cake

Daring Bakers: Baumkuchen

The January 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Francijn of “Koken in de Brouwerij”. She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).

baumkuchen8

The last Daring Bakers I participated in was in January of 2012.  That’s right.  2 years ago.  In January of 2012 we had just moved in to our rent house in Houston and not too long after I discovered I was pregnant with Betsy.  With a move and a new baby that year I was kept pretty busy.  By that time I was out of the habit and blogging wasn’t a priority, so 2013 came and went without any Daring Bakers challenges.  But with my resolution to blog more came a desire to get back into it.  I’d forgotten how many things I’d made that I’d never have made otherwise.  Thanks, Daring Bakers.  This is a fun group to be a part of and I’m glad to be back.  Hoping to continue participating this year without interruption…with the exception of the month of June.  And maybe July.  We’ll see how it goes.

Tree cake, or baumkuchen, is something I’d never heard of or seen before taking a look at the January challenge.  And to be honest, I might not have made it even if I had seen it somewhere.  The process of making the cake is time intensive, baking the cake in 10-12 layers, and the cake batter is more involved than cakes I’ve been making recently.  Separating eggs and beating egg whites to stiff peaks and folding them in is something my lazy self has not had the desire to do.  But it was a lot of fun and I actually enjoyed the entire process and the final result.

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One of the only problems I encountered is that I didn’t do a great job of estimating how thick to spread my layers in order to end up with 10-12 total.  My first layer was too thick, then the next 6 or so were too thin, and by that time I had so much batter left over that my final cake was probably 16 layers total and had baked for at least 12 extra minutes.  This made the bottom of the cake (the first layer I made) pretty dark.  I’m afraid this also made the cake just a tad dry.   I also chose not to glaze the cake with jam before glazing it with chocolate.  That would’ve likely added some moisture.  BUT the flavor of the cake is really amazing.  The almond flavor is present but subtle.  I ate all the edges I trimmed off just plain and they were terrific.  It’s a really dense and sturdy cake.  Great to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.

I used a recipe for my baumkuchen from Allrecipes that is very similar to the one Francijn provided but has cornstarch in the batter.  The cooking method I used was Francijn’s, baking each layer for 3-4 minutes at 450°F.  I glazed the cake with dark chocolate melted with a little vegetable oil and it came out beautifully and was a nice contrast to the sweet cake.

Here’s a little step by step.

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Batter and prepared pan

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Cake: baked and trimmed

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Layers

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Glazingbaumkuchen4

More Glazing

This challenge was a fun one and was definitely out of my current baking comfort zone.  A perfect Daring Bakers challenge.  Thanks, Francijn!

Baumkuchen

From allrecipes.com and Francijn

Ingredients

  • 14 tablespoons (2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 1/2 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 7/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces of good dark or semisweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Grease an 8×8 pan then line with parchment paper.  I used two sheets cut to the width of the pan and crossed them.  Trim excess overhang on all sides.  Grease the paper and set pan aside.
  3. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the almond paste in chunks and beat until well combined.  You may see small chunks of paste, but no large chunks.  Scrape the bowl down.
  4. Add in powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla and beat well.  Beats in the yolks, one at a time, until batter is smooth.
  5. In another bowl beat eggs whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  6. Fold whites gently into the batter, then sift flour on top and fold it in as well just until everything is evenly distributed.
  7. Spread some batter, enough to lightly cover the pan, onto the bottom of the prepared pan, being careful not to get batter on the sides of the pan (this batter burns and can then drop onto your cake and be baked in).  Bake for 3-4 minutes, until layer is lightly browned.  Continue spreading and baking layers until the batter is gone.  Aim for 10-12 layers total.
  8. Let cake cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely.  Trim the edges off (and save them for snacking!).
  9. Melt the chocolate and oil in a double boiler (or in a small saucepan over very low heat being extra careful not to burn it) until smooth and melted.
  10. Spread the chocolate onto the top and sides of the cake.  Let harden (I did this overnight) then flip cake over onto a sheet of parchment and spread chocolate onto the other side of the cake.  Note: You don’t have to glaze the bottom/other side with chocolate.  I covered the cake and chocolate overnight, remelted the chocolate the next day and glazed the other side.  Don’t try to glaze the bottom before the other chocolate is nice and set.
  11. Slice and serve.

