Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Tasty Birthday

My Aunt’s birthday always falls right around Thanksgiving so we double up our holiday celebration. This year was definitely the year for those with a sweet tooth, which defines just about everyone in my family! The birthday cake was a Pumpkin Roulade my mom made based on a couple old recipes. You know how good a giant pumpkin muffin with thick cream cheese frosting from the coffee shop tastes after a long day of shopping? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Orange-Pumpkin Roulade
10 servings

Canola oil cooking spray
parchment paper
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp gelatin
1 cup lowfat ricotta cheese
6 oz lowfat cream cheese
1 Tbsp finely minced candied orange peel

Heat oven to 375. Coat a jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray. Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until combined. Reduce speed to low; add pumpkin, zest and vanilla until just combined. Gently but thouroughly fold in flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread into an even layer. Sprinkle pecans on top. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Lightly dust a clean towel with confectioner's sugar. Remove cake from oven. Invert cake onto towel. Remove pan. Gently peel off top parchment. Tightly roll up cake in towel, starting on long side closest to you. Place seam side down on a rack. Place gelatin and 1 Tbsp cold water in a heatproof bowl; place bowl in pan of hot water to melt gelatin. In another bowl, beat ricotta, cream cheese and confectioner's sugar with an electric mixer on medium until smooth. Beat in gelatin and candied peel. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Gently unroll cake; set towel aside. Spread top with even layer of filling, leaving a 1-inch border on the far side. Gently roll up cake. Place seam side down on a platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve, covered loosely with plastic wrap. Before serving, trim cake by diagonally cutting thin slice of each end. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Aunt Christine is a fan of really good chocolate (and, as if there was every any doubt, dark chocolate is good for you too!) My sister and I bypassed the grocery store candy aisle and stayed out of the Hershey Store to create an international gift basket of cocoa mix and chocolate bars. We got a grab bag assortment from World Wide Chocolate  (France! Italy! Venezuela! Ecuador!), added a tin of Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa and a couple organic bars bought at Hannah’s Bretzel. Chicagoans – grab lunch at Hannah’s Bretzel if you find yourself downtown. Not only insanely good sandwiches, but also a large selection of organic treats at your fingertips.

The theme continued when she opened the present from my parents. 3 jars of flavored coffee, cocoa and cappuccino from a garden and gifts store in my hometown. Why does everything seem like it tastes better when it is packaged in an old fashioned canning jar with some decorative ribbon around it?  Click here for a few do-it yourself jar mix options. I’m a sucker for the look of the chocolate chip cookie jars.

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