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French Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting

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Making great looking cakes takes a lot of practice. I don’t have any artistic abilities at all but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my best shot. You see, when it comes to making someone feel special, I try my best to pull out all the stops. My  French Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting might just surprise everybody

So as not get overwhelmed with the whole baking and decorating process, it’s done in 4 stages over 3 days. Working full time, this was the only way I could pull off this surprise. When the birthday cake’s finally finished, there’s nothing better than seeing the surprise on their face.

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Tip: Reserve the vanilla bean pod(s) for your granulated sugar. You’ll have vanilla-flavored sugar for future recipes.

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This is an offset spatula. It’s a great tool for frosting and available in different sizes.

Offset Spatula

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Note: Make sure all the ingredients used for the cake batter and frosting are at room temperature. Examples: eggs, ricotta, mascarpone cheese, butter.

Cooking Temperature: 350-degrees F. (when using metal pans)

Equipment:  parchment paper, electric mixer, 3 graduating cake pans, 4″, 6″, and 8″, 3 round cardboard cake dividers matching the size of the cakes, ( these will be placed between each cake for support).A cake slicer, or a long serrated knife, offset spatula, a cake stand or a cardboard cake base, 2 bowls, 1 medium-size, and 1 large, cooling racks

Stage 1). Day 1
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients For The Cake Batter:
3 boxes of Duncan Hines French vanilla box mix and ingredients needed to complete the mix ( eggs, water, and vegetable oil)
3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
1 seeded vanilla bean (1/3 of the pod for each of the three prepared batters)

Ingredients For Raspberry Cream Filling:
1 pint of fresh raspberries
1/4 cup of raspberry jam with seeds
2 tablespoons of Chambord (raspberry liqueur )
1 tablespoon of water
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of water

Ingredients For Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting With White Chocolate:
4 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
3 8-ounce container of room temperature butter
1 2-pound bag of powdered sugar minus the half of cup used in the filling
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of cream cheese emulsion
12 ounces of good white chocolate (8 ounces melted for curls and shavings, 4 ounces grated).
1 large gum paste red rose
12 small sugar red roses
red candy-covered chocolate pieces
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries ( choose the prettiest ones to place on the cake)

Stage 1).  Day 1. The Cakes:
Prepare the pans with parchment paper, butter and flour. Using a semi-soft stick of unsalted butter, completely grease all the pans on the bottom and along the sides. Next, place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan. Rub butter on top of the parchment paper as well. Then dust those same three pans with all-purpose flour. shake off any of the excess Set the pans aside and start making the batter.

Start one at a time of the three boxes of French vanilla cake mix. Note: Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. In a large bowl mix together the wet ingredients listed on the back of the box. Eggs, vegetable oil, and water. To that, add a 1/3 of the caviar from a vanilla bean pod, and 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese. Whisk these ingredients together with an electric mixer, on low speed, until well combined and smooth.

Next, still using the electric mixer on low speed, add the dry mix from the box slowly to the wet ingredients. Once the dry and wet come together, immediately remove the mixer and transfer the cake batter to the large bowl, small lumps are fine. Make sure to use a spatula to get all the batter out of the bowl.  Repeat this process, two more times, using the same bowl. Each time transferring the batter to the large bowl.

At this point, all the batter has been mixed and is together in the large bowl. Using the spatula, give the batter a big stir one final time.  Fill each of the cake pans 2″ from the top. Gently, tap each of the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles that may be trapped.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Follow the temperature instructions on the back of the cake box. Because there are three different size pans, baking times will vary. The small cake should take about 45 minutes. the medium pan 55 minutes, and the large pan about 60 to 65 minutes.

Use a cake tester or a wooden skewer to check on them at these particular times to make sure each cake is fully baked. You know if it’s done when the skewer comes out clean. Each oven may vary so keep a close eye on the time once the cakes are placed in the oven. As each cake finishes baking,  remove that one from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Once all the cakes have come out of the oven.

Transfer the three cakes to cooling racks and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Then use a knife to loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Place the cooling rack on top of the pan then invert the whole pan rack included upside down. Lift the cake pan slowly to allow the cake to fall free from the pan. Repeat this process for each cake. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Stage 2). Day 2.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Stage 2). Day 2. The Raspberry Cream Filling:
In a saucepot, place 1 pint ( or 2 half pints) of fresh raspberries, granulated sugar, Chambord, (raspberry liqueur), raspberry jam ( with seeds), and water. Turn on medium heat. Bring the raspberries up to a soft boil, reduce the heat, turn down to a simmer.

Using a fork, mash the raspberries to break them up completely. In a small bowl, mix 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and bring the mixture back up to a boil, (adjusting the heat) stirring continuously.  Once the sauce has thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes, remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

To the cooled raspberry sauce, add 1 8-ounce container of room temperature mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix all this together, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Stage 2). Day 3. Filling The Cake With A Raspberry Filling:
Remove each cake from their pan and the parchment paper from the underside of each cake.

