New York City





Only a few days after coming home from Rome last week, my sister, dad, and I were lucky enough to visit another amazing city in honor of our dad’s 60th birthday – New York. It had been about three years since I had last been there (graduating from college and moving to Italy can be time consuming) so I was really excited to have the chance to go back. New York is one of my favorite places in the world, on par with Rome, Bologna, and London. Much like Rome, there is always something different to do or see in the city – there are musicals, operas, and ballets to enjoy, museums to explore, sights to see, countless stores to shop in, and restaurants to try. New York City possesses a certain energy and feel that I love and that I haven’t found anywhere else. As happy as I am in Italy New York City is one place I would like to live in one day. 


Lucky for us, New York is only a three hour drive from where we live in Rhode Island. Early Saturday morning, we left for the city. Our first order of the day was getting to the Metropolitan Opera House by 12:00 to see their production of The Marriage of Figaro. My dad has been an opera fan since he was little so we knew this would be the perfect way to spend his birthday weekend. Best of all, our friend Rachel recently made her Met debut in this production of the opera in the role of the Countess, so we were especially excited for the show. As expected, she and the other members of the cast did an amazing job (this is the Met after all) and the performance was beautiful – we also got to go backstage after the show to see Rachel, which was especially exciting for my dad, who has been to the seen many shows at the Met but never had had the opportunity to go behind the scenes. Thanks Rachel!!!

Peppermint Bark



Merry Christmas Eve to our readers! If you're anything like us today you are all probably quite busy cooking, cleaning, and shopping in preparation for tomorrow, so we wanted to keep the post for today short and sweet. Here is the recipe for Peppermint Bark, a ridiculously fast and easy recipe that would be great if you're looking for a last minute dessert or gift for tomorrow. The recipe comes from Francesca's sister, Alexandra, who makes this every year -- in fact, she even made it for Gloria when she was in Rhode Island for Christmas back in 2010! It consists of two layers of chocolate, white and semisweet or milk (depends on how sweet you want the finished product) topped with crushed peppermints. It's festive, delicious, and requires no baking, just a little melting and time in the refrigerator. 

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix



I thought that this recipe for fudge was one of the easiest edible Christmas gifts I could post here, and I was right, almost -- but that was before I discovered this homemade hot chocolate mix, which is even quicker to make (though just as delicious). To be honest, I had never been a huge fan of hot chocolate. You see, my experiences with hot chocolate up until recently had been two. In the U.S, I had grown up drinking instant hot chocolate made from packets of Swiss Miss, mixed with water or milk and warmed up in the microwave. While this type of hot chocolate still has a lot of nostalgic value for me, even my 8 year old taste buds could recognize it left a lot to be desired -- though it was a great vehicle for mini marshmallows, it was light on the chocolate flavor, and the consistency was less than ideal. When I moved to Italy, I discovered a far different kind of hot chocolate, one that is similar to melted chocolate and often has to be eaten with a spoon rather than sipped, even tempered with additional sugar or whipped cream if you don’t like your hot chocolate to be so intense. While there is nothing wrong with this (I can’t really argue with a mug of melted chocolate) it can seem more like a dessert than a drink, and can often be heavier than I want.

That’s where this recipe comes in, which made me change my mind completely about hot chocolate and is an absolutely foolproof way to guarantee excellent hot chocolate every time. It has a smooth creamy texture and a pure chocolate flavor thanks to the combined power of the cocoa powder and the semisweet chocolate, balanced out by a hint of vanilla. It is great with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a great accompaniment to gingerbread (see photo above) but you can also go the American route and top this with marshmallows. Note that the preparation of this recipe is just as easy as it is quick; all you have to do is heat up some milk, add a few tablespoons of mix, and voila, a mugful of perfection.

As I said in the beginning of this post, this would be a great homemade Christmas gift packaged in fancy jars along with instructions for how to prepare it. It is equally nice to make for yourself to have on hand this Winter when the weather is cold and you need something cozy, or just when want to start the day with something a little fancier than coffee. Enjoy! 

HOMEMADE HOT CHOCOLATE 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until the chocolate is completely chopped and the ingredients are well mixed.  Alternatively, you can also chop the chocolate until it is very fine, and stir it into the remaining ingredients.

To use: Heat one cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy. Add 3 tablespoons hot chocolate mix. Whisk over heat for another 1-2 minutes, until the mix is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to simmer. Pour into a mug (or use a ladle – I find this is easiest) and top with mini-marshmallows or some whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 3/4 cups mix, enough for 9 cups; packs up well in a 2-cup jar. The hot chocolate mix keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

Recipe adapted from smittenkitchen.com and Cooks Illustrated.







