Monday, July 25, 2016

DEVIL'S CREAM PIE with a twist

Devil's Cream with an added layer of strawberry mousse.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Oreos. Who am I kidding? I'm still obsessed with Oreos. I went so far as to steal an entire package from my neighbors house and I've not matured enough to say I'd not steal again. I wrote a chapter in my baking memoir, My Life from Scratch, all about my Oreo capers and I finished it with the recipe for Devil's Cream Pie, a favorite in my Montpelier pastry shop.

From "My Life from Scratch". Illustration by Raymond Prado

I've updated the recipe a bit, adding alternatives so you can jazz up the intensely chocolate pie with strawberry or peanut butter mousse. But I've gotta say, it's plenty special in it's original state: Oreos, deep dark chocolate, and luscious Swiss meringue.

If you missed me making the Devil's Cream Pie on the Today Show, here's the video.


For the Crust

36 Oreos (which is exactly 1 regular sized bag's worth of cookies)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line the bottom of an 8" springform pan with parchment and spray with non-stick baker's spray. Set aside.

Break up the cookies (the cookie and innards, we're using the filling too) and place in a food processor. Pulse until they are almost a sand consistency and then break up any large pieces with your fingers. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the cookie crumbs into a small bowl. Set aside. 

Transfer the ground cookies to a large bowl. Pour the butter onto the cookies and immediate stir the mixture until the butter evenly saturates the cookie dust, making sure there are no pockets of butter or dry cookies left. Squeeze a small amount of the crust between your fingers to make sure it holds it shape.

Press the cookie mixture onto the the bottom and along the sides of the springform pan.  Don't worry about the sides of the pie looking perfect and even along the edge. It looks great with a little jagged on top. Make sure that there are no gaps!  

Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Once out of the oven, check to make sure there are no cracks that have formed in the crust. If so, while the crust is still warm and malleable, gently work the crust to fill the gaps.  

Alternatively, gently line the cookie filled pan with parchment and fill with pie weights (for this, sometimes beans or rice are better since you need quite a bit of pie weights to fill up the cavity) up to the top. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 5 minutes more.  

Set aside to cool completely.

For the Filling

2 cups heavy (or whipping) cream
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons granulated unflavored gelatin
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (at least 60%), finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream, sugar and salt. Stir over low heat until the sugar has melted. Increase the heat to medium high and allow the mixture to just come to a boil.

In the meanwhile, in a wide shallow bowl, add the milk and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the milk and let it sit until it blooms (the gelatin will look like wet sand and be saturated with moisture. Make sure there are no dry patches of gelatin).

Take the cream off the heat once it reaches a boil and immediately add the gelatin/milk mixture and then the vanilla. Stir with a whisk to incorporate the gelatin and then immediately add the chocolate. Tip the pan back and forth to make sure the chocolate is is completely covered with the hot liquid. Let this sit for a few minutes then whisk the chocolate, making sure that it is completely melted and combined with the liquid (this is when you'd add any extra extracts).

Holding a sieve over the crust, pour the chocolate mixture through the sieve and into the crust to keep any lumps of unmelted gelatin from joining the chocolate pie party. Carefully transfer the pie to the refrigerator and cool until completely set, about 3 hours but preferably overnight.

Alternative: The pie sets up very firmly and it's silky and lovely. To soften it up, you can pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until it's cooled and firmed just a litte, to the consistency of pudding. If you allow the filling to set too long, it will be impossible to loosen. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream/whipping cream and fold it into the chocolate mixture and then add to the cooled crust.

For the Swiss Meringue Topping

10 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has completely melted, the mixture feels as if it has thinned a bit and the temperature of the egg whites reaches 160ºF (this is the temperature at which any harmful bacteria are killed).

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high until the meringue has very stiff, shiny peaks.

Prior to adding the meringue, sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons of cookie dust over the top of the filling. This creates something of a barrier between the filling and the meringue, helping the meringue to keep from weeping (sugar is hygroscopic, which means it draws in moisture and that's why meringue beads when it sits on top of a filling for a while).

You can dump all the meringue straight on top and use a spoon or offset spatula to spread it in a jaunty fashion or you can pipe lovely peaks all along the top. You can also quickly torch the meringue to make it marshmallow toasty or serve glistening and white.


You can stir in extracts to the chocolate mixture just before pouring into the crust. Almond, mint, orange and raspberry extracts go beautifully with chocolate.

Or, you can add a layer of strawberry or peanut butter mousse to the set chocolate filling before adding the topping! This not only looks great when you cut into the pie, it's also insanely delicious. On top of all that, they are super fast. One thing that's important: HALVE the meringue recipe if you're going to add the mousse.

