Apple spice cake (another birthday!)

This is the birthday that didn’t want to happen. Obstacle after obstacle got in the way. This cake barely happened. My sweet sister is a amazing and was so understanding when we had to keep postponing birthday plans.

Lets back up. For my sister’s birthday last year I was set on making her a cake and dinner. I also had a six week old baby. I was sleep deprived and neurotic. If you had asked me which way was up I am uncertain if I could have told you. For some reason I latched on to the idea of making an orange blossom cake with a cranberry filling. She didn’t care for it, although at the time you would have never known. It was a less than spectacular attempt at a birthday cake. The cake itself was odd and barely tasted of orange but was a bit soggy. The filling was too runny and the frosting left something to be desired. I have no idea what I made her for dinner. She was a saint and was appreciative just the same.

Apple spice cake

This year I was determined to make her a cake she WANTED, not one I wanted to make. After much deliberation she picked an apple spice cake recipe I found a few months back. I got the cake made in time but the night before we were supposed to have everyone over for dinner Little got sick. He has never been sick. So plans for Friday (her actual birthday!) were cancelled. Thankfully I managed to get the cake together for a family get together on Saturday and it was a huge hit! Then we were supposed to make the cancelled dinner on Sunday but  I got sick, followed not but twelve hours later by Nathan. Seriously? So plans were postponed again. We finally got to go on her birthday shopping trip on Saturday (a week late) and I made the dish she picked out for her birthday dinner last night (a week and a half late). She is a saint.

But at least there was cake on the right weekend. Even if it was a day late, in light of how late the rest of the birthday plans went, the cake was almost early to the party. And was it ever a delicious. Moist, surprisingly rich, a bit spicy. Perfect.

Apple spice cake

And the best part? When she told me she liked her cake this year she wasn’t being polite.

Apple Spice Cake (make one 2-3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake)
adapted from Epicurious

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon, apple brandy, or rum (optional)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 medium Fuji or Gala apples (13 to 14 ounces total), peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (about 6 ounces)

Apple spice cake

Preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour two or three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then bourbon, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 additions alternately with applesauce in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in apples and pecans. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; peel off parchment paper. Place another rack atop 1 cake and invert again so that cake is rounded side up. Repeat with second cake. Cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 cup butter, room temp
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tbs milk
7 cups +/- Powdered Sugar

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese and butter, whip till light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar while mixing.  If too thick add milk one tablespoon at a time.  You are trying to achieve a medium stiff consistency. Whip for several minutes.

Assemble the cake

Place a large dollop of frosting on your plate or cake stand. Place one layer of the cake bottom side up on the frosting. Cover with about 1 cup of frosting. Place a second layer of cake on top of the frosting bottom side up. If you have a third layer simply cover the second layer with frosting and top with the last layer bottom side up. Frost cake as you wish.

Apple spice cake

A note on cake decorating- I took a fancy class recently to learn how to decorate cakes. It was a blast. I highly recommend that you take such a class if you can. However, for this cake I followed a tutorial from Sweetapolita (I have a huge blog crush on her). Her cake is MUCH prettier than mine but you can see how incredibly easy it is to decorate a cake like this.

Snickers ice box cake

Growing up my mom used to make this delicious desert with cookies and pudding. She layered vanilla and chocolate pudding with these plain cracker like cookies ubiquitous in every household in Spain. This particular desert was a staple on the menu at the camp we went to every summer. This means it was made in bulk. There was always leftover pudding to steal and, since it was my mom in the kitchen, I could usually swipe an extra serving or two.

I had to idea that desert was what is considered an ice box cake. The traditional ice box cake involved whipped cream and chocolate wafers. Over the years it has evolved to mean a layered desert of cookies and pudding, whipped cream, and/or frosting. Delicious.

