Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Weekend! First off, before we talk cake, I want to let you know that the crazy website problems I’ve been having the last few days should hopefully be officially better now, so you should no longer have any issues getting onto my site. My current website server has really let me down (I think a switcheroo is in order!), but it seems that things are back in action and working smoothly. If for some reason you ever do have trouble getting to the site, just know that you can always google “sweetapolita printables” + the recipe you’re looking for, and you should find the printable version (but fingers crossed that won’t be an issue ever again).

Now, onto cake! When I was pondering what type of creation would make the ultimate back-to-school cake for our cakelet Reese, I kept thinking about what ingredients make kids happiest–particularly my kids. My littlest cakelet, Neve, is turning three next week so she’s still home with me for another year, but Reese is starting Senior Kindergarten at a new school and she takes her most favourite snacks at home very seriously: peanut butter, mini pastel marshmallows, popcorn, chocolate and cake. I wanted to make her a back-to-school confection that was as comforting as it was playful, and then I remembered an incredibly inspirational book I received awhile back called Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg. This book boasts unique and delightful cakes, including Rose & Strawberry Cake with Crystallized Roses, Chocolate Dazzle Drop Cake, Chocolate Polka Dot Tower, and of course the cake I decided to make and that answers every child’s sweet dreams: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Popcorn.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake was surprisingly quick to make, even with all of the different elements, and what I found hard to believe was that I had never thought to make a peanut butter layer cake before–with the simple addition of peanut butter to a fairly classic butter cake, it gives it a unique decadence and nutty twist. Paired with two types of rich frosting and the ultimate sweet & salty topper, it’s a wonder I didn’t give this one a make & bake the moment I received the book a few months ago.

I love this cake for many reasons, but most of all I love its irresistible call to childhood on all counts: peanut butter & chocolate chip layer cake, peanut butter & cream cheese frosting (with a hint of maple!), chocolate fudge frosting, and homemade caramel corn tossed with mini pastel marshmallows and peanuts (which, I might add, is an amazing little treat on its own).

My cakelets were able to help me with so many of the steps in making this cake: Reese made most of the chocolate fudge frosting herself, Neve helped me make the cake layers and peanut butter frosting, and they both helped me mix the popcorn. As Annie mentions in the book, this cake with all of its components tastes much like a Snickers chocolate bar and makes for the perfect celebration cake for kids. And what better reason to celebrate than the start of a new school year? Not only does the cake taste as decadent as it looks, but I find great joy in creating a dessert that has several elements all combined for one show-stopping finale–particularly when one of the components is as unexpected as it is tasty, as with this whimsical pile of caramel popcorn heaped atop the cake.

Peanut Butter Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Imagine coming home from school to this? I made this prior to Reese’s first day, but I may have to make it again (or in cupcake form–wouldn’t that be fun?) next week while she’s at school for the first day. She’s been counting down the days until school starts, and not only starts school next week but ballet–she can barely stand the anticipation.

We went back to school shopping, and it was a Hello Kitty extravaganza (dresses, pants, ear muffs, lunch bag, school bag, hair clips, sweaters . . . ). Since Hello Kitty was one of my favourites as a child (incidentally, she made her first appearance in 1974, the year I was born), I can’t help but feel the same connection to it as Reese does–between little cakelet Neve, myself and Reese, we’re pretty much like kids in a candy shoppe when we walk into stores with Hello Kitty clothing and accessories. It’s really hard for me to believe that she’s 5 years old and already in her second year of school. At this point I find myself holding on a little tighter and little longer when I hug her, perhaps with hopes of making the time stand still. ♥

Here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book Make, Bake & Celebrate! by Annie Rigg (my notes below):

peanut butter & chocolate cake with salted caramel popcorn

350 g/2-2/3 cups plain/all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of/baking soda

150 g/10 tablespoons butter, soft

100 g/1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

350 g/1-3/4 cups (caster) sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 ml/1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