Easy Strawberry Mousse

1/2 (4 ounce) package Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature (very soft)
1 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups hulled and diced strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 packet gelatin
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon
1/4 cup water

In a bowl, combine the diced strawberries and the sugar.  Stir to combine.  Allow to sit about 20 minutes for the juices to start running. Transfer to a saucepan and stir over low heat until the strawberries are soft and the juices start to thicken to the point they coat the back of a spoon.  Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.  Run the puree through a fine sieve.  

Combine the lemon juice and water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the top.  Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes to bloom (the gelatin should look like wet sand).  Once bloomed, melt the gelatin in the microwave in 30 second bursts at 30-40%.  Swirl the bowl in between blasts and continue until the gelatin is completely melted.  Combine the strawberry puree and the gelatin mixture and stir to combine.  Allow to cool to room temperature but make sure it doesn't set.

In a food processor combine the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and cooled puree and mix until smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks and fold into the cream cheese/puree mixture.  Alternatively, use a stand mixer:   in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and the confectioner's sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Swap out the paddle attachment for the whisk attachment.  Add the heavy cream and whisk on high until the mixture is thick and almost has stiff peaks.  With the mixer running on low, slowly add the strawberry mixture.  Once added, mix on high until combined.

Easy Peanut Butter Mousse

One 8 ounce package of Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on low until the confectioner's sugar is somewhat distributed and then mix on high until the mousse is smooth and fluffy.


For both mousses, the procedure is the same. Allow the chocolate filling to set and then spoon or pipe the mousse filling gently on top. You can refrigerate an hour to set more firmly or you can immediately add the Swiss meringue topping.  Serve immediately!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I wonder how you feel about eclairs. What you know about them. For example, right now there's something of a renaissance in Paris when it concerns eclairs. Fauchon's Cristophe Adam started a revolution by creating inventive designs and flavors on the slim, crisp choux bodies. He went on to open his own shop, L'éclair de Génie. You guessed it. It's all about eclairs.

One thing you have to know about baking this wonderful pastry is that they need to be crisp and a lovely golden brown. In order to stand up to the filling and still maintain a semblance of structure, you have to bake them until they caramelize. This is also crucial for flavor.

Want to know more? Well, it just so happens that I've got an online class on just the subject...and so much more! Here's a little preview.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


I've been piping buttercream roses for the past week. Yes, I had a project but now I can't stop. I won't stop. It's akin to the addictive nature of knitting, when the process hijacks your hands and the next thing you know you've got a kitchen full of scarf (or a field of buttercream roses). "A post!  I'll write a post! And Ray can shoot a Cake Magic video! That's how I'll put these roses to use!" 

After further thought, I realized perhaps simply piping a rose wasn't all that much fun unless there's cake invited to the piping party. I came up with the rose push-pop cake because who doesn't love a push-pop filled with cake...topped with a rose? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting and a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

I'm delighted to announce that my new cake decorating video endeavor, Make Cake Magic, has launched!  So now, when a cake or tart warrants special moving image treatment, I'll be posting a demo on the new site!

To celebrate, I made a chocolate cake filled with luscious peanut butter mousse.  It's festooned with toasted marshmallow frosting.  You can see how I made the frosting and how I coated the glorious confection at along with a host of other delightful cakes.


Check back often as I'm baking and Ray's shooting and editing furiously, so new demos will be up weekly and if there's anything you'd like to see demonstrated, give me a shout on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


It snowed today.  In case you don't have access to a calendar, you should know that it's almost May.  Just before it really got ugly, before the ducks and Mama started running around in a honking frenzy to warn me that the sky was falling, it was raining.  Rain mixed with ice shards but still rain. I heard the mail truck pull up to the house and I ran out to save our kind mail woman a trip onto our slippery walkway.

"Vermont fertilizer," she said, gesturing to the icy deluge.  "It's supposed to make the grass green."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, sweet people!

I send you greetings from my little spot of green in Vermont, where making Cake Magic is my great joy and there's no better reason to make a cake than to celebrate our Big Blue Marble.

I also wanted to share a recipe for CHURROS, that crispy fried sweet dough miracle that make me thank goodness I'm alive on this spinning orb.  You an get the recipe and watch my churro segment from this week on Today Show.  Click HERE to get all the sweetness.

Happy weekend!

Monday, March 21, 2016


As much as I love going over the top when it comes to baking, shoving dozens of steps into the creation of a solitary dessert, there are days when only simple will do.  No mixer, loaf pan kinda simple.  Today's that day.

But let's get one thing straight, I didn't skimp on delicious.  All the delicious is there in this dump and stir wonder of a supple and moist (ugh) cake.  I've not been entirely true to the origins of the French staple upon which this is based, either. I messed with a few ratios and added a few things.  Even then, it's dead simple.  And delicious.  Let's not forget about the delicious.


And in case you've ever wondered what to do with hulled strawberry tops, my top three choices are:  (1)  freeze them for smoothies, (2) put them in the compost pile or, the last and best option, (3) give them to your chickens.  There's nothing better than watching a chicken's goofy run when you tell it they're getting a strawberry snack.