When I saw this recipe for a snickers cake I knew I had to make it for Nathan’s birthday (he turned 30! last week). Nathan is a snickers fiend. Layers of peanut butter and chocolate pudding sandwiched between graham crackers that get a cakey texture are smothered in homemade caramel and chocolate ganache. It was gorgeous.

snickers ice box cake

I am kinda on the fence about this particular recipe. It was impressive looking for sure but I don’t really care for chocolate and peanut butter so… I felt kinda eh about it. He loved it so I guess that is all that matters. There will be more ice box cakes in my future. I’m sure of it.

snickers ice box cake

Snickers Ice Box Cake (serves 8-10)
Adapted from Bakers Royale

Ingredients:

1 box graham crackers

Pudding:
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 cups cold whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cups creamy peanut butter

Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons water
4 tablespoon butter
1/2 c heavy cream

Ganache pouring sauce
2/3 cups dark chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
4-5 tablespoons water, warm

Snickers, chocolate bits or peanuts for topping

snickers ice box cake

Make the pudding:
Combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a dry sauce pan. Whisk well to combine. Slowly add the milk while whisking. Place over medium heat and stir often.  Pudding is ready when it it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add vanilla to mixture. Split mixture in half and add chocolate to one half and whisk to combine. Add peanut butter to remaining half and whisk to combine.

Make caramel sauce:
Place sugar and water into a saucepan over medium low heat and stir the until sugar has dissolved. Dissolve any crystals forming on the side with a wet pastry brush. Once sugar has dissolved increase heat to high. At this point do not stir the mixture directly. Now and then, using the handle, give the pot a swirl to keep the mixture moving. The mixture will start to bubble after a minute or so. Once the mixture starts to turn a light golden shade, add the butter and heavy cream. The mixture will bubble wildly. Whisk to combine (bubbles will subside upon cooling). Set aside to cool completely.

Make ganache pouring sauce:
Place chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water. Let chocolate and cream sit for 2-3 minutes to melt without stirring. Then slowly stir mixture to combine. Add powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until pouring consistency is reached. Set aside and let sauce cool to warm.

snickers ice box cake

Assemble:

Create a sling by placing a piece wax paper in a bread pan with a 1 inch overhang on each side (I tested out three pans to find the one the graham crackers fit in best). Line the pan with plastic wrap.  Place graham crackers side-by-side until bottom of pan is covered. Spread a thin layer of chocolate pudding on top. Place second layer of graham cracker on top of chocolate pudding. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter pudding on top. Continue alternating layers with chocolate and peanut butter pudding while separating each pudding layer with a graham cracker layer. Finish with a graham cracker layer. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Unmold, plate and pour cooled caramel sauce on top and set aside to set. Pour cooled ganache sauce on top and add chopped Snickers, or chocolate bits and peanuts on top. Finish with caramel and chocolate drizzle if desired.

snickers ice box cake

A collection of party recipes and a very happy birthday (my favorites #7)

Little turns one today. We threw him the party to end all parties yesterday. A party to celebrate one tiny loved little boy and all the people who have been a part of his life. We are so blessed.

Happy birthday Little

I intended to photograph many of the recipes I made for Little’s birthday so I could share them on here. In the hustle and bustle of preparations and the actual party those intentions never materialized. So instead I present you with gorgeous party pictures and links to the some of the recipes I used.

The Party Spread

The table spread….

BBQ Broiled Tofu (Vegan)

Tofu counts as a new ingredient for me. I have eaten it many times but this was my first foray in to cooking it. I used this recipe from Peas and Thank you. It was delicious and so easy.

Delicious pulled pork

I served pulled pork sandwiches as it is something that is easy to make in advance and warm up right before the party. I used this recipe from Food Network (I only made the pork- not the sauce or coleslaw). So easy. So tasty. So much food. I will be eating this for the rest of the week.

Cilantro Lime Coleslaw

There is a local food cart that makes the best coleslaw. At Nathan’s request I tried to replicate it. My coleslaw was not as good as theirs but infinitely better than the usual plain coleslaw served with pulled pork. I made it the day before so the flavors had lots of time to mingle. Delish. Recipe here. I skipped the chile.

