Ema's brownie ... or blondie?

This cake I was introduced to earlier in the summer, while visiting my hubby's cousin, Ema. I like to think of her as my cousin too now. I love her, she is an awesome person. Everybody in the family was excited for her barbecue party, but not as much for the barbecue itself but more about this scrumptious cake she makes. And you can imagine I got very excited about this, all our cousins were raving about it, and as soon as we got there we dug in, before having any actual food, even some of us breaking all strict diets and all, and ate half of the cake in a heartbeat. Then we ate an array or various grilled meats, sides and salads, all delicious, and yes, we finished everything with the other half of the cake. It was an awesome evening! 

And of course I asked her for the recipe and the permission to share it here on Askanam. She is a total sweetheart, and agreed. 
Back home we call this type of cake a brownie, although it has nothing much in common with the American brownie. My Mom also makes this type of cake, but Ema had changed and improved the recipe over the years, as she has been making this since her school years, and the results are great to say the least. Well I must say I added my own touch to it, errrr, just by doubling the quantity of chocolate sauce, haha. Because well, you can never have to much chocolate, right?

Ingredients for a 9x13 inch pan, around 40 servings (yes, portion size is very small, as the cake is very rich, but of course, you eat as many as you want or can... that means a lot more than 1 for us): 

For the cake:
7 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons vegetable oil (sunflower, canola or corn)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional, works just as fine without)
1 small pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract

For the frosting:
6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)
2 tablespoon corn starch  (optional)

For the sauce:
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 stick of butter, softened preferably 
1 cup of milk
2/3 cup good quality cocoa powder 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


First, make the cake.
Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
Separate the egg whites from yolks, putting the whites in the clean bowl of your mixer, fitted with the whip attachment, and the yolks in the bowl of a small food processor, blender or just a medium bowl.
Start beating the egg whites on lowest speed for 20-30 seconds. Increase the speed to high, and beat for 1-2 minutes until soft peaks. Add a pinch of salt. With the mixer still on high speed add the sugar gradually, and beat until stiff glossy peaks form, another 2 minutes or so. This times are for a KitchenAid stand mixer, it might take a little longer time if you use a hand held mixer, that is not as powerful. 
Blend/process or beat with a fork or whisk the egg yolks and vegetable oil very well, until thick and lighter in color. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the egg yolk mixture over the egg whites (meringue) and mix/fold in gently with a wooden spoon.
Sift on top of it the flour and baking powder, and fold in gently just until incorporated. Do not over mix. 

Pour the batter in the pan, level with an offset spatula, and bake for 23 minutes, on the middle rack. Check after 20 minutes, by gently pressing with the finger on top. If the cake springs back it is done, so you can take it out of the oven. Don't over bake the cake, as it will dry out, and you will place it again in the oven later. It is better to be under baked actually. But not as much as it to deflate when you take it out. Keep a close watch on it, and take it out as soon as it sets. 
After the cake is done,take it out on a heat proof surface, and let the oven on, increasing the temperature to 380 degrees F. 

While the cake bakes, make the topping.
Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whip. Repeat the same process with the egg whites as you did for the cake. When the meringue is stiff and glossy sift over the corn starch, add the vinegar and gently mix.
Pour the meringue over the cake, level it well with an offset spatula, return pan to oven and bake at 380 F for 15 minutes, until the top is golden and crisp. You can put the meringue on the hot, just out of the oven cake. 

Let the cake cool down completely on a rack, in the pan. When cool using a sharp knife cut it in small, 1 inch squares. 

Make the chocolate sauce.
In a sauce pan mix well together the cocoa powder and sugar, so there are no cocoa lumps. Add the milk and butter, mix, and place on medium heat, mixing constantly. Get to a boil, and let it cook for 1 minute.
In a medium bowl beat the egg yolks with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. When the cocoa has boiled, take it off heat. Add one tablespoon of the hot mixture and add it to the yolks, mixing very well. Do this for several times, increasing to 2,3, 4 tablespoons of hot mixture you add every time, mixing well after each addition. This is in order to temper the eggs, so you don't get scrambled eggs.  When the bowl is almost fool, return it's contents to the rest of cocoa mixture in the sauce pan, and mix well everything. The sauce should be glossy, thicker and delicious. Add the vanilla and  mix. 

With a spoon, pour hot chocolate sauce on each cold cake square. Or just pour it over, but slowly. The cake should be "swimming" in chocolate sauce. It is best to make the cake few hours in advance, so it has time to soak up the sauce. It keeps well for 2-3 days, in a cool dry place. I keep it in the oven after it cools. 

Now stop thinking about calories, and eat!

Thank you, Ema! 

Tiramisù in Mason jars

This post is about two firsts: my first Tiramisu and also the first time I make something in the famous and so cute Mason jars. I love the idea of using Mason jars. Especially this small wide mouth ones. They are perfect for individual cakes, pies, beverages or any other delicious treats. I have seen around the web so many creative uses for this jars that I can't wait to try and to come up with some new ones myself.

About the Tiramisu: this is a basic and traditional recipe, and you will absolutely love it! I was never a big Tiramisu fan, but for some reason, maybe because I made it, and also had so much fun while making it, I absolutely loved this one, and can't wait to make it again. Make this dessert ahead of time, as it needs to chill for several hours before served, so plan accordingly. Is best to make it the day before, so it has time to chill over night. 