Vanilla Birthday Cake with Vanilla Frosting

This vanilla cake was one of the many sweet treats we had at Betsy’s 1st birthday party, but the only one I made from scratch.  I am a sucker for cake mixes a lot of the time. They’re easy, reliable, and pretty tasty.  But there’s something about a scratch cake that is just special.  And if there’s a time to have a special cake, it’s at a birthday party!

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This vanilla cake is from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.  I picked the cookbook up after a trip to visit my sister in New York where I went on a cupcake tasting tour (guided by yours truly with only one participant…myself).  I tried Magnolia Bakery, Cupcake Cafe and Billy’s Bakery.  I think there was one other?  I don’t remember.  I’ve had 2 kids since then.  But Magnolia is one of the best and the shop is darling and wonderful.  It’s definitely a fun place to visit…unless you end up fighting someone for a cupcake after waiting in line for hours.  The first time I went there was hardly a soul in the place and so it was a very pleasant experience for me.  Another time I was going to go with my sister and as we approached the store and saw the line we turned around and returned empty handed.  Workdays are probably a good bet, but I’m not making any promises since I don’t have enough experience.  I do think it’s safe to say that weekends will always be crazy.

To make this cake a little special I dyed the layers in shades of purple.  It didn’t turn out as “ombre” as I would’ve liked.  The colors are too close to the same shade, so if you decide to try the ombre cake make sure that the batters are very different from each other.

The vanilla buttercream is from the same cookbook and is tremendously delicious.  I love frosting.  This one comes out beautifully white, especially if you use this vanilla.  This clear vanilla has a nostalgic flavor for me and is different than pure natural vanilla.  In most cases I prefer natural vanilla, and often I use this vanilla paste because I love the vanilla bean flecks.  But with a classic vanilla birthday cake I think the clear vanilla is the way to go.  Use what you have, but do give the clear vanilla a try if you see it somewhere!

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This is definitely a cake I’ll come back to and recommend others try when they want to bake a cake from scratch.  It’s really not terribly difficult or time consuming and it’s a nice change from a box cake.  Eat up and enjoy!

Vanilla Birthday Cake

From Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with a parchment circle, grease parchment and flour the pans.  Set aside.
  3. Combine the flours in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter until light, then gradually pour in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl and beat again to combine.
  6. Alternate adding the flour and milk in 5 parts, beginning and ending with the flour, beating until just combined in between additions.  Fold the batter a few times with a large spatula to make sure it is mixed well.
  7. Now you can either dye your layers or divide the batter between the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool on racks for 15 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the edges and remove the cakes from the pans.  Peel off the parchment and let cool completely.

To Dye the Cake Layers

Supplies:

  • 4 small bowls
  • 4 small spatulas or spoons
  • purple (or any color) gel color
  • toothpicks
  1. Take about 1/2 cup of batter and put it into a small bowl.
  2. Dye the cup of batter by scooping some gel color out of the pot and mixing it in very well.  You want this to be dark, a little darker shade than you want your darkest layer.  Adjust by adding more batter or more color.
  3. Divide the rest of the batter evenly into three small bowls.
  4. Take your dyed batter and add one spoonful to the first bowl, 3 spoonfuls to the second bowl and 5 spoonfuls to the third bowl.  Divide any remaining colored batter among the bowls to achieve shades that are very distinct.  Fold gently until the color is evenly distributed.  Be careful to not overmix.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake as above.

