milk chocolate tart

A chocolate tart is a French pastry classic. It is simple elegant and rich. There are lots of personal variations


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A chocolate tart is a French pastry classic. It is simple, elegant and rich. There are lots of personal variations, but the traditional version is often a chocolate sweet dough crust with a dark chocolate ganache or custard and a nougatine (a mixture of hard caramel and nuts) top.

recipe notes
step-by-step method
recipe card

We’re going to make my personal variation today (go figure). We will add a layer of chocolate cake to the tart and use a milk chocolate custard to keep it a little lighter in chocolate flavor. Instead of a nougatine, we’ll make a pretty chocolate decoration for the top, but still keep everything looking sleek and simple.

recipe notes


If you plan to skip the chocolate decoration, the only special equipment you’ll need is a tart ring.  If you do want to make the decoration (good for you!) see the list of equipment needed listed out like ingredients under the decoration section of the recipe (see the recipe notes on where to get a few of the items).


The cake we’re making is a variety known as a biscuit (say: “bis-quee”), which is a sponge cake made mostly of whipped egg yolks and meringue folded together. If I’m being honest, the traditional French recipe(s) for biscuit are often pretty bad by themselves, intentionally dry and bitter so as to be well balanced with sweeter components. That’s all well and good, but we’ll try my recipe, which I think is pretty tasty on it’s own.

The biscuit recipe involves to whipped components – the egg yolks and the egg whites. The best way to make the recipe is to start with the egg yolks mixture, as it will hold it’s volume longer than the meringue. If you’re using one mixing bowl, be sure to clean it thoroughly with soap and water before whipping the meringue. Any remaining fat in the bowl from the egg yolks can prevent the meringue from developing.

Lastly, you’ll see the recipe call for inverted sugar. This isn’t 100% necessary to make the cake, but does help add moistness and shelf life to the cake in a professional application. The industry standard to use is a product called Trimoline, but this comes in a rather large quantity. Corn syrup and honey are two inverted sugars you can use as an alternative, just keep in mind the honey will add honey flavor to your cake.

chocolate decoration

As always, before tackling this decoration you should have a good understanding of how to temper chocolate. The equipment notes below come from a previous post on chocolate decoration that has some good info in it about the general process.

acetate sheets – acetate sheets come in various sizes and thicknesses. They are the premier surface to chocolate on because they are flexible and easy to move, and will give your chocolate a nice shine. You can get these at art supply stores or of course the webernet.

plexiglass sheets – thick sheets of acrylic, I use plexiglass in my work kitchen because they are nice and flat and don’t bend and flex like a metal sheet pan can. ¼”/.6cm sheets are ideal since anything thicker is too expensive and anything thinner will flex on you when you try to move it, which can crack or ruin your decoration. These sheets can actually be found in home improvement stores and usually in convenient 18×24”/46x61cm sheets. That size is a bit large for a home kitchen, but cut into two 18×12”/46x30cm piece will work for most needs.

A dull paring knife is called for in the equipment list for the decoration. I have a very dull knife I use for all of my chocolate work since it won’t scratch plexiglass but is still sharp enough to cut through chocolate. You can purchase a cheap paring knife at a culinary store and just beat it up to make your own. If you only have a sharp paring knife that’s fine, just be very gentle when cutting your chocolate decoration.

chocolate tart

chocolate sweet dough

90g butter unsalted
150g sugar
110g whole eggs
310g pastry flour
50g cocoa powder Guittard Cocoa Rouge cocoa powder
*1 egg white for brushing your baked tart shell

Bring the butter and the whole eggs to room temp. before getting started.

Combine the pastry flour, salt and cocoa powder and sift. Reserve to use later.

Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and cream them.

Add the whole eggs to the butter mixture and mix until fully emulsified. The mixture should look shiny.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just bound.

Press the soft dough into a shape that will be easy to roll later and wrap it tightly in plastic.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for a min. of 1hr. up to overnight.

Roll the dough out to 1/8”/3mm and line your tart ring. Check out my recipe for a cherry tart for some pointers on how to line your ring.

Dock the bottom of the shell and bake at 350F/176C for 8-10min.

While the tart shell is baking, whisk your egg white to smooth it out.

Remove the baked shell and immediately brush it with a thin layer of the egg white, then place the shell back in the oven for 1-2min. The egg will help seal any holes in the shell from docking and keep the shell from getting soggy once you add the custard.

Reserve the baked shell at room temperature for final assembly.

chocolate biscuit

80g cake flour
37g cocoa powder Guittard Cocoa Rouge cocoa powder
2g salt
10g chocolate, 70% Guittard Complexite 
60g butter unsalted
230g egg yolks
150g sugar A
40g inverted sugar
190g egg whites
30g sugar B

Combine the cake flour, cocoa powder and salt and sift. Reserve them to use later.