Tiramisu is a relatively new Italian dessert, it seems to have been first mentioned in cookbooks around 1982-1983, although there are some that establish the creation of it in 1969. "Tirami su" means "pick-me-up" in Italian, and it most probably refers to the effect of the coffee and cacao used in the recipe, and I can attest it is quite accurate: we made the mistake of eating some before going to bed, the other night, and we could not fall asleep for a couple of hours. So yes, it does pick you up indeed. It is a good idea to avoid eating it at night. That is, if you can resist. 

Most of the recipes are using Savoiardi biscuits, the Italian Lady fingers, the same ones I used for this bread pudding. But I wanted to use instead my favorite sponge cake recipe, (pan di Spagna or chiffon cake) that is as easy to make as going to the store and buying the Savoiardi, so please try it.

This recipe made 12 portions (12 half pint jars ; half pint=236 ml) of Tiramisu. 


For the sponge cake:
7 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola, sunflower or corn)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I started using pure vanilla bean paste lately, as I adore seeing the small vanilla seeds in my desserts, and is more economical than using vanilla beans)

For the syrup:
1 cup strong brew espresso (I made 6 regular espressos, but you can make less, and dilute it with water to get to one cup, if you don't want it to be too strong, especially if you have kids ;) )
1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Mascarpone cream:
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar (powder sugar)

You will also need:
3-4 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
12 half pint jars

Optional for garnish:
1 pint of raspberries or other fresh berries/fruit of your choice 
fresh mint


Start by making the sponge cake, so it has time to cool:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C), and prepare a baking pan (9x13 inch) with parchment paper, or butter and flour. 
Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites in the clean bowl of your mixer, and the yolks in another bowl and set aside.
Beat the egg whites on lowest speed for 30 seconds-1 minute, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating on high for other 3-4 minutes to stiff peaks. Careful not to over beat it though. It has to look glossy not grainy for best results. But hey, no one will know that you over beat it, so don't worry, it should be OK. 
Mix the egg yolks and oil very well. I use my blender for this step. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl.
With the mixer on low, or even better with a wooden spoon or spatula, add the egg yolk mixture to the egg whites, slowly folding them in, just a few seconds. Add the flour mixture, and fold in gently, just until incorporated. This should mean 10-15 folding moves, or 10-15 seconds with the mixer on low.

Pour the batter in the pan, spread evenly using an off set spatula, and bake on the middle rack for 23-25 minutes. Check on it after 20 minutes pass. It is done when the cake springs back after gently pressing your finger on it, in the middle of the pan. 
When done take out and let it cool completely.

While the cake bakes, make the mascarpone cream:
First we will make a Zabaione:
Place a sauce pan or other small pot with an inch of water on fire, to get to a simmer. 
Beat the egg yolks and the sugar on medium-high, preferably in a heat proof bowl, until fluffy and light, for about 5 minutes. Mix in the Marsala wine. Sweet Marsala is a delicious wine! Pour yourself a glass and cooking will be even more fun! You can substitute Marsala with Port or Madeira wine, any sweet wine you like really, or brandy, cognac, even rum.
Put the mixture in a heat proof bowl, over the pot of simmering water, on low heat. It is important for the water not to be boiling at all, just simmering, and the water not to be touching the bowl, otherwise you will end up with sweet scrambled eggs.
With a whisk keep beating the mixture, constantly, for about 15 minutes, until it cooks and becomes thicker, airy, and super creamy and well, insanely delicious. Take off heat. You just made Zabaione! Zabaione is another Italian dessert staple. It is traditionally served simply over figs. Keep this recipe, you can use this cream in many delicious treats, or just by itself. It is highly addictive, though, be careful! 

Let it cool, and place in the fridge for at least an hour, to cool completely.
In another bowl mix the Mascarpone cheese gently, until soft, with a fork. Don't whip it.
Using again your trusted mixer, beat the heavy cream and confectioner's sugar on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, to stiff peaks. 
Gently fold in together the softened Mascarpone with the whipped cream. Pour the cold Zabaione on top, and mix everything, still very gently, just until combined... this is such a dainty delicate dessert! 
It would be best to let the cream chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. I did not. I have no patience what so ever! It still worked out fine.

Make the syrup:
Mix the espresso, wine and sugar in a sauce pan, and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Set aside and let it cool.

Now assembly everything:
Line you cute jars, the cake, syrup, cream and powdered cocoa, like in a assembly line. You can use any type of glasses too. This recipe would look very elegant in Martini glasses, for example. 

You will need some round biscuit or cookie cutters, in same diameter as your jars, a small sifter, and optional an ice cream/cookie dough scoop.
Using the cookie cutter cut out circles of cake. Cut them very close to one another, so you get as many cake rounds as possible. 

Place a tablespoon of Mascarpone cream in each jar. Place a cake round on top of it, with the bottom side (with no crust) facing up. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of coffee syrup over the cake. 

Put two heaped tablespoons of Mascarpone cream on top of the cake round.  I use an ice cream scoop, to make sure I put equal amounts of cream between the layers.

Using the small sifter, add a fine layer of cocoa powder on top. 
Place another cake round, then syrup, then two tablespoons of cream, then sift cocoa. Repeat. 

The last layer has to be Mascarpone cream, dusted with a generous layer of sifted cocoa. 
Chill in the fridge for several hours... at least 4, over night would be better... Eh, if you can't resist, go ahead an eat one immediately! 
Garnish with the fresh fruit or whipped cream and fresh mint before serving or leave as it is. 

The great part of using jars, besides cuteness of course, is that you can cover them with lids, so they keep fresh longer, and they are so easy to transport, to a picnic or to work even! 
It is past 3 AM now and all I want is the last jar of Tiramisu we have left in the fridge. Must resist! Goodnight!