125 g/3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 quantity Chocolate Fudge Frosting

peanut butter frosting

200 g/6-1/2 oz. cream cheese

50 g/3-1/2 tablespoons butter, soft

75 g/1/3 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons maple syrup

salted caramel popcorn

50 g/1/4 cup (caster) sugar

25 g/2 tablespoons butter

50 g/2 cups plain popcorn (popped weight)

50 g/1/3 cup roasted peanuts

50 g/1/3 cup chocolate chips

50 g/2/3 cup mini marshmallows

three 20-cm/8-inch round cake pans, greased and baselined with greased baking parchment

serves 12

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate/baking soda.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until really pale and light–at least 3-4 minutes. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter in 4 or 5 additions, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the bowl from time to time with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to the cake mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Mix until smooth, then fold in the chocolate chips. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake pans, scraping the mixture from the bowl using a rubber spatula. Spread level with a palette knife and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the  middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the peanut butter frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup and beat again until creamy.

To make the salted caramel popcorn, put the sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small, heavy-based saucepan over low heat and dissolve the sugar without stirring. Once dissolved, increase the heat and continue to cook until the syrup turns into an amber-coloured caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter, swirling to make a smooth butterscotch. Quickly pour the butterscotch over the popcorn and stir well so that it starts to stick together in clumps. Add the peanuts (chopped, if you prefer), chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving dish and spread half the peanut butter frosting over it. Carefully spread one-third of the Chocolate Fudge Frosting over that. Cover with a second cake layer. Repeat this process, finishing with the last cake layer and the remaining chocolate fudge frosting on top of that. Pile the salted caramel popcorn on top just before serving.

chocolate fudge frosting

350 g/12 oz. dark/semisweet chocolate, chopped

225 g/15 tablespoons butter, diced

175 ml/2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

350 g/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over pan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. Removed from the heat and cool slightly.

In another bowl whisk together the milk, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Let thicken to the desired consistency before using.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Annie’s recipe calls for chocolate chips in the Salted Caramel Popcorn mixture, but I opted to omit them, mostly because I was assembling the popcorn and ready to photograph the cake while the caramel was still a little warm–this would have melted the chocolate chips into kind of a yucky mess. Next time if I was adding the chocolate chips, I would simply wait until the caramel corn was completely cool.
  • I used vanilla sugar (as I did here) when making the caramel for the popcorn–yum!
  • You can make the caramel popcorn ahead of time, but be sure to add it only before you are serving the cake, otherwise it will become a bit soggy.
  • I made the cake layers day 1, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and left them at room temperature, made the frosting, made the popcorn and assembled the cake all on day 2.

Good luck & enjoy!



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Billie’s Italian Cream Cake from The Pioneer Woman + Giveaway {Winners Announced!}

The winners of the signed copies of The Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier are:

#1082 Gretchen: “My favorite is German Chocolate Cake with Carmel Coconut Frosting.”

#246 Kate W.: “birthday cake!”

#895 Christine: “Any cake with a lot of delicious frosting!!”

Congratulations to the winners! You will be also be notified via email.

It was so much fun reading all of your favourite cakes–I even learned of a few that I’d never heard of before!

See you tomorrow morning with a new post and another exciting giveaway!

. . .

The Pioneer Woman Giveaway:

source: thepioneerwoman.com

Did I mention how excited I am that Ree’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) new cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier is finally released? Well, I sincerely am. And that she’s going to be sending a signed copy to 3 of my lucky readers? This means a lot to me because Ree and I go way back, even if she doesn’t know this. I discovered her back in 2008 when I innocently Googled “cinnamon rolls recipe.” I came across this post and that was that. I felt instantly connected with her, as though we were going to be friends. Forever. Not in like an SWF way, but just in your standard I-want-to-move-into-her-ranch-and-be-best-buds-for-life kind of way. I became an avid reader of her blog, and I can say that she is one of the reasons that I blog today. Come to think of it, before that serendipitous day, I didn’t even know what a blog was. So that’s what makes this recipe and giveaway the perfect theme for my 100th blog post!

