Sweetapolita’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide + (Epic) Giveaway!

580_Final 2014 Gift Guide

 (to enlarge image, click it, click the zoom magnifier and then the slide bar to enlarge)

Happy Holidays, cute-stuff-loving friends!

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing oodles of store browsing, both online and otherwise, and suffice it to say there are so many freakin’ cute things out there! Holy fluff. Like most people, I absolutely love buying things for others–it just feels good. But this year, more than ever before, I’m finding it hard to resist sneaking in little things for you know who in between all of my gift-buying.

So as a baker and lover of all things pretty and pastel, I can tell you that if you are trying to find something unique and memorable for someone who loves to bake, this year might be a good time to opt for something irresistible, over something practical–something that will bring a huge dose of happy to your peeps.

So I’ve created this collection of some of my favourite gifts to give fellow bakers, and because you guys are THE best baking friends in the universe, I’m giving 1 lucky winner EVERYTHING shown in the above gift guide! Hooray!

Here’s more about the cute-as-heck goodies:

1. Jessie Steele Pink Polka Dot Oven Mitt: Because bows and polka-dot-anything make us happy. And a baker can never have too many oven mitts. #burnedamilliononthestovetop

2. KitchenAid Pink Classic Mixing Bowls: These lightweight, nesting mixing bowls are the perfect sizes, have convenient spouts, and a rubber grip bottom. Oh, and I think it’s been scientifically proven that all things made in pink bowls taste better.

3. Stainless Steel Heart Measuring Spoons: I’ve been using these exact spoons for a few years, and while my drawer is full of measuring spoons, I always grab these first. While most bakers already have measuring spoons, they likely find they need a few sets on the go.

4. Jessie Steele Bubbly Celebration Apron: Chances are your baker friend already has a few aprons, but getting a crisp new, stylish apron is much like fun pajamas–we can never have too many yet we find it hard to splurge on them.

5. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera (shown in blue, but they also come in pastel yellow, pink, white): Chances are, if a baker bakes, he/she also loves to snap photos of their goodies. These frosting-coloured instant cameras are always the life of the party.

♥ ♥ ♥

6. Glitterville Vintage Style Tin Birthday Cake Carrier: Anything adorned with the words “Everything is better with cake and frosting!” is a pretty much a go, and the adorable colours, stripes, scallops, and vintage vibe of this cake tin don’t hurt either. We all love cake stands, but I find a lot of us don’t actually have a cake carrier for transporting our cakes. This also looks beyond charming atop the counter.

7. Frosted Cupcake Glass Ornaments: Dessert-themed ornaments, especially the frosty old world variety, make the loveliest of gifts and won’t break the bank. Who doesn’t want to celebrate their love for baking upon their holiday tree?

8. Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke: This unique cookbook by Amanda from I am Baker is visually stunning and teaches readers, step-by-step, how to wow a crowd with her signature surprise-inside cakes. Baking books forever and ever. Amen.

9. MIU France Set of 4 Pastel Spatulas: Because bakers love frosting-coloured anything, and we all need a truck load of spatulas.

10. Unicorn Sprinkles Shaker: Come on. A unicorn sprinkles shaker . . . what dreams are made of.

♥ ♥ ♥

11. Mega (3.4 lb) Jar of Sprinkles: Pretty sure I don’t need to tell you why getting a huge (3.4 lb) jar of sprinkles would rock someone’s world. You might even witness some tears of joy.

12. Nesting Heart Cutter Set: Cookie cutters are always a thoughtful and inspiring gift, but cookie cutter sets are super fun and functional. And just think of how many cookies will be born because of you.

13. PJ Salvage Cookies & Milk Flannel PJ Set: Jammies to the stars! Dare you not to smile when you see happy cookies and milk staring up at you. Giving someone new pyjamas is like giving them a new lease on life, and these are just freaking adorable.

14. Philosophy Pink Marshmallow Buttercream Shower Gel: I love Philosophy anything, and they do dessert bath products up right. I almost fainted when I saw this Pink Marshmallow Buttercream collection, and I can’t think of a better way to say I love you than with pink, frosting-scented shower gel.

15. Eat More Cake Mug by PJ Salvage: Because where there is cake, there is coffee.

♥ ♥ ♥

16. “Icing and Quotes” Ice Cream Bowl Set by Cake Boss: Cakey words and frosting squiggles–say no more.

