Autumn Delight Cake

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So it turns out this cake has more ingredients than any cake I have ever made! And when I started to write the cake description in the blog title, I realized that there are 18 words and two ampersands in the name. Yep. Okay, ready? The Autumn Delight cake is a 4-Layer Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream. When I tried to edit that, I realized that each one of those ingredients are key, and I couldn’t bare the thought of taking any words away. Okay, you’re right, I’m just being silly, but most importantly I am really excited about this cake. In my heart, I am drawn to all thing pastel and sprinkly, but there is a big part of me that just loves autumny, spiced flavours. At this time of year, my sister-in-law, Mary, makes that gorgeous southern sweet potato casserole dish that you have likely heard of or tried, that marries sweet potatoes, brown sugar, marshmallows, vanilla and pecans, and I thought it would be a nice treat to create a cake version of that dish. So on with the apron and into the kitchen I went . . .

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

What I love about this recipe is how moist, creamy, and unexpected some of the elements are. I made a sweet potato layer spice cake and added a generous quantity of crystallized ginger for texture and taste to the cake layers themselves, and then filled the cake with whipped toasted marshmallow filling (remember the one from this cake?) that I sprinkled with candied pecans for crunch (you even get those little buttery brown sugary bits that fall off the pecans every now and then). Since the filling was quite sweet, I decided to frost it with a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is fluffy, satiny and perfectly brown sugary and not-too sweet, in true Swiss Meringue Buttercream fashion. The neat part about making Brown Sugar Buttercream is that you essentially just switch the white sugar for brown sugar, and voila! The taste is really quite different and it was the perfect addition to this concoction–particulary when topped with a generous handful of the candied pecans and crystallized ginger.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So think about it this way: Every bite is crunchy, then brown sugar creamy, then dense, moist & spicy, then sweet and crispy, oh, and then crunchy, and then dense, moist & spicy, and then sweet and crispy, and oh, yet again crunchy, then dense, moist & spicy, then, alas, sweet and crispy, and then dense, moist & spicy. Help me, Rhonda.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

If the sweet potato thing is throwing you off your dessert-loving game, well, don’t fear. It’s much like carrot cake or pumpkin cake, and the texture is like no other–it’s dense yet light all at once. You have my word. I wasn’t sure either, but now I am pretty certain.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I once wrote that the Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing is my ultimate-tasting cake, and I have always stood by that statement because I meant it. Well, this cake comes a close second or possibly ties for first. Or possibly the unthinkable: it could be even better.

If you make this cake, just know that it does take some time, but I felt it was completely worth it, and I think it would make an incredible addition to any Thanksgiving event or any autumn day.

Autumn Delight Cake

Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake

Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream

Ingredients

    For the Cake Layers:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes (about 900 g)
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) crystallized ginger, chopped
  • For the Filling:
  • 16 large white marshmallows
  • 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
  • 1 cup butter (227 g)(2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 jar (213 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites (150 g))
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • a few pinches of cinnamon, to taste
  • For the Candied Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (24 g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (100 g) pecan pieces

Instructions

    For the Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and pierce them with a fork. Microwave until they are tender (about 7-8 minutes each side). Carefully remove the skin when cool enough to touch, and mash the flesh into a coarse puree.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled sweet potato puree and mix until combined.
  4. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to sweet potato mixture.
  5. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  6. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  7. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  8. For the Filling:
  9. Place marshmallows on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on lower rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, between 30-60 seconds. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the marshmallows over, and broil until they are golden brown. (Be sure to keep an eye on them--they burn very quickly.)
  10. In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and icing sugar on low until blended, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on med-high for about 3 minutes.
  11. Add marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute.
  12. For the Buttercream:
  13. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  14. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  15. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Add cinnamon to taste and blend.
  16. For the Candied Pecans:
  17. Melt the butter in a small pan. Mix in brown sugar, and add the pecans. Toss to coat.
  18. Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to watch carefully so they don’t burn.
  19. Turn out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and let cool for 5 minutes; break apart into smaller pieces if using halves.
  20. Assembly of the Autumn Delight Cake
  21. Slice both cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 4 cake layers.
  22. Place the first layer on a plate, pedestal or cake board cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread ~3/4 cup of Toasted Marshmallow Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge. Sprinkle with a handful of candied pecans pieces.
  23. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down and chill cake for 30-40 minutes.
  24. Frost cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and top with a generous handful of candied pecans and crystallized ginger.
  25. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but always serve at room temperature (Swiss Buttercream should never be served cold, as it goes back to a cold-butter texture).