Pasta salad and potato salad

Pasta salad made by my sister and potato salad made by my mom. Both to die for.

Fruit and veggie tray - We juiced the leftovers

A party isn’t complete without a fruit and veggie tray. The homemade buttermilk ranch deserves its own post so you will just have to wait for the recipe. Ever wonder what to do with all the leftover veggies and fruits from a party? Throw them in your juicer the next morning. That’s what we did!

Party drink table

 

Party drink table.

Cupcakes and Cookies

Cupcakes and not so tiny cake for the Little. Also yummy sugar cookies.

Happy birthday Little

And last but certainly not least- gratuitous picture of cake smashing Little. He actually smashed it less than I anticipated. He mostly picked off the blue and yellow frosting circles then patted it a bit.

Happy happy birthday Little. Your daddy and I love you and are honored to be your parents.

Buttermilk cake with blackberries

Ok. Remember when I mentioned fall was coming and I was getting kinda excited about it? I made this tasty apple crisp? I take it back. Just a few more weeks of summer PLEASE!

Buttermilk cake with blackberries

Oregon is steadily making its march to fall. The mornings are cool and overcast but the afternoons are still warming up to 80+ degrees. Leaves are starting to fall and our little town is completely football crazed. There are still tiny hints of the beautiful hot summer we had. One of those last hints are the blackberries still on the bushes in my backyard. When we moved in to this house there were blackberries all around the shop. Thankfully Nathan didn’t get around to pruning them till they had flowers and I insisted he leave the blooms so we could have our own tiny berry patch.

Blue eyed Little blackberry nommer

It has turned out to not be such a tiny patch though. We have had so many berries this summer! My favorite part was feeding the berries to Little and watch him discover the yumminess. He will now just point at the berries excepting us to pick them for him. A couple of days ago I snuck out before it got dark and picked enough berries for this cake. One last recipe with our tasty summer berries.

So if, like me, you are clinging to the last bit of summer go run out and pick the last berries of the summer and make this cake.

Buttermilk cake with blackberries

Buttermilk cake with blackberries (makes one 9 inch cake)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups blackberries, plus more for serving

Buttermilk cake with blackberries

Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a 9-inch-round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with the 2/3 cup of sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the buttermilk and dry ingredients in 3 alternating batches, starting and ending with the dry ingredients; do not overbeat. Gently fold the batter just until blended, then scrape into the pan and smooth the top.

Scatter the 1 1/4 cups of blackberries over the batter; lightly press them in. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar over the cake. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out the cake and remove the paper. Turn the cake right side up and let cool completely. Serve with whipped cream and more blackberries.

Buttermilk cake with blackberries

Apple crumb bread

This past week we have gone from scorching hot (by Oregon standards) to sweaters and jeans. The first cool-ish day we had I made treats to take to my sister and brother in law. They finished their first triathalon and I promised them muffins. The next cool-ish day that I had a spare moment I whipped up this bread. As you might recall I posted this recipe in my favorites last week. I had some apples on the counter I intended to feed to Little but never got around to it. They were getting questionable so I happily chopped them up and put them in this simple recipe.

Between the cooler weather and my house smelling almost like Christmas I started to get that summer-is-almost-over panic. What? That doesn’t happen to you? It is this sinking feeling in my stomach and I just know we are in for rain, tasteless middle of winter tomatoes, and one too many meal of winter squash for the lack of other tasty veggies to eat. It feels like doomsday.

Apple crumb bread

So to remedy that feeling for dinner yesterday I had fresh locally grown sliced peaches smothered in full fat yogurt and granola.

Embrace summer friends. It is almost over. And when it is make this bread. But not before because it might send you in to a similar panic.

