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Leite's Culinaria: Desserts

March 2007 Cook"book" of the Month: Leite's Culinaria. Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the sections on desserts here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

Leite's Culinaria: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating.

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  1. Made Mary's Butterballs (cookies), or attempted to. No matter how long I refrigerated or froze the dough, the darn things spread out and looked nothing like the enticing photo. If anyone tries this recipe and gets a good result, please post how you did it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      Pikawicca--you're the seond person who has said this. We're yanking the recipe from the site and putting it back into testing. Perhaps something didn't translate when it was posted.

      1. re: David Leite

        David, Thank you for your prompt action. Please let us know when you've posted a fix -- I'll try again.

        1. re: pikawicca

          Sure will. It's in triage testing now!

    2. Of all the desserts I've made from the site, Ultimate Chocolate Marquise by Lori Longbotham
      would be my recommendation. It's little work up front and stores in the freezer beautifully if well wrapped, perfect for last minute dinner guests or for shaving off here and there for a "taste". http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

      I know it's everywhere, but those icebox cakes made from Nabisco Famous Wafers are easy, cute, and tasty. The cookies really do soften up into thin layers of "cake" and the recipe on Leite's uses a coffee cream instead of just whipped cream.

      And, Super-Moist Apple Cake by Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier:
      Although, I don't know if I classify this as dessert or breakfast... I've certainly eated it more often as breakfast than at night! It's definitely a moist cake, but the very edges has a crispiness to them (probably from all that butter) and it's just so tasty. Easy to prepare - mix in one bowl, pour into pan, top with apples and milk, bake. When you peel the apples, don't peel the third until you're arranging them on the cake. If you run short of apple slices, then peel the last one. If you don't need the third apple, then you can put it back in the fruit drawer and not worry about apple slices going brown. I'm curious if you could successfully make this subbing in applesauce for half the butter... Going from whole milk to skim won't cut the fat TOO much but I think some flavor will be lost, so just buy one of those small individual bottles of whole milk and splurge. =)

      2 Replies
      1. re: leanneabe

        I'm so glad somebody posted (and so early!) on the supermoist apple cake. That was the recipe that made me really want to cook from this site. I'm forever searching for the perfect apple cake, and have never found one that I've been really happy with. I'm definitely going to give this a try.

        1. re: Smokey

          I would caution you that it's really a tasty moist cake with apples on top. I don't know if that's what you want from an "apple cake". My mom makes an apple cake that has chopped apples within the cake batter (and also one with apples running through the middle of a bundt).

          However! I think you'll like this apple cake. It sure was tasty!

      2. I've made the Date Cake by May Bsisu with great success. It's quite similar to a sticky toffee pudding, but (in my opinion) a little better. I have only tried it using fresh, high-quality dates, and it is excellent.

        I also really like Dorrie Greenspan's Korova Cookies, which I think have been discussed on the thread for her recent cookbook. In addition to eating on their own, these cookies work wonderfully as a substitution for 'Famous Chocolate Wafers' when making a pie crust. I haven't made any changes to this recipe, and have always used a good-quality chocolate and cocoa such as Callebaut or Valhrona. I prefer the fleur de sel in this recipe to the sea salt alternative. This dough freezes very well, as do the cookies.

        1. Just remembered a couple more favorite desserts:

          Pastéis de Coco (Portuguese Coconut-Custard Tarts) by David Leite. These are hard to describe, but are sort of like a cross between a coconut custard and cupcake. They are extremely easy to make, and the results are excellent. My sister asks for them constantly! My only substitution is to add 1 tsp. vanilla and bake them in silicon rather than paper muffin cups.

          The other dessert recipe I recommend is the Arroz Doce (Rice Pudding) by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. This is my all-time favorite rice pudding recipe, and is also simple to prepare, as well as being very forgiving. This pudding is made like a risotto, on the stovetop, rather than baked. I add a little vanilla to this recipe as well. Everyone seems to like the fact that the pudding isn't too sweet, and is actually just slightly salty (the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp. salt).

          1 Reply
          1. re: TerriL

            Yeah, I love their rice pudding. Hadn't seen it on LC, but haven't explored much yet. Plan to do so this coming week.

          2. I'm a little confused on this recipe for Cocoa Caramel Panna Cotta: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe... I *think* that maybe the custard sauce is just misnamed caramel sauce, but I'm not sure... it's a little unclear. It sounds really good though, so I was thinking about trying it out, like I need any more desserts in my house!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Katie Nell

              I agree, where they say caramel sauce it should read custard sauce. And I wish you hadn't pointed out that recipe it looks yummy.