*If you’re analyzing these instructions you’ll realize that after adding the colored batter your bowls of batter won’t be divided equally anymore.  You’ll have more batter in the darkest layer.  So just go with it and accept that they won’t be exactly the same OR you can divide the batter a little unevenly to begin with and then even it out with the colored batter.  That method would involve too much brain power for me.  The reason I did not add the color directly to the batter is that you have to do more mixing to get a solid and even color, and overmixed cake batter can lead to a heavier cake texture.  This less precise method led to better overall color in my cakes and the cake was still light.

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Beat the butter until creamy.
  2. Beat in 4 cups of the powdered sugar, the milk, salt and vanilla until very smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time, beating well, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

When berries of any kind are in abundance and being sold for cheap I grab them up.  Last week I bought 2 pounds of blueberries for something like $2.  I’ll eat them by the handful, put them in my yogurt, and in salads.  Betsy likes them, too.  When half the container was gone I decided to do something a little more exciting with them and made this cake that I’d had bookmarked in my Fine Cooking magazine for the past 2 weeks.  Thanks to Sarah who helped me get it done after overestimating my ability to tackle 5 things at once.

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This was super simple and beautiful.  You could easily serve this at a brunch for guests as a lovely alternative to blueberry muffins.  It’s delicious for breakfast, but also a nice evening dessert served with a little ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.  To keep the berries from sinking to the bottom, toss them in a little flour after rinsing and patting them dry.  Enjoy!

Blueberry-Breakfast-Cake

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

From Fine Cooking, Issue 124

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with shortening or butter.
  3. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl whisk cooled butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined, do not overmix.
  5. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with a spoonful of flour, then fold the blueberries gently into the batter.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is browned and a toothpick insterted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool on the rack.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Lemon Lime & Raspberry Layer Cake

Springtime calls for desserts like this.  Fresh flavors that don’t weigh you down or make you feel too full.  This light citrus cake is filled with fresh raspberries and topped with a sweet cream cheese glaze-like frosting.  It was the perfect end to the Mother’s Day lunch we had last weekend with some of our friends.  The kids played in the pool while we sat outside enjoying the perfectly warm and breezy weather while eating our cake.  I’d enjoy a day like that again anytime.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, and I chose it because I’d made it years ago and remembered it being really tasty.  The original recipe calls for lemonade concentrate, which I could not find.  Weird, right?  They had all kinds of juice concentrate, and lots of frozen drink mixers, but no lemonade.  I used limeade instead and it was great.  My only complaint with the use of juice concentrate in this recipe is that you’re left with a lot left over.  If I’d been thinking about not being wasteful, I’d have frozen the rest in ice cube trays and used them to ice down a pitcher of punch or something.  But I don’t always think about stuff like that when it matters.  I think about it after I’ve tossed what I could have saved.

I added the berries in the middle of the cake because I thought it needed some color and berries are a perfect match for citrus.  Blueberries would have also been nice in the center, or a combination of the two.  I squished and flattened the raspberries as I layered them on the cake to make sure they made a nice even blanket of berries.

A good thing to know about the cake is that the tops get sticky.  When you take them out of the pans to cool, set them bottom side down or else the tops will stick to the cooling racks and make you very frustrated when you try to move them.  I am speaking from personal experience and am trying to save you some heartache.

The frosting/glaze gave me some trouble when I frosted/glazed the cake.  It’s not thin, like a glaze, but not quite thick enough to be used as frosting.  It could be the concentrate that makes the consistency a bit sticky and strange, but it still tastes good.  I thought about adding more sugar, but didn’t so as not to make it too ridiculously sweet.  The final product wasn’t as pretty and clean as I would have hoped, but it was delicious.  I made the cake the night before and refrigerated it overnight.  This cake stores very well in the fridge.  I did notice a little sugary crunch to the frosting when eaten cold from the fridge, but not so much after it had warmed up slightly.  This recipe is one that I’ll come back to.  I might try it as cupcakes for a baby shower I’m helping with in June.

