil 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in rum .

Glaze babas, if desired.

13. In a small pan, heat preserves over low heat. Strain. Brush babas and sprinkle with orange rind.

makes 36

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07
Jul

Project Michigan

Posted by | No Tags | Blog · Branding · General | 2 Comments on Project Michigan

 

Logo Idea from Student Presentation

Logo Idea from Student Presentation

The bakery turned 26 this year. Along with this milestone, I had a feeling that maybe the bakery ( and me as well!) could use a bit of re-branding… a kind of  business facelift. I began thinking . “Is it time to re-do the logo? Are we still fresh in the minds of our consumers and/or potential customers? Are we still relevant , among the growing competition of cupcake shops, food trucks and Pinterest DIYers? ” Does our website communicate what we are all about?”.

Even with my  marketing degree, I find it hard sometimes to take a look at the business  objectively.

 

In the meantime, one of my fav cousins began  teaching advertising copywriting at MSU. He suggested Sweet Maria’s as a potential case study for his senior class’ final presentations. What a great opportunity!  I jumped at the chance.

We skyped to discuss objectives,: emails and phone calls followed. These students were really taking their Sweet Maria project seriously.. even their do-it-yourself cupcakes came out great!

 

 

Awesome Student Cupcake!

Awesome Student Cupcake!

 

 

 

At semester’s end it was off to East Lansing for the final presentations.

 

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This whole experience couldn’t have been any better.

It was great meeting with all of these young, enthusiastic, creative students.Every single presentation had something of value; SWOT’s , logo re-design, social media strategies, website ideas, promotional ideas.

I spent some quality time with my cousin.

I enjoyed a few days away from the day-to-day bakery operations.

And  after my previous life in the advertising world, it felt great to be the client.

I returned from my time on-campus refreshed ,and with some new business perspectives.

So stay tuned, we are baking some fresh ideas, a few  from our friends ( now graduates!)  at MSU.

go Spartans!

 

Me and Cousin Lou

Me and Cousin Lou

 

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26
May

Another Round…..

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Cookie Cup Mania has definitely struck . At Sweet Maria’s , we always love a new project. Luckily our customers step up and give us plenty of challenges.  Our latest  is the cookie cup, the perfect edible shot glass filled with delicious chilled milk. I did see edible cookie cups years ago, but never had the time to experiment. Here’s how they finally happened.

One of our favorite customers wanted to toast at a friend’s baby shower. What better way than with a shot of milk in a cookie cup?

We pressed our regular chocolate chip cookie dough into a popover pan, then inserted a cannoli tube first, then a cork wrapped in foil (food blogger approved method) into the center, then baked. Both times failed. The cannoli tube tipped over, and the corks popped up.

After much thinking…..

A new dough with no leavening was mixed, smaller chips used for easier rolling….freezing before baking….then baking blind …. NEWS FLASH! Why didn’t we think of this sooner?? Just lining the cups with clean squares of parchment and weighing down with pie weights, rice or dried beans (like we’ve done a billion tart pans before) did the trick.

Every possible cookie dough since last week has been baked into a shot cookie cup or even better, an ice cream cookie cookie cup.  Chocolate chip, Coconut Macaroon, Peanut Butter Cookie….yes please! Another round!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

These fresh baked cookie cups are perfect for milk shots or ice cream sundaes. A perfect holiday weekend project!

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2  cup mini chocolate chips ( or finely chopped chocolate)

2 ounces dark chocolate

Special equipment:

parchment paper

pie weights, rice, or dry beans.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In the bowl of stand mixer ( or with hand held mixer) cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
  3. Add flour and salt. Mix just until blended.
  4. Chill dough for at least 1/2 hour.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8” thickness.
  6. Cut dough into rectangles . Place dough into non-stick popover pans. ( or jumbo cupcake pans for ice cream sundae cups) Line the bottom of each cup with additional dough. Press to secure dough.
  7. Freeze dough in pan for approximately 1/2 hour. Cut dough flush with the tops of the pan.
  8. Place a square of parchment into each cup. Carefully fill with rice ( or pie weights or dry beans).
  9. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove pan from the oven. Remove parchment and weights. Return pan to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Cool cups slightly in pan.
  12. Carefully remove cups from the pans and cool on wire cooling racks.
  13. Melt chocolate. Brush inside of cups with chocolate. Let dry. Fill and enjoy as desired!