Gingerbread

I wouldn’t be doing my duty as the American side of this blog if I didn’t share a recipe for gingerbread, the quintessential Christmas food in the U.S. For our non-American readers who might not be familiar with gingerbread, it is, as the name implies, a quick bread or cake made with ginger and lots of those other warm spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves that I used in this pumpkin cake and this apple cake. The other distinguishing ingredient in gingerbread is molasses, an ingredient similar to honey in texture which is a by-product of the sugar refining process. Gingerbread can also be found in the form of gingerbread men cookies, or as the base for the gingerbread houses Americans decorate for Christmas. It is something that I find tends to be in the same category as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or s’mores on the Fourth of July – a dessert that really only gets made around Christmas, which is a shame because gingerbread is to delicious to only be eaten during one month of the year. But I digress.

As much as I love gingerbread, there’s nothing I dislike more than  gingerbread not done well – all too often gingerbread can be dry, bland, and dependent on whipped cream or powdered sugar to spice it up. I’m happy to say that this recipe is none of those things – it is quite nearly perfect. If Christmas could be summed up in a food, it would be this cake. I would even go as far as to say this is something Santa’s elves would probably eat in between making toys and taking care of reindeer – this is so good in fact, that it’s fit for Santa himself, something he would probably fuel up on pre round the world toy delivery on December 24. This is gingerbread at its best -- incredibly moist and fluffy with a deep caramel-y flavor thanks to the molasses, which highlights the spices perfectly. In short, it belongs in your Christmas recipe repertoire.

You can go two routes when making this recipe – either you keep things simple and enjoy it as a quick dessert or breakfast with a little whipped cream, or take it to the next level by making gingerbread cupcakes, and topping them with cream cheese frosting. As you can see from the photos, I couldn’t choose which version I preferred, so I ended up using the batter to make both a cake and cupcakes (breakfast and dessert taken care of in one recipe!) Both were fantastic – just depends on what you’re in the mood for. Enjoy! 

GINGERBREAD 

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup molasses
21/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves  
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water 

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and nutmeg. Blend into the butter and sugar mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir in the hot water. Pour the gingerbread batter into the prepared pan. If you’re making plain gingerbread, it will take 45-50 minutes. If you’re making cupcakes, it will take about 20 minutes. Bake the gingerbread or the gingerbread cupcakes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the gingerbread to cool completely before serving. If you made cupcakes, you can find the recipe for the cream cheese frosting here. Makes 1 cake to serve 8 people or 10-12 cupcakes.

















Chocolate, Pistachio, and Cranberry Fudge




Now that Thanksgiving is over I can officially start the countdown to Christmas – in the next few weeks we’ll be posting both Italian and American recipes that would be a great addition to your Christmas menu, ideal to give as a homemade gift, or perfect for a snowy day.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday -- when I was little, it was a time of year more 
anticipated even than our annual trip to Disney World. I remember I loved picking out and decorating our Christmas tree, preparing for the school Christmas pageant, writing up my Christmas list, and planning what to leave for Santa and the reindeer (cookies for Santa, carrots or apples for the reindeer). Now that I’m older I appreciate different aspects of the holiday that are nonetheless equally special – there’s nothing quite Rome's city center decorated with lights, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album, and, most importantly, a healthy dose of holiday baking to get you in the Christmas spirit. Gingerbread, decorated shortbread cookies, peppermint chocolate layer cake, homemade hot chocolate – you name it, I’ll make it and wrap it up and give it to you as a Christmas gift. Because after all, a delicious, homemade gift is the best kind of gift there is, right?

The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is for Cranberry and Pistachio fudge, which is an awesome alternative to baking Christmas cookies. For the non-American readers, fudge is a candy made with butter, sugar, and sometimes chocolate or nuts, that is cooked on the stove and then refrigerated until firm. While many fudge recipes require you to cook the butter and sugar to about 240 degrees using a candy thermometer, this version requires you to only melt and stir the ingredients together and pour the batter in to a pan, no special cooking method or tools required. It is extremely fast and simple to make yet tastes super special and fancy. I tested this recipe out on three friends here in Rome (an Italian, a Canadian, and a Dutch friend) and it went over famously, proving that fudge is universally delicious, no matter where you are from. :)

I used pistachios and cranberries here to make this fudge more Christmas-y (red and green combination) but feel free to use this recipe as a base and stir in any other ingredients you want – chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or even chopped Oreos would be good here. You could also use milk chocolate if you prefer that to semi-sweet. Note that fudge is in general extremely sweet and very rich, so it is best to cut the finished product in to very small squares (or not).

