KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway + A Sweetapolita Book Update

Sweetapolita Giveaway Hi friends!

Just when I said that I was “back” on a regular basis, I got swooped up by another frenzy of book stuff, but I’m excited to report that I have done all of my final photos and most of the main edits, so this time I really am back!

I’m also excited to tell you that my book is scheduled to come out on April 7th, 2015! That does seem like quite some time away, but I just know it will be here in a blink. I can’t wait to reveal all of the sweets and treats and I’ve been working so hard on for the past 15 months. While I’ll keep the details a surprise, just know that, aside from tons of my favourite basic recipes for creating your own designs, this book of mine includes imaginative decorated cookies, layer cakes, tiered cakes, sweets for cakelets, and sprinkles galore!

In celebration of completing the book, I’m giving away this amazing KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer in “Ice”–one of my favourite colours in the universe. Hooray!

Sweetapolita Giveaway

Prettiest mixer ever. ♥

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and I will be back next week with *the* most adorable cake from one of my favourite new cookbooks!

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{My Favourite} Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

While these cupcakes aren’t anything super-frilly or fancy, they are my best-loved and most-baked treat, so it seemed only natural to share them with you. This past weekend we celebrated my sweet cakelet Reese’s 7th birthday (how is this possible–didn’t she just turn 4 and decorate this Rainbow Doodle Cake?), and we had almost 20 little girls are her party. I made a really neat rainbow vanilla cake for the girls, but because Reese loves chocolate cake and cupcakes best, I made a few dozen of these rich, dark chocolaty cupcakes and topped them with fluffy, creamy swirls of blue-ish frosting and colourful quin sprinkles.

Aside from being perfectly party-pretty, the cupcakes are incredibly moist and not overly sweet, and the frosting is whipped to an airy consistency ideal for piping higher swirls (a denser sugary frosting with these generous swirls could be buttercream-overkill).

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Reese and I thought it would be pretty to create a bit of pastel swirly effect with a mix of white, turquoise and a pastel shade of sky blue (kind of reminiscent of the Pastel Swirl Cake). To keep it easy, I simply divided the frosting into 3 parts, tinted 2 and left one the creamy white colour, and then scooped a bit of each colour into a large piping bag fitted with Ateco swirly decorating tip #887 for billowy swirls.  Really quick and easy, and even kid-friendly.

You can certainly use any array of colours you wish, but just note that because the frosting is doing a lot of blending during the piping process, you might want to stick with different shades and tones of the same hue for the most part, and maybe incorporate one other colour at the most (I love purple or bright pink with these colours).

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Because the cupcakes are a one-bowl situation, they couldn’t be simpler. And to really get that enchanting dark-as-night chocolate colour, be sure to use a quality dark cocoa powder. I’ve also modified this recipe to include a very generous dose of the cocoa powder, ensuring an ultimate chocolate cupcake. For the frosting, well, it’s a version of the sweet frosting I’ve used many times here on the blog, but the secrets are using the best pure vanilla extract you can find, and the extensive whipping. You’ll get some air bubbles, but it’s worth it for the fluffy, dreamy texture. Simply use a rubber spatula to beat the frosting back-and-forth a bit to knock out of the bubbles, and it will be ready for piping swirls aplenty.

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

I think every baker needs a go-to chocolate cupcake and party frosting, and I don’t think I could live without this combination. My non cake-eating husband can’t even resist these, and neither can I (believe it or not, I’m actually really particular with the cake and cupcakes I’ll eat). So easy, so beloved. The recipe is for 12 cupcakes, but this recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled–you’ll thank me!

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Cakelets and cupcakes. ♥

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) coffee, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops AmeriColor gel paste food colour in Turquoise and Sky Blue
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 360° F. Line a standard cupcake pan with your favourite cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the liners (about 3/4 full).
  5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cupcake comes out with a only a few crumbs, about 18-20 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cupcakes cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.
  8. Add confectioners' sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.
  9. Decorate the cupcakes:
  10. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint one part of the frosting bright turquoise using Turquoise, one part pastel blue using Sky Blue, and leave the remaining part white.
  11. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip (or swirl tip, such as #887), add a spatula-full of each frosting colour. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in. Top with sprinkles.
  12. The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!

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Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere!

I was looking through some older posts the other day, and I came across these Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting. And while I’ve never been fixated on Nutella desserts, I had almost forgotten how much I loved the way the sweet and hazelnutty flavour and creamy texture of Nutella added a much-welcome addition to these otherwise classic (but awesome) chocolate cupcakes.  So this week I decided to make a super-simple, quick and easy cake version of those cupcakes, embracing quality dark chocolate, extra dark cocoa powder and, of course, Nutella.

Simply put, the frosting is magical. Like unicorn and rainbows magical.

I have this thing about chocolate frosting. I kind of need it to be airy and satiny, as opposed to super-fudgy and dense–I think it pairs so well with a deep, dark moist chocolate cake, such as this one. This frosting is a take on that same Nutella Cloud Frosting I had used on the cupcakes, but I decided to add much more Nutella and a generous amount of sour cream to balance out the sweet. Rather than using the mixer, I just popped everything into my food processor and gave it a 60-second spin or so. The result was the creamiest and richest sweet chocolate frosting I’ve ever tasted.