Carson enjoyed this cake.  Or maybe he just enjoyed the fact that I was letting him have his way with a real fork and a nice big slice of cake…

Lemon, Lime and Raspberry Layer Cake

From Cooking Light

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons thawed limeade concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained

Frosting

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons thawed limeade concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.
  3. To prepare cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.
  5. Pour batter into cake pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
  7. To prepare frosting, place butter, cream cheese, concentrate, zest and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Chill 1 hour.
  8. Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator.

Rainbow Cake

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  And happy birthday to my sweet niece Maren who is having a great 2nd birthday party in Brooklyn today that we are sadly not attending.  My parents will be there to help celebrate the big day with my sister’s family.  Happy Birthday, Maren!

We don’t really do St. Patrick’s Day, but I was seeing so many fun rainbow and pot o’ gold crafts, snacks and baked goods on blogs and on Pinterest that I just had to make this rainbow cake.  I’d originally seen rainbow cakes in layers, which I think is so beautiful and orderly.  But I do not have enough cake pans of the same size, nor do I have the patience and willingness to make 3 cakes, then wash and dry the pans and make 3 more.  So I found this rainbow cake on Hostess with the Mostess who links to Omnomicon’s tutorial for making this fun and easy rainbow cake that only requires you to have 2 cake pans of the same size!  Perfect.

I used the cake recipe from Omnomicon, which is simply 2 white cake mixes and 3 cups of Diet Sprite.  No oil, no eggs, no joke.  So I suppose this cake could be considered “good” for you.  But then I used a not so good for you buttercream instead of the cool whip and pudding frosting that she uses.  The cake in its entirety is kind of like ordering a diet coke along side your big greasy hamburger.

The cake recipe honestly had me a little worried.  Was this diet soda thing really going to work?  Well, it did!  For the most part anyway.  The cake took a little longer to bake, about 40 minutes, and even then it was so moist that it fell apart a little after being removed from the pans.  One layer split almost totally in half, but I was able to squish it back together with the help of a bit of frosting.  It was also stickier than normal cake mix cakes.  I let the cakes cool upside down on racks and when I went to take them off I had more breakage because it had stuck to the rack.  Again, frosting repair was needed.  Here is but one of my frosting repair jobs.

But even with the problems that made cake assembly a little difficult it was oh so very tasty, moist and delicious.  I think with cupcakes you could use this cake mix + diet soda method and be quite pleased with the results since you don’t have any layering to do, and there’s less guilt involved.  I think you might only get 12-18 cupcakes out of one cake mix and 1 1/2 cups of diet soda.  2 cake mixes and 3 cups gave me what a cake mix with the usual eggs and oil would have.  But there might be some deflation due to mixing the batter once all together and then again to make the colors.  I don’t know.  I am not a scientist.

Dividing and coloring the cake batter was pretty simple.  I used a scale to get the same amount in each of my 6 bowls, but you could easily eyeball it and not suffer any serious consequences if you were a little off.  You really should use gel colors if you want the lovely bright colors.  The food coloring you use for dyeing Easter eggs won’t cut it.  I used Wilton gel colors.  If you do any cake or cookie decorating at all, you should have some of these.

Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans and fill the first pan with red, orange and yellow.  Pour the red in first, right in the center of the pan.  Follow with the orange, also right in the center and try your best to make it a circular shape (mine was kind of amoeba shaped) and the do the same with the yellow.  In the second pan fill with green, blue and violet.  If you are a science nerd you noticed that I left out Indigo from ROYGBIV.  Feel free to divide your batter into 7 and make yourself some indigo colored batter, but I took a short cut and liked the ease and equality of 3 colors in each pan.

Use your favorite recipe for vanilla frosting or the one below.  I love the white frosting against the bright colors of the cake.  This cake is a lot of fun.  It would be great for a kid’s (or adult’s) birthday party.  You can use the same method with cupcakes, just layer the colors with teaspoons of batter.  In a 9×13 pan it might be hard to get good layers, so you could just randomly dollop colors for more of a tie-dyed effect.  If you do bake in something other than 8-inch cake pans, refer to the baking times and temps on the box of cake mix and then check for doneness, adding more time if needed.