CHOCOLATE, PISTACHIO, AND CRANBERRY FUDGE

Ingredients: 

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
½ cup pistachios, chopped

Directions:

Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly with butter. Set a heatproof bowl over a pot with a few inches of simmering water (do not boil).  In the bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate, butter, and salt.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fully melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the heat.  Add the pistachios and dried cranberries and fold in until evenly combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 3-4 hours. Use the foil to lift the fudge from the pan.  Remove and discard the foil.  Use a pizza cutter (or a large knife if you don’t have this one hand) to slice the fudge into 64 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.









Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto


When it comes to Italian cuisine, pasta reigns supreme. It is the quintessential and Italian dish (equaled perhaps only by pizza) and served up differently from region to region – bucatini all’amatriciana in Rome, tagliatelle al ragu’ in Bologna, and orrecchiette con cime di rapa in Puglia, among many others. While I myself am a huge pasta fan, I do think it tends to overshadow many other Italian dishes that are perhaps lesser known (at least to our non- Italian readers). Risotto is a perfect example of a dish that perhaps you might have overlooked in favor of pasta or pizza, and is definitely worth adding to your repertoire.

Many cuisines have their own spin on rice – the Spanish have paella, the Chinese have fried rice, the Mexicans arroz con leche. Risotto is rice done the Italian way – Arborio or carnaroli rice slowly cooked with white wine and broth and finished off with a healthy dose of parmesan cheese. Sounds delicious right?

Turkey, White Bean, and Spinach Soup




There are a few "givens" when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving -- the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning, turkey as the star of the meal, the post meal food coma, and of course, the refrigerator full of leftover turkey, side dishes, and dessert. Thanksgiving leftovers are quite possibly  as anticipated as much as the actual meal itself a win-win situation whoever you are -- those who don’t like to cook are covered at lunch and dinner (or breakfast – leftover pie is a completely acceptable breakfast option) and for those of us who like to cook, Thanksgiving leftovers provide a great opportunity to use classic dishes as a starting point to create more inventive recipes. As much as I love planning the traditional Thanksgiving menu, figuring out what to do with the leftovers is the most fun part.

A few of my favorite ways to use up leftovers, if you’re looking for some inspiration:

-Leftover mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes can be formed into pancakes and fried in a little butter and olive oil to make savory pancakes, good as a side dish or on their own with a salad.

-Leftover roast potatoes are great in a frittata.

-Leftover cranberry sauce is delicious stirred in to cake or muffin batter to make a cranberry swirl cake or muffins, or used as a topping for pancakes or waffles.

-Leftover roasted squash is great stirred in to pasta or risotto (post and recipe forthcoming!)

-Leftover turkey and mashed potatoes make a great shepherd’s pie – use the turkey in the filling and the potatoes as the topping.

-Leftover turkey is also great in a pot pie, in chili, in a hash for breakfast, in a wrap, in quesadillas or enchiladas, or most traditionally, used to make a turkey sandwich – my favorite is a turkey BLT. Or, in soup, the star of today's post.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake


This is my second Thanksgiving post on the blog, to follow up on Monday’s Stuffing. Though I am a big fan of the three traditional Thanksgiving desserts – pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie – I always try and make something different at Thanksgiving, just to add a bit of variety to the table – not to mention I’ve posted three pumpkin desserts, shared an apple cake not so long ago, and although I love pecan pie, corn syrup and pecans are hard to come by in Rome.

This recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake comes from Al di La restaurant in New York City. Though I had seen it circulating on many a food blog a while back with rave reviews, I hadn’t ever gotten around to making it, preoccupied as I was with over the top layer cakes and icebox cakes. No matter what my fellow bloggers said it seemed like such a simple cake, and I wasn’t sold on the chocolate/pear combination; I’ve always thought that fruit and chocolate are best eaten apart, (I’m in the minority here in that I’ve never liked chocolate covered strawberries –weird, I know). I did however like how this cake is Fall-ish, using pears as one of its main ingredients. I thought I would give it a try before Thanksgiving, on the off chance I liked it enough to add it to the menu.  