In addition to the Nutella, we add a good dose of extra dark premium melted chocolate (I used a 70%) to help keep some of the intense chocolate flavour. The Nutella lends to the satiny texture, but because it is already quite sweet, the overall quality of this frosting is on the sweet side, but with a dark decadence. If you can’t get Nutella, or if you find you prefer a deeper flavour with minimal sweetness, you could even skip the Nutella and add a handful of ground hazelnuts. Of course the texture would change to a more rustic one, but the taste would be notably more sophisticated.

But Nutella seems to bring a nostalgic element for some, and if this cake is going anywhere near a little cakelet’s belly, I think Nutella is the way to go, because kids go, well, nuts for this stuff.

And because this cake, as simple as it is, is a celebration of chocolate, I opted for a medley of pure chocolate sprinkles as the finishing touch. It adds an interesting visual and delightful chocolaty crunch to each slice. For the piped border, I went with an unfussy shell-style border, but extended each one for a few extra seconds to create a more elongated shell look. Nothing fancy, but quick, easy and pretty. Because this frosting pipes like a dream, it makes for the perfect frosting border.

So this photo just goes to show that not all cakes look picture-perfect when sliced (this is what happens when I frost a cake and take photos 10 minutes later, rather than refrigerating it for some time to set), but holy Easter-bunny this chocolaty madness is divine. And it couldn’t be easier to create. You’ll see!

Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 7-inch round cake

Super-moist, dark chocolate cake filled and frosted with satiny dark chocolate & Nutella sour cream frosting and covered in a medley of chocolate sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups (470 grams) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4 1/2 cups (565 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (280 grams) Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) full-fat sour cream
  • 11 ounces (330 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 7-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment rounds.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift all dry ingredients, including sugar. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 1 minute on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans--each pan should contain about 600 grams of batter.
  4. Bake the first 2 layers for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining layer, and then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Chocolate Frosting:
  6. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. The frosting will be very soft. Refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Assembly of the Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake:
  8. Put a dollop of frosting on a 7-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 8-inch scalloped cake board.
  9. Put your first layer top-up on the cake board or plate, and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Put the second cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Put the final cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.
  10. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  11. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake. Gently press some chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake.
  12. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill about 2/3 full with frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Chill the cake until the frosting border firms up, at least 30 minutes.
  13. Cover the top of the cake (but not the piped border) with chocolate sprinkles. Once frosting softens again, the sprinkles will adhere to top. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you don’t have 7-inch round cake pans, you could also use 8-inch cake pans. The layers will just be ever-so-slightly shorter.
  • For the cake layers, I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute–it adds so much depth, chocolate-y flavour and a wonderfully dark hue.
  • For the frosting I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 %  to balance the sweetness of the Nutella.
  • I used one of the Wilton Decorate Smart 3-Piece Icing Comb Set for the sides of the cake (the furthest comb to the right in the image).
  • I used a medley of chocolate vermicelli sprinkles on top, including India Tree Chocolate Vermicelli and De Ruyter Chocoadehagel. Any kind works well, but I prefer to keep it to pure chocolate vermicelli, as opposed to just chocolate jimmies.
  • Because the frosting has sour cream in it, it’s best to refrigerate this cake if it hasn’t been gobbled up after a day. Keep refrigerated at that point, and serve at room temperature (although it tastes pretty great cold too).

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Easter Extravaganza Bark

I think it’s safe to say that treat-wise, Easter is my best-loved time of year. The endless chocolate, the bunnies of all shapes and sizes, pastel marshmallows, Peeps, candy-coated eggs, cream-filled eggs, pastel everything, sprinkles and more–all of the flavours and colours make me giddy. I’ve seen some pretty colourful Easter Candy Bark on Pinterest, but I decided to create my own version and go a little crazy with the toppings. There’s something so delightful about full, but small, peanut-butter filled bunnies, bunny marshmallow and peeps bound to swirls of Callebaut Dark Chocolate 53.8% along with Callebaut white chocolate, and then surrounded by a flurry of mini treats and sprinkles. I incorporated Rice Krispies into the bottom layer of the bark because those crispy chocolate bunnies were my favourite as a little girl, and I’d say even still.

And while I think it makes perfect sense to use leftover Easter candy, I can’t help but feel that this sort of treat is so much more appealing right before or during Easter time. I just feel that it’s kind of the last thing people want to see after a few days of indulging in all things Easter, you know? And since it takes almost no time at all, it’s a simple way to bring the unexpected to Easter celebrations without spending hours in the kitchen (you know, I’d never recommend that . . . ahem. #letsmaketoweringcakes).

I also think this would be such a great addition to any Easter basket–my girls’ eyes were as big as saucers when they came home and saw this Easter sugar explosion in the kitchen. And why not include your cakelets and make it an Easter weekend activity–you layer the chocolate, and let them do all of the toppings? Or even let them come shopping and decide what’s going to land upon the sea of chocolate bark themselves.

