Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? ūüôā

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) ūüėČ

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!


Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.) 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

Click here for a printable version.

S’mores + Cake. Oh yes.

So, apparently, I’ve developed a reputation. I’m the destroyer of good intentions. The diet-breaker. The one who shows up to Bible study with a dessert that features 3 sticks of butter and 3 cups of sugar. (Cut me SOME slack here… it was a 9″ x 13″ pan; there was fruit in it; AND I used some whole wheat pastry flour. And they were every bit as good as they sound. Moving on.) ūüôā

In spite of the evidence against me (all¬†circumstantial, of course), I do make some things that aren’t complete calorie-bombs. Mango pineapple salsa. Maple walnut granola. Chickpea pasta. Quinoa with mango and black beans. I do my best to make sure we’re eating our veggies, and I’m trying to get outside for a walk at lunchtime each day.

But… let’s be honest. Making fancy desserts is FUN. At least for me. Give me a Saturday in my kitchen, just me and some butter, sugar and the KitchenAid mixer, and I’m as happy as a clam. (Side note: Can anyone explain what exactly makes clams happy? They sit in the mud/sand all day, hoping they don’t end up in somebody’s chowder.)¬†

And that brings us to the cake I made for the first cookout of the year, hosted by my partner-in-cake-decorating-crime. What’s better at a cookout than s’mores? Especially at a cookout with a bonfire! I went back and forth, trying to decide between s’mores cupcakes and an actual s’mores cake. Finally, I went with the s’mores cake… simply because I’ve made the cupcakes before, and I love to try something new. Especially when I have a willing bunch of test subjects.

Oh, and I got to play with my kitchen torch too. Best. Day. Ever. ūüėÄ


S’mores Cake

For the cake:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely processed into a powder (this takes about 14 graham crackers)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (I did the ‘add molasses to light brown sugar” trick here.)¬†
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

For the filling:
1/2 lb. milk chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 pinches of salt

For the frosting:
4 large egg whites (save the yolks and make some ice cream!)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9″ round cake pans, and then line the cake pans with parchment paper. Then, butter your parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Once the eggs are beaten into the butter, add one-third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix briefly. Add about half of the buttermilk and mix briefly again. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and then the rest of the buttermilk, giving the batter a quick mix in between. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, scrape the sides of the bowl, and mix until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. (I channeled my inner nerd and got out my kitchen scale, weighing each pan to be sure they were even.) Smooth the batter in the pans, and then bake until the cakes test “done” with a toothpick, about 30-35 minutes. (I checked at 28 minutes, and then at 33.)¬†Remove pans from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before proceeding.

To make the filling, place the chocolate in a small, heat-proof bowl. Pour the cream and the salt into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and then place the bowl with the chocolate in the water bath to thicken and cool, stirring occasionally.

When you’re ready to assemble the cake, place one round on a cake stand. Spread the chocolate filling on the top of the layer and top with the second cake layer.

Next, make the frosting. (Since this is a marshmallow frosting, you’ll want to use it as soon as it’s done.) Place the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly, cooking until the sugar is dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch. Place the bowl on the stand mixer, and, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. (You’ll want to start at a low speed and gradually work your way up to a high speed.) Add the vanilla and mixture until combined.

Frost the cake with a thin coating of the marshmallow frosting, sealing in all of the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes or so, to firm up the crumb coat. Using an offset spatula, spread the rest of the frosting all over the cake in thick dollops. Take a spoon, and create swirls in the frosting with the back of the spoon (similar to this technique). When the cake is swirled to your liking, brown the frosting with a kitchen torch set on the low setting.

Serve within a few hours. (I baked the cake on a Saturday morning, then frosted about an hour or so before the cookout. We cut into the cake about four hours after it was finished, and it was still in good shape. And while the leftovers tasted great the next day, the frosting had started to melt/dissolve.)

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

Berries, Cream and Cake, All in One

A few months ago, Andy put in a request for angel food cake. Since he doesn’t request things often, I do my best to accommodate him when he does ask for something specific. (Except for meatloaf. I’m still working through my issues with that dish.) So, I added angel food cake to my “must bake” list and began looking for an occasion worthy of such a dessert.

Lucky for me (and Andy… it’s his request, after all), April rolled around with its plethora of birthdays, and I was appointed to make the dessert for our “April birthday dinner.” Perfect timing! And, to make things even better, I stumbled upon this fun version of angel food cake. (Because we know that I’m incapable of leaving well enough alone…)¬†I was a little nervous about this technique because I didn’t know if the angel food cake would be sturdy enough to handle the rolling, unrolling, filling and then re-rolling, but it worked great! No cracks in the cake, and it kept its shape in the fridge until party time.

It was a definite success. There were oohs. And aahs. And lots of mmms. And we demolished it. At the end of the night, I confiscated the one remaining piece and took a picture just so I’d have something to share with the blog world. (And then I stashed it in the fridge so I could enjoy it the next day. Cook’s¬†privilege, right?) ūüôā

The only downside? I strayed too far from tradition for Andy. Apparently, what he wanted was an angel food cake (in the traditional shape) with chocolate frosting. Berries and cream, tucked in a cute roll, was too much of a change for him. (Not that it stopped him from enjoying multiple slices…) So, his request for an angel food cake still stands. Looks like I need another occasion.


Strawberries and Cream Angel Food Cake Roll

For the cake:
9 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
powdered sugar, for dusting

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla (I’ll be honest; I didn’t measure this here. It’s vanilla. Can there really be TOO much?)¬†
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
4 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Side note: be sure your mixing bowl is clean and dry before the egg whites go in.) 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. Lightly spray the waxed paper with cooking oil. (Yes, waxed paper. All the rolled cake recipes I’ve seen call for it. I’d guess that you could use parchment paper if waxed paper weirds you out.)¬†

Once your egg whites have come to room temperature, add the cream of tartar and the vanilla to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly beat in the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. As you add the sugar, increase the speed to high and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Gently fold in the flour 1/4 cup at a time.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes.

