Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year Muses & Hazelnut Tiny Italian Cakes with Tangerine Cream Cheese Frosting

Alo Gorgeous! You beautiful new year, you! I'm zen for 2010. I'm at ease, I'm calm, and I'm ready for the next horizon. First posts of a new year traditionally include resolutions, so why should I go about making new waves? I am a believer in setting resolutions and materializing them into realized goals to enjoy the rewards from these personal achievements that will flow forth. Last year I made a few resolutions and I am proud to say, for the majority of 2009's "I will do's, " I was successful. I saved some money, paid off some debt, invested in my passions, excelled in my less strong areas at work, spent as much time with family as possible, mended some old wounds, and put my health in the priority number one spot. 2009 was also a year of wins and losses. For example, my brother and I video-auditioned for a Food Network show and were denied, but I attended an event and meet Iron Chef Cat Cora. I visited Julia Child's Kitchen Exhibit at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. after giving my first forty-five minute conference presentation (killed it might I add). I traveled to Vermont for a job interview in the food industry for a position in New York City and I didn't get the job, but I was able to see Vermont for the first time in addition to driving on an old school road trip with my big bro. PS-People still hitchhike there, for real. I was so dumbfounded I was gagging with laughter. For the cherry, the Vermont hitchhikers were shiny, happy, and smiling people with their hemp back packs and long pigtails! "Did we just do a time-wrap? I thought this was just a rental car..."

Tarbox Farm Stand in Upstate New York. We stopped there leaving VT. I purchased some large Dahlia's for my Aunt and Jeremy brought back some fresh provisions to his Brooklyn flat.

The mascot of The Tarbox Farm Stand.

I think in 2010 I'm going more general and free-form for my resolution, I want to take the last road traveled on the journey of self-discovery at all costs. Percentage-wise, I am about 75% aware of the being I should and am able to be, and I am bubbling with anticipation to face the last perilous 25%. Why perilous and why not joyous? Well, its kind of both, isn't it? After vanquishing a personal fear with utter dominance, your whole self will rejoice with triumph and victory. Hence, the interconnected emotional relationship of peril from fear and joy from eliminating that fear from your life forever. Maybe I'll make it to New York, or maybe I will finally start on that travel dream and spend serious time out of the country, or maybe I will do both or neither or something completely different. To be open is a freeing and thrilling thing.

What will not change in 2010 is feeding Laptops and Stovetops with my love of the culinary arts. And on that note, thank you, thank you, thank you so much to all my family and friends for their fabulous foodie gifts. I am so geared up for foodie fabulousness in 2010, it's truly not even funny. Pete my love hooked me up with a stellar light box for photographing the L&S food models, and a bevy of needed utensils like the bomb knife sharpener and a gangster all-black pizza cutter for Tha Pizza Cutta persona to ball-out with in 2010. Plus a garlic press (Oh the rapture of not having to mince garlic by hand!). Ah, thanks boo! His parents, the wonderful Triolo's gifted me with a humongous food basket pouring over with Italian delights like Sicilian White Wine, Loacker Tiramisu Wafers, canned sardines, spicy garlic, pepperdews, and much much more. I was so touched I almost cried.

iPhoto pic sent to my bro after receiving his gift of a handmade Honduran apron on Christmas day.

"Ima Cut you Pizza!" LOL! And that's all I have to say about that.

Add to that three aprons-one from my brother's trip to Honduras which means I'm international for sure-a set of white decorative plates, and a perfect brownie tray both from Pete's brother and his girlfriend. Katrina, Pete's brother's girlfriend, also had her friend create this caricature of me as Tha Pzza Cutta! Do you love it?!?! I also want to wish Katrina Good Luck! as she starts her term at The Miami Ad School after winning a prestigious full-ride scholarship. You better work! Last but not even near the least is all the encouragement gifts from these beautiful people represent to keep on growing, cooking, and posting! Can I measure my gratitude? Maybe not, but I hope I've showed and returned the love I received and will continue to do so through this whole new year.

In that vein of motivation, let's talk about cake and frosting now. :) Just before Christmas I was once again presented with our lab holiday party and a chance to bake. Using this opportunity I looked up a cake I was chomping at the bit to make since November,'s Torta di Nuci or Italian for 'nut cake.'