Notes

* You can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze buttercream for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer. If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

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[cake layer recipe adapted from Martha Stewart]

[candied pecan recipe adapted from Creative Culinary]

Good luck & enjoy!

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Chocolate-Dipped Brownies {and a Giveaway!}

Chocolate-Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

*This giveaway is closed, but the recipe is still divine!

I love rich, silky chocolate. I also love brownies. And, well, sprinkles are my soul mate, so can someone please tell me how I never thought to marry them into one delightful and decadent bar before? It all makes so much sense, but yet, somehow, it never dawned on me.

So there I was, poring over every single recipe in the new book, Taste of Home Baking, All NEW Edition: 725+ Recipes & Variations from Classics to Best Loved!, and there it was: a recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Brownies. Needless to say I sashayed to the kitchen to whip these up, and although I wasn’t surprised, they tasted a good as I suspected they would. The reason I really enjoy this baking book so much, is because it’s made up seemingly endless (I think it’s almost 800!) recipes that have been contributed by home-bakers all over North America (I even spotted a recipe from a woman in Kitchener, Ontario, my home town, which I found very exciting for some reason). That aside, every single recipe in the book has been tested in the Taste of Home test kitchen, so there’s this comfort of knowing that the recipes are reliable and trusted.

*The sweetest gifts: From coffee cakes to cookies, Taste of Home Baking: All-New Edition offers dozens of home-baked gift ideas, and the book itself makes a valuable holiday gift; it comes with a free year subscription to Taste of Home (within the U.S.)

* Trimmed-down favorites, specially designed for health-conscious readers or those who have food allergies, such as gluten-free options.

* Troubleshooting tips that can help any home baker turn exasperation into elation, including step-by-step photos. 

*These are down-to-earth recipes that will warm the hearts of families who know the simple pleasure of gathering around the kitchen table for fresh-from-the-oven happiness.

Because I have a real thing for family recipes and comfort baking, I really connected with the whole concept of this book and, of course can’t help but feel the need to bake everything in it! The even better news is that the sweet folks from Taste of Home have generously provided me with a copy of this beautiful book to give away to one lucky reader (it also comes along with a year subscription to their Taste of Home magazine.). Some of the recipes that leapt off the pages (and are on my to-make list) are the Hot Milk Cake, Caramel Butter Cake, Peanut Butter Truffle Cupcakes, Candy Bar Meringue Torte (just to name a few) and, of course, these Chocolate-Dipped Brownies.

I found these to be a great make-with-the-kids treat, which always means a lot to me. They don’t even require an electric mixer, which is always a welcomed change. Reese was at school the morning we made these, but little Neve and I had a great time making them together (don’t worry, Reese got her taste test in after school!). I had Neve on sprinkle duty and, as you can probably bet, she didn’t mind.

Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

What is it about sprinkles that make life that much better?

Sweetapolita

The same goes for cute little cakelets.

Sweetapolita

 An official Sprinkle Sprinkler–imagine if that was a paying gig? Sign me up.

Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

I’m thinking these would be a nice addition to a Halloween party dessert table or to give away to close neighbours, friends and family as homemade Halloween treats. They would also, of course, be a nice addition to pretty much any day of the year.

For a chance to win this epic book, here are some giveaway details:

Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite baked good is. That’s it!

2. For an extra entry, tweet about this post (with the link) and include @Sweetapolita, then come back and let me know.

3. For an extra entry, tell your friends on Facebook (with the link), then pop back over here to let me know.

*Giveaway Completed

Winner will be chosen on Wednesday, October 26th at 12pm EST using random.org. Any entries received after this time will not be considered.

Be sure to check back for see if you’re the winner!

