6-Layer Chocolate Sprinkle Cake + a Cookbook Announcement!

So . . . I have some news! As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m thrilled to share that I’ve just embarked upon writing my first Sweetapolita baking book!

I know this will be the most creatively rewarding journey of my life so far and, although writing a book is all new to me, I feel strangely comfortable — as though this is exactly where I was meant to be. It also makes a world of difference having such incredible support. Over the past many months, I’ve worked closely with my fabulous literary agent, Judy Linden of Stonesong Press, while creating my book proposal, and without her this would never have come to be. And I couldn’t be more honoured to be teaming with such an amazing editor, Ashley Phillips, from Clarkson Potter  and yet another amazing editor here in Canada, Robert McCullough, from Appetite by Random House of Canada – have you seen the incredible cookbooks they publish? Of course you have! Martha Stewart’s books, the Barefoot Contessa books and Rachael Ray’s books are just some examples of the incredibly inspiring books published by Clarkson Potter/Random House. Needless to say I’m in amazing hands.

As I worked on the outline for this book over the past year or more, I felt as though I going to bust from the urge to share the ideas with you on the blog. Somewhat torturous and exhilarating all at the same time! I tapped into the very essence of my heart and soul, and now it’s time to bring those ideas to life in the kitchen, through the lens and finally, in print. I simply can’t wait to share more details with you along the way. What a journey ahead!

Finally, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my sweets-loving heart for helping me make this happen. Your enthusiasm and support for this blog has inspired me to strive for creative heights I never imagined possible. And the truth is, I kind of love you guys. Like crazy.

And as any self-respecting baking junkie would do in a time of celebration and dreams-come-true, I made a super-sprinkly cake!

Sprinkle Cake via Sweetapolita

What is this sprinkle-crusted cakey-ness? It’s a 6-layer moist chocolate cake, filled with vanilla birthday cake whipped cream filling (we’ll get to that yumminess), covered in malted Belgian chocolate frosting, then covered with a medley of sprinkles and such. Inspired by one of my favourite cake recipes, the Campfire Delight Cake, I’ve been thinking a lot about 6-layer chocolate cakes covered in malted Belgian chocolate frosting — it’s just too awesome to not. But with all of that chocolate going on, 5 layers of vanilla birthday cake whipped cream filling push the party in this cake over the edge. So decadent!

You probably remember from this cake and this cake that I love whipped cream filling. I think it’s such a great starting point for a filling, and you can flavour it pretty much any way you like. It’s so light and airy, and because it’s not sweet or buttery, it’s the perfect filling for a rich cake frosted with a rich icing. So I just took that whipped cream filling and turned it into a vanilla birthday cake of sorts! With some white cake batter, pure vanilla and rainbow sprinkles that classic whipped cream filling just had 8 excitable little girls show up to the door with their party hats on.

sprinklecakeed

I thought it would be fun to make a huge sprinkle medley to decorate this cake, so I just grabbed a big bowl along with a bunch of jars of my favourite sprinkles and sugar pearls, and kept adding and shaking them up until I liked the way it looked. I decided to pipe a fancy border around the top, mostly because I love the consistency of that chocolate frosting, and I knew most of the cake surface would be covered with sprinkles.

Crunchy, creamy, cakey, fluffy, chocolaty. The border is just a twist on this piping technique, but with the 1M star tip, and rather than just piping one “shell” after the other in a straight single line around the top of the cake, I angled the first one toward the centre slightly, and then piped another right beside it, angling it toward the first — like a heart shape. Once you do this around the whole cake, it takes on a woven look of sorts. Really quite simple, but neat looking!

Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

And then I started daydreaming frolicking in a huge adult-size play area filled with 5 feet of this sprinkle medley. And then I had cake. And then I did a few jumps for joy! And then I got a cramp. But then I jumped for joy again!

I simply cannot wait to share more book details with you all. Stay tuned! In the meantime, please say you’ll make this cake to help me celebrate?

6-Layer Chocolate Sprinkle Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

Serving Size: 8-10

6 layers of moist, dark chocolate cake filled with birthday cake whipped cream and sprinkles, covered in creamy, rich malted Belgian chocolate frosting and covered in a medley of more sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Layer Cake:
  • 2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon (330 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (135 g) Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) strong black coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Whipped Birthday Cake Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
  • 1 tablespoons (15 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/2 cup (63 g) icing sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (15 g) white cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:
  • 1 lb butter (2 cups)(454 g), at room temperature
  • 4 cups (500 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) Ovaltine Classic (brown in colour)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 oz (250 g) quality Belgian chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) whipping (35% fat) cream
  • You will Also Need:
  • Sprinkles! Lots of them (about 2 cups), preferably a mix.