Rainbow Cake

From Omnomicon

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes white cake mix
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) diet lemon-lime soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix cake mixes and soda together until well combined.
  3. Divide batter evenly into six bowls.
  4. Color each bowl of batter red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
  5. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.  Pour red, orange and yellow batter into one cake pan, starting with red, yellow on top of that, and then orange.  Repeat with green, blue and violet.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tops bounce back when pressed lightly or cake tester inserted into the the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes then remove and let cool completely on racks.
  8. Level cakes if desired, then layer one cake on a plate or cake stand.  Frost with vanilla icing, top with second layer of cake and put on a crumb coat of icing.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  9. Finish frosting the cake with the remaining icing, chill until ready to serve.

Simple Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks of butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 to 6 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk or cream

Directions

  1. Beat butter until smooth, then add in powdered sugar.  Start with 4 1/2 cups, then add more in 1/2 cup increments to achieve a thick but still spreadable consistency.
  2. Beat in vanilla and milk, starting with 2 tablespoons and adding more if needed.
  3. Use to generously frost a layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

Sprinkles Strawberry Cake

There is something just plain fun about making layer cakes.  I shared this thought with Ben as I put the finishing touches on this cake that I’d started working on almost 24 hours earlier.  Cookies, cupcakes, brownies, bars, etc. are great because they are typically pretty easy, not terribly time consuming, you can make enough for a big group, and they are hard to screw up.  Cakes, on the other hand, can be troublesome for me because I worry about them not turning out and then not having a single thing to show for my hours spent in the kitchen.  Not to mention you have a big, sugary, calorie laden commitment on your hands…unless you’re giving the cake away or serving it to at least 12 people.  You also are not as free to taste test with a cake.  You can sneak a cookie, or a cupcake (or 2) without being found out, but steal a slice of cake before it’s served and everyone notices the big gaping hole and the crumbs you’re trying to wipe from your mouth.  Despite all that, making a layer cake is therapeutic and the end result is more rewarding than a batch of cookies.  I feel the same way about pie.  They are both big glorious circles of sweet goodness, meant to be displayed on a pretty cake plate and served on those lovely dessert plates you never use.  Am I being too dramatic about baked goods?  I guess it wouldn’t be the first time…

For some reason I was in the mood for strawberry cake, maybe it was all the pretty pink cakes I’d been seeing on Pinterest.  I’ve made Spinkles strawberry icing before, but never the cupcakes.  So I printed the recipes off of Martha Stewart and headed to the store, a girl on a mission to make a delicious cake.  I was pretty excited about it.

I doubled the cupcake recipe to make two 9-inch cakes.  I made 150% of the frosting.  At first I thought about doubling it but when I realized that meant 4 sticks of butter I decided we would just make do with less, and it was plenty.

The cake is dense, not too terribly sweet, and not at all like the strawberry cake you can make from a box.  I wonder if it’s even possible to create a cake from scratch that is close in texture to a box mix.  If you know of a recipe, please send it to me!  Those soft textured cakes do tend to fall apart when frosted and stacked too high, so a dense cake is probably better when you’re planning on stacking 4 layers.  I usually grease my cake pans, line them with parchment circles, and then flour them.  Somehow I’d managed to run out of parchment and not buy any more.  So with a bit of fear I simply greased and floured my pans.  They came out perfectly!  That was a nice surprise.

The frosting is SWEET.  Quite possibly too sweet, not for me, but for the average person.  I like sweetness and sugar…a lot.  If you are not as much of a sweet fan, maybe use half butter and half cream cheese for the frosting to give it a little tang.  Now that I am thinking about it,strawberry cream cheese icing sounds pretty incredible, so I might have to try it myself.  The frosting has little strawberry seeds, and some people may not like that.  So, use a sieve to strain the seeds from the puree if you’re one of those people.  I like my frosting stiff when I frost a layer cake so that it doesn’t start to fall off the cake.  In order to achieve this I had to add more powdered sugar than the recipe calls for (which explains the sweetness) but really does make frosting and decorating less stressful.