So I’ve been whipping up recipes from her blog and her first book for several years now, and I can honestly tell you that any recipe I have ever made (and made and made) has been incredible and loved by all. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but I was never much of a cook before she came along. Gasp! Truthfully, I now enjoy cooking and trying new savoury recipes, but I just didn’t have a lot of experience with it, or much extra time (layer cake, anyone?). After discovering Ree and her simple-but-scrumptious recipes loaded with step-by-step photos and instructions, I fell in love with cooking, and I make the time. Thank goodness, because it turns out man cannot live on cake alone–particularly men who don’t like cake. (Hi honey!)

Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of her new book (and signed with a sweet note, no less–thank you, Ree!). As is everything she does, it’s warm, humourous and filled with irresistible recipes, photos and glimpses into her life on the ranch. I have had a chance to try many of the recipes in the book, including Fig-Prosciutto Pizza (fancy & fabulous), Rigatoni & Meatballs (I was so proud of myself), Steakhouse Pizza (crowd-pleaser), Brie Stuffed Mushrooms (delightful), and more. But, as much as Ree can rock the savoury, she also rocks the sweet–sweets of all kinds, including cake. So when I was trying to decide which dessert to try from her new book, I knew instantly: Billie’s Italian Cream Cake. I’ve been dreaming about this cake since she shared it on her site a few years ago, and I knew it was meant to be. Ree explains that Billie is a friend from church, who brought this cake over one Fourth of July and shared the recipe with her, and trust me, if you haven’t made this recipe already,  you’ll soon thank Billie. And Ree. And me?

Billie's Italian Cream Cake via Sweetapolita

So, yep–I made it. I knew this was going to be amazing for a few reasons (and not just because Grant calls me “Billy” and is of Italian descent). First off, is it just me, or is every recipe that comes from church-going women or church cookbooks not the yummiest ever? And secondly, moist buttermilk cake layers sandwiched between and smothered in whipped coconutty, pecan cream cheese frosting? Nah, I’ll pass. As if! Maybe on opposite day, as Ree would say. This cake is homespun temptation at its best. (And everyone knows I have minimal ability to resist temptation of this magnitude.)

Billie's Italian Cream Cake via Sweetapolita
Yum x infinity.

So, if sharing such a delightful and decadent cake wasn’t enough, as I mentioned, Ree is going to personally sign and send 3 super lucky Sweetapolita readers a copy of her fabulous new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier!

Here are the details and how to enter (and this could not be easier, guys):

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What’s your favourite cake?”

This giveaway is now closed. Winners will be posted here on the blog and notified by email. ♥

UPDATED 04/22: 2. Contest now ends April 22nd, 2012 at MIDNIGHT (EST) and winners will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry. *I’ve extended the entry deadline until midnight to offer more time for those who couldn’t get onto the site during the day today (Sunday).

3. One entry per person, please. *Your comment may take a few moments to appear.

4. Prizes courtesy of Ree, The Pioneer Woman.

Good luck!

And here’s this amazing recipe, shared with permission from Ree. I have included weight measurements along with a few notes from yours truly:

Billie’s Italian Cream Cake          {click to print}

 

 

 

 

from the book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier
Ingredients

For the cake:

5 eggs, separated (then brought to room temperature)

1/2 cup (1 stick/114 g/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (237 mL) vegetable oil

1 cup (200 g/7 oz) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) sweetened flaked coconut

2 cups (260 g/9 oz) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder

1 cup (237 mL) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon white vinegar), at room temperature

For the icing:

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick/114 g/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract

2 pounds (1 kg) powdered sugar

1 cup (110 g/4 oz) chopped pecans

1 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) sweetened flaked coconut

Method

For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans (from Sweetapolita: I used three 8-inch round pans) or 2 quarter sheet pans, or one 9 x 12-inch pan.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Transfer them to another bowl, and then clean the mixing bowl and beater.

3. Combine the butter, vegetable oil, and granulated sugar in the mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth.

4. Add the coconut and beat to combine.

5. Combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl, and then add to the mixer bowl, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for a few seconds between each addition.