So when I decided to create this Easter Extravaganza Bark, I headed for the Easter section of Target for inspiration and to pick up an array of toppings, and then I tied that in with some of the sprinkles and sugar decorations I had here at home. I went with a few Marshmallow Peeps 60th Anniversary Vanilla Creme marshmallows (these are amazing, and I fear only around for a short time), Wilton Silhouette Bunny Icing DecorationsReese’s Easter Mini Peanut Butter Reester BunniesM&M’s White Chocolate Easter CandyCadbury Mini EggsDare Marshmallow Rabbits, and then just some white sugar pearls, pink nonpareils and jimmies.

Afterwards, I realized that I had wanted to use my all-time favourite Easter candy: Whoppers Easter Mini Robin Eggs. I love the speckled candy coating and I’m a Whopper (similar to Maltesers) fanatic. Forgetting to include them may have had something to do with the fact that the almost-empty bag was in my, um, purse. While I usually resist most candy on daily basis, I cannot resist anything malted-milk related. I’m going to make another batch and include those along with a few jelly beans and mini cream eggs. Oh yes.

When I make bark of any kind, I temper the chocolate. You’ll probably notice that in many bark recipes the instructions simply call for melting the chocolate and then storing the bark in the refrigerator. While this does work just fine, I tend to love to gift my bark, so I prefer to temper the chocolate first, which takes no extra time (when you do it the easy way, in the microwave) and gives the chocolate that gloss and snap we all love (I also much prefer to eat chocolate at room temperature). Once tempered, the bark can stay at room temperature and makes it a little prettier with its sheen and snap.

For the marbling, I tinted the Belgian white chocolate a pastel shade of teal (even pink or yellow would be amazing) using a bit of AmeriColor Flo-Coat mixed with AmeriColor turquoise gel paste (see Sweetapolita’s Notes), because while using colourful candy compound melts would be a fraction easier, I like to keep the quality of the bark the best it can be, since it’s all about the chocolate when it comes to bark. An alternative would be adding a few coloured candy melts to the white chocolate before melting/tempering for the same effect.

Since no two batches are ever the same, I’d love to see what Easter Extravaganza Bark creations you come up with! Share them on my Sweetapolita Facebook page or even send me a photo via email. I’d love to hear from you!

Easter Extravaganza Bark

Dark Belgian chocolate and Rice Krispie bark covered with swirled dark & white and topped with a medley of Easter chocolate, candy, sprinkles, marshmallows and more.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound plus 2 ounces (600 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (50 grams) Rice Krispies (or other puffed rice cereal)
  • 6 ounces (180 grams) best-quality white chocolate, chopped or callets
  • About 8 turquoise candy melts (such as Wilton brand), chopped, OR few drops AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste colour plus Flo-Coat (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • Variety of Easter candy (such as mini filled chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies, white chocolate m & m candy, candy-coated mini eggs, Peeps, etc.)
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat 10 ounces (300 grams) of the dark chocolate in 20-second bursts, stirring well after each interval, until the chocolate is almost melted but still has some solid pieces. Stop heating and stir until smooth--this can take a few moments (see Sweetapolita's Notes). Stir in the rice cereal until combined, and use a small offset palette knife to spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in a very thin layer. Let sit until slightly firm, about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, prepare your candy toppings (unwrap foil-covered chocolate, etc.).
  3. Using the same tempering method, heat the remaining dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread the chocolate overtop of the first layer. Temper the white chocolate (this only takes about 50-60 seconds), including the candy melts if using. If using gel paste to colour, combine the Flo-Coat and gel paste in a small bowl and stir into the tempered white chocolate. Pour the tempered and tinted white chocolate into a few lines across the dark chocolate, and swirl with a toothpick.
  4. While the dark and white chocolate are still soft, add all of your candy toppings. Let sit until completely set, about 2 hours, and then cut into wedges using a large, sharp knife. Store at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • To learn about how to temper chocolate the “easy way,” in the microwave, check out these simple instructions from Callebaut. In addition to those steps, if you have a digital candy thermometer, just be sure that your dark chocolate never exceeds 32-33°C (90°F), and 30°C (86°F) for white or milk chocolate. If this does happen, simply add a handful of chocolate callets or chopped chocolate, and stir well to until smooth. Heat for a few seconds if necessary, but again not exceeding those ideal temperatures.
  • I use AmeriColor Flo-Coat when colouring white chocolate, which is a candy-oil used for making water-based gel-paste colours compatible with chocolate. If we add the gel-paste colours straight to the white chocolate, it causes it to seize. To use the Flo-Coat, mix 6 drops for every 1 drop of colour, and combine before adding to the tempered chocolate. For this recipe, I used 18 drops of Flo-Coat with 3 drops of AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste. Alternatively, you can add a small handful of chopped coloured candy melts (such as Make & Mold or Wilton) to your white chocolate before melting, and that will tint your chocolate a pale turquoise.
  • As you’ve probably guessed, absolutely anything goes when it comes to what you add to this candy bark–jelly beans, malted milk eggs, mini creme eggs and so much more would be incredible additions!
  • Wrap a few slabs of bark in a crystal clear cellophane bag tied with some festive pastel ribbon for a whimsical addition to any Easter basket or for gifting.

Good luck & enjoy!

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