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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Cake

Triple Berry Flag Cake

Marc J. Sievers

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One of the things I love most about summer is that it comes with no shortage of opportunities to get together with family and friends al fresco. Another thing I love is being able to bring something delicious to share! Packed with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, my Triple Berry Flag Cake embodies the very essence of summer. Beautiful berries are everywhere and this cake allows you to use all of the berries from your garden or that you picked up at the farmer’s market or farm stand. While it looks complicated, this dessert is simply a classic “sheet cake” made from my Lemon Pound Cake and bursting with fresh strawberries and blueberries baked inside, a crème fraiche-infused buttercream and finished with a festive (and easy!) step-by-step iconic decoration of fresh blueberries and raspberries on the outside that will impress your guests all season long!

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Triple Berry Flag Cake

Ingredients (serves 20-25 people)

Cake

  •  Flour – 3 cups, all-purpose, plus more for preparing the pan

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon

  • Baking Powder – ½ teaspoon

  • Baking Soda – ½ teaspoon

  • Butter – 16 tablespoons (2 sticks), unsalted, at room temperature, plus more for preparing the pan

  • Sugar – 2 cups, granulated

  • Vanilla – 2 teaspoons, pure extract

  • Lemon – 2 large lemons, zested and juiced

  • Honey – ¼ cup, clover honey preferred

  • Eggs – 4 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Buttermilk – 1 cup, at room temperature

  • Blueberries – (1) half-pint

  • Strawberries – 1 pound, hulled, ¼-inch diced

Buttercream

  • Cream Cheese – 1 pound, at room temperature

  • Crème Fraiche – 8 ounces, at room temperature

  • Butter – 1 pound, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Vanilla – ½ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Confectioners Sugar – 1 pound, sifted

Cake Decoration

  • Blueberries – (2) half-pints

  • Raspberries – (3) half-pints

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a half sheet pan (18” x 13” x 1”).  Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.  Butter the top of the parchment paper.  Lightly dust the entire pan with flour.  Set aside.

  2.  In large bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

  3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

  4.  Turn the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and the eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate.

  5.  Next, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

  6.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.  Gently fold in the berries.

  7.  Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.  Tap the pan on a flat surface to release as many air bubbles as possible.

  8.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

  9.  Remove the pan from the oven, allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Then, turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream & Assembly

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, crème fraiche, butter, salt and vanilla.  Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar.  Raise the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth.   

  2. Place the completely cooled cake onto a large serving platter or board. 

  3. Spread half of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Using a toothpick, outline the flag on the top of the cake. Fill the upper left third corner with blueberries. 

  4. Put the remaining buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes.  Place 2 rows of raspberries below the piped row to create a red stripe. Alternate rows of buttercream and raspberries until the flag is completed. Pipe small stars on top of the blueberries.

Tip: If you are brining this cake to a party, after the cake has cooled completely on the wire rack, simply place it back into the sheet pan, decorate it and then transport it and serve directly from the sheet pan.  This will ensure this show-stoping cake can be your signature summer pot-luck dessert all season long!

Trick: The sheet cake can be made up to two days in advance.  Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. 

Summer Tip: On a hot day you may have to periodically place the finished buttercream into the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes so it stays firm and easy to use while you decorate the cake. 

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Watch: Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous!

Marc J. Sievers

The word “zhush” means to make something exciting or more attractive, or to make it more fabulous (at least, that is how I use it!).  In this case, it is all about saving time by making a plain, simple, store-bought cake fabulous!  When I don’t have the time to make a cake from scratch (or don’t want to be bothered), I like to buy a small simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream to zhush up and turn it into something I am not only excited about serving, but also eating!  Grocery store bakeries are usually filled with cakes ranging in size and cost.  My approach for a Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous is to buy the simplest and most delicious cake I can find.  Instead of relying of those pre-fab decorated cakes, focus on quality, and use these simple options to dress up even the most unassuming store-bought cake!


These are some of my favorite additions to zhush up a store-bough cake:

Edible gold leaf which you can easily find online and also in silver, adds a bit of glamour to fresh raspberries!  The same would be true for using strawberries, blackberries, or even blueberries.  Choose something that will complement the flavor of both the cake and frosting you choose.

Simple store-bought salted caramel makes a truly decedent addition to the top of a cake!  Once you start slicing, the caramel oozes down into the cake and makes each and every bite scrumptious.  I usually keep a little extra on-hand to serve alongside the cake.  For added fabulousness, you can also heat up the caramel and pour it over the cake as you present it!  Or, add a touch more of flaked sea salt for crunch. 

Colorful edible flowers which are typically in the produce department of grocery stores, makes for a very casual yet elegant effect.  I love dusting them with a bit of powdered sugar to help sweeten them (they are VERY earthy tasting) and to add a bit of texture and contrast.  This is especially elegant on larger rose petals!