Here’s the recipe for these decadent (but simple!) treats:

Chocolate-Dipped Brownies        {click to print}

From Taste of Home Baking, All NEW Edition: 725+ Recipes & Variations from Classics to Best Loved!, contributed by Jackie Archer, Clinton, Iowa

Yield: 24 bars (1″ x 2.5″)

Ingredients

3/4 cup (150 g/5 oz) sugar

1/3 cup butter (75 g/2.5 oz), cubed

2 tablespoons (30 mL) water

4 cups (685 g/24 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, divided (I used premium chocolate for 2 cups dipping portion) – Callebaut Dark Callets 53.8 % (2 lb)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt

1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda

2 tablespoons (30 mL) shortening

Chopped pecans, jimmies, and/or nonpareils (optional)

Method

1. In a large saucepan, bring the sugar, butter, and water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat; stir in 1 cup of chocolate chip and vanilla until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes.

2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda; stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.

3. Bake at 325°F for 35 minutes or until set (see my note below). Cool completely on a wire rack. Place in the freezer for 30-40 minutes or until firm (do not freeze completely). Cut into bars.

4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chips with shortening; stir until smooth. Using a small fork, dip brownies to completely coat; shake off excess. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with pecan, jimmies and/or nonpareils. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container.

*Dipping Bars in Chocolate

* Melt the chocolate chips, baking chocolate or candy coating according to recipe directions. If necessary, transfer chocolate to a narrow container.

* To cover an entire bar in chocolate, use two forks to dip the bar into the chocolate and lift up. Gently shake the bar to remove excess chocolate. Place on a waxed-paper lined baking sheet to set at room temperature.

* If the chocolate cools too much to the bars properly, rewarm and continue dipping.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For easy removal of the baked brownie, I grease the pan and then line with parchment paper with an inch or so of overhang. Once brownies are cool and have been in the freezer for the 30 minutes, I then remove from pan using parchment overhang and place brownie on cutting board for clean and easy cutting.
  • Because this recipe calls for so much chocolate, I used standard chocolate chips for the brownie and premium chocolate for the dipping (I use semisweet Callebaut Dark Callets 53.8 % (2 lb))
  • I tend to like my brownies a little less cakey and bake them for less time than more, so I baked mine for 25 minutes (remove as soon as the top starts to crackle).
  • I cut the brownies into 1″ x 2.5″ bars before dipping.
  • I didn’t have shortening on hand, so I used 1 tablespoon of white corn syrup in its place.

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! I’m not completely sure how it became October, but I’ll take it. Last week was a busy one with some special cake projects on the go, including a fresh & summery cake for Wedding Bells magazine (that will be out in the new year, so I’ll be sure to share!). I was so immersed in summery inspiration boards and colour-palettes, that I almost forgot it was briskly turning to autumn. I have to admit that this is my favourite time of year for many reasons, but my autumnal association with caramel is right up there on the list. Well, that and Oktoberfest in my German-rooted hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, but since I haven’t been able to attend that craziness since I was in my 20s, I’ve moved on to the ever-comforting and endless list of caramel-ly recipes that call my name at this time of year.

I also tend to crave desserts with a bit more texture and depth of flavour, and these almond and pear cupcakes seemed like the way to go. Marzipan (or almond paste) gives the cupcakes a classic almond flavour and some additional ground almonds and bits of ripe pear add some wonderful texture. I decided to top them with some caramel Swiss meringue buttercream, because I think pear, almond and caramel taste incredible together and, well, caramel Swiss meringue buttercream is never a bad idea. You may remember it from this cake, with which I salted the caramel with sea salt, and since that too is never a bad idea, feel free to add some to the caramel if you wish.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

I first learned of the sweet almond-y goodness that is marzipan, back when I worked at my first job at Cafe Mozart–a German bakery in Kitchener, Ontario. Along with incorporating marzipan into some of the authentic baked goods, the pastry chefs would tint and shape the most adorable marzipan fruits and we would sell little clear cellophane gift bags of them tied with gold ribbon. The fact that this intrigued me as a teenager, should have been my first clue that I would have ended up here, but that’s another story. Sure they looked cute, but how good could a little hardened marzipan orange or banana taste? Well, if you like almonds and sweetness, pretty great. Who knew?