Apple Crumb Bread (makes 1 loaf)

Bread:
1/2  cup butter, softened
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
2  teaspoons baking powder
2  eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2  cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled apples, diced

Streusel:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3  tablespoons flour
2  tablespoons butter, softened
1/3  cup walnuts chopped

Apple crumb bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. If using a glass loaf pan bake 25 degrees lower. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugars together until combined. Add the buttermilk and baking powder; and beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; and beat until combined. Add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; beat until combined.

Toss the apples in a bit of flour before adding to the batter. By hand stir in the nuts and apples. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing in a small bowl the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Using a pastry blender or fork cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts or pecans. Sprinkle streusel over the batter. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool bread in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Apple crumb bread

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Cooking is my hobby. I am fairly competent in the kitchen, or at least I think so. However, when it came time to make these cupcakes, it was amature hour. My mind was clearly elsewhere. Where you ask? I have no idea. This was a disaster. It felt like the three stooges moved in. Despite my attempts to sabotage my own cupcakes, they turned out. Proof even a bad cook can make a good recipe. Think I am exaggerating? The following happened yesterday as I tried to make these:

1. The tiny carrots I had picked from my garden were in water. Said water was spilled all over my cookbook, counter and floor. Water was later found in the cupboards and drawers.

2. I tried to grate the aforementioned tiny carrots on my regular grater. I am sure if I had continued that course of action I would still be grating carrots. In the interest of time I did something I have never done before- I pulled out my Cuisinart and fitted it with the shredding disc. The tiny carrots didn’t want to grate. Well they did, but just not all the way.  I then had to pick  large carrot pieces out of the shredded carrot. Maddening.

Carrot cake cupcakes

3. I skipped a step in adding the ingredients. Who does this?!? After mixing the oil and sugar, I proceeded to add the flour mixture completely forgetting the eggs. Once all the flour was in the bowl I saw the egg carton. I debating trying to remove the flour but opted instead to turn on the mixer and quickly add all the eggs. To make up for the lumpy mess I scrapped down the bowl then turned the mixer on medium high and beat the living daylights out of it.

4. I forgot to preheat oven. Not the end of the world and, in my case, a blessing because when I went to turn the oven on I remembered to remove the pizza stones from last nights dinner. I was feeling smug. After scooping the batter into the muffin pans I popped them in the oven and started in on dishes. About 5 minutes later my oven beeped at me. It was to early for the timer so I stared blankly at the oven trying to figure out why it beeped. Oh. It was finally up to temp. Nearly 7 minutes into the baking time. Awesome.

5. They burnt. But out of the three pans only four cupcakes burnt. And it was only the bottom. What? There was no rhyme or reason to the ones that burnt too. My oven is always very very even.

6. I screwed up the frosting. I didn’t take time to read the recipe fully and after creaming the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar I just dumped in the whipping cream. Uh… You are supposed to beat it separately and fold it in. So again, I turned the mixer on medium high and prayed. The frosting is actually quite good although a bit runny. I refrigerated the cupcakes overnight and they were delicious the next morning. I was looking for a new cream cheese frosting what I can pipe so this clearly wasn’t it.

But as you can see they are beautiful. Moist. Carroty. Here are the recipes as they were written- however you can make the above modifications and they will still turn out. I would recommend skipping the part where you spill water all over your kitchen.

Carrot cake cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (makes 26 give or take)

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in one egg at a time mixing well after each addition. Combine flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt in a separate bowl Add to egg mixture and mix well. Add carrots and nuts and stir till combined. Pour into lined cupcake pan. Fill to 1/2 full. Alternatively pour in to a greased and floured 9×13 pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes for cupcakes, 45 minutes for a cake.

Carrot cake cupcakes

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

16oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, cold

Beat the cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then add the whipped cream into the cheese mixture and quickly and briefly beat to combine. Do not over beat.

Ps. Alternatively use this cream cheese frosting which is pipe-able. Also for some reason I feel the need to tell you that this carrot cake recipe has in fact won a ribbon at my local county fair and I will be entering it again this year. I have made it many times. I have no idea why I was such a screw up this time. In fact, the day went so poorly I completely abandoned all other cooking projects for the day. Some days are meant for cooking, others for beer. Yesterday was the latter.