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Layer Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans (butter, line bottom with parchment paper, butter paper, dust with flour).
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, 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 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. (Batter will be thin.)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Whipped Birthday Cake Filling:
  6. In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cake mix.
  8. In a chilled stainless steel bowl with a chilled whisk attachment (for stand mixer), beat the remaining whipping cream, icing sugar/cake mix, vanilla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  9. For the Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting:
  10. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
  11. Add malt powder, vanilla and salt, and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
  12. Add whipping cream and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
  13. Mix and "work in" with rubber spatula right before applying to cake (to rid of air bubbles).
  14. Assembly of the 6-Layer Chocolate Sprinkle Cake:
  15. In a medium bowl or container, create a mixture of your favourite sprinkles: non-pareils, rainbow jimmies, chocolate sprinkles, pearls, etc. Set aside.
  16. On an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate), put a small dollop of frosting. Cut your 3 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 6 layers.
  17. Place your first layer face-up on the board (or plate) and cover with 1/5 of the Whipped Birthday Cake leaving about 1/2" around the edge and cover with a thin layer of your favourite sprinkle mix.
  18. Repeat until you come to your final layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume.
  19. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of Malted Belgian Chocolate Frosting to seal in crumbs. Chill until firm. Repeat with another layer of frosting, this time working to get the frosting as smooth as possible. Place cake on a cookie sheet and carefully press your sprinkle mix onto sides, letting the excess fall down onto the cookie sheet. You can cover sides completely or leave 1/3 exposed (as in photo). Once you are pleased with your sprinkled sides, fill a medium or large pastry bag fitted with pastry tip 1M with the remaining frosting (about 2/3 full) and pipe border around the top of cake. Chill until firm.
  20. Take cake from fridge and cover the top with a layer of your sprinkle mixture, using a toothpick to push sprinkles in between piping. Once frosting softens again, the sprinkles will adhere to top.
  21. Serve cake at room temperature, but keep refrigerated if not serving the day it's made.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake, I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark.
  • For the malted Belgian chocolate frosting I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % .
  • For my sprinkle medley, I used rainbow jimmies, sugar pearls, chocolate jimmies, and tiny round rainbow sprinkles.
  • To decorate the piped border, I used a medium pastry bag and pastry tip 1M.
  • You can make the chocolate cake layers up 2 days ahead, wrapped tight in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature, or up to two weeks ahead wrapped tight and frozen. Thaw in refrigerator and then bring to room temperature.
  • Keep decorated cake in refrigerator for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature.

Good luck & enjoy!

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50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy American Thanksgiving! I was sitting here planning a bunch of upcoming baking posts, when I realized that we’ve never really chatted about some of the basic steps that make for consistent baking and caking. I thought that it may be helpful to post these tips now, before we get too hot and heavy into more cake recipes. This collection of tips and tricks is made up of suggestions that happen to work for me, that I have either learned from the pros, read in books, or figured out along the way (and am still learning). I can say that implementing these steps completely changed my life as a baker, and I thought it would be fun to share.

I hope that even one of these tips will help you along too. Since it’s a wordy post, I’ll get right to it, but feel free to print this list off for reference. ♥

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Recipe Ingredients:         

1. Ingredients for cakes should be room temperature (can take out of refrigerator approximately 60-90 minutes before needed).

2. To check freshness of eggs, put in a bowl of water–if they sink, they’re fresh. If they float and stand on one end, they’re not.

3. “Eggs” typically means Grade A, large eggs.

4. “Milk” typically means homogenized.

5. You can substitute milk with yogurt or sour cream, to experiment with different textures.

6. To create a replacement for buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar for every cup of homogenized milk and stir.

7. Weighing ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is the most accurate method of baking.

8. 1 large egg white = 37 grams, 1 large egg yolk = 20 grams. Eggs separate best when cold, but whites whip best when room temperature or warm.

