Mexican Wedding Cake

mexican wedding cakeThe basis for this cake is Mexican chocolate, which is basically chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. But as it has the proper name “Mexican chocolate” it is obviously an entirely different type of product than plain old chocolate with cinnamon in it. I have to admit, though, that there is something very special about this cake and if you taste it once, you may fight to the death for another piece.

Ingredients:
For the streusel topping
:
1 18- or 19-ounce package Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped (regular dark chocolate will do if Mexican chocolate is not available)
1 large egg yolk
Salt
3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Powdered sugar, for dusting the finished cake

Directions:

1. The streusel topping. In a food processor, pulse half of the Mexican chocolate until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Remove and set aside for the batter. To the processor, add the second half of the chocolate and process it to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Mix the egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, omit the salt) in a small bowl to dissolve the salt. Add to the processor along with the 3 1/2 ounces butter, and the 1cup flour. Pulse the machine just until everything is thoroughly combined—it should look crumbly, not having been processed to a paste.

2. The cake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Sift together the 1 3/4 cups flour and baking powder. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, the 8 ounces butter and the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. One at a time, add the eggs, beating until one is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. Add the sifted flour mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 1 minute, just until the flour is incorporated. Lastly, use a large spoon to stir the reserved chopped chocolate into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth. Crumble the streusel topping evenly over the batter, making sure there are no large lumps—lumps may sink during baking.

Bake in the center of the oven until springy (the edges will have just begun to pull away from the sides of the pan) and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack (in my opinion, this cake tastes best when still slightly warm), cut into squares and serve dusted with powdered sugar. Vanilla, caramel or cinnamon-scented ice cream sure goes well with a bite of this pastel.

Working Ahead: Tightly wrapped, the finished cake keeps beautifully for several days. You may want to re-warm pieces of the cake before serving.

Asparagus and Brie Soup

Asparagus and brie soup

Asparagus and brie soup

I love asparagus and I love brie. So why not combine the two? The mustiness if the brie combines very well with the vegetal nature of the asparagus and while this soup seems like it would be very rich… it is. But so worth it.

Ingredients:
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, cut into small pieces, lower portions removed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup white wine
4 to 6 ounces Brie, rind removed and cubed
Dash salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Saute the asparagus in a saucepan with the butter until tender. Stir in the flour and mix until the flour absorbs the liquid. Cook the  flour for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, forming a roux. Add the broth slowly, then add cream and wine. Bring to a slow boil and reduce the heat, simmering for 10-15 minutes.

2. Blend the soup with a hand blender, or in small batches in a food processor. Return to soup the pan and add brie, stirring gently. Simmer at a low heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.