Place a clean, dry, cotton towel on the counter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Carefully flip the cake out of the pan and onto the towel. Peel the waxed paper off the cake and then roll the cake up inside of the towel, starting with the short end. Allow the rolled cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake has cooled, prepare the filling. Beat the whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl until semi-stiff peaks form. Gently fold the diced strawberries into the whipped cream.

Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the strawberries and cream mixture all over the inside of the cake. When the inside is covered in filling, re-roll the cake (not the towel this time). Place the cake on a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar. Chill until ready to serve.*

*I made this on a Saturday afternoon and served it Saturday evening, and the cake held up well in the fridge for that amount of time. The ONE lonely piece that survived until Sunday was also in pretty good shape the next day. However, since it didn’t make it past noon on Sunday, I can’t verify how long you can keep in this in the fridge. ¬†

From Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

Chocolate Love

This past week, I tackled the biggest baking challenge of my life thus far. (And no, I don’t think I’m exaggerating here.) I made (and successfully transported!) a wedding cake!

The bride is a girl after my own heart – this was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. After all, if we’re going to have cake, why bother with anything else?

In spite of my somewhat irrational concerns (would the top layers crush the bottom layer? would the cake topple over in the fridge? what if the power goes out and the entire thing melts in the 90+ degree heat?), things went smoothly! I baked the cake layers on Monday, then froze them so they’d be easier to work with. I then made the frosting on Tuesday and began crumb coating on Wednesday. Thursday was the final coat of frosting, then doweling and assembly! Friday afternoon, I added the flowers and then sat with the cake on my lap while Andy carefully navigated around every bump in the road between our home and the reception site. (And then we went to Chipotle to celebrate… mmm, burritos.)

So, a big congrats to Katie and Daniel! Thanks for trusting me to be a part of your special day! ūüôā

Close-up of the flowers and detail on the cake.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting 

8 ounces of cream cheese
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/3 cup of dark chocolate cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream, as desired

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add in the cocoa and powdered sugar and mix until well combined. Increase the speed on the mixer and beat until frosting is light and fluffy (in texture, not color… we’re talking chocolate here!). Mix in the vanilla and then thin with milk or cream to reach desired consistency.

Store extra (umm, what?) in the fridge, or spread it on brownies, graham crackers, etc.

*Side note: I find this frosting a little too soft for super detailed piping. It works well for something basic, like the simple round trim I put between the layers of the cake, or for the large swirl on these cupcakes, but I can’t get it to hold up for stars or ruffles. But maybe that’s because it’s 95 degrees out.¬†

(This is my favorite chocolate frosting. It’s smooth and dark, super chocolaty, but not overly sweet. I could eat with a spoon, but I tried to restrain myself and only put it on the cake.)

From Peace, Love & French Fries

Chocolate Cake

2 cups & 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups & 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350. If using round cake pans, butter and flour pans then line with parchment paper. If making cupcakes, line cupcake pans with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture into the mixing bowl and mix for 30 seconds on low. Increase the speed to medium and beat for two minutes. After two minutes, pour in the boiling water, then mix briefly to combine. (The batter will be thin Рdo not panic!) 

Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake until cakes test done with a toothpick. (It takes about 30 minutes for me to do the 9″ cake and about 20 minutes for cupcakes.)¬†

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove cake from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

This is my go-to chocolate cake. It makes enough for two 8″ or 9″ pans, or for 24 cupcakes. I obviously made a couple of batches to make the wedding cake!¬†

From Annie’s Eats

Congrats, Class of 2012!

This month, I’ve had the¬†privilege¬†of making cake for two graduation parties. One was a large sheet cake, and the other was a hat-shaped cupcake cake. I had a blast brainstorming the cakes, putting everything together and baking up a storm!

For the first party, I made a four-layer sheet cake, covered in lemon¬†Swiss¬†meringue buttercream. Class colors were gold, green and purple, so I used gold buttercream for the writing and detail piping, with green and purple sprinkles for a little extra pop.¬†Inside, the left half of the cake was lemon, with a lemon curd filling. The other half of the cake was raspberry, with a mixed berry curd filling. Everyone loved it, and there wasn’t any left by the end of the party! (A big thanks to Andy, who helped me haul this cake in and out of the fridge multiple times… this one was a beast!)


Please ignore my slightly-out-of-perspective picture. I need a wide-angle lens for one this big, I think.

For the cupcake cake, I made Annie’s vanilla bean cupcakes with my new favorite frosting – chocolate cream cheese frosting. Karen and I shaped the cupcakes into a mortarboard, then topped them with a licorice rope tassel. For the accent cupcakes, I made chocolate cupcakes with a quick buttercream frosting. I used the cake base from Annie’s Smores cupcakes (my favorite chocolate cake).

Class colors were black and red, and to avoid using an entire bottle of food coloring, I used red cupcake liners for all of the cupcakes and dotted the tops with red sprinkles. (Because sprinkles make everything a little happier.) And a few lucky cupcakes were topped with graduation picks.

And it’s slightly out of focus, but hey, it was 10:30 at night when we finished!


Why hello, super-tasty chocolate frosting.


So, here’s a big congrats to the class of 2012! Thanks for giving me an excuse to try some new recipes and techniques in the kitchen! Way to go! (And way to make me feel incredibly old…)¬†