Combine and melt the butter and chocolate. This can be done over a double boiler or slowly in the microwave. If you use the microwave, begin with the chocolate and once it has started to melt, add the butter.

Combine the egg yolks, sugar A, and inverted sugar in a stand mixer with a whip attachment.

Whisk the mixture on medium speed for approx.. 6-8min. until it is light and thickened and falls off the whisk in a smooth stream.

Combine the egg whites and half of the sugar B in a stand mixer with a whip attachment and whisk the egg whites on medium speed until the are frothy and no clear albumen is still intact.

Add the remaining sugar to the meringue and whisk on high speed until the meringue just reaches stiff peaks.

Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the whipped egg yolks.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the batter.

Fold the meringue into the batter in two stages.

the batter into a prepared cake ring or mold and bake at 360F/182C for 8-10min.

Let the cake cool and cut into ¼”/6mm thick slice. Reserve the sliced cake, wrapped and in the cooler, for final assembly.

milk chocolate custard

140g heavy cream
140g whole milk
60g egg yolks
28g sugar
266g chocolate, 45% Guittard Soleil d’Automne
8g gelatin

Hydrate the gelatin in cold water for a minimum of five minutes and reserve.

Combine the heavy cream and whole milk in a sauce pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

While the cream mixture is heating, combine the sugar and egg yolks, whisking well to incorporate the two.

Temper the hot cream mixture into the yolks, adding 2-3 small additions and whisking well with each addition. Pour the tempered yolks back into the sauce pot with the remaining cream and milk.

Return the sauce pot back to the stove and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it reaches 185F/85C.

Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatin and add it to the custard base.

Add the chocolate and whisk or hand blend the mixture until smooth and homogenized.

chocolate decoration

1 x 18×12”/46x30cm plexiglass sheet
1 x 18×12”/46x30cm acetate sheet
1 x off spatula
1 x dull paring knife (a sharp one will work too, just be gentle)
1 x 8”/20cm ring or circular template
1 x dough scraper
1 x parchment paper
1 x heavy book, sheet pans or a second piece of plexiglass

Before getting started, sprinkle a light amount of water onto your plexiglass sheet and spread it around with your hand.

Gently lay the acetate onto the plexiglass and using a dough scraper, press the water out to the edges to create a seal between the two. Dry the surfaces thoroughly.

Temper your milk chocolate and pour some onto the acetate.

Using the off spatula, spread the chocolate in a thin, even layer over the acetate, large enough to cut a circle into.

Let the chocolate until it loses its glossy sheen and if you gently place your finger tip onto the surface, the chocolate doesn’t stick.

Place the circular template onto the chocolate and lightly trace the shape with your paring knife.

Cut lines from the outside of your circle through the excess chocolate. This will make it easy to remove the chocolate around your single when everything is .

Remove the template and cut a geometric pattern into the circle. Keep in mind the side of the chocolate facing down and touching the acetate will be facing up in the final product.

Place a piece of parchment paper or acetate over the chocolate.

Place a heavy book, sheet pans or a second piece of plexiglass over the chocolate disk and let it fully.


Pour a small quantity of the milk chocolate custard into the bottom of the tart shell, spreading it evenly.

Place the slice of biscuit onto the custard, pressing gently to adhere it.

Pour the milk chocolate custard over the slice of biscuit until it is nearly flush with the top of the tart shell.

Place the tart in the refrigerator for 1-2hr. to .

Gently remove the cut pieces of milk chocolate decoration from the sheet of acetate and rearrange them on top of your tart with the shiny side facing up.

Cheers – Chef Scott

lemon cherry cake

People often assume that because I’m a pastry chef I’m just pumping out sweets for all of my friends and family in my free time


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People often assume that because I’m a pastry chef, I’m just pumping out sweets for all of my friends and family in my free time. I think we all know the reality is that for the most part, between my work at the hotel and the work I do for this blog, A. There’s not much free time at all and B. I’m not spending it baking. Still, there are times when the mood strikes me to make treats for the people I care about. This week, it’s a close friend Matt’s birthday, and I thought “damn, I should make that assh*le a cake.” Matt loves lemon and cherry which makes things even easier because so do I! So thanks to Matt, we’re making a lemon sponge cake with lemon frosting and amarena cherries!

recipe notes
step-by-step method
recipe card

recipe notes

the cake

One thing that always grinds my gears about making cake is all of the ingredients you need to bring to room temp (yes, you really should work with the ingredients at room temperature to ensure they mix well with one another). In terms of butter, there isn’t much of a life hack to share, I just pull it from the fridge before I head to work for the day and then I can make it in the afternoon when I’m back home. Alternately just pull it the night before you plan to bake.