Apple, Sausage, and Apricot Stuffing

Even though Christmas is over a month away, Italians are in full on Christmas mode – lights are hanging, stores are selling decorations, and panettone is on display in the supermarkets. This is not so surprising – Italians after all do not celebrate Thanksgiving, the defining event of the month of November in the U.S, the precursor to Christmas. Seeing as how we are both an Italian and American food blog, I couldn’t not dedicate a post to this holiday, which is of course all about food. I hope our American readers can get some ideas for recipes they can make next week, and explain a little about the holiday to our readers from other parts of the world.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday celebrated where families get together, to, as the name suggests “give thanks” for what they have and share a meal together – this holiday is all about the food. Turkey is always the main star of the meal, and is served accompanied by various side dishes (mashed potatoes! cranberry sauce! stuffing! vegetables!) and pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie is traditionally eaten for dessert. That being said, the nice thing about Thanksgiving is that every family has their own traditions – no menu is the same. My colleague, who is from the South, makes macaroni and cheese and candied yams; a vegetarian friend of mine skips the turkey all together and loads up on the sides; and my Nonno always made lasagna alla Bolognese for my family along with the typical Thanksgiving fare.

Growing up, we always went to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. It was always an exciting day – a Thursday without school, where I got to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV in the morning. It was wonderful to see my extended family all in the same place for a day, and of course there was so much delicious food. My favorite part, not surprisingly, was dessert – in addition to making the usual pumpkin and pecan pie, I liked to try out new desserts like chocolate caramel cheesecake or apple crumble, or make my Nonno’s favorite, coconut cake.

Pumpkin Pancakes

You already know I love pancakes (just look at the name of this blog) and I’ve made it pretty clear that I make it my job to cook with pumpkin as much as possible in the Fall, so it was just a matter of time before I put the two together to make the star of today’s post: pumpkin pancakes, aka my new favorite breakfast. If my recent posts are any indicator, I’m a big fan of comfort food and cozy dishes when the weather gets cold, and these pancakes are no exception. They are perfect for a chilly morning, incentive to get out from under the covers and warming in a way that your usual cereal or yogurt could never be. These pancakes are fluffier and thicker than your typical pancake thanks to the addition of the pumpkin, and are packed with pumpkin’s usual sidekicks -- ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Disclaimer: These pancakes were so delicious I found myself cooking up the leftover batter at various points after I photographed them (a pancake before lunch, pancakes for dinner, pancakes the next morning). I found that the longer you let the batter sit, the more intense the flavor of the spices becomes, so if you want to prepare the batter in advance and let it sit in the fridge for a bit, that would be fine. I like my pancakes served with maple syrup and butter, but if you’re not a maple syrup fan or it’s not readily available where you live, you can also serve these with just plain butter or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. And as if you needed any more convincing to make these, note that this recipe is also a snap to make – just whisk all the ingredients together, heat up your skillet, and you’re good to go.

Next up: a savory pumpkin recipe and another post using another Fall ingredient – apples!


PUMPKIN PANCAKES

Ingredients:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼  teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture and whisk until combined. 

Heat a little butter or vegetable oil (or butter spray, if you’re in the U.S and have that) in a large skillet over medium heat. Ladle ⅓-cup of the batter onto the skillet for each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges are set and the bubbles around the edges are open and set. Flip and cook on the second side for an additional 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve the pancakes immediately. Makes 8 pancakes (feel free to double the recipe if you are cooking for a bigger group).


Recipe adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com





Pasta e fagioli

Remember when I told you about how hot Rome is in the summer? Those ever rising temperatures that made things like no cook pesto and no bake icebox cake the best things to eat? Well, those days are over. We’re now officially in to Fall here in Rome – in the span of just a week or two the temperatures have gone from summery to downright cold, meaning my Ugg boots are out, the space heater is on in my office, and I’m all for making comfort food to combat the cold. My go to Fall recipes tend to be cozy and hearty dishes like ragu’ alla bolognese, risotto (post forthcoming!), and of course pasta e fagioli, the star of today’s post.

Pasta e fagioli –which means pasta and beans – is an Italian soup that, much like polenta, used to be considered a “peasant” dish, as it is composed of inexpensive ingredients that are still filling and nutritious. Nowadays however it can now be found on menus in Italian restaurants, and was a staple in my house growing up -- I remember that there was nothing better than coming out of freezing New England temperatures and having a pot of this soup waiting for us for dinner. Despite its simple ingredients, it is full of flavor thanks to fresh herbs, plus the tasty addition of pancetta (note that this can be left out for a vegetarian version). It is warming, filling, and perfect with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top and a side of bread to get every last bit of broth in the bowl. Note that this dish is also better a day or so after it is made, as the flavors develop even more. Enjoy everyone!