Once at a time, slice through the center, lengthwise, of each of the cakes. Take the filling and spread the raspberry cream on the bottom half of each cake. Make sure not to spread it all the way to the edges. Leave about 2 inches around the outside of the cake. Place the top back on each cake.

First, start by setting parchment paper on the main base to prevent frosting from getting all over. You want to set the parchment so you can easily pull the piece out once the cake has been frosted. Set the larger cake, carefully centered on top of the parchment paper that’s resting on the cardboard cake base. Next, place the cardboard rounds in between each of the filled cakes, stacking the cakes carefully, and centered, on top of each other.

Stage 3 & 4). Day 3.
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Stage 3). Day 3. Make The Frosting:
In a large bowl add 4 sticks of room temperature unsalted, 3 8-ounce room temperature containers of Mascarpone cheese, the zest of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of cream cheese emulsion.

Using an electric mixer or stand, with the paddle attachment, on low speed, mix these ingredients together. Slowly, add the remainder of the 2-pound bag of powder sugar. Mix all this together until completely combined and smooth.

Stage 3). Day 3. Frosting The Cake:
This cake, I used decorative pieces fresh raspberries, and white chocolate to decorate this cake. In an earlier post, I talk about a bakery supply company called D & G Occasions. This is where I purchased all the decorations for this cake. You can visit D & G Occasions by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

Using an offset spatula, starting with the top and working downwards and around the outside of each particular cake. Once the cake is totally frosted, fill a large pitcher with super hot water. Dip the offset spatula in the water, shake off the excess water. Run the spatula around the top and rim of the bottom two cakes as well as the outside of each cake. This will smooth out any imperfections on the frosting. If needed, add more frosting to areas that made need it. Again, smoothing it out by using the offset spatula that’s been dipped into the hot water.

Stage 4). Day 3. Decorate The Cake:
Whatever decorations you may choose to use, let your imagination run wild. I used a large gum paste red rose for the top and small red sugar roses as a border around the base. Red covered chocolate candies as accents, and a border of fresh raspberries around the middle layer of the cake.

Melt 8 ounces of white chocolate, in the microwave-safe bowl. In 30-second intervals, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until the chocolate is just melted. Pour the chocolate onto the bottom of a baking sheet, and place that into the frig to set. Take a small metal cookie spatula and run that along the cooled chocolate making chocolate curls and shavings.

Using a grater, grate another piece of white chocolate over the top of each layer, so it falls like snow all over the cake. There you have it, French Vanilla Cake With A Raspberry Cream Filling And Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting.

D & G Occasions

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Eton Mess By Way Of Italy


This dessert is my favorite to serve when I have guests over. I think it’s the “WOW” factor of Eton MessBy Way Of Italy.

My mom was born in London, England, then on my dad’s side of the family was from Sicily. This combination, from my background, definitely allows for awesome fusions dishes and desserts.

Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, broken meringue, and double cream. As a young girl, who lived in London in the early ’70s, with my sister and mother, I was exposed to a whole new style of food. Eton Mess was a dessert we’d have after Sunday supper. I remember my mom always let me help, telling me that I could be as creative as I wanted to be when assembling this dessert.

I thought I would update this recipe by taking a slight detour through Italy. Bringing my Italian influences onto the scene.

I’m using a mix of fresh berries, Mascarpone  (Italian cream cheese) mixed with lemon zest, and broken turtle pecan Biscotti cookies. Topped off with a sprig of fresh mint and a dusting of powdered sugar.



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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 1 rimmed baking sheet pan, 6 parfait glasses

1 box of turtle pecan Biscotti cookies
2 8-ounce containers of Mascarpone, room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
10 large strawberries, hulled and quartered
6 small sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
powdered sugar, for dusting the tops

Start by setting up 6 parfait glasses on a rimmed baking sheet pan. Using a small mallet, break up the Biscotti in their package. In a large bowl, add all the berries (reserving a variety of fresh berries for the top).

To the berries, add the granulated sugar, stir to coat all the berries. Let the berries macerate in the sugar for a few minutes. While the berries are macerating, in another bowl, add the Mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, mix until smooth.

Now it’s just a matter of assembling this dessert. Start with a spoonful of the crumbled Biscotti, next, a spoonful of the Mascarpone mixture. Then a spoonful of the berries. Repeat this process ending with a few of the reserved fresh berries and the crumbled Biscotti on the top. Garnish each Eton Mess By Way Of Italy with a sprig of fresh mint and a dusting of powdered sugar.

This dessert is served best chilled for a least 15 minutes.

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Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle

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Cheesecakes, besides being decadent and delicious, I believe are one of the most popular dessert items found on restaurant menus. Whenever I’m making a cheesecake, I think about the three things, first, the crust, then the filling, and finally the topping. Of course, the traditional is only comprised of two of these, the crust and the cheese filling. Let’s face it, cheesecake lovers are always trying to invent new ways of sprucing up the traditional with fruit, chocolate, and even making savory ones.

I really want to take a minute to talk about the batter, the body of the cheesecake. My two main objectives are to prevent the cheesecake from cracking or the eggs from curdling. I like using a water bath, a gentle heat, for the baking process which prevents the cheesecake from cracking.