In terms of the other ingredients, there are some corners that can be cut, especially with the cake we’re making today. Thanks to the magic of tempering, I like to heat the milk in the recipe until it’s hot (not steaming or boiling, just hot), then whisk in my sour cream and egg whites. It’s ok, for this recipe all of those things are being added at the same time anyway. The hot milk will warm the cold ingredients which will in turn cool the milk and when everything is well mixed you’ll have a room temp mixture. Neat-o!

This recipe calls for yellow food coloring. It’s completely optional, but I always add it as there have been numerous scientific studies that correlate visual perception to taste, and if making my cake a little yellow will translate into my guests thinking the cake is even more lemony than it is, I’m all for it. *You’ll notice that ironically I did not happen to add it to this cake. I simply ran out of food coloring.

the cherries

There are a lot of options in adding the cherry flavor to your cake. Really the sky is the limit, with anything from jerry jam or mouse to fresh cherries or anything in between. I’ve chosen to add amarena cherries, a small, dark, Italian semi-candied cherry that is intense in flavor and quite sweet. It’s the cherry you’ll find at the bottom of a great Manhattan. I went this route because for one thing I really like amarena cherries but also because I wanted the cake to be predominantly lemon in flavor with little bursts of cherry, and I thought this would be the best way to accomplish that.

There are plenty of good brands of cherries, with FabbriLuxardo and Bada Bingbeing three brands I’ve always been found of.

One last thing! The lemon oil I call for is a brand I use at work called boyajian.

lemon cherry cake

lemon sponge cake

yield: 1 x 8” ring at 800g of batter

226g/1# butter unsalted
400g sugar
180g egg whites
162g whole milk
24g vanilla extract
270g cake flour
8g baking powder
4g salt
30g sour cream
13g lemon oil
5g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
10 drops yellow food color optional

Before getting started, bring the butter, whole milk, sour cream and egg whites to room temperature (see the recipe notes for a handy trick to make that happen quickly).

Combine and sift the cake flour and baking powder and reserve.

Whisk together the whole milk, sour cream, egg whites (if you haven’t combined those already), lemon oil and yellow food color and reserve.

Combine and cream the room temperature butter, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 3-5min. or until everything is well homogenized and light.

Add both the liquid and dry ingredients in three additions, mixing for 3-4min. with each addition.

Addition 1

Addition 2

Addition 3

Pour your batter into your prepped cake pans.

Bake at 350F/176C for 10min. then rotate the cakes in the oven and bake 10min. more or until a knife or cake tester comes out almost clean.

Let the cakes cool thoroughly, ideally overnight, before cutting into layers.

lemon frosting

345g butter unsalted
700g powdered sugar
5g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
30g lemon juice
30g heavy cream
6g vanilla extract
3g lemon oil
8g salt

My favorite kind of recipe! Combine everything together and mix it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until the frosting is smooth and light, about 5min (scrape the bowl after 1min. of mixing before continuing).

white chocolate glaze

382g whole milk
125g glucose substitute with corn syrup
15g gelatin 160 bloom
500g white chocolate
500g white compound chocolate
as needed red food color

Hydrate the gelatin in cold water for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Combine the white chocolate, white compound chocolate, gelatin (after squeezing out the excess water) and food color and hold to them until later.

Combine the whole milk and glucose and bring them to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolates.

Let the mixture stand for 3-5min.

Hand blend everything until it’s fully homogenized.

Let the glaze cool to 86F/30C before using it.


Drain the amarena cherries and cut them into halves. Reserve them to use later.

Slice your lemon cake as desired. I like to cut my cake layers about .5-.75”/1.3-1.9cm thick.

Add frosting to your first layer of cake, measuring the quantity with either an ice cream scoop or by weighing the portion in a bowl (yup, I weigh each layer of frosting. It’s how you get really nice, even layers throughout the whole cake). Spread the frosting evenly over the layer of cake and press the amarena halves into the frosting, evenly distributed.

Repeat the process with the remaining layers of cake.

After the cake is built, add a thin layer of lemon frosting to coat the outside, known as a crumb coat because it binds all of the loose cake crumbs to the side.

Chill the cake in the cooler or freezer until the frosting has firm.

Add a second layer of frosting and spread until smooth. Save any remaining frosting for decoration.

Place the cake in the freezer to for glazing. The entire cake doesn’t need to be frozen at this point, just the frosting. I place the cake on the glazing up (a sheet pan with a layer of plastic wrap and a glazing rack over that) before putting in the freezer.