              1. re: ali patts

                ok, so I made the panna cotta over the weekend. I made the mixture and the custard on Saturday morning, set the panna cottas on Sunday morning and ate on Sunday night. Firstly, I am in the UK so I mixed cream and milk to get the approx US fat %ages - this was fine (I've had to do it before and so long as you double check your figures it's fine!). The panna cotta mixture had a really good hot chocolate flavour but I thought the 'caramel' flavour was lost in the cocoa flavour. Next time I think I will halve the amount of cocoa in order to maintain the caramel a bit more. I also cooked my caramel for longer than suggested (in terms of time). When I made the panna cotta a small amount of cocoa separated and sank to the bottom of the moulds, not a problem but it did mean the top was slightly different to look at than the sides and did look like something hadn't been fully incorporated. I think the quantity makes 6 panna cottas and 8-10 servings of custard. I made the custard in a slightly different way (as I always make creme anglaise) but in reality it makes no difference to the taste and added a splash of kahlua which changed the colour slightly which helped to make it look right against the hot chocolate coloured panna cotta. All in all, it was good but I'd tweak it next time to ramp up the caramel flavour and ramp down the cocoa flavour, I'd also serve the custard warm (not hot, but not cold as the recipe seems to suggest) as you would then pick up on more of the custard flavours and have the cold panna cotta to give the overall cool creamy balance.

            2. I'm so excited! I made the Pumpkin Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting this morning. Actually I doubled the recipe, made 4 cakes (will freeze 2), left them cooling & will ice one cake (2 layers) tonight. So far so good...good bit of spice in there. Will give a full report tomorrow.

              2 Replies
              1. re: morebubbles

                I wanted to try that recipe when it was featured on the home page quite a while back with a huge beautiful picture of it, looking forward to your report!

                1. re: morebubbles

                  I'm curious how your frosting comes out. Some of us thought it was a little too soft, but it still ices nicely (it just might be thinner than your typical cream cheese frosting) and tastes wonderful.

                  Just to let you know, that recipe works wonderfully for cupcakes, too. When I made it, the cake was light and fluffy, which I thought was great, but some people prefer a denser cake. Hope you enjoy yours!

                2. I've made the Rainbow Cookies for the past 2 years at Christmas. Takes a couple of days but the results are definitely worth all the work!

                  1. Pumpkin Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting
                    Yesterday I made a double recipe of the cake as I mentioned above. I followed the instructions as written, with the following exceptions: it says 1 stick of butter + more for greasing pans-I used 1 stick of butter & took out a teasp or so from that to grease the pans. Overall for the two reciped I took out approx 1 Tblsp of butter (I later increased the pumpkin puree by 1 Tblsp). I also took out a Tbsp or two of white sugar, and for the cake flour it calls for, I used half whole wheat pastry flour, half cake flour. Also I used a hand held beater instead of a stand mixer which worked well I thought.

                    So, last night I iced 2 layers of it, put it in the fridge for at least 45 mins. (recipe says 30), then tasted it. The result: The cake itself is very good, light yet dense enough, with a fine crumb. I can totally see how a cupcake made from this recipe would be very good. Surprisingly the spices did not overpower, they just melded together harmoniously...(even the black pepper, which I had reduced slightly)! When I cut 2 more slices this morning I noticed air pocket holes in my cake - I think shaking the baking pan after pouring the batter in would help this.
                    The icing - Maple syrup was what attracted me to this recipe to begin with. We have good maple syrup here in Montreal, I used an Amber grade syrup-good maple taste. All of that to say that the maple flavor did not come through. And the icing was too, too soft, and too buttery for my taste. (I actually scraped icing off my piece as I ate it!)
                    Summary - I would make the cake recipe again, esp. as a cupcake. I would not make the icing again. Another time I would use my usual cream cheese icing. But what might be nice is this: in the middle layer, spread a layer of ' tire' (reduced maple syrup that turns ultra thick: it's the stuff they pour onto snow & then you wrap it around a popsicle stick & eat! Delightfully good.) I don't really think I would make a layer cake from it again though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: morebubbles

                      Update: The office gang liked the cake, one of them went out of her way to comment on the very good icing.