Carrot cake cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Latte Cupcakes

I love birthdays. We have already discussed birthdays on this little blog in fact (here!). Birthdays mean presents, time with friends, happiness, candles, milestones, and of course cake.

You don’t even have to give me permission to make you a cake, or at least something sweet, for your birthday. I will just do it. As was the case with my friend Becky’s birthday yesterday. I knew her birthday was coming up and pondered for a week what to make for her. This girl loves coffee. A lot. I have been dying to make peach cupcakes for a while ever since I pinned a recipe but opted instead to scour the internet for the perfect vanilla latte cupcakes. Do you know how many latte cupcakes are out there!?! Somehow I stumbled upon one recipe that called for filling the cupcakes. Um. Yes please. Although it meant more steps I couldn’t pass up the idea.

Unfortunately my hands were full with Little yesterday so I couldn’t personally deliver them. Becky’s husband, Halsey, was my partner in crime and came to pick them up at my house mid afternoon so they would be waiting at home for her when she returned from work. Yey for birthday cupcakes AND surprises!

Happy happy birthday Becky. I hope you enjoyed them.

Vanilla bean latte cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Latte Cupcakes (makes 12)

1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup milk
6 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Scrape the vanilla bean and add with the pod and milk in a small pot. Heat the mixture and let it simmer for a few a minutes. Allow the vanilla to steep in the milk as it cools. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Sift together the dry ingredients. Remove the pod from the milk mixture. (You can wash and dry the pod for some other use.) Alternate adding the milk mixture and dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Mix each addition until combined. Fill the cupcake liners to half way. Bake at 350 °F for 15-18 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Vanilla bean latte cupcakes

For the espresso filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2 yolks
3 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso

Heat half the cream and 2 Tbs of sugar and the espresso in a small pot until just boiling. Whisk together the yolks and remaining sugar. Add half the hot cream mix to the egg mixture while whisking. Return the egg mixture to the pot with the remaining cream and and bring it to a boil while continually whisking. Allow it to boil for several minutes while it thickens. Strain the mixture and let it cool in another bowl. Whip the remaining cream to medium peaks and fold it into the cooked cream.

For the vanilla espresso frosting:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve the espresso powder in a tablespoon or two of water and add it to mixture along with the vanilla extract. Mix until combined.

Assembly:
Using a small paring knife, cut out the center of each cupcake at about a 45 degree angle so that you have cut out a cone shape with the wide part being the top of the cupcake. Fill each cupcake with a spoonful of the espresso cream. Now cut off the narrow part of the cupcake cone and replace the circular top of the cupcake. Frost each cupcake with a star shaped tip or any tip of your liking.

Vanilla bean latte trifles- made with leftovers from making the cupcakes

Notes- This frosting is out of this world good. I am going to remake it and use it to fill chocolate macaroons. Also this is an amazing vanilla cake recipe. These cupcakes are best after being refrigerated for a couple of hours. When you are finished coring, filling, and frosting the cupcakes you might find yourself with leftover cake bits, filling and frosting. Don’t toss them! Make tiny trifles by layering the leftovers in shot glasses and save for a late night treat for you and someone special.

Vanilla bean latte trifles- made with leftovers from making the cupcakes

Peppermint pattie cake

In the process of making this cake I got covered in chocolate. C.O.V.E.R.E.D. Oh and it was 7:30 am. I have mentioned before that Little gets up earlier than anyone should be up. Hence why I was impatiently messing with ganache early one morning.

Mike eating cake

Word to the wise- wait for the ganache to get thick before pouring it on the cake. When I say thick I mean thick. Be patient. Unless you prefer to be covered in chocolate in which case have at it. I don’t judge. Just don’t do it first thing in the morning. I ate more chocolate than was prudent before finishing my first cup of coffee. It happens sometimes.