Here are some tips for layers cakes that I’ve found helpful.

  • Bake the cakes and let them cool completely.  I like to do this either in the morning or the night before.  If I do it the night before I wrap the cakes in plastic wrap overnight so they don’t dry out.
  • Make the frosting on the thicker side.  (Unless you’re frosting a really delicate cake.  It will pull on the cake too much and cause it to fall apart.)
  • Level your cakes so that when stacked the cake is not domed or slanted.  I use this, but some people are amazing and are able to just use their eyes and a serrated knife.
  • If you’re slicing the cake layers in half, measure to be as close to half as possible.
  • Use an offset spatula for frosting.  It is just easier, buy one.  I use them for loosening the sides of a cake from the pan as well.
  • When you start frosting, plop a little frosting in the center of your cake plate and center the bottom layer on it.  This will keep the cake from moving around.
  • After layering, put a thin coat of frosting on the cake (your crumb coat) and then chill it for at least an hour.  This will allow your next layer to be smoother and free of crumbs.
As far as decorating goes, there are so many beautiful things you can do.  I am not so great at the decorating.  I used my extra frosting to pipe around the bottom and top of my cake.  Here is a great resource from King Arthur that will help you.  This kind of thing takes a lot of practice, so you’ll have to practice, and probably mess up.  When I was piping the top edge I noticed I’d started using more pressure as I was going around the cake so that when I finished there was a huge difference in the size of the rope.  I carefully wiped off what I’d done, smoothed the icing and did it again.   A good way to practice, if you ever find yourself with extra icing, is to use different frosting tips and just pipe onto wax paper.
I hope you think of an excuse to make a layer cake!  If you can’t, then try this recipe for cupcakes.

Strawberry Cake

From Sprinkles via Martha Stewart, doubled from cupcake recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans; set aside.
  2. Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about 2/3 cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
  6. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer cakes in pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes.  Then, carefully remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

Strawberry Frosting

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed (I used fresh)
  • 1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and about 6 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.
  4. Use frosting to top cupcakes or cake.

 

Cinnamon Sugar Peach Cake

When I came across this recipe I practically ran to the kitchen to begin making it.  I took out a stick of butter, 2 eggs and buttermilk to bring them to room temperature.  Since my little guy was asleep, I couldn’t make it to the store to get the one ingredient I lacked…fresh peaches.  So I used…canned peaches.  Did you just cringe?  I’m embarrassed, especially when there are fresh, juicy peaches available about a mile from my house.  While I am sure fresh peaches would have been better, the cake still turned out wonderfully.  That means you can make this in the dead of winter, when peaches aren’t so abundant.

Thanks to Ina Garten, one of my favorite Food Network people, for this recipe.  Her recipe calls for sour cream, which I did not have.  I substituted 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/3 cup softened butter.  I think it would have been fine to use 1 cup of buttermilk without the additional butter.

This cake can be eaten for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or for breakfast.  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Sugar Peach Cake

Courtesy of Ina Garten, foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large can of peaches, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pecans
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the all the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
  5. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture.
  6. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.
  7. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

On any given day there are dozens of recipes that come into my Google Reader from the food blogs I follow.  It would be impossible for me to read all these posts, and even more impossible for me to try to make even half of them.  If something catches my eye, I’ll open it in another window and let in linger there for a few days, read through it a couple times, and figure out when (or if) I will have the time to make it.  This particular recipe was something I knew I had to make, I just had to find the time to get a few things at the store and a big enough chunk of nap time from Carson to get it done.