                    2. Red Velvet Cake: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                      I made this for a Lunar New Year party since it's the year of the Red Pig, and I thought a pig-shaped red velvet cake would be perfect. The recipe is very forgiving. I'm not a baker--I don't have the patience or temperament for perfect measurements--but even with my clumsy mixing, the cake was light with a nice, fine crumb. My sister, who used to be a pastry cook, was impressed. I mixed up the recipe twice, to fill a 9x13 pan and 2 round cake pans, and guessed at approximate bake times, so I really abused the recipe, and it still turned out great!

                      I didn't make the frosting, since I was baking at a friend's place and could not bring myself to boil frosting, so I just used the cream-cheese-based frosting on the Food Network's red velvet cake recipe.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: AppleSister

                        WOW!! That is really awesome! I love how creative everyone gets with these assignments... Great Cake... :)


                        1. re: AppleSister

                          That looks great! Very creative indeed. I love the thought of red velvet cake at a Lunar New Year party!

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            Thanks for the compliments! You two really made my day.

                        2. Black-Bottom Cupcakes


                          I have made these cupcakes many times for informal buffet dinners and I've always enjoyed them. The recipe is simple and hard to mess up.

                          Also, when all the guests have left, I love sitting down and eating one of these with an ICE COLD glass of milk. And dunking is allowed!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Scagnetti

                            Wow, that looks good! Thanks for bringing our attention to it. What kind of chocolate do you use?

                            1. re: rose water

                              Use them if you want to but I don't think it is necessary to use any of the high end chocolates like Valrhona, Callebaut, etc. for this recipe. Just use a decent chocolate that is at least a step above Hershey's.

                          2. I forgot I had made this one before...
                            German Chocolate Cake http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                            When I bake cakes, it's usually to have a small piece and then send the rest off with friends or to the office. I made this one for a dinner party and the leftovers stayed with me until it was gone. I even sampled the filling (often) while I waited for it to cool down.

                            As a shortcut, you could easily use a Duncan Hines choc. cake mix (not Betty Crocker or any other brand, DH is nice and moist) but this cake recipe isn't too difficult and it comes out really nice.

                            The filling isn't cloyingly sweet - just sweet enough and smooth and custardy. You'll find yourself spreading the layer just a *little* thinner and licking the rest off the spoon.

                            I also liked that the filling is just between layers and on top - not all around the sides.

                            It's a recipe that works, but it does take time (mostly because of the filling). I think it's actually a little different than the recipe published in CI's cookbook, but I'm not sure why. I do know that any German Chocolate cakes I make from now on will be from this recipe.

                            1. There was another post a bit ago about this Lemon Curd Cake. Being a HUGE Lemon Bar fan, I just had to make it to try myself… especially upon reading the recipe for the curd…

                              It called for LOADs of Zest… now that is how I love a curd…


                              Once all beaten with eggs, it took this velvet, ribbony texture. To honest, I could drank the stuff… LOL!


                              But I resisted and made the Curd. And it was just PERFECT. The instructions were SPOT on, not a bit of scorch. And the texture was pudding like…


                              I packed it up in the fridge, we went to dinner and when we got home, made the batter…

                              Now, this is where I kinda made my own ‘adjustments’. The recipe is also VERY clear on how to arrange the batter vs. the curd. After reading the posts about how the lemon curd cake did not rise for some, I made my own configuration of the batter/curd mixture.

                              I did the instructed, batter on the bottom of the pan, curd in the middle. Then, for the second layer, I basically made a RING of batter around the edges and curd in the middle


                              In the end, this was turned out great! The cake rose and in the center was LUCIOUS unadulterated curd!!!


                              The slices were even MORE beautiful, the curd mixed in and was sandwiched with the batter, creating a total Lemon Bar Cake experience. Seriously, this is my favorite cake EVER…..


                              And with that, this has been the most recipes and most FUN I’ve had with a cookbook of the month assignment. Thank you David and Kell, I can’t wait for April to start! :D



                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Dommy

                                As a note, the Lemon Curd Cake is supposed to fall, much like a fallen souffle or a molten chocolate cake.

                                But, if you want it un-fallen, I'm glad you found a way to make the recipe come out as you wanted!

                                1. re: Dommy

                                  OK, let's make this a tad more challenging :o) -- what do you think, Dommy / others, of making MINI lemon curd cakes. I'd use the "ring" batter-layering technique you posted, but I want to make small cakes -- maybe using a giant-muffin tin. I just think those little things would be so pretty...

                                  Only adjustment would be reduction of baking time to, what, 11-12 min per mini cake?

