I was paid for my first cake recently! It was very exciting really. A friend from my gym was going to buy her daughter’s cake from the grocery store or something but realized instead she could buy it from me! I think she was almost as excited about the idea as I was! Her only real request was to decorate with strawberries – although not necessarily real. But it didn’t have to be strawberry flavoured. Well to me, it did have to have some strawberry flavour because I couldn’t just put strawberries on the outside and then make a chocolate cake or something! Anyways, I decided on trying one of the vanilla cakes from Sweetapolita that she keeps raving on about, pair it with a strawberry curd filling and cover it with fluffy vanilla buttercream.
Unfortunately I couldn’t actually take a picture of the inside of the cake so I made a mini one for me! (I needed to taste test it too!) I ran out of vanilla icing so I iced it with chocolate fudge icing that I had left from something else. It is one layer short of the real one but the picture still shows the inside. It was pretty tasty although next time I would make thicker cake layers rather than such thin ones as I did this time. I think this is an excellent vanilla cake but I don’t know if it is THE best as has been posted on Sweetapolita… I think I need to try a few others!
Fluffy Vanilla Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita) with Strawberry Curd and Whipped Vanilla Frosting
makes one 2-layer, 8 inch round cake
- 6 large egg whites, room temp
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean scraped (or increase vanilla to 2 1/4tsp)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tb + 1tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup butter, room temp & cut into cubes
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease & line with parchment paper two 8″ cake pans
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, and the vanilla.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or regular & use a hand mixer), combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
- Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup of milk and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 90 seconds.
- Scrape down the bowl if needed. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches and beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Curd (this works perfect for Raspberry Curd as well)
- ~15oz fresh strawberries, stems removed (or ~12oz raspberries)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 TB lime juice
- 5 tsp cornstarch
- In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice and cornstarch until mostly smooth.
- In a food processor or magic bullet, puree the berries with the sugar. Add the cornstarch/lime juice and puree again.
- Strain into a medium saucepan through a mesh seive.
- Cook over medium until it comes to a boil. Stir constantly and cook for another minute until somewhat thickened.
- Strain again into a heatproof contained and allow to cool to room temperature. Chill slightly to make sure it is thick before using in the cake.
Whipped Vanilla Frosting
- 1 1/2 cup butter, room temp
- 6 cups icing sugar
- 2tsp clear vanilla
- 3-5 Tb cream/milk
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. The butter will become pale and creamy.
- Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time while the mixer is on low. Add vanilla and cream until desired consistency is reached.
- Beat on medium for 6 minutes.
- I actually made this a 6 layer cake and made 3 9″ layers (I did an extra ‘half’ recipe on top of what is written. I think if I did it again, I would actually double the recipe for 3 thicker 9″ layers) and sliced each of the layers in half. I also used 2 cups of butter & 8 cups of sugar for this size of cake.
- I layered it as such: cake, vanilla frosting, cake, strawberry curd, cake, vanilla frosting, cake, strawberry curd, cake, vanilla frosting, cake. Cover the entire cake with frosting.
- When it comes to the layers with the curd, pipe a good “dam” around the outside of the cake prior to adding the curd. This will ensure that the curd doesn’t leak out.
Although I am unmarried myself, I do generally enjoy weddings. Some may not believe that as sometimes I complain about them (as they are a great reminder of my own single status) but honestly I do like them. But for me it isn’t about any particular detail or the fancy displays or anything, it is about the couple. I love seeing how they customized their wedding to match their personalities and who they are. And I love seeing the look on the groom’s face when the bride comes in!
I have a friend that is getting married in just over three weeks and what she and her soon-to-be husband decided to go with was an evening wedding followed up with desserts, appies and dancing. Although I do enjoy a good meal, I think this is a great idea for them! Neither of them are into the big fancy wedding and this style will be perfect for them. So since my friend knows how much I love baking and that I was taking decorating classes, she asked if I would be willing to make cupcakes for her wedding. Of course I obliged! What a fun opportunity! Of course I didn’t really think about the fact that I don’t really have a favourite chocolate cupcake recipe or that maybe she would want something that I hadn’t perfected already. This was really just an extra challenge though! So there is the reason behind having made 3 different chocolate cake/cupcake recipes recently!
