I’m finally getting back into my cooking/baking routine after falling out of it so hard I was starting to question whether I even liked cooking anymore. And it’s a good thing too because I was starting to wonder whether my frequent takeout routine was making me crabby. It’s not that there is anything wrong with a meal out (because god knows I adore going out to eat and get a lot of recipe inspiration there) it’s just that I’ve often said that cooking, for me, is like moving meditation. It adds a certain calmness and focus to my life. So it’s understandable that when I’m not doing it as much I feel unsettled and less like me. A big catalyst for my return to the stove is that the pantry is finally done! My awesome dad did most of the work when he was here a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking forward to sharing it on the blog, it just needs a few finishing touches that I’m hoping to get to this weekend.
My other inspiration to get back in the kitchen was a swoon-worthy box of goodies I received from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. Because just like new workout gear ups the appeal of hitting the gym, good ingredients often add excitement back into my culinary pursuits.
This package was especially fun because I’ve been an outspoken fan of their products for a few years now. Their chevre also happens to be one my brands of choice when I’m making my Deep Chocolate Brownies with Chevre Swirls. I had the honor of attending their 25th Anniversary Party when I went to the first The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. It was there that I discovered that in addition to turning out stellar dairy products they’re also incredibly nice people. So it goes without saying that I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to experiment with some of their goodies. In the box were some old favorites I’ve written about before like their outstanding Cremont as well as a new-to-me product, their Madagascar Vanilla Creme Fraiche.
The first products I selected to play with were their mascarpone cheese and European-style cultured butter. I had a plan to update a cake recipe that punctuated the most important events of my childhood – my mother’s cream cheese and chocolate chip cake. Like a lot of recipes my mother made growing up I have no idea what the origins of this recipe are, though I suspect it originally came from a Betty Crocker cookbook of some variety. The biggest disappointment growing up was when we’d happen upon the cake, cooling in the kitchen, only to find out she’d made it not for us but for some work event. The upside is that now that I can bake, I can make it any time I want. Though admittedly this is only the second time I’ve made it myself!
What I love about this recipe is that the cream cheese is beaten right into the batter along with butter and sugar, which makes for a very tender, rich crumb, almost like a coffee cake. I’ve been wanting to play around with substituting mascarpone cheese for the cream cheese for awhile now and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Because while cream cheese is great, and I’ve been known to schmear ungodly amounts of it onto bagels, mascarpone is far superior in my opinion in almost every way. I personally find the flavor creamier and butterier and even a tad bit sweeter , especially the mascarpone from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.
And the swap was an absolute success! The cake had so much milky, dairy flavor on its own that frosting was highly unnecessary. I know that’s pretty sacrilegious to say but I’ve never been a huge frosting can so I love when a cake can stand on its own. I think it’s perfect with nothing more than a light dusting of powdered sugar on top, but I wouldn’t fault you if you went my mother’s route. She mixes together melted chocolate and powdered sugar and drizzles it over the cake.
Adapted from a recipe by my mother
Yields one bundt cake
-1/2 cup butter, softened plus additional for greasing pan (I used Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery’s Cultured Butter with Sea Salt)
-8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened (I used Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery’s Mascarpone cheese)
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 cups flour, plus additional for dusting the inside of the pan
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 cup milk
-1 cup mini chocolate Chips
-Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bundt pan with the butter and dust lightly with the flour.
In a large bowl cream together the butter, mascarpone cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating after adding each egg.
In a separate bowl, sift or stir together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda until well combined. Add the flour gently mixing until it is just combined. Stir in by hand the milk and chocolate chips.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes and dust with powdered sugar when cool.