17. Whitbread Wilkinson Pantone Coffee Maker: This colour–oh, this colour. Perfect for the coffee enthusiast who wants to brew their own espresso stovetop. It’s also perfect for brewing espresso for the baked good recipes that call for such. Truth be told, I’d be happy just keeping it out to relish in its loveliness.

18. Pink Ice Cream Cone Kitchen Timer: How can something so functional be so darn cute? Love this.

19. Cupcake Yummy Pillow: This entire collection of “yummy” pillows is pretty crazy cute, but my heart belongs to this one. It’s *almost* too realistic–you literally want to take a bite. A definite conversation piece! We have this one, and my cakelets can’t get over it.

20. Jumbo Pink Buttercream Frosted Cupcake Wood Diecut: Simply put, everything Jenny and Aaron do is amazing, adorable, and beyond gift-worthy, but these jumbo dessert wood diecuts are to, well, die for. I have this cupcake hanging in my kitchen, and it brings me great joy–every day.

Enter below to win all of this pastel goodness! Good luck to you! xo

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Double Chocolate Party Cake

Double Chocolate Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello, friends!

Another party cake? Absolutely. So what makes a cake a party cake exactly? Well, technically I think any layer cake could be considered a party cake, but maybe it’s the presence of sprinkles that warrants the name? Must be. Must be the sprinkles. Or maybe it’s the glossy swirls of frosting. Or in this case, the heaps of Belgian milk and dark chocolate transformed into a chocoholic’s dream. Come to think of it, I don’t think you need a party to enjoy a party cake.

Either way, this cake is party-ready and really all about the chocolate. We fill and frost three layers of decadent dark chocolate butter cake with the swirls of one of the most glorious chocolate fudge frostings I’ve ever tasted and let the chocolate shine.

Double Chocolate Party Cake via Sweetapolita

What I love about this frosting, aside from how quick and easy it is to make, is that it really isn’t very sweet–think more fudgey and decadent–since premium chocolate is the main ingredient. I add a dollop of sour cream to add a creamy richness, and only a small bit of confectioners’ sugar to balance out the chocolate. We use mostly milk chocolate this time, though, as opposed to my much-loved dark chocolate frostings (like this intense and wonderful glossy dark chocolate frosting), which results in a dessert simple enough to please cakelets aplenty and decadent enough to please adults alike.

Double Chocolate Party Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself if a version of this moist dark chocolate cake made with butter, dark cocoa powder, and a hit of mayonnaise for moisture, among other cakey ingredients. It takes a few moments to make than our beloved one-bowl chocolate cake recipes, but has a richness only butter can bring to the table. Smother it all in this chocolate lovers’ dreamy frosting and a medley of happy-happy sprinkles, and it’s definitely a party.

Double Chocolate Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Vintage Candles via Sweetapolita

Yes, it’s official–it’s a party! And here’s a little random side-note: I cannot stop buying vintage birthday candles. Between ebay, etsy, and junk store shopping, I’m always on the lookout and each one is such a treasure. My collection is growing and just looking at these quirky little boxes makes me happy. As does this cake. So, let’s make this cake!

Double Chocolate Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Double Chocolate Party Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Decadent chocolate butter cake filled and frosted with a rich, creamy and not-so-sweet chocolate fudge frosting and topped with a medley of sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake Layers:
  • 1 1/2 sticks (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups (450 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) Dutch-process dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (320 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) white vinegar
  • For the Chocolate Fudge Frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) hot water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces (290 g) milk chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled slightly
  • 5 ounces (150 g) dark chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled slightly
  • Sprinkle medley, for decorating (see Sweetapolita's Notes)

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Butter Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment rounds.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and the buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, then fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda (it will foam) and quickly add to batter, mixing until just combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan for 450 g each (excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) Smooth the batter with small offset palette knife, and bake the first 2 layers until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, about 25 minutes (don't over-bake). Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Repeat with the final layer. Let cool completely.
  6. For the Chocolate Fudge Frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Reduce to speed to low, and add the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, water, sour cream, vanilla, and salt and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.
  8. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  9. Assembly of the Double Chocolate Party Cake:
  10. 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, if necessary. Refrigerate the cake until firm, about 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and place on a turntable, if using. 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. Use the remaining frosting to create a textured finish by spreading with a medium palette knife.
  12. Cover the perimeter of the cake with a medley of sprinkles (see Sweetapolita's Notes) and serve. The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerated for up to 3 days. Best enjoyed at room temperature.
http://sweetapolita.com/2014/12/double-chocolate-party-cake/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

See you in a few days with a very special Holiday Gift Guide + Giveaway!