9. Egg whites in carton freeze well–just pull out of freezer night before you need them.

10. For best results, use pure vanilla extract (not from grocery stores)–what a difference! Heck, don’t even be afraid to double the vanilla quantity.

11. To bring cold eggs to room temperature quickly, you can put the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water (not hot) for 30 minutes.

12. To bring butter to room temperature quickly, you can cut into small cubes on a plate for about 15 minutes.

13. Semisweet Chocolate = Dark Chocolate.  Bittersweet Chocolate = Extra Dark Chocolate.

14. Semisweet & Bittersweet Chocolate are interchangeable.

15. Unless otherwise listed, use unsalted butter for cake recipes.

Mixing:

16. Incorporate dry ingredients together with whisk before adding to wet ingredients.

17. When creaming butter and sugar, get the mixture very pale yellow and fluffy–will take several minutes (around 5).

18.  Always start and end with dry ingredients when alternating with wet ingredients (3 dry additions, 2 wet).

19. Don’t overmix once dry ingredients are added. Just mix on low speed until incorporated.

20. Kitchen stand-mixers don’t need to run at full-speed. A small mixer should run no more than speed #4, for most things. A large mixer no more than speed #6. You will add years to your mixer’s life!

21. Be careful with your sugar–too much can cause a dark crust (one of several possible causes), too little can cause too light a crust or tough texture.

22. Watch your flour–too much can cause a cracked top (one of several possible causes).

23. Beat egg yolks with fork before adding to batter.

24. To retrieve stray eggshells in mixture, use the emptied half-shell–eggshell sticks to eggshell. If you don’t get them all, they will sink during baking, so you can turn baked cake over when cool and retrieve them.

25. A pinch of salt brings out the flavours in sweet baked goods.

26. When folding, you should always add the lighter of the two mixtures on top, using a gentle folding motion, to avoid deflating batter.

27. When mixing egg whites for meringue, wipe all untensils and bowl with vinegar or lemon juice on a paper towel before they come in contact with the egg whites (including the mixer whisk attachment). Any trace of grease, will likely jeopordize your meringue.

28. Keep an extra set of rubber spatulas that you use strictly for meringue.

29. Use the electric mixer’s splashguard for liquidy batters–that’s what it’s for!

30. If incorporating more than one flavour into a batter or icing, always start with the vanilla; vanilla enhances most flavours.

Baking Cakes:

31. For evenly-baked cakes, no domed tops, and no-fuss assembly, bake “layer-by-layer.”  This means if you’re baking a 3-layer cake, use 3 of the same size/shape pan, and bake 3 shorter layers at same time.

32. Use a small offset palette knife to spread batter evenly in pans. Don’t fill more than 1/2 full–2/3 at the most.

33. Get a separate oven thermometer for an accurate temperature reading–most ovens are either “hot” or “cold.”

34. Always wait for oven to reach necessary temperature before putting cakes in oven.

35. Keep cakes away from sides of oven, and if possible a few inches from each other (when more than 1 baking at once).

36. Rotate cakes after 20  minutes in oven (don’t disturb before 20 minutes).

37. Use middle rack, unless otherwise stated in recipe.

38. Typically, when in oven, cakes are nearing done when you can smell cake in the kitchen. Sounds weird, but you’ll see!

39.  Leave cakes in oven when testing for “doneness.” When a skewer comes clean from center of cake, it’s done.

40. Don’t overbake! This is one sure way to end up with a dry cake.

Cooling & Frosting:

41. Let full cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes before removing from pans.

42. Remove cupcakes from pan immediately, placing individual cupcakes on wire rack to cool.

43. Once completely cooled, wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes before cutting and/or icing.

44. Always place cake on a thin foil-covered cake board the same size/shape as the cake for ease of icing/serving, etc.

45. Brush away any stray cake crumbs with silicone pastry brush before icing.

46. Apply even layers of filling using an 18″ pastry bag and large round tip.

47. Apply thin layer of icing to seal in crumbs, then place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before second layer of icing.

48. Use an offset palette knife/icing spatula for frosting top of cake, and straight palette knife/icing spatula for sides of cake. Use a bench scraper for super-smooth edges.

49. If you don’t have time for frosting your cake, a good sprinkling of powdered sugar does wonders! Tastes and looks great on most cakes.

50. To give your frosted cake a glossy finish, you can use a hair-dryer on medium heat over the outside of the cake (right before serving).



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