When I finally got around to asking what she actually wanted a couple months back, she immediately said she wanted chocolate cupcakes with coconut icing. This is what she has apparently asked for as a birthday cake/cupcake since she was very young. And this actually made me really happy as I love coconut things but I know that a lot of people aren’t as thrilled by them as I am so I am always hesitant to make coconut things. My own addition to this was to add a chocolate ganache filling to the cupcake. Just a little boost of extra decadence in my mind!
I think this recipe is the one I am sticking with. When I made these cupcakes, the intention was to do a trial run of the cupcakes for a shower for her but I wasn’t positive the recipe would be the one I would use. Well it will be! Even though I liked the other recipes (the chocolate cake in the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake or the Chocolate Cake with the Toasted Marshmallow Filling), this one seems richer, smoother and luxurious. I loved it. And I really LOVED the batter… it is so creamy and delicious. Oops, right, that wasn’t the part I was supposed to be inhaling! And then stuff it full of smooth chocolate ganache and top it with creamy white coconut icing… oh so good! Here’s the recipe:
Luxurious Chocolate Cupcakes (or cake!)
(aka Chocolate Buttermilk Cake from Good Housekeeping Best-Loved Desserts )
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 3 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cake pans or line cupcake pans with paper liners. I did a combo of 12 mini cupcakes, 12 regulars, and 1-9″ cake pan (lined with parchment paper). The idea is to make a 2-layer pan (they would be pretty deep though!)
- Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda & salt.
- In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together buttermilk and vanilla.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until blended. Beat about 3 minutes on high until creamy.
- Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
- Beat in flour mixture alternatively with buttermilk/vanilla mixture. Start and end with the flour mix.
- Pour into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. For mini cupcakes it was about 12-15 minutes, cupcakes 17-20 minutes and cake was about 25-28 minutes (I don’t actually remember perfectly! It could have been longer!)
- Cool in pans 15-20 minutes before removing to cool on racks.
Chocolate Ganache Filling
- 4 oz semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- Heat cream until it is just below boiling then remove and pour over chocolate (either broken up).
- After a couple of minutes. Stir well until smooth. Allow to cool. (I actually stirred in toasted coconut but I didn’t find it added anything to the taste.) (Don’t refridgerate).
- Inject into the centre of the cupcakes. Or if you don’t have the cupcake injector tip (as I call it), scoop out a cylindrical chunk each cupcake and fill with ganache.
Coconut Buttercream Icing
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 4 cup icing sugar
- 1-2 tsp coconut extract (or as much as needed! mine was a little weak!)
- Beat butter for about 2 minutes on its own until smooth and creamy and pretty looking!
- Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Add coconut extract to taste. You may need to add water to get the proper consistency if your coconut extract is potent!
- Top your cupcakes with the icing!
Birthdays are pretty special regardless but I think some are more special than others. 16 is a big deal as it brings about the freedom of a drivers licence, in BC (and most of Canada) 19 is important since it signifies what I am going to call “the new responsibilities that go along with being legal drinking age”, and then it is 30. There is no real reason that 30 should be special as nothing actually changes in life at that age but it seems that 30 is the end of the “younger years”. To me it has always been the age where you really start to ‘get’ life. You know who you are. You know what you want (and of course don’t want). You know what is important to you. You have the ability to say no to the things that aren’t. And you just really are ready for real life to “bring it!” That was me this past weekend. And just to be clear: I actually had been looking forward to my 30s for years! It even happened that my 30th birthday was on a Saturday!
The day started early – by my choice. I wanted to run a race. Now I have run enough races that it wasn’t like I wanted to do something new and exciting on my 30th, I just wanted to start the year with something I loved and something that I find important in my life! So a 10km race in the rain! It was a blast. I had 3 friends join for the run and one that came as “support crew”. The beginning was a lot of fun as 3 of us chased each other and traded on the lead. And then it settled in to me following closely behind one friend for the rest of the race while the other two followed not far behind. I was hoping that I would have this burst of speed at the end and pass my friend but apparently he also had some kick for the end so I followed in behind 13 seconds after him at a decent race time of 53min35sec. A good start to the day!
Anyways, this is a baking blog so I better cut to the chase! Of course I needed to make a cake. I understand that some may think it is taboo to make your own cake but I really wanted to make it! For me it was a special treat! I love making desserts for other people and I love to make perfect desserts for the tastes of the recipient (so mango cake for my mango loving friend, chocolate coconut cupcakes for my friend that has loves that flavour combo, lemon for the lemon lovers, etc). So for me, it was extra special to make the cake that I would want! Instead of it being a hassle or extra work for me when I should be “enjoying”, it turned into being allowed to make MY perfect cake! What a treat!