Homemade whipped cream is also a wonderful decoration for almost any flavor of cake!  I like to use a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or start tip) and pipe around the base of the cake when the cardboard disk meets the serving plate.  To make homemade whipped cream you need:

Homemade Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • Heavy Cream – 1 cup, very cold

  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons

  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the cold cream. Turn the mixer to medium-low and begin whipping the cream. Once it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla.

  2. Raise the speed to high, and whip it until it thicken and begins to forms medium peaks. I like it to still be a bit “soft” as the texture is much creamier.

Tip: Don’t overbeat, or you will end up with a very stiff whipped cream and it will not have any fluidity to it and will also turn into butter!

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Paris-Inspired Strawberry Country Cake

Marc J. Sievers

On a trip to Paris in April I traveled with my friend Holly and she was very excited to visit a little salon de thé (tea lounge) named Mamie Gâteaux (granny cakes) in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, and I was happy to oblige.  Most of the salon de thés I had visited before had been filled with glamorous desserts and gleaming silver tea pots.  This particular salon was rather different.  It was very rustic and country, and filled with the most casual and effortless cakes, pies, and muffins that were served on simple china and festooned with antique baking accoutrement.  Each dessert looked as if my Nan had loving baked it in her tiny kitchen.  As one dessert would sell out the kitchen would send out another one—different than what had sold out—looking even better than before! 

After I returned home to Chicago I was desperate for a simple cake, like the kinds I saw at Mamie Gâteaux.  There was something charming about those no-frills French desserts that I wanted to recreate here.  They were not overly sweet, or piled on with frosting, or done to death with marzipan.  They were, in two words, simply delicious.  They were simple, taking the best advantage of just a few basic baking ingredients.  And they were delicious, transcending the simple, with no need of complex technique or tricks, into nibbly crumbs that were satisfying, comforting, and encouraged savoring.

The French believe in cooking and baking with the best ingredients.  You start with the best and the techniques of French cooking have been developed to enhance those pure flavors.  You can taste it in something as simple as a French baguette—by French law it contains only four ingredients:  flour, water, yeast, and salt.  And yet those four ingredients in the hands (and oven) of a French boulanger transform into something truly delicious.

In my longing for a simple cake I kept the French approach in my mind—keeping it simple, and using the best ingredients.  One of my favorite (and simplest) recipes in my repertoire is my pound cake.  And as the French do, I decided to introduce a fresh fruit.  Pound cake can be a fabulous canvas on which to highlight a special flavor.  One of the best fruit flavors that can stand on its own, and serve both the sweet and tart parts of the palate, is strawberry.

Strawberries are just coming into season and with the start of our farmer’s markets in Chicago, I thought this would be the perfect way to bring together all the elements of my inspiration:  French gateaux, delicious ingredients, and a simple approach.  The result is my Strawberry Country Cake.  It is a twist on a classic pound cake, brimming with perfectly ripened strawberries from my local farmers market and flavored with lemon zest, vanilla, and buttermilk.

My Strawberry Country Cake is just lightly sweet and relies on the strawberries to do what they do best, making it a wonderful dessert to serve with tea (perhaps a Lady Grey with lemon) or to end a dinner party (paired with a glass of dry Rosé).  This is my new favorite cake—a cake that will always remind me of the casual and country essence of Mamie Gâteaux in Paris.


Strawberry Country Cake

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • Flour – 1 ½ cups, all-purpose, plus more for preparing pan

  • Kosher Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Baking Powder – ¼ teaspoon

  • Baking Soda – ¼ teaspoon

  • Butter – 8 tablespoons, unsalted, room temperature, plus more for preparing pan

  • Sugar – 1 cup, granulated

  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoons, pure extract

  • Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons

  • Honey – 2 tablespoons

  • Eggs – 2 extra-large, room temperature

  • Buttermilk – ½ cup, room temperature

  • Strawberries – 1 pound, hulled, ¾ inch chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Lightly butter and flour an 8x8-inch square pan. Set aside.

  3. Next, in a large bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

  5. With the mixer turned to low speed, add vanilla, lemon zest, honey, and the eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate.

  6. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.

  7. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Gently fold in the strawberries and transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on a flat surface to release as many air bubbles as possible.

  8. Transfer the pan into the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

  9. Once you have removed the cake from the oven, allow it to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake, then turn the cake out (very carefully to prevent the cake from breaking) onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  10. Transfer to a serving platter, top with whipped cream, and serve.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • Heavy Cream – 1 cup, very cold

  • Sugar – 1 tablespoon, granulated

  • Vanilla – ½ teaspoon, pure extract

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla.

  2. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and whip for 1-2 minutes, or until it thickens.

Idea:  When transferring the cake from the pan and onto a cooling rack then onto a serving platter – do so extremely carefully.  The cake is very heavy in weight from the fresh berries and can break easily.  To get the cake out of the pan, rest the cooling rack directly over the baking pan and invert completely – the cake will easily release from the pan.  Follow the same process to transfer the cake to a serving platter.

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