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Happy Happy Cupcake Cookies

Happy Happy Cupcake Cookies via Sweetapolita

Hello from the land of happy, happy cupcake cookies! Dare you not to smile.

Yes, it’s cookie o’clock around my house right now. I think, of course, it has something to do with the season, and with two little cakelets (who are suddenly not so little!) who love to decorate and gift such tasty and colourful things.

We’re about to dive into more traditionally seasonal gingerbread cookies and such, but before we get too into holiday-baking, we made a batch of these little guys to make us, and those around us, smile. And they really do the trick–smiles aplenty

Inspired by a package of candy eyeballs that have been staring at me every time I open my sprinkle cupboard, I thought it would be fun to create little pastel confection friends to share. Starting with a half-batch of The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies, which I have to admit get better every time I taste them while keeping their shape like a dream, we added some pastel Royal Icing in a cakey colour scheme and topped them with the obligatory (for good reason) sprinkles and then quirky and lovable faces. Then we gobbled them up with no shame. Oops.

Happy Happy Cupcake Cookies Via Sweetapolita

Sometimes decorating with royal icing is rather intimidating if you’ve not done it before, or often, but when you go slowly and thoughtfully, I find it rather therapeutic. For many “patterns” or shapes it’s helpful to draw directly onto the cookie with a food marker (as the first cookie above shows) and then pipe your icing directly over the lines. This really helps!

This type of cookie decorating is also one of those things that makes you feel incredibly proud when you see how lovely the finished product is–the porcelain finish of royal icing gives cookies such a fancy feel, even though it’s simple to do. It can also be used for simple embellishments, as we did with the Jumbo Gingerbread Folk. It adds just enough sweetness to balance an otherwise intense cookie, such as gingerbread or these dark chocolate sugar cookies.

Happy Happy Cupcake Cookies

I was just thinking how adding these happy little faces to pretty much any decorated cookie would bring an instant hit of cute. Happy pie cookies, happy ice cream cone cookies, happy cookie cookies . . .

I love designs like this because it’s impossible to not smile when you look at them–perfect for giving to kids and grown ups alike. I can promise you that if you make a batch of these happy little folk, you will feel the love.

Happy Cupcake Cookies

Yield: Makes about 20 medium cupcake cookies

Dark and decadent chocolate sugar cookies frosted with pastel royal icing, sprinkles, and cute-as-can-be faces. Happy, happy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 recipe The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie
  • For the Royal Icing:
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) cup water, plus more for thinning
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more for bowl
  • 1/2 teaspoon extract of your choice (nothing oil-based, and if you want pure white icing, you will want to use clear extract)
  • AmeriColor gel paste color in Turquoise and Soft Pink
  • For Decorating:
  • Sprinkles (small confetti quin sprinkles and white nonpareils)
  • Large heart sprinkles
  • Candy eyes (about 40 total)
  • Food Marker in black
  • You will also need:
  • 2 medium pastry bags
  • 2 standard couplers
  • 2 small plain round pastry tips (I use #3)
  • Toothpicks