Glaze the cake and immediately shift it around the grate to remove excess glaze from the bottom edge. I don’t lift the cake up off of the glazing rack during this process, just enough to allow it to move.

Place the cake in the cooler for 5min. to allow the glaze to further .

Give the cake one more shift to remove excess glaze and place it on your serving plate.

Decorate as you see fit. I like to use some of the lemon frosting for quenelles and then add a few amarena cherries, white chocolate shards and some gold leaf. Happy birthday Matt!

Cheers – Chef Scott

strawberry cream pie

Summertime is pie time I feel like we can all agree on that. Shamefully I haven’t really thrown a lot of pie posts at you guys so far. To be honest great produce is just now starting to come in after an unseasonably cool and wet spring


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Summertime is pie time, I feel like we can all agree on that. Shamefully, I haven’t really thrown a lot of pie posts at you guys so far. To be honest, great produce is just now starting to come in after an unseasonably cool and wet spring. As I’ve said in our post of jams, there’s no such thing as a recipe that should be made to use up fruit that isn’t good enough to eat on its own. Good pies are made with good fruit, and you should wait for the fruit near you to be perfectly ripe before you make one!

Now that we do have some great fruit to work with, I want to give you a recipe for a pie of sorts that features a long time favorite flavor combination of mine – strawberries and cream. Whether it’s in a trifle, strawberry shortcake, strawberry cheesecake, I just love that combo.

recipe notes
step-by-step method
recipe card

recipe notes

I fully bake the pie crust for this recipe since the fillings don’t require baking. My preferred method for this is as follows:

Line the raw pie shell with cheesecloth and then baking beans.

Bake the pie shell at 375F until the crust edge begins to take on a nice golden color.

Remove the pie shell from the oven and remove the cheesecloth with the baking beans.

Place a thin strip of tin foil around the edge of the pie shell, covering the crust edge. Watch those fingers, the pie tin is hot!

Place the pie shell back in the oven and bake until the whole crust is golden brown.

If the pie shell begins to bubble up from overwhelming flakiness, remove it from the oven and use the cheesecloth filled with baking beans like a little pouch and press the soft dough down before continuing to bake.

I mention it in the instructions but it’s worth mentioning twice: cover both the pastry cream and the strawberry mixture with plastic wrap touching the surface (which I refer to as “to touch”) before letting it cool and . Skipping this step will create a hardened, dry skin on the layer that isn’t too pleasing to eat.

strawberry cream pie

For my pie dough recipe and my method for lining a pie tin, just click the link. I’ve included the pie dough recipe and method in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

pastry cream

500g whole milk
125g sugar
120g egg yolk
35g corn starch
20g vanilla extract
8g gelatin

Hydrate the gelatin in cold water before getting started.

Bring the milk and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium-low heat.

While the milk is heating up, combine the sugar, egg yolks and corn starch, whisking well.

Let the milk come to a simmer and add a small amount of it to the egg yolk mixture, whisking immediately.

Add the egg yolks back to the milk and return to the stove.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly.

As the starch heats up and the eggs begin to coagulate, the mixture will thicken quickly. Once the pastry cream thickens, cook it for 30-60 seconds more, continuing to whisk rapidly to prevent the eggs from over-cooking and turning scrambly.

Squeeze out the excess water from the hydrated gelatin and add it to the pastry cream, whisking well until homogenized.

Pour the pastry cream into the pie shell until 1/2 full and place plastic wrap on it to touch to prevent a skin from forming while it cools.

Place the pie in the cooler and let it chill until the pastry cream s.

strawberry pie filling

500g strawberries A
200g strawberries B
20g vanilla extract
180g sugar A
60g sugar B
25g corn starch
9g gelatin

Hydrate the gelatin in cold water before getting started.

Quarter both strawberries A and B, keeping the quantities separated.

Combine sugar B and the cornstarch and reserve.

Combine strawberries A, sugar A and the vanilla extract in a sauce pot.

Heat the strawberries over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they release their juice. Don’t let the mixture come to a boil!

Once there is a good amount of juice in the pot, whisk in the sugar and corn starch mixture.

The liquid will appear cloudy after the corn starch mixture has been added.

Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking continuously once boiling, and cook for 1-2min.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the gelatin and strawberries B.

Pour the mixture over the pastry cream in the pie shell.

Cover with plastic wrap to touch to prevent a skin from forming while the mixture cools.

Place the pie in the cooler and chill until the strawberries have .

Decorate with fresh strawberries and dig in!

This pie recipe lends itself to lots of variations and should work with all kinds of fruit! If you decide to play around with it, let me know how it goes!

Cheers – Chef Scott

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