When using both corn starch and flour in the batter, the cornstarch will prevent the eggs from curdling. I’ve also have found, after the cheesecake has baked for an hour, leaving the cheesecake in the water bath, in the oven with the heat off, and the oven door slightly ajar for an additional hour, will ensure you won’t have cheesecake with those little annoying cracks in the top. The residual heat, in the walls and left in the water bath, will radiate enough heat to complete the baking process.

It’s a personal preference that I choose to use a little flour in the batter. I like the creamy, silky yet firm texture to my finished cheesecake. Now, if I were making a savory version, then I’d incorporate flour and cornstarch in the batter because I’d want a slightly firmer texture. No matter savory or sweet, the gentle heat of a water bath is always the method I use.

This is my Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Topped With A White Chocolate Drizzle.

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Note: Reserve the vanilla pod(s) for your granulated sugar. You’ll have vanilla-flavored sugar for future recipes.

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Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Inactive Baking Time: 60 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Crust: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time For Strawberry Sauce: 30 minutes
Refrigerate Cheesecake: overnight
Freeze Cheesecake: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Yields: 8 to 10 slices
Equipment: 9-inch springform pan, 3-quart saucepan a roasting pan, food processor, an electric mixer, aluminum foil, long wooden skewer, Stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer

Note: Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature

Ingredients For The Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups of tightly packed cracker crumbs (1 sleeve each, honey graham crackers and cinnamon graham crackers, processed)
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients For The Strawberry Filling:
2 pints fresh strawberries, hauled and cut
2 heaping tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 cup of strawberry preserves
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Ingredients For The Cheesecake Filling;
3 8-ounce bars of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup  Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of sour cream, room temperature
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 seeded vanilla bean (reserve the vanilla bean pod(s))
3 large eggs, room temperature

Hot water for “water bath”

Ingredients For White Chocolate:
2 11-ounce packages of Ghirardelli White chocolate chips, melted

Directions For Strawberry Sauce:
Start with fresh strawberries that have been hulled and halved into a food processor. Add in the cornstarch and pulse until the strawberries are completely puréed. Next, pour the puréed strawberry mixture into a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, add fresh lemon juice, granulated sugar, and strawberry preserves, stir to combine. Bring up to a boil, constantly stirring, Cook the strawberry sauce until shiny and thick. This takes about 5 minutes. You’ll see that the sauce has thickened when you run your finger down the back of a spoon and it stays separated. Remove the sauce from the heat, place it into a bowl, and transfer to the frig to chill for 30 minutes.

Directions For Graham Cracker Crust:
prepare the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the two varieties of graham crackers. Transfer the graham cracker crumbs to a mixing bowl add sugar, stir to combine. Add in the melted butter, mix to combine. The crumbs should look like wet sand. Dump the cracker crumbs into the springform pan. Spread the crumbs around with your fingers to fill the bottom of the pan. Then using the bottom of a small shot glass, firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and around the interior edges of the pan. Prepare the outside of the springform pan (as seen in the picture above) by tightly wrapping the aluminum foil around the bottom exterior of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Directions For Cheesecake Filling:
In an electric hand-held or stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the softened cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, and flour beat until light and fluffy. Next, add the lemon zest, sour cream, vanilla extract, and the caviar of the vanilla bean. With the mixer on low speed gradually add in the sweetened condensed milk. Finally, add the room temperature eggs one at a time until just combined. Turn the mixer off.

Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Remove the crust and strawberry filling out of the frig. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon dollops of strawberry sauce onto the batter. Then pour the other half of the cream cheese mixture carefully on top, not to disturb the strawberry dollops. Then repeat adding spoonfuls of strawberry filling on the top. Using the pointy end of a skewer, make swirly designs making sure not to go through to the bottom layer. Just draw the swirls really lightly on the top.

Set the filled (unbaked cheesecake) and foil-wrapped springform pan into a large roasting pan. Have a tea kettle of hot water ready. Add the hot water into the roasting pan so it comes about a 1/4 of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Tip: Set the roasting pan with the cheesecake in the pan, and in the oven first, before adding in the hot water.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until center is almost set. Turn the oven off leaving the pan in the oven with the door slightly ajar for another hour. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let cool on a wire rack until room temperature, around 20 minutes.

Remove the foil from around the pan and refrigerate overnight. The next day, microwave the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 15-seconds; remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Repeat the process until most of the chocolate has melted. The white chocolate will continue to melt from its own heat upon being stirred. Remove the springform pan from around the cheesecake. Take a fork, dip it into the melted chocolate, drizzle the melted white chocolate all over the top and down the sides. The cold cheesecake will harden the chocolate pretty fast.

I like to place my cheesecake in the freezer for around 2 hours then return the cake to the refrigerator before cutting. This helps to make the cheesecake nice and firm allowing you to have smooth even slices.

Tip For Slicing Cheesecake:
Take a sharp knife, dip it into very hot water, before slicing each piece.

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