Checkout Maria Baking these with Scot and Kara!

 

 

 

 

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28
Apr

Oatmeal Cookie Day!

Posted by | · | Blog · Cookie Recipes · Video | No Comments on Oatmeal Cookie Day!

 

I love all of the food holidays! Everyday should be a sweet celebration. Saturday is no exception. Please join me in celebrating National Oatmeal Cookie Day. If you like them chewy or  crunchy, with nuts,or  without nuts, with chocolate chips,  or without chocolate chips, it’s totally up to you. Take our homestyle classic cookie recipe and feel free to improvise. And be sure to celebrate daily.

Sweet Maria’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These cookie are moist and chewy. Be sure not to over-bake. You can add chocolate chips or walnuts if you like!

1/2 pound ( 2 sticks ) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon molasses

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer ( or with a hand held mixer) cream butter and both sugars on medium high speed until light.
  3. Add eggs and molasses. Mix until well blended.
  4. On low speed, add flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and oats. Mix just until blended. Add raisins, Mix well.
  5. Chill dough for 15 to 20 minutes. ( can be made 2 days in advance).
  6. Spoon dough out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing each 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly browned.
  8. Remove from the oven.
  9. Cool cookies on wire cooling rack.
  10. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 2-inch cookies.

See how we bake them with Scot and Kara at Better Connecticut!

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06
Aug

I scream you scream….

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Ice Cream Cupcakes

Dessert for our annual company picnic is always a challenge. Everyday we are surrounded by delicious cakes and cookies. It’s easy to get tired of the same sweets.  The one thing that always excites us is ice cream.  We’ve had sundae bars before but they can get messy. I think I found sprinkles in the yard for months after the last picnic. I wanted something refreshing then thought, “Why not make ice cream cake? ” We have all the yummy components, all we needed was the ice cream! The only problem was what flavor? So why decide? Ice cream cupcakes were the only solution. Using all our favorite toppings and fillings, our newest obsession was born. Plenty of flavor options for all, easily contained in a cupcake liner. Don’t be surprised if you find them as a “pop-up” product at Sweet Maria’s on summer weekends.  Summertime is sweet!

Here’s how to:

-Line jumbo cupcake pans with paper liners( sometimes regular size cupcakes are just not enough!) Make Graham Cracker and Chocolate Cookie Crumb: Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, then cool. Add to 1 cup crushed graham crackers or chocolate cookies and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix well.   IMG_5609 Get some caramel, ganache, hot fudge sauce, crushed heath bars, fruit, amaretti crumb, sprinkles, nuts, crushed candy bars, etc.. Let ice cream soften for a few minutes before assembly.  Layer crumbs, ice cream,caramel, fudge sauce,  press gently, then layer more!   IMG_5613         Top with whipped cream and garnish appropriately. Freeze until firm.   IMG_5614               Wrap each individually in cello bags and store in freezer until serving. Let ice cream cupcakes soften.at room temp 5 minutes before serving.   Our Favorite Flavor Ideas: – Salted Caramel -Cookies and Cream – Chocolate Heath Bar -Chocolate Peanut Butter -Toasted Almond-“Smores- Birthday Cake- Chocolate Heath Bar-Mocha Almond Fudge-Black Forest-Caramel Banana Brownie

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26
May

Beyond Cake

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Of course, we love cake! Especially wedding cakes. A towering masterpiece of sugar has always been a traditional way to celebrate a wedding. In ancient Rome, a piece of cake was broken over the bride’s head , then eaten by the bride and groom for good luck. In Medieval England, guests were asked to bring a small cake to the wedding celebration. The cakes were piled high and the bride and groom had to kiss over the top to guarantee their happy life together!