Instructions

    Bake the cookies:
  1. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats (I like Silpat) or parchment paper. Roll out the dark chocolate cookie dough according to the recipe here. Cut out the cupcake cookies using a medium-sized cupcake cutter and transfer to the baking sheets. Freeze the cookies on the baking sheets for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and bake the cookies until edges are just crisp, about 17 minutes.
  3. For the Royal Icing:
  4. Use a paper towel to wipe the bowl of an electric mixer and a rubber spatula with a few drops of lemon juice. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.
  5. Mix ingredients on low-speed for 12 minutes.
  6. Stir in small increments (1 teaspoon at a time) of water until you reach a "10-second" consistency (thank you Marian at Sweetopia for this!), which means when you run the tip of a knife through the icing, the line disappears in 10-seconds. This will result in an ideal consistency for outlining and filling the cookies.
  7. Keep royal icing covered with plastic wrap at all times. Store with a damp cloth and plate (same diameter as top of bowl) on top in bowl in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  8. Tint about one-third of the icing turquoise using a tiny dab of gel paste colour. Fit a pastry bag with a coupler and pastry tip and fill the bag two-thirds full with the turquoise icing and secure the bag with a rubber band. Keep the tip tucked into a damp cloth when not in use. Repeat with the remaining icing, this time tinting it pastel pink.
  9. Decorate the cookies:
  10. Using the turquoise icing, outline and outline and fill the "cupcake liner" portion of the cookies. Gently shake the cookie from side to side to even out the icing and use a toothpick to gently connect icing over any missing spots. Let dry for at least an hour.
  11. Using the black food pen, draw the outlines for the frosting swirls (see photo) as a guide. Using the pink icing, pipe along these black lines on all of the cookies. Go back to the first cookie piped and fill in these lines and sprinkle with confetti quin and nonpareil sprinkles. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
  12. Carefully adhere the candy eyes and cheeks (larger quin sprinkles) using a tiny tab of royal icing Draw the mouths on with the black food marker. Once the pink portion of the cookies are dry, finish by adhering a heart sprinkle to the top of each cookie.
  13. Let dry for at least 12 hours before packaging. Keep dry decorated cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
http://sweetapolita.com/2014/11/happy-happy-cupcake-cookies/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the cupcake cookie cutter I used this style, but you can use any one you wish! You could add this face to pretty much anything and it would instantly create a cute-as-can-be cookie.
  • For the dark chocolate cookies I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder, Extra Brute (this link is where I have found the best price to be–one of my favourite shops).
  • I used these small Confetti Pastel Sequins for the top portion of the cookie, and these Pastel Edible Confetti sprinkles for the cheeks.
  • I used these Jumbo Hearts Sprinkles for the heart detail.
  • I used these Candy Eyeballs (you could also just pipe white dots with a smaller black dot of icing if you can’t find the eyeballs–they just make life easier).
  • I used the AmeriColor Black Food Writer for the drawing the mouth and for outlining the frosting swirls prior to icing.

See you soon with another sugary recipe! ♥

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Seriously Delish Chocolate & Peanut Butter Lover’s Brownies

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownies via Sweetapolita

Happy November!

While spiced lattes, pumpkin layer cakes, and cozy sweaters are some of the best reasons to say goodbye to summer with a smile, diving into brand new fall-release cookbooks just might be the best of one all.

seriouslydelish581

One of the books I am super-excited about is Jessica Merchant’s first book called Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food. Amazing. True, I expected it to be, but I don’t know . . . there’s something extra special about this book when you hold it in your hands. Of course, the first thing to jump out at me was how incredible her photographs are–stunning yet real (much like Jessica herself).

But more than just incredible food photography, Seriously Delish is filled with enticing-but-approachable recipes you want to make over and over again. There are gorgeous cookbooks sitting in my collection, and just knowing they sit in my house is comforting, but Jessica’s book is the kind of book that ends up with tattered pages and chocolate smudges. Much like on her blog, How Sweet Eats, the book is laced with Jessica’s unique humour and warmth, which just makes the whole awesome-food-and-photography thing that much better.

And while this girl knows her way around sugar and butter like crazy, the book also offers homey-but-innovative salads, healthy (and not so healthy) snacks, sandwiches, breakfast (for dinner), pizza, burgers, and so much more. The recipes are notably diverse (imagine parmesan-pistachio kale chips only pages away from fleur de sel caramel bourbon brownie milk shakes), which celebrates Jessica’s distinct recipe style.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownies via Sweetapolita

So, as you can probably guess, I hit the “Celebrations (for times when calories don’t count)” chapter first thing, which is when I came across the recipe for these Chocolate & Peanut Butter Lover’s Brownies. Needless to say I was sold.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownies via Sweetapolita

While brownies are likely one of the most-baked treats from book sand blogs alike, these are in a class of their own. Who knew that something as classic as brownies could offer so much wow-factor, yet be whipped up in flash. First off, we triple the chocolate in the brownie batter with melted dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips, which is just an indication of where this recipe is going, right? Then we top the brownies with a sweet peanut butter filling, much like a peanut butter cup filling, and then we top it with a rich, glossy ganache and chopped up peanut butter cups. (This recipe came at the perfect time and totally solved my dozens-of-leftover-Halloween-peanut-butter-cups dilemma–not that that is typically a dilemma, but you know . . . )

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Brownies via Sweetapolita

Jessica’s voice rings through her easy-to-follow instructions, making this recipe, and all of the recipes in her book, feel like a day in the kitchen with your BFF, which is what I love most about it.

Here’s the recipe for these killer brownies, just to give you a taste of the awesomeness that awaits you in her book:

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Lover's Brownies

Jessica Merchant's dark chocolate brownies topped with peanut butter filling, ganache, and chopped peanut butter cups.