That being said, marzipan is a wonderful ingredient to create almond cake and cupcakes from, among other almond-based treats. You can typically interchange almond paste and marzipan, depending on what you have on hand. The main difference between the two is that marzipan contains more sugar than almonds, and almond paste contains more almonds than sugar, but the consistency is very similar. It’s a soft-but-dense paste that can be kneaded, coloured, shaped, rolled, or, as with these cupcakes, included into the batter itself.

I usually buy mine ready-made, but you can definitely make your own, as there are many recipes out there. I love the consistency of Odense brand marzipan, and I love that I can buy it at my regular grocer (baking section in a 200 gram package). I decided to create some gilded marzipan pears as cupcake toppers because I have a thing for making fruit and veggies out of sugar pastes, and I’m still smitten with the cuteness of mini marzipan fruit. In this case, I used a small bit of florist tape rolled into a stem and glittered it with non-toxic gold sparkles, because at the time I couldn’t find anything on hand to use that was edible, but since you want to be able to eat those little pear toppers, you could use a little piece of clove for the stem or anything else you may have that you feel would work well. I made these on a whim, so I wasn’t prepared for edible mini pear stems. Bad baking blogger. Bad.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

These treats were a nice change from my much-cherished vanilla cake and chocolate cake fixes, and I love the layers of flavour and natural tones. I hope you love them too.

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup + 2 teaspoons (240 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan, such as Odense Marzipan
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (140 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (4 g)
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup diced pear
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites (120 g)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • For the Marzipan Pears:
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan
  • Gold luster dust
  • Gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), optional
  • Clove for stem, optional

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line standard cupcake pan with cupcake/muffin liners of choice.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together, whisk and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar and marzipan until light, fluffy, and smooth--about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and for another moment until blended.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping side of bowl with spatula between additions, and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add dry mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Add ground almonds and diced pear (or puree) and mix by hand until incorporated.
  6. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, no more than 2/3 full, and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove cupcakes from tray onto cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven’t tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.
  9. Place 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (130 g) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Let cool.
  10. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  11. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.
  12. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  13. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  14. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.
  15. For the Marzipan Pears:
  16. Divide the marzipan or almond paste into 24 equal pieces or weigh each at 10 g for ease. Knead each piece to soften, then roll into ball and create pear shape using your fingers and make a small indent at the top and bottom of pear.
  17. Dust the pears with gold luster dust using a dry paintbrush you've designated for food and add a small bit of clove (or anything you desire for stem) and sprinkle the tops with gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), if desired.
  18. Let sit loosely covered at room temperature for a few hours and place atop frosted cupcakes before serving.

Notes

*I used Ateco tip #887 in a large pastry bag to frost cupcakes.

**Store finished cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, but be sure they are completely cool first. Best enjoyed day 1.

***You could easily make quick, simple and lovely marzipan pears without any luster dust.

****Marzipan toppers can become soggy if left in airtight container atop cupcakes--try to place them on right before serving or ahead of time if they won't be in container.

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[caramel buttercream adapted from Pear and Caramel Bundt Cake from Cake Duchess

Ginger Pear Cupcakes with Miso Salted Caramel from Cupcake Project

Caramel Pear Pudding from Taste of Home Recipes

Good luck & enjoy!

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An Epic Tale of Vanilla Cake {and my 1st Blogiversary}

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Update (June 2012)! You can find a video tutorial for this frosting technique here.

It’s true–it’s been one year since I started this blog. When I think back about how it all came to be, I recall waking up one day last summer and realizing that my poor husband was never going to survive a lifetime of listening to my frequent baking tales, no matter how hard he tried–it was that simple, at first. I wish I was kidding, but, truly, this poor man has put in some serious time listening to my occasionally wordy-yet-passionate descriptions and raves about baked goods! I also felt that something was missing from my creative life, so, I figured I better share all of my baking love in some other way. When the idea of a baking blog entered my mind, I knew it would be a perfect outlet to express myself, but honestly, I had no idea if anyone would actually read it, and I didn’t realize what an amazing outlet and lifeline it would become for me. This blog is so much a part of me now, that I don’t know what I would become without it, so thank you all so much for your visits, sincere comments, and enthusiasm–it astounds me daily, and it means more to me than you could ever know. You can read my first post (kind of embarrassing) here. Yikes–okay, okay, go easy on me!