6. Add the stiff egg whites by gently folding into the mixture by hand until they’re incorporated.

7. Divide the batter among the pans and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.

8. Let cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes in pans, and then turn out onto the wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:

1. Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (can use whisk or paddle attachment) until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 3/4 cup of the chopped pecans and all of the coconut and mix until combined.

Assembly

1. If using round cake layers, stack them onto desired cake plate or board with generous amount of filling between each layer. If using the quarter sheet pans, cut them in half lengthwise, resulting in 4 rectangular layers, and spread a generous amount of filling between each layer.

2. Cover the stacked cake with the remaining icing and top with remaining chopped pecans.

Store leftovers in the fridge.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used three 8-inch round cake pans (rather than 9-inch) for a slightly thicker cake layer.
  • I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the batter and a pinch of salt to the icing.
  • This cake is amazing day 1, 2, and likely for several more. Keep covered and refrigerated and bring to room temperature if you’re serving leftovers. The oil in the cake keeps it super moist, even in the fridge. The cream cheese in the frosting is why it should be kept refrigerated.
  • This recipe is now in my top 5 best-loved cakes, so you can imagine how yummy it is!

Good luck & enjoy!

 


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Choco Choco Birthday Cake

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Birthday! Who’s birthday is it? I’m not sure, but it’s got to be someone’s birthday and I know they deserve this cake. Besides, any cake designated a birthday cake and adorned with candles just tastes better, in my opinion–especially chocolate cake.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, “That’s it, I’ve had quite enough chocolate in my lifetime. Please, whatever you do, don’t give me any more chocolate!”? Me neither. That would just be weird. And sometimes I wake up and realize that if I don’t have scale-tipping amounts of chocolate, most often in cake form, I may not make it through the day. Who’s with me? Is that a girl thing? A survival thing? A hormonal thing? Either way, that’s how this cake came to be, or at least how it came to be in my kitchen.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

It’s a super-chocolaty layer cake that has both dark chocolate and natural cocoa powder, as well as sour cream, butter, brown sugar and more. The frosting is as light as air and is made using a variation of the old-fashioned cooked flour & milk method, and it’s perfect for those who don’t like super sweet frosting, because it’s basically just creamy, chocolaty fluffiness (yes, I’m an adjective junkie). In addition to the flour and milk, it’s made using granulated sugar (no icing sugar), a double dose of dark chocolate (cocoa powder and melted chocolate), vanilla and glorious heaps of butter.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

So here’s what happened: I came across this recipe for this cake on epicurious one day, and it’s all I could think about for weeks (literally). I was really intrigued by not only the name (mile-high chocolate cake), the yummy photo and the very thought of all of that chocolate in one cake, but by the mixed reviews. It was so divided, and those who liked it, loved it and those who didn’t, really didn’t. This always fascinates me. I know it’s human nature to have a unique opinion, but how could it be so varied? It seems that those who didn’t love it had some issues with preparation, so that would explain that, but since several others loved it, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Okay, so the cake layers do take quite a bit more time than the beloved one-bowl chocolate cake layers, for certain, but I really loved the taste and texture of this cake. It’s dense and moist, but above all it was very, very chocolaty. The frosting is the lightest chocolate frosting I’ve ever eaten, and the not-so-sweet factor allowed the chocolate to come through in full force.

I’m really excited to make another batch of this frosting again for a close friend, Danielle, who finds sugary frosting almost impossible to eat, yet appreciates chocolaty desserts. There’s also a good chance that I will make another batch simply for me to bathe in.

Instead of baking the cake layers in 2 standard round cake pans, I did 1 standard round cake pan and 1 contour cake pan, so that the top would be slightly domed, because I had other plans for decorating this cake, but when I started to frost it, I couldn’t get over how light the frosting was, and it just desperately wanted to be swirled by the spoonful onto the cake. So, next time I would probably stick with the 2 standard round cake pans. Turns out it’s simply one of those cakes that doesn’t want to be structured and fancy–it just wants to be rich & chocolaty.

So this weekend, whether you’re baking this or anything at all, bake up some memories–it’s good for the soul (yours and others’).