I made this cake for my dear friend Mike. He and his lovely better half Bev joined our family of friends a few years back and are two of the kindest, most thoughtful, generous people I have ever met. Mike works in Afghanistan roughly six months out of every year and is heading back soon. We threw a big barbeque at our house so we all had a chance to say “we love you and come back safe!”

In trying to decide what to make for dessert I remembered Mike’s favorite candies are York peppermint patties. Like devour 40 in day kind of favorite. So what better way to send him off but with a cake studded with his very favorite. It was a hit. He devoured a double sized slice in under 5 minutes. The lucky guy even took the leftovers home. Mostly to save me from eating more chocolate than than anyone should first thing the next morning. I appreciated the gesture. Way to take one for the team.

This cake is rich. It is practically a brownie. The whipped cream to top it with is a must as is the mint sauce. Both cut the richness and add great depth. Only make this if you are feeding a crowd. Or want to eat more chocolate than you should. Either is a good choice.

Peppermint Pattie Cake

Peppermint Pattie Cake (16 servings)

14 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (6 ounces) small-diced peppermint pattie candies

Ganache Topping

1 cup cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Whipped cream, for serving

Mint Syrup, recipe follows, for serving

mixing the cake

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Butter a 9 1/2 to 10-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, and flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Melt the chocolate with the butter and cream in the top of a double boiler. Reserve.

In the bowl of a mixer with a whip, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and light (about 5 minutes). Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and mix until just blended. Add the flour, salt, and vanilla and mix until combined, scraping the bowl once or twice. Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl and stir in the Peppermint Pattie pieces. The mixture will be quite thick.

In a clean mixing bowl, with a clean whip, beat the egg whites to medium soft peaks. Lighten the batter by stirring in about one-third of the egg whites. Fold in the remaining whites and place the batter in the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 45 to 50 minutes. The top of the cake will feel set and very fine hairline cracks will just start to form around the edges. Remove and cool in the pan on a rack.

Delicious peppermint pattie cake

To make the ganache topping:

Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan to just under a boil. Add the chopped chocolate and, over very low heat, constantly stirring, cook the mixture until it is completely smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable. This can take several hours. You can make the topping up to 3 days ahead, refrigerate it, and allow it to come to room temperature for several hours before using. You can also hasten the cooling process by placing the melted ganache over an ice bath and gently stirring it till thickened; however, the resulting texture may not be quite as smooth and creamy.

Place the cooled cake upside down on a cardboard cake circle or a service plate. Remove the sides and bottom of the springform pan. Remove the parchment liner. Using an offset spatula, decoratively spread the ganache over what is now the top of the cake, drawing the ganache all the way out to the edges of the cake. Using the offset spatula, level the edges to give the cake a finished look. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and Mint Syrup.

blanching the mint

Mint Syrup

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2 cups packed fresh mint leaves

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down and simmer several minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely. Reserve.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Have a strainer and a bowl of ice water at the ready. Working quickly, place the mint leaves in the boiling water and blanch until just wilted (about 10 seconds). Immediately strain the mint and place the leaves directly in the ice water to set their color. Strain the mint again, pressing to remove excess liquid.

Place the mint leaves and half of the reserved syrup in a blender. Puree the mint, stopping several times to scrape down the blender bowl. Add the remaining syrup and blend for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a clean storage container and allow to sit overnight, covered, at room temperature.

Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solid mint puree. Store the syrup, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks. Shake or stir lightly before using.

Decorate peppermint pattie cake

Ps. I know this cake has what feels like 90 million steps and will most likely dirty every dish in your kitchen. It is time consuming and yes it will wreck your kitchen but trust me- it is completely worth it.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting

I have made a lot of cupcakes recently. A. LOT. Over 130 two weekends ago and 90+ this past weekend. I prefer to make cakes honestly as they have more of a “wow” factor but cupcakes seem to be the in thing these days. Besides Nathan loves that I make them because then he gets to taste test as I frost unlike a cake. Pretty sure no one misses a devoured cupcake but would notice if a slice of cake was missing.