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

As I looked back on the recipes I’ve shared over the past year, I came to realize that I may have a slight thing for vanilla cake. And, well, seeing as I counted a total of 30 cakes in my recipe index so far, well, I may need to accept that my cake addiction may be an actual condition for which I may want to seek medical attention. Call me a hopeless romantic, if you will (or maybe just a girl who really loves cake), but I figure if you’re going to love something, you better love it with every fiber of your being. That being said, I realize it must be a bit overwhelming to visit my recipe index and find so many vanilla cake options, so I’ve given a little description of each below to help those who were curious about what differentiates them. So many of them are similar, but the recipes are varied slightly, by ingredients and method. I’m forever epicurious and can’t help but attempt any yummy-looking vanilla cake recipe in search of the the perfect vanilla cake.

For my taste, perfect is a light, moist, and borderline cake mixish (gasp) vanilla butter cake that I use for both buttercream covered and fondant covered cakes. I recently came across a recipe that was as close to this as I’d ever seen (that being said, I still love the others!). This was an amazing discovery for me, because since I’ve been baking scratch cakes, I tend to prefer serving chocolate cake–mostly because of its fabulous ability to stay moist and fresh for days. But, in my heart I’m a vanilla cake with pastel vanilla frosting and sprinkles girl. I just am.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, I’ve been making the fabulous Fluffy Vanilla Cake recipe now for weeks, and I make it every chance I get. I love it. It changed my life! I loved seeing your enthusiasm for this cake, and I’ve received more emails about making that cake than anything else I’ve made–so many of you are enjoying vanilla cake success and bliss, but I noticed that some of you are having some issues with the batter “curdling,” once you add the liquid, which then likely caused your cakes to sink in the middle and be more dense. I know how frustrating cake fails can be, so I really wanted to try to make that better so you too could enjoy this incredible cake.

The points of difference in this recipe versus a typical vanilla butter cake, from what I can see, would be the large number of egg whites and the reverse creaming method, created and encouraged by famed baker Rose Levy Beranbaum and her book (one of my all-time favourites) The Cake Bible. The thing is, with so many egg whites and a cup of milk, if there’s even a tad too much liquid, the batter becomes unstable. There is a version of this cake in Rose’s book called White Velvet Butter Cake, which is almost exactly the same, but calls for more cake flour, less egg white, and less sugar. Both of these recipes using the reverse creaming method, although the directions are slightly different. I found that the White Velvet Butter Cake is perfectly stable, easy to make, and delicious. I would say that it may be just a bit less light and fluffy, but incredible.

So, long story short, I’ve modified the Fluffy White Cake recipe we’ve been using, to have just a bit less egg milk and egg white, in hopes that it will be more reliable to make, and the results tasted and looked great to me. Depending on how you measure your ingredients, it’s easy to have too much liquid, so I definitely recommend weighing your egg whites, to be sure. Well, for me it’s so important to weigh all of the ingredients to ensure a successful cake–I find too much or too little flour, in particular, can throw an entire cake’s texture off, which is too bad because it’s easy to have that happen if you don’t weigh it, but then think it’s the recipe’s fault, so to speak. Lastly, when I make this cake, I use Rose’s exact reverse creaming method from her book, although the method was a bit different (very slight) on the original Baking Bites recipe. You can try both methods and see what works for you, if you’re really determined. Confused yet?

That being said, here are the images of me making the fluffy vanilla cake recipe in hope that it answers some of the questions you’ve been asking about making the batter:

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, the first step is mixing the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds…

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Then you add the butter and the remaining milk (1/4 cup is added to the egg whites and vanilla to be added next), and mix on low speed just until the ingredients are moistened. Then mix on medium speed (I use #4 on my Kitchen Aid) for exactly 90 seconds–this is really important, so that you don’t overmix the batter. Rose (the creator of this reverse creaming method) explains this is “to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.”