Ingredients

    Brownies:
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups chocolate chips
  • Peanut Butter Filling:
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Ganache Topping:
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peanut butter cups

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. For the brownies, add the butter and chopped chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Once the chocolate is semi-melted, stir constantly to melt the rest. Set aside and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter-chocolate mixture and granulated sugar. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract, stirring until a smooth batter form. With a large spoon, mix in the dry ingredients until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Add the batter to the baking dish. Bake until the brownies are set and no longer jiggly in the middle, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 30 minutes.
  5. For the peanut butter filling, stir together the melted peanut butter, powdered sugar, and coconut oil until smooth. The peanut butter will be warm and melt the coconut oil, so stir until melted. Pour the filling over the brownies, using a spatula to spread it around the top. Let cool completely and firm up, 20 minutes.
  6. For the ganache, add the chocolate to a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over heat just until it bubbles around the edges. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 30 seconds, then stir continuously until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache comes together, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour it all over the top of the brownies, then cover it with the chopped peanut butter cups. Let the brownies sit for 30 minutes before cutting.
  7. The brownies will stay fresh to 2 to 3 days at room temperature if covered with a layer of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. I like to keep mine in the fridge--they keep a few days longer (says Jessica).

Notes

*recipe written as printed in Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food

http://sweetapolita.com/2014/11/seriously-delish-chocolate-peanut-butter-brownies/

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • I used an extra dark cocoa powder for the brownies (Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder Extra Brute but, as always, you can use any good-quality dark cocoa powder you prefer.
  • For the ganache I used a Callebaut Semisweet Callets (54% cocoa solids) because it’s what I had in the cupboard (and they’re my favourite), so I added an extra 1/3 cup heavy cream to ensure that the ganache wasn’t too thick.
  • I topped the brownies with Reese’s Minis Peanut Butter Cups (I happened to have a ton after Halloween and thought they’d look kind of neat nestled into the ganache, but of course chopped full size peanut butter cups would be awesome, just as Jessica calls for it in the book.

See you soon with another dose of sugar!

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Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

Happy spiced-cake season, friends!

And while I’ve never really subscribed to limiting dessert-making to seasonally appropriate goodies, who the heck can resist an autumn-inspired cake, bar, cookie, or pie–not me (remember this and this?). The heart-warming fragrance in the house while they bake is alone enough of a reason to bake every spiced sweet we can think of. So in the name of autumn (and the name of awesomeness), I created this ooey-gooey, glossy, decadent, Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake. Actually, I created 4 ooey-gooey, glossy, decadent Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cakes (and I wonder why it takes me so long to post sometimes), because the first 3 were all of those things, but they weren’t “it.” You know? The next question is, what did I do with the first 3, right? Ahem. #nomorejeansforsweetapolita

So here’s what I came up with: 2 layers of moist, spiced pumpkin cake sandwiching a layer of dark chocolate cake and layers of chocolate chip cream cheese filling and homemade salted caramel, all frosted in the most luxurious (thanks Tamar from Instagram for that adjective–you were right, there really is no other word for this!) dark chocolate glossy frosting I have ever experienced. A few simple edible gold stars to bring a hint of twilight to our “midnight” frosting, and we have officially have the Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake.

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita

Let’s take a minute to talk about this frosting. Oh, this amazing, rich, dark-as-night, over-the-top chocolaty frosting. Made on the stove top with butter, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, heavy whipping cream, sour cream, and vanilla, it’s a dream to make, and clearly a dream to eat. I use my favourite extra dark cocoa powder, which lends to the intensity of the frosting, both visually and in taste, and the sour cream offers richness and a slight tang that balances out the extreme chocolate flavour (yet the actual taste of sour cream is not present).

I first came across a recipe for glossy chocolate frosting here, but I found that no matter what I did (I tried the recipe twice) the frosting was too thin for me (very possible that it was because of my own occasional nerdiness–perhaps I didn’t do something correctly since hers appears quite thick), so I modified the recipe to ensure a thicker version that holds up to frosting a taller cake and is stable enough for piping. I can’t even get over this stuff.

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita

So here’s a close-up of what’s going on inside this cake–whoa! As I stare at this photo, I can’t decide if it’s the most beautiful hot-mess of deliciousness, or if it’s just, well, a hot mess. Haha. This is how this cake looks inside when it’s freshly assembled and hasn’t had time to offer clean, precise cuts, and when I don’t spend time styling the guts to ensure that they’re somewhat tidy, but, really, don’t we all just want to get up all in there and live happily ever after? After making it 3 times already, I was so eager to share that I just went for the gloriously gooey look.