Quick snap of the RETRO lab Holiday Potluck Extravaganza!

Of course I heart Italian food, but a detail of my love for Italian baked goods is the simpleness of their sweets. A few ingredients, a sincere flavor profile, and an un-complicated texture are strong notes that sing to my pallet and are ever present in the torta di nuci. For festive purposes, I piped a tangerine cream cheese frosting to ice it and a fresh cherry plus stem to top my Hazelnut Tiny Italian Cakes with Tangerine Cream Cheese Frosting. Without further lingering muses, here is my adaptation of the recipe plus the frosting how-to.

Recipe: Hazelnut Tiny Italian Cakes
Serving: 12 cupcakes (tiny cakes) + 1 9 x4 Loaf Pan
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick + 1 tblsp. unsalted melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 130 grams toasted, crushed hazelnuts
  • 50 grams chopped sugared dates
  1. Preheat to 375. Butter and flour cupcake pan and loaf pan.
  2. Beat sugar and eggs together until light and creamy. Slowly add the melted butter and flour and mix well but with a low setting on either a hand or stand mixer.
  3. Add the nuts and dates and fold them into the batter with a spatula.
  4. Fill each cupcake unit 3/4 full with batter and bake for 30-35 minutes. Put the rest in the loaf pan.
  5. Check after thirty minutes using a toothpick to test. The loaf pan may take a few minutes longer.
  6. Once baked, let cupcakes cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then using a butter knife remove the individual cakes to finish cooling on a rack.
Hazelnut Tiny Italian Cakes cooling.

Recipe: Tangerine Cream Cheese Frosting
Serving: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients for the tangerine cream cheese frosting. Please forgive the extract error. The recipe calls for and uses Lemon Extract, not the Vanilla.

The zest in tablespoon form.

Final stages of mixing the tangerine cream cheese frosting.
  • 8oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 tblsp. grated tangerine zest
  • 4 tblsp. tangerine juice
  • 5 cups confectioner's sugar
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese on medium together until creamy.
  2. Add zest, juice, and extract until combined.
  3. Gradually add the sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix sugar thoroughly before adding the next cup.
  4. Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Once the tiny cakes are cooled, and frosting chilled, use a piping bag to ice the cakes, and lastly put the metaphorical and physical fresh cherry on top!
Slices of cake from the loaf pan, not frosted. Perfect for breakfast with an espresso.

All the pretty holiday Hazelnut Tiny Cupcakes iced, cherried, and all in a row!


pegasuslegend said...

Wow those look about cooking and loving Italian food, you have diffinitely got me inspired with the family, friends and wonderful kitty post....looks so perfect, I love the apron photo too....adorable. I love the tangerine and hazelnut cupcakes send me some your only minutes away!!!! lol take care and happy new year.

Paula - bell'alimento said...

Happy New Year! What a fabulous post! Looks liked you had a fabulous Christmas! So glad you liked & were inspired by my Torti di Noci! I LOVE LOVE the Tangerine Cream Cheese Frosting addition! Delizioso!

French Cooking for Dummies said...

I love the drawing! And these bites look delicious...Happy 2010!

John D. said...

Great post! You have a very Happy New Year. I hope you reach all your goals!

Every time I go to VT, something bad happens to me. I have to avoid it like the plague!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!! 2010 is all you!

Big Top Cupcake said...

O my, the potluck looked awesome, seems you all have a lot of talent when making the awesome sweets, they look so delicious. Awesome finally I found someone who is a cherry fan, I am surprised that cherries are a lost art, a desert isn't complete with out the grand cherry on top:)

非凡 said...

I'm appreciate your writing skill.Please keep on working hard.^^

The Chickenless Chick said...

Oooooh, the tangerine frosting was a great idea. Way to complement the nutty flavor of the Italian cakes!

Yes, apparently we are both FL girls :) I'm in Orlando.

jaime leah said...

those look and sound so delicious! i love all things italian too...thanks to my italian grandma. i definitely have to try those! and that's a really cool potluck idea!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

What a GREAT post, Rachel. You are sucha talented and funny writer, I have no doubt that 2010 holds great things for you. xoxo

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Melisa Marzett said...

So delicious... Thanks for sharing!I'm about to vote for your blog; you're a gorgeous food blogger! Keep it up! Best regards,

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