Mom and Dad May 1961

Mom and Dad May 1961

The cake is always the centerpiece of the event and can be as unique as the couple getting married. Dark chocolate, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar ribbons and more are all beautiful and tasty ways to deck out the cake. For some brides, cake might not be their favorite dessert…..there are other ways to celebrate beyond cake.  We are always happy to customize a dessert table for any occasion. Planning a dessert table is a challenge; mapping out all the plate placement ,baking samples, and portion counting can take months. It can be a daunting task. Tarts, pies, candies, petit fours and pastries can be more challenging than a 5 tier cake! When it all comes together, and looks great, the “oohs and ahhs” and “happily ever after” is all that ever matters.

Dessert Table Plate Planning

Dessert Table Plate Planning

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Dessert Table Done!

 

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Dessert Table Done!

For more wedding cake history :A Slice of History

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29
Mar

” Do You Make the Meat Pie?”

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My family's Easter Meat Pie

 

Every year the phone calls start about a month or so before Easter. “Do you make the Easter meat pie?” Many aliases follow, “pizza gain” , “pizza gaina”, “pizza rustica”.  Seeing that we are in the business of sweets, no we do not sell the meat pie. Of course we ( meaning the family) make the meat pie. The meat pie or “pizza piena” ( “full pie”) , as we call it,  is made to celebrate Easter, spring and all the abundance we can enjoy after depriving and fasting during Lent.  Of course, all meat pies are not created equal. The recipes and combinations of meat and cheeses will vary according to the region of Italy , usually based on locally sourced ingredients. We judge the pie based on the amount of meat. After all it should be “full” with minimal egg and cheese used as a binder. The crust is a crispy savory treat . The end pieces of the pie are always my favorite.

Growing up I wasn’t really that big a fan of the pie. When I was legally able to enjoy a glass of Pinot Grigio along with it,  then I understood it’s true deliciousness.

Pieces of Easter Meat Pie Ready to be Enjoyed!

 

My Mom always made the pie on Good Friday, but of course it could not be eaten until Saturday. ( remember, no meat on Fridays).  My Dad ate it for dinner on Saturday night and  I honor him and carry on this tradition.

 

If you choose to make this pie, here is our family recipe and a few tips. Just save me an end piece.

 

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Tips:

– Ask the deli server to cut the meat thick. Setting at the local grocery store, # 6. This will make the cutting the meat easier.

– When chopping the meat, smaller is better.

–  You can chop the meat the night before you bake the pie. Just refrigerate and use when needed.

– The pie does get better with age. You can bake it, refrigerate,1 week ahead, then serve.

– Use a springform pan for easiest removal.

– Place a foil lined cookie sheet underneath the pie while baking in case of any leaks or overspills.

– Don’t be impatient. This pie takes awhile to cook.

– Do serve it at your Easter brunch or as an appetizer at Easter dinner.

– Honor your own traditions, too!

 

Pizza Piena  “Full Pie”

Easter Meat Pie

Filling:

8 eggs

¾ lb. ham ( diced small)

¾ lb. prosciutto ( diced small)

¼ lb. salami ( diced small)

1 ½ cups ricotta

½ cup grated pecorino Romano

½ cup chopped parsley

1 teaspoon black pepper

Crust:

1/3 cup shortening, melted, then cooled

4 eggs

Salt and pepper

1 ½- 2 cups flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Make crust. Beat eggs and cooled shortening. Add salt and pepper and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead to make a soft, not sticky dough. If dough is sticky, add additional flour. Cover and set aside.
  3. Make filling. Beat eggs, ricotta, pecorino Romano. Add chopped meat, parsley and black pepper.
  4. Reserve ¼ of the crust dough. Roll out ¾ of the crust dough like a pie crust. Place into 9-inch springform pan. Pour in filling.
  5. Roll out remaining crust. Cut into strips. Layer strips over filling in lattice pattern. Crimp edges of crust all around.
  6. Bake 1 hour and 15-20 minutes, or until center is set. Cool pie in pan 3-4 hours or overnight.
  7. Refrigerate and cut into  pieces.

 

My Mom,Corinda, with pie, circa 2011

 

 

 

 

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