My favourite flavour combination of all time isn’t very refined or very mature: it is the classic chocolate and peanut butter. I love it. It is simply the perfect balance! Of course this is what my cake had to be. I had made chocolate cupcakes (I’ll post those later this week) the previous weekend so I made the middle layer of the cake from that and froze it (I’ll add the link for that part of the cake once I write it). The other two layers – top and bottom – had to be peanut butter cake. And between the layers, well that was a mixture of several things. First, on the bottom was chocolate ganache (leftover from the cupcakes as well) and a peanut butter buttercream. Then, between the 2nd & 3rd layers was leftover chocolate marshmallow mousse (or that is what I am calling it). (Apparently I needed to use up some leftovers!) The cake was then covered in more peanut butter buttercream. And then came the home made chocolate fondant. I thought this was a good time to try making my own! That will be a post all on its own! (If you choose to make this recipe, it is not necessary to use the same fillings as I did! But if you want my opinion, I would go with the Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse filling.)
It turned out AMAZING! Although I don’t love the taste of fondant, I love how it seals in the moisture and makes for a more delicious cake! This fondant was also tastier and less gummy than most. We went for dinner at a fantastic restaurant that had prepared a 3 course meal especially for us (with a menu that had my name on it!) including dessert but everyone was still ok with eating a 2nd dessert and most finished it!! Those that didn’t (including myself) took home their leftovers! Although it was quite rich, I only heard rave reviews (unless they were just being nice to me because it was my birthday!)
Now for the shape, I couldn’t just do a regular round or square cake – I wanted a giant Whoopie Pie cake! (Just in case someone missed it – I love making Whoopie Pies and you should check out my Whoopie Pie blog!) So I carved a little here and there, cut the top to a dome shape, carved the chocolate cake to be about an inch smaller in diameter and then shaped the fondant over the top. I also piped more peanut butter buttercream around the outside as the “filling” for the Whoopie Pie! It turned out almost identical to my vision in my head (except for the imperfections in the fondant).
On the top, well I couldn’t write “Happy Birthday Becky!” That seemed a little odd. So I went with a quote from a movie. Although I am not “13 Going on 30″, like I said before, I had been looking forward to 30 as I saw myself being “Flirty, 30 and Thriving”… uh oh, as I write this now I just realized it is supposed to be “30, Flirty and Thriving”. I don’t know why I got ‘flirty’ in my head first. Oh well, too late! The cake was made and eaten as a tribute “to being flirty, 30 and thriving!”
Decadent Buttermilk Chocolate Cake
Ok, so I am not putting the recipe here (this post is crazy long as is!), I am putting it on another post linked here. The recipe made enough for 1-9″ layer, 12 regular sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. If you want to just use it for this cake, you should likely only make 1/2 the recipe and make an additional 6-8 cupcakes (or make 2 layers and freeze one for use later).
Peanut Butter-cup Cake
(from Best-Loved Desserts by Good Housekeeping – an awesome cookbook!)
2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup soft butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vaninlla
- 2/3 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 2 9″ cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda.
- With a stand mixer, beat butter and peanut butter a minute or so until creamy. Add both sugars and continue beating for a few more minutes. Add eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.
- Alternate between adding the flour and the milk, begin & end with the flour. Beat just until smooth.
- Split batter between the two pans and bake about 40-45 minutes.
- Cool cake in pan 15-20 min before removing it to cool completely on a rack.
Scald 1/2 cup of whipping cream but don’t let it boil (it should just start to have bubbles on the top.) Pour over 1/2 cup or 4 oz chopped semi-sweet chocolate. Let sit 2 min then stir until smooth. Allow to cool before using.
Peanut Butter Buttercream
Oops, I should have payed more attention to what I did! I just made this up as I went and didn’t measure a single thing. Basically what it was was 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla and about 3-4 cups of icing sugar. Add cream/milk 1 tsp at a time until the icing is a good consistency for icing. Sorry I can’t say for sure what it was! (I actually used some leftover cream cheese icing and added peanut butter and more sugar to it so this is why I really don’t know!)
Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse Filling
See the filling here for the Whoopie Pies I previously made.
This recipe and process will get its own entire page! But you will have to wait a couple days!
Of course you can use whatever filling you want but this is what I did!
- Start with a layer of the Peanut Butter Cake.
- Spread ganache over the top and then peanut butter buttercream over the cake layer.
- Cover with the chocolate cake layer.
- Spread the Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse on top of the chocolate cake.
- Top with the Peanut Butter Cake.
- Cover the whole thing with Peanut Butter Buttercream.
- Cover with rolled chocolate Fondant!
I don’t know how I was convinced… for obvious reasons for those that know me, I don’t normally celebrate Father’s Day. But somehow this year I was coerced into joining my friend, her son, her fiance, her fiance’s two kids, his ex-wife (and the mother of his kids), and his mother for Father’s Day dinner and the celebration that went along with it. Part of the persuasion came about because my friend asked if I would make a cake for the event instead of repaying her the $10 I owed her. This seemed like a good idea to me and since I had no other reason to bake, it gave me a great excuse to give my KitchenAid a workout! So between having to go over to drop off the cake and the continued assurance that I should go for dinner and that it wouldn’t be weird, I gave in.
I find it kind of funny how friendships evolve. This friend started out a “gym-friend” but has evolved into more of a friendship than that. We will always have our shared passions for exercise and food, but there is also more. Now I am part of the family! It started out a random dinner with her son, her fiance (also a friend of mine) and his daughter. Then I was at her son’s birthday dinner. Then I was being invited to Father’s Day dinner. And while there, his daughter insisted that I come to her birthday dinner! Probably the most amusing part of the evening was when her son tried to convince the grandmother (85) that I was his sister. Considering my friend is Taiwanese and I am blond haired, blue (well grey really) eyed, it is pretty obvious that this isn’t true. Another interesting thing to note here is ages: my friend is exactly 15 years older than me, her son is just over 15 years younger than me. So all in all, it is sort of an odd mix but somehow it all works quite well!
Anyways, on to the cake. Any time I make a cake for this friend (seems that this is the 3rd cake/cupcake that I have made for her this year… how did that happen?) she always requests a chocolate cake with vanilla icing. I am so much more creative than that and always try to encourage her to think bigger but she likes the classic flavours. Well this time I figured that I would make the filling a little different and try another Sweetapolita recipe that I had been admiring for Toasted Marshmallow filling! That is almost the same as vanilla, right? It was kind of sticky and messy to make but it tasty fun and toasty. The flavour isn’t as strong once it is sandwiched between chocolate but it is a different texture and I quite liked it! I still put regular vanilla buttercream on the outside but at least the inside was different! Also, I tried a new chocolate cake recipe. I really love this recipe! I think I liked it better than the cake I made the week because the cake was a little more dense and a little more chocolatey, but still nice and moist. The Black Magic/Rich and Decadent Chocolate Cake was also delicious and moist, but it was a little airier and I think I have decided I like a bit of a fudgey texture to my cakes!
Fudgey Rich Chocolate Cake
(changed quite a bit from from the Chocolate Cake in Company’s Coming Chocolate Everything )
- 3 oz semisweet chocolate
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1 cup hot coffee
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vaniklla
- 2 1/8 cup all purpose flour (1/8 cup = 2 Tb)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- Pour hot coffee over chocolate and cocoa. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the cocoa mixes evenly in.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or just another bowl and with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Beat well.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add flour in 3 parts alternating with the yogurt to the butter/sugar mix (so flour, yogurt, flour, yogurt, flour). Add chocolate mixture and mix well.
- Pour into a greased pan (the recipe says 2 8-inch rounds but I did a 9″ square pan and a small ramekin and just made it a deep cake).
- Bake at 350°F for 35-40 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for at least 30 minutes and then take out to allow it to cool completely.
Toasted Marshmallow Frosting (from Sweetapolita)
- 4 cups mini marshmallows
- 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered)
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 7.5 oz jar of Marshmallow Fluff (or Marshmallow Cream)
- Spread marshmallows on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. With the cookie sheet on the lower rack of the oven, broil marshmallows until lightly browned. Don’t walk away! These need to be watched!
- Beat together butter and icing sugar in mixer with paddle attachment, on low until blended. Add vanilla and mix on high for about 3 minutes.