Bake or Break posted this recipe which is from a cookbook from Baked in Brooklyn.  I visited Baked last summer when I went to see my sister and her family.  I highly recommend making the effort to go there if you find yourself in New York City.   Here is the link to Bake or Break, and here is the link to the cookbook…which I am seriously considering purchasing.

Due to a lack of time, resources, and the memory to get cream cheese at the grocery store, I did not make the cream cheese frosting.  I instead opted to make a simple glaze of milk, powdered sugar and a little almond extract.  I glazed the cake in the pan after it had cooled.  The glaze is nice on this cake, but I am a huge fan of cream cheese frosting and will probably make this again to see how the two variations compare.

The method of soaking the oats in boiling water and melting the butter with that mixture was something I hadn’t seen or done before.  I think it gave the cake a moister and more delicate texture than if those ingredients were combined separately.  Mixing the chocolate chips with liquor (I used Courviosier…don’t ask me why I have a bottle of that) and then tossing in the flour was supposed to keep them from sinking to the bottom, but most of mine did sunk anyway.  Not a big deal.

I really like this cake.  It’s dense, moist, and has great contrasts in texture with the oats, chocolate chips and glaze.  Skipping the glaze and serving this warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce would be crazy delicious.  Why do I get these great ideas after I make something? (more…)

Nilla Wafer Cake

What has happened to me?  Why did I make Kraft macaroni and cheese for Ben and a frozen Healthy Choice meal for myself for dinner last week?  Because I am a new mommy, and that means I am kind of a mess.  To all those mothers of newborns who have it together, I envy and admire you.  Everyone is telling me it will get better…I hope they’re right.

I’m not cooking anything really worth posting about.  And even if I was, I don’t really have time to post!  I really miss my kitchen.

This recipe caught my eye on allrecipes.com a few weeks ago, right after Carson was born.  My mom even bought a box of Nilla Wafers that day so that we could make it, but we didn’t have a chance.  Ben and I were having company last night, so I decided to try it out.

I wasn’t too impressed with this, but the people who ate it were very nice to be complimentary!  It wasn’t very sweet, and the texture was quite dense and a little rubbery.

So, I went and looked at the recipe again.  I FORGOT THE SUGAR!  2 C UPS OF SUGAR!  Maybe the lack of sleep is catching up with me.  Maybe it was just a result of my haste to get this made while Carson slept.  Whatever the explanation for my mistake, it was a bad one.  This ranks up there with making a cup of coffee at my parents house over Christmas with one of those Tassimo makers and putting the mug upside down.  I have lost my mind.

I might try it warmed up in the microwave or possibly toasted with some butter.  I will probably try this again sometime.  I like the idea of the using the cookie crumbs as the flour, and I am interested to see the difference 2 cups of sugar makes.

Nilla Wafer Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 3.5 oz can of coconut (if you use bagged sweetened flaked coconut, just use 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 ounce box vanilla wafers, crushed
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 C chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Beat eggs well.
  2. Mix wafers and all other ingredients into eggs.
  3. Pour into greased and floured tube pan.
  4. Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sweet Potato Cake

Why I ever bought a can of sweet potatoes is a mystery.  I bake sweet potatoes every now and then, but I have never had a use for canned sweet potatoes.  I saw this can of potatoes and went to the trusty internet in search of something I could bake with it.  I found this recipe on cooks.com for sweet potato muffins.  I changed it to a sweet potato cake by simply baking it in a bundt pan. Here is the link.

Ben is not a sweets person, but he really liked this cake.  He even ate it for breakfast on 2 mornings last week, and he always has cereal.  When I make something that Ben eats without being asked to or having a piece served to him, I am pretty excited about it.  The cake is moist, the raisins and pecans add nice contrasts, and it is delicious.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes or yams, fresh or canned
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Grease and sugar a bundt pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Beat sugar, sweet potatoes and butter until smooth.
  4. Add eggs and blend well.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
  6. Add alternately with milk to sweet potato mixture, stirring just to blend. Do not overmix.
  7. Fold in raisins and nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch, and cake tester comes out clean.