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

This is how my batter looks after the 90 seconds of mixing on medium speed.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Next I add gradually add the milk mixture (1/4 cup milk that’s been gently mixed with the vanilla and egg whites) starting with 1/3, and mix on medium for 20 seconds–no more, no less.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Here it is after 2 of the 3 additions of the egg white mixture have been added and each mixed for 20 seconds. It shouldn’t look curdled, but nice and smooth.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Finally, here it is after the final third of the liquid mixture has been added. Again, it should be smooth, but not curdled. If it’s curdled, in my experience that means there’s too much liquid, and the cake will sink in the middle when you bake it.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

And, finally here are the cakes baked and cooling, and this method really works for me, so I really hope it helps you along in some way! I should also mention that using the two 9-inch pans or two 8-inch pans tends to yield the best result for this recipe, and, typically, I find it’s best to stick to the cake pan size that any recipe recommends. It’s not to say you can’t play around with cake pan sizes/shapes, but, especially when you make a certain cake recipe for the first time, it’s likely the best way to get an accurate result.

As I mentioned, my vanilla cake recipe list is growing, and it must be a bit confusing to know which one is what you’re looking for, so I’ve done my best to include a quick description of each one:

Classic Vanilla Butter Cake: One of the first vanilla cakes I made for the blog. It’s a traditional vanilla cake using whole eggs and whipped egg whites and cake flour to lighten batter: moist, delicious, slightly dense. Straight-forward method and tastes great.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting (the one we just made): The lightest, fluffiest vanilla cake, and one of my favourites. Uses only egg whites (not yolks) and cake flour for light crumb and reverse creaming method. Can be unstable if too much liquid is added.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles: A delicious vanilla bean cake made with buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour using the traditional butter cake method of creaming, adding eggs, and alternating dry & wet ingredients. It has gorgeous flavour, is very moist, but not as light and fluffy as above. I love this cake.

My Baker’s Crush: BAKED (and The Whiteout Cake): A delicious butter cake from the famous BAKED bakery in NYC. Some ingredients are butter and shortening, cake flour and all-purpose flour, ice cold water, and egg whites. It’s made by creaming fats, alternating wet & dry, and folding in whipped egg whties. It’s heavier than the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, but delicious and unique.

Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake: This vanilla cake recipe was originally from Whisk Kid, and I find it perfect for the rainbow cake. It’s also very close to Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake in that it has egg whites, cake flour, butter, but it is made with the tradtional creaming method. It’s light and stable.

Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze: A very vanilla traditional bundt cake that bakes up beautifully, but has a heavier texture than vanilla layer cake.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake: This is another version of an egg-white vanilla butter cake, that I really love. It uses the creaming method and some key ingredients are buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour. It’s not the lightest, but tastes incredible and is very stable.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting This recipe comes from the book Sky High, and it’s a gorgeous vanilla butter cake made with buttermilk and whole eggs. It’s also a very straight-forward cake to bake and it tastes great. It has a golden finish due to the whole eggs.

I hope this helps! Here’s the modified cake recipe that I find to be a little more consistent in results:

*Notes: If you have made the Fluffy Vanilla Cake prior to my modifying it, and had success, you can keep the recipe the same as it was, which was 1 cup of milk and 6 egg whites (the recipe I use).

Fluffy Vanilla Cake {modified}          {click to print}

Yield: One 2-layer, 8-inch round cake or 9-inch round cake

*Very fluffy and light, but can be a bit more challenging if even a fraction too much liquid is added.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (5 ounces/150 grams) at room temperature

3/4 cup whole milk (180 mL/6 liquid ounces), at room temperature

2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (12.5 mL) — I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (10 ounces/285 grams–weighed after sifting)

1 3/4 cups sugar (12 ounces/350 grams)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder (19.5 grams)

3/4 teaspoon salt (5 grams)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/170 grams), at room temperature and cut into cubes

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.

2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.

4. Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds.

5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

6. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.

7. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not overbake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.

8. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked.

*Slightly adapted from Classic White Cake recipe on Baking Bites

Frost with the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting for the ultimate vanilla cake experience.

You may enjoy my 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes post.