The cream cheese filling is essentially my cream cheese frosting recipe, but with a generous handful of mini chocolate chips. It’s creamy-as-can-be and offers that notable tang that helps balance the sweetness of the salted caramel. What I love about using cream cheese filling/frosting in a cake is that it suddenly offers a cheesecake-like quality without having to go through the process of actually making a cheesecake layer for the cake (which in itself is amazing, but is a lot more involved than whipping up a quick batch of this filling). And if you’re ever not sure if a cream cheese filling would work for a cake you’re creating, just ask yourself if the flavours/ingredients you’re using would work in an actual cheesecake–you’ll find that the answer is almost always “yes.”

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita

Here’s the recipe for this decadent autumn-inspired layer cake (see below the recipe for my notes). It’s so much easier to make than it looks, and I’m thinking that, together, we can kick up the ooh-and-ahh factor at family gatherings this season. Who’s with me? ★

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

Serving Size: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Moist spicy pumpkin cake layered with dark chocolate cake, salted caramel, chocolate chip cream cheese filling, and topped with glossy, rich, and super-creamy dark chocolate frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake Layer:
  • 3/4 cup (80 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) best-quality dark cocoa powder (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) hot coffee
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layers:
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) vegetable oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) pumpkin puree (canned)
  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the Salted Caramel:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • For the Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 g) confectioners' sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8oz (250 g) package of cream cheese, cut into cubes, very soft
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) mini chocolate chips
  • For the Glossy Dark Chocolate Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) best-quality dark cocoa powder, sifted (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream (full fat)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Edible gold stars, for decorating (see Sweetapoilta's Notes)

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake Layer:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round.
  2. Into a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan.
  5. Bake on the middle rack until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layers:
  7. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with a parchment paper rounds.
  8. 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 vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin filling and mix until combined, about another 30 seconds.
  9. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and with the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  10. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 g per pan), 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 25 minutes.
  11. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  12. For the Salted Caramel:
  13. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
  14. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour, about 8 minutes. Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and add the heavy cream and butter (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment). No need to stir.
  15. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 248°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  16. For the Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Filling:
  17. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  18. Add confectioners' sugar, 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. Add the softened cream cheese and beat until combined, about 1 more minute. Stir in the chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  19. For the Glossy Dark Chocolate Frosting:
  20. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar, sifted cocoa powder, and salt and until everything is combined. The mixture will be very thick and grainy.
  21. Add the heavy whipping cream and sour cream and whisk until well combined. Continue to heat the mixture until hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer the frosting to a heatproof bowl and let cool. Cover the frosting and refrigerate until spreadable, about 3 hours.
  22. Assembly of the Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake:
  23. Prepare the frostings and fillings by ensuring they are all at a spreadable consistency (if your caramel is too thick, you can microwave for about 10 seconds to soften). Put a dollop of chocolate frosting on an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 10-inch scalloped cake board.
  24. Put one of pumpkin layers top-up on the cake board or plate, and use a a small offset palette knife to spread one-half of the chocolate chip cream cheese filling evenly across layer. Use a clean small offset palette knife to spread one-half of the caramel on top, leaving about 2-inches away from perimeter of cake layer (the caramel will spread a bit more when cake is assembled). Place the chocolate cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting and caramel. Put the final pumpkin cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake until stable, at least 30 minutes.
  25. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a layer of glossy chocolate frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another layer of frosting. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake at a 45° angle, and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake.
  26. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill with the remaining chocolate frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Sprinkle on gold edible stars, if desired.
  27. Store cake in refrigerator and remove about 2 hours before serving. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
http://sweetapolita.com/2014/10/midnight-pumpkin-layer-cake/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake and the glossy chocolate frosting I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder Extra Brute (extra dark), but you can use any good-quality dark cocoa powder you prefer.
  • For the gold star sprinkles, I use these Edible Gold Stars.
  • You can make the cake layers up to 1 day ahead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
  • You can make the caramel up to one week ahead–keep covered in refrigerator. You can microwave the caramel in 10-second intervals when you need to use it for spreading in the cake. I recommend doubling the recipe for this caramel and using the rest of the batch on ice cream, waffles, pancakes, and more. It’s truly amazing.
  • You can make the cream cheese frosting up to 1 day ahead, and keep covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
  • You can make the glossy chocolate frosting up to 3 days ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator.
  • You’re awesome. Now go make the heck out of this cake!

See you soon!

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