So just putting the word out there- could someone order a cake next time instead of cupcakes? Or order cookies. Or bars. Or brownies. I am cupcaked out.

On to the cake recipe- in my quest for the perfect chocolate cake I have made more than I care to count. None hold a candle to this recipe. It tastes like box cake mix- in a good way. It is light, fluffy, has a good crumb and dirties exactly one bowl. Not to mention a well stocked kitchen should have all the ingredients on hand at all times.

This recipe comes from my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. I picked it up at a local used bookstore years ago. I love it to pieces. If you want to challenge yourself as a baker pick it up. I have only dared to make some of the recipes but everything comes out perfect on the first try. This cupcake recipe along with her pate brisee and swiss meringue buttercream are some of my go-tos in this book.

And the frosting- well it is ok. I don’t love this frosting but it gets good reviews. It is a bit soft when pipped so keep that in mind. Don’t set these out in hot weather. It takes advance planning since you have to let the base cool completely. Its one redeeming factor is that it looks stunning. Oh and it is easy (although time consuming) to make.

Simple. Tasty. Enjoy!

chocolate cupcake with vanilla bean frosting

Chocolate cupcakes (makes about 30)

1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 1/2 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
vanilla frosting
Vanilla Bean Frosting (Makes about 4 cups)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2  scraped vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened at room temperature

In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and is thick enough that it starts to become difficult to easily whisk. It should thicken considerably. Cook for 3-7 minutes tasting often (carefully!) to make sure that the flour is completely cooked.

Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cool to room temperature. If it is even slightly warm, the frosting won’t beat up properly. I made mine in the morning, left it on the counter, then finished the frosting in the afternoon. You could refrigerate it but let it come to room temp before proceeding.

Once the frosting is completely cooled to room temperature, beat the mixture with the vanilla on low speed until it is well combined, about 30 seconds. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat the frosting until all the butter has been incorporated fully. Increase the speed to medium-high. Beat the frosting for five FULL minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Let the frosting sit at room temperature until it is a bit more stiff, about 1 hour. Chill 30-60 minutes before piping.

Amazing Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting

 

Peanut butter pie (of sorts)

I have a confession. You say birthday I say cake. As in if I hear it is your birthday, your dogs birthday, your half birthday, etc I consider it an occasion to make you a cake. Nothing says I love you (to me at least) quite like homamade loveliness covered in frosting lovingly (although poorly) decorated. Precious little brings me as much joy as being part of a special occasion and being able to bring that person a whole pile of sugar love.

Aaron with Peanut Butter CakeSo last week when I heard it was Aaron’s birthday the first words out of my mouth were “Can I make you a cake?”His response was “Well I certainly am not going to turn you down so if you want to…” He requested peanut butter and chocolate. I was set out to make a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Have I mentioned I must be the one person on the planet that doesn’t like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate? However the birthday boy requested it so that was the kind of cake he was going to get.

And somehow this isn’t a cake. Well it is of sorts because it comes out of a springform pan but it more pie like. There is a graham cracker crust and a filling. I did make my very first parchment piping bag to drizzle chocolate over the top. It wouldn’t be a special occasion if I didn’t pipe something on to it. It actually looks ok for a change. I stumbled onto this recipe at sweetapolita.com and couldn’t resist making it.

Happy birthday Aaron. I hope you enjoyed it.

 Peanut Butter Cake

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

8 ounces chocolate graham crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mash up the graham crackers in to a fine powder (food processor, in a bag with a rolling pin, in a bowl with the bottom of a cup). Combine melted butter and  crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9 or 10-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Notes- The crust was a bit crumbly. If I were to remake it I would do one of two things- instead of just melting the chocolate and spreading it on I would add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to make it a ganache which I think would hold the crust together better. The other thing to try would be to add an extra tablespoon of butter. Just my two cents.

A Slice of Peanut Butter Cake