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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Cake Batter & Sprinkle Bark

Cake Batter & Sprinkle Bark via Sweetapolita

I think I’ve found my sugar & sprinkles soul sister recently. I really do. The funny thing is, I had popped by Jessica’s blog from time to time when I would spot her yummy treats linked by friends on twitter, but I didn’t really get a chance to sit down and really take a good long look through her recipes until this past week. That’s when I came across the sprinkled masterpiece of epic proportion: her cake batter chocolate bark. Much like Jessica, I wasn’t what I’d really consider a “bark person” until this recipe came along, but what’s so fabulous about it, aside from the obvious delightfulness, is that it took me 5 minutes active time to make this (and about 5 to eat it–whoops). That’s the incredible thing about this, and about bark recipes in general: you take existing chocolate (of any kind, but the better the chocolate, the better it will be, since it’s really the only ingredient), melt it down, spread it out, add some bits & bites of yumminess, set it, break it and . . . ta-da!

Cake Batter & Sprinkle Bark via Sweetapolita

The possibilities are endless, which is why making your first batch of bark can be a wee bit dangerous. You may find yourself rummaging frantically through cupboards, pantries, and old handbags, looking for random candy bits, nuts, dried fruit, or pretty much anything tasty to create your next batch. It’s so fun, simple, quick, and rewarding, which is why I fear I’m hooked. If you don’t believe me, you can see what else Jessica has discovered, or what Naomi, Michelle, or Maria have to say about their experiences with bark. Go on, you’ll see.

Cake Batter & Sprinkle Bark via Sweetapolita

My kind of party.

Sprinkle Bark via Sweetapolita

Oh crumbs — it’s almost gone? How did that . . . who took my . . . where did the . . .

Who me?

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do. There’s something seriously therapeutic about tossing handfuls of sprinkles onto shiny, gorgeous, silky melted quality chocolate. There may be something even more therapeutic about snapping off a rainbow-coloured piece of that same chocolate and tasting rich chocolate and crunchy bits of sprinkles all at once. I’m not sure life gets any better than that.

Why not make a batch of this, wrap it in a fun crystal clear cello bag and tie it with some fun polka dot ribbon for birthday party favours?

I’m off to whip up a collection of birthday cakes for a special friend this weekend, but I’ll be back very soon with that vanilla cake post I mentioned on Wednesday and then next week I’ll be celebrating my very 1st blogiversary!

If you haven’t had the joy of browsing Jessica’s heartfelt, humorous, and incredibly delicious blog how sweet it is before, I definitely recommend it. You will likely come across several other cake batter recipes–this girl can concoct some seriously decadent creations. Come to think of it, she and I could create some serious mischief together. We should get on that.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Cake Batter & Sprinkle Bark

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (180 grams) high quality dark or extra dark chocolate, chopped
  • 12 ounces (360 grams) high quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) white cake mix
  • sprinkles of choice (jimmies, non-pareils, Wilton gold edible star sprinkles, etc.)

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Chop chocolate. Melt dark chocolate either in the microwave or a double boiler. If using microwave, place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe container (I use a Pyrex glass measuring cup), and heat for 20 second intervals, stirring each time with a silicone spatula. Be careful not to burn the chocolate--when there are just a few small bits left un-melted, you can simply continue to stir until it is completely smooth.
  3. Pour melted dark chocolate onto your parchment/mat and spread (with a small offset spatula for ease) until desired thickness is achieved. Freeze for 20 minutes to set.
  4. Melt your white chocolate. Whisk in cake mix slowly, stirring well until smooth. Let it sit for approximately 3 minutes (or at least until it slightly thickens).
  5. Remove pan with set chocolate from the freezer and pour white chocolate on top, repeating the same spreading technique as you did with the dark chocolate. Toss sprinkles on right away. Freeze for 20 more minutes.
  6. Once set, break or cut into pieces. Store in the refrigerator.
  7. Try not to beat yourself up when you repeatedly sneak and snack on pieces every time you open the refrigerator for something else.
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http://sweetapolita.com/2011/09/cake-batter-sprinkle-bark/

*slightly adapted from how sweet it is “cake batter chocolate bark”

Good luck & enjoy!

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