The Layered Look (Recipes Included!)


Layered recipes offer an opportunity to feast first with our eyes on the visual complexities of the culinary arts before relishing the unique flavors those layers place on our palate. All restaurant chefs know this, which is why we, as consumers, see them plating everything from appetizers to desserts as architectural presentations.

Now here’s your chance to try it at home. Use these recipes to create your own culinary layered looks. Take your creativity to the table in how you serve an item, such as presenting a layered salad in individual martini glasses. Layers allow you to be as creative as you want to be!

Carrot Cake

This recipe was given to Editor Marlene Petersen by her grandmother and is reputed to have been based on the carrot cake at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago at one time.

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
4 cups finely shredded carrots (about 1 pound of fresh carrots shredded in food processor)
1/2 cup high-quality apricot preserves

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Slowly add the oil to the eggs while beating. At low speed, beat in flour mixture. The batter will be much thicker than normal cake batter. By hand, mix in shredded carrots. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans, and bake for 20–25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then remove from pans and place on a cooling rack.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Slowly beat in sugar until incorporated then beat on high speed until smooth. Frosting may be slightly thinner than regular decorator’s frosting but will firm with refrigeration.

To assemble, put first layer on cake plate. With a decorator’s bag, pipe a line of frosting along the edge of the layer and spread apricot preserves on this layer. The frosting will help hold the preserves in place. Top with second layer; pipe with frosting and add preserves. Top with the third layer and frost the entire cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate until serving. Serves 12. Recipe courtesy of Margaret J. Boyer.

layered-pasta-saladLayered Pasta Salad

3 /4 cup uncooked small elbow or shell macaroni
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup slivered ham
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
One 10 oz. bag frozen green peas, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
7 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. sliced green onions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain, then rinse with water, and drain again. Toss macaroni with the oil to lightly coat. Spread lettuce in bottom of a large salad bowl or individual stemmed glassware, then in separate layers add the macaroni, ham, egg slices, peas and cheese. Combine mayonnaise and remaining ingredients; mix well. Spread evenly on top of the cheese layer, sealing to edge of the bowl. Cover tightly and chill at least 12 hours. Normally, this salad would be tossed gently before serving, but to preserve the layered look do not mix before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

carrot-ginger-sandwich-spreadCarrot-Ginger Sandwich Spread

This makes a great spread for roast beef sandwiches.

1/3 cup grated carrots
2 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 tsp. minced, fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar

Stir together all ingredients to blend well. Refrigerate, covered, up to one week.

vegetable-terrineVegetable Terrine

A dish made of layered cooked meat, fish or vegetables generally prepared in a rectangular pan and typically served cold as a side dish or main entrée.

Spinach layer:
One 15-oz. bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry with paper towel
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup half and half
1 1/2 large eggs
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4–1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional to add zip)

Mushroom layer:
12 oz. fresh mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
generous 1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. dry sherry (optional)
scant 1/2 tsp. salt
scant 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs

Carrot layer:
1 pound fresh carrots, sliced and cooked
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. half and half
1 tsp. dried dill weed
3/4 tsp. salt
scant 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Combine spinach layer ingredients in food processor or blender then firmly pack mixture evenly into the bottom of a greased 8×4-inch loaf pan. Clean the food processor. For mushroom layer, finely chop mushrooms in clean food processor; sauté onion in butter in large skillet for one minute then add mushrooms. Cook till limp and onion is translucent but not browned. Stir in sherry, if using; cook mushrooms until all liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, eggs and bread crumbs. Spoon over spinach layer, patting until flat. For carrot layer, puree all ingredients together in cleaned food processor. Spread evenly over mushroom layer. Set pan inside a larger, water-filled pan. Heat the oven to 325°F and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Terrine is done when firm. Remove from oven, cool for 15 minutes, then run knife around edges before inverting on serving plate. Slice and serve cold or warm with French bread or crackers as an appetizer or on a lettuce leaf as a side salad or first course. Serves 8 to 10.