                                  1. re: DClope

                                    Please let me know how it turns outs. Serena Bass (the creator of the dessert) and I were chatting, and I suggested the same thing. She said it wouldn't work cuz the cake needs time to rise, cook, and fall. I wasn't convince. (Sorry for the long absence. I'm in Portugal, and I just got Interent service yesterday.)

                                    1. re: David Leite

                                      I'm afraid we had a power outage the night I'd intended to make it and the curd (which I'd made ahead) has since fallen victim to bowls of vanilla ice cream. :) i'll certainly try it at some point and promise to post with the results.

                                2. Just within the "deadline" for this month I decided to make the Whoopie Pie recipe from Leite's site.

                                  I've never made whoopie pies before, but have a good amount of "experience" with them given that I link them to the Pennsylvania Dutch and have frequently purchased them from purveyors at various local markets here in the Philadelphia area. I should note, however, that while the note at the top of the recipe is comparing these to Devil Dogs but without some of the articifical ingredients those have, I for one have never had a Devil Dog so am not sure what I am to compare my final product with if we are using Devil Dogs as opposed to Whoopie Pies as the basis of comparison. Anyway...

                                  Overall the recipe was extremely easy and very tasty. I wound up halving the recipe given that I am the only one eating them and am planning on taking the rest of the batch to work on Monday. A half recipe produced approximately 14 sandwiches, though it should be noted that I used a full recipe of filling for a half recipe of cakes and still found myself running short when filling the final sandwiches. While I probably used more than the recommended heaping teaspoon per sandwich, I was trying to make my final product look like those in the picture, and felt that more filling was needed to do this. Plus, I'm a sucker for filling/frosting!

                                  The cake itself is very good...it has really light and somewhat airy consistency, but a nice and fairly intense chocolate flavor. As far as I could tell, the cake was dead-on with what I consider to be whoopie pie. The filling was good, but not great. It wasn't as light and airy as I consider whoopie pie filling to be. The recipe is really just a pretty basic buttercream that was perhaps a tad too sweet...though I wouldn't have wanted it more buttery...I just wanted it to be more "something" that I can't put my fingers on. I actually had two remaining cookies and I put marshmallow cream on both of them and found that I actually liked this better, both for consistency and possibly even for taste reasons, than the filling that the recipe uses. Perhaps if I make this again I'll fill some with marshmallow cream, or with a mixture of marshmallow cream and perhaps some other ingredients. I have seen other whoopie pie recipes that call for a filling of marshmallow cream, and I know that Greenspan uses marshmallow cream as a filling in some of her cupcake recipes, so it is no surprise that filling my leftovers with this turned out to be good.

                                  Anyway, I'm definitely planning on making many other things from this site, both desserts and other foods. The whoopie pie recipe was good, and I'd definitely make it again as I love the idea of a small dessert that isn't horribly bad for you, and that is also a nice rendition of something I'd typically be purchasing. But, I think that while I'll leave the cake alone when making this again I'll likely be playing around with the filling a bit. Thanks!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Laura D.

                                    Just wanted to amend my feelings on the whoopie pies...I had one of the whole pies last night with the filling from the recipe. I liked it much more than I had thought it would based on how I felt about the filling on its own. So, I think if I make this again I'll leave the recipe alone and prepare it as written. While I still wouldn't define the filling as identical to that of the whoopie pies I know, it was very good. Thanks!

                                    1. re: Laura D.

                                      please keep posting your results on this (and other) thread - I'm not cooking from the site now, but plan to go back to it in the future . . .

                                    2. Pastéis de Coco (Portuguese Coconut-Custard Tarts)
                                      by David Leite


                                      Yum - these eggy coconutty treats were addictive. This recipe is a keeper. Easy too - combine eggs, sugar, milk, cornstarch, coconut, melted butter, and a little lemon extract. Bake for about 25 minutes. Recipe says that it makes 10; I had enough to make 11 tarts. I'll definitely be making these again.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Rubee

                                        I made these for Easter - I made a bunch of mini-cupcake tin ones - which were not as moist as the full cupcake tin ones, but they were very easy and added nicely to the trio of small bites after dessert. I didn't have sweetened coconut, so I sweetened my own by mixing with simple syrup the night before I made these, and letting it set up overnight.

                                        1. re: jsaimd

                                          I also made them on Easter and they were received with rave reviews. I love the ease with which these are made, but the end product it so much more than the sum of its parts. Definitely a recipe to hang on to.