- Add Marshmallow Fluff and toasted marshmallows. Mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute. It ends up pretty sticky!
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake
I am going to call this a “piggy-back” post on my last post.
I say that because I actually made the strawberry cupcakes for one real purpose that was not cupcakes at all: it was for this cake! I offered to make the cake for a friend’s birthday and asked his wife what some of his favourite dessert flavours are! Here is what I got: “chocolate in general, chocolate mint ice cream, Oreo or chocolate chip cookies and strawberry cheese quake blizzards”. So since I immediately eliminated the chocolate mint combo for reasons outlined here, I figured that a chocolate and strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing might be tasty! So that was the real reason for making the strawberry cupcakes: to get a layer of cake to be sandwiched between two chocolate cake layers!
A few things went VERY wrong with this cake… and they were simple things that I knew better than to do. Quite stupid of me really. First: I took the strawberry cake out of the pan while it was still really hot just so I could get the next one baking earlier. I let it cool for about 20 minutes while I made the chocolate batter but then I took it out… and not that carefully. It is a rather dense cake so it was still QUITE hot. Result: it totally broke apart – right down the middle and then into several pieces beyond that. This would have been ok if I was using a buttercream for the filling since it is like cement but, no, I wanted the strawberry cream cheese filling which isn’t thick enough to glue in the same way. But I kept going anyways. So at one point I had this big mess of three layers of cake, the middle strawberry layer spilling over like its jeans were too tight (you know the mental picture I am getting at… think ‘muffin top’), pink strawberry cream cheesy goo spilling all over and a lopsided top. I kept going. I tried to cover it with reddish buttercream with hopes that it would glue it together now.
Well buttercream over gooey mess doesn’t work too well and since I didn’t actually make enough red buttercream it really wasn’t holding. So I had to make more which I knew wouldn’t be the right colour. So then I just went with white (although there was still some red left in the bowl so instead a lovely pink – for my guy friend’s birthday) and decided I would cover the whole thing with ganache rather than just have it run down the side artistically as I had planned. The buttercream worked this time since I gobbed so much on. It covered well, smoothed out well, and let me even out the top. I also carved off some of the “muffin-top” of strawberry cake (although this then compromised the circular shape of the cake). Good. Things were looking ok. Onto the ganache. I have made ganache enough times that I know how easy it is. But stupidly I used “melting chocolate” rather than baking chocolate or chocolate chips and melting chocolate is way too soft. So in the morning when I was hoping to just smooth it out I suddenly realized why it wouldn’t set! Which means that I couldn’t decorate on top of it because then the icing decorations would slide. So then I thought “oh I have some extra ganache left, why not melt some more chocolate and add it to
the ganache and smooth that over the top” (note: now four layers of icing on the outside: red buttercream, pink buttercream, sloppy ganache, thick ganache). Well think of the physics of thick, almost solid chocolate overtop of sloppy, liquidy chocolate. It slides. It looks awful! What a mess.
I should point out that this is why there is a lack of pictures of the process: while I did take pics of making the strawberry cake the mess that became the strawberry cake distracted me from taking proper pics of the chocolate cake (and I just forgot!)
The good news: when you put some decorations on the top and have it served outside after it is already dark with 32 candles on the top, everyone thinks it looks fantastic!
The other good news: I knew it would taste amazing!
For the recipe, I used the strawberry cupcakes recipe and strawberry cream cheese icing, a “black magic” cake recipe (below but you can find it online as well!) for the chocolate cake, and a basic buttercream icing for the top. I will not post any ganache recipe this time since it was such a fail!
Black Magic/Rich & Decadent Chocolate Cake
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup strong hot black coffee
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line cake pans with parchment paper (I used 2 x 9″ but you could do an 11×13″)
- In mixer bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (including sugar).
- Mix oil, buttermilk, eggs & vanilla in a smaller bowl.
- With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients until mixed pretty well. Add the hot coffee in a slow stream until just combined.
- Pour the liquidy batter into your prepared pans. Bake 20 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks about 30 min and then remove from pans to cool completely.
- 1 cup butter, room temp
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tb meringue powder
- 4 cups icing/confectioner’s sugar
- 3-4 tsp water/milk
- Beat butter until smooth. Add in vanilla and meringue powder.
- Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time. It ends up quite stiff.
- Add water until the desired consistency is reached (thin for icing the cake, medium for decorations).