PASTA E FAGIOLI

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
5 cups chicken broth

¾ cup of crushed tomatoes
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup ditalini pasta (dry)
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving


Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, beans, and rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender or blender, puree 2 cups of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth – be very careful when you do this, as the soup will be hot. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the ditalini and boil the pasta e fagioli with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 9 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary. Season the soup with pepper and salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving. Serves 6. 










Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars




I wasn’t kidding when I said that pumpkin was my go-to ingredient in the Fall -- in the past week I’ve made three more recipes with pumpkin as the main ingredient, and still have a list of pumpkin recipes that gets longer every day: pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin soup…I’ll be sure to post about a few of these in November, when it is still pumpkin season.

Today’s recipe is for pumpkin chocolate chip bars, an extremely quick and easy one bowl dessert that you can whip up in record time to get a quick pumpkin fix. If you’re looking for a fluffy piece of pumpkin cake, this is not your recipe (but this is). These are almost like pumpkin blondies, dense and chewy and full of pumpkin flavor, not to mention packed with chocolate. I’d seen the pumpkin/chocolate combination in quite a few recipes on different food blogs, but hadn’t been sold on it until I tried these – the semi-sweet chocolate complements the cinnamon and ginger nicely and adds another layer of flavor to this dessert. Enjoy everyone!

Vanilla layer cake with mascarpone raspberry filling and Nutella frosting


Remember those “everyday” cakes I talked about a little while ago? You know, cakes like this coffee Nutella cake and summer berry cake and pumpkin gingerbread cake? The ones that are great for breakfast or a quick dessert and just require one bowl and a little mixing?

Well, this is not one of those cakes. This, my friends, is not an every day cake, but rather a fancy, special occasion kind of cake that requires some extra time and effort but is sooo worth it.

I came up with the idea for this cake for my friend Sergey’s birthday. I knew I wanted to make something really special, but had not been given much guidance from Sergey, who just specified he wanted a “fat” (translation: over the top/decadent) cake. I originally had decided on a yellow butter layer cake with Nutella frosting, but this, while definitely on the rich side, was not quite as decadent as Sergey was expecting.


While looking through our blog I got the idea for a mascarpone filling, thanks to one of Gloria’s posts a few months back. Mascarpone filling plus a Nutella frosting, I reasoned, would take this cake to the next level – and adding a few raspberries to that mascarpone filling wouldn’t be a bad idea either. When all three components are put together, the results are magical – fluffy vanilla cake, a sweet creamy tart filling, and an intensely chocolate icing, that in addition to being absolutely delicious is also a gorgeous dessert. The cake went over very well and I was so pleased with the results that I knew I had to share it with our readers here.

I was just thinking -- I bet these would be really delicious in cupcake form as well. Enjoy everyone!!!

VANILLA LAYER CAKE WITH MASCARPONE RASPBERRY FILLING AND NUTELLA FROSTING

For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups whole milk

For the filling:
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries

For the frosting:

1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (240g) confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup (222g) Nutella
3-4 Tablespoons (45-60ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans, tapping out the excess flour. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together to blend well and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a large bowl using electric beaters, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans to help remove the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack while you prepare your filling.

To make the filling, beat the mascarpone, heavy cream, and sugar in a large bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the raspberries.

Place one layer of the yellow cake on your serving plate. If the top of the cake is uneven, feel free to level it using a sharp knife (and eat the scraps of cake removed). Carefully spread the filling over the top of the cake -- you may not use all the filling; it depends on how much you want. Gently place the second cake layer (leveled as well, if it’s uneven) over the filling to make your layer cake. Refrigerate for at least two hours to let the mascarpone filling set.

To make the frosting, beat the softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and continue to beat on medium speed. The mixture will be fairly thick. Add the Nutella and continue to beat on medium speed. Add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream and the vanilla extract. If the frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream (1 Tablespoon measurements at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar (1/4 cup measurements at a time). Taste the frosting and add salt to cut the sweetness if you want.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and frost the sides and top of the cake with Nutella frosting. Note that you will most likely have frosting left over.* Decorate the top of the cake as you wish; as you can see I decorated mine with mini chocolate chips and raspberries. Refrigerate the cake for at least another half an hour before serving to let the whole cake set.

*Note that the frosting stays covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.





Cake recipe from www.annies-eats.com.

Frosting from www.sallysbakingaddiction.com.