Or just let it all go and get wild.

Or both.

In other exciting news:

  • Check out this fun interview I did for the M.I.S.S. feature, “Women Making History.” I found their questions so refreshing!
  • My talented blogger friend, Heather from Sprinkle Bakes, is only weeks away (May 1st) from her new book release: SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, but it is now available for pre-order. This book will be something special, I can guarantee it. Congratulations, Heather!
  • I’m working my through Ree’s new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, recipe by recipe, and I can honestly say that because of her and her books, my friends and family are starting to think I can actually cook.
  • I’m not sure how I just discovered it, but I’m loving HeyYoYo on esty for super-fun party and cake decorating doodads. Not only does she have an amazing array of goods, but she ships all over the world and for a really reasonable price. As someone in the seemingly far away land that is Canada, I so appreciate that shop-owner Amanda recognizes that shipping here for less than a fortune is doable. And her stuff is just way too fun.

So, here’s the recipe for this choco choco cake, and what I’ve done is listed the ingredients as found in the original recipe, and then added the weight measurements and my own method and notes. It may or may not be the messiest cake I’ve ever made, as far as the prep goes. I’ve no idea how or why, but my kitchen was invaded with chocolate and dishes, but it was worth it. As it always is.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake          {click to print}

(aka Mile-High Chocolate Cake from epicurious.com)

Yield 10 to 12 servings

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients

For the cake:

5 ounces (145 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark chocolate (semisweet or bittersweet), chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

2 1/4 sticks (9 ounces/260 grams) unsalted butter, softened

2 3/4 cups (11 ounces/315 grams) cake flour (not self-rising), sifted *see notes

1/4 cup (24 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa)

2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (7.5 ounces/220 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

2 cups (475 mL) sour cream

For frosting

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (47 grams) all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons (36 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch-process, such as such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa) *see notes

1 1/2 cups (360 mL) whole milk

4 ounces (115 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

6 sticks (1.5 pound/680 grams/3 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method

Make the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and put oven rack in the middle. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour or cocoa powder, tap out excess and set aside.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. You can do this in the microwave in 20 second intervals, or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water (be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

5. At low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid), mix in melted chocolate until incorporated, followed by dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing until each addition is just incorporated. *Don’t over-mix.

6. Spread batter evenly in pans (you can weigh batter in pans for perfectly even layers) using a small offset spatula. Rap pans several times on counter to eliminate any air bubble and bake on center rack until a toothpick comes clean and remove cakes from oven, about 35-40 minutes. *Be sure to not open oven before 2o minutes (with these cakes, ideally 30 minutes) to check cakes and take care to not over-bake.

7. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes, and then carefully loosen them from the edges of the cake pans with your small palette knife and gently invert cakes onto racks to cool completely (about an hour).

Make frosting:

1. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt in a  small heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add milk and cook, whisking  constantly, until mixture boils and is smooth and thick (5-8 minutes).

2. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla, until smooth. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl to cool to room temperature, covering surface with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

3. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy, about 5 minutes, then gradually add cooled chocolate mixture, beating until frosting is fluffy and spreadable.

Assembly of the Double Chocolate Birthday Cake:

1. Cut each cake with one horizontal cut using a long serrated knife (I use the Mac Bread Knife for all my cake layering and trimming).

2. Put 1 layer on a cake stand or large plate (cut side up) and spread top with 1 1/4 cups frosting using an offset spatula (such as this Offset Spatula)

3. Repeat with 2 more layers, then add remaining layer (cut side down) and spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting. If frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few moments, remove and carry on.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • This cake is dense in nature, but moist and very chocolaty.
  • To learn more about cake flour (and many others) or to make your own cake flour, check out this previous post).
  • If you don’t have unsweetened natural cocoa, and only Dutch process (cocoa that’s been treated with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the natural acidity of cocoa powder), you can make an adjustment and use it, but don’t straight out substitute it. You can add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, or 1/8  teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar, for every 3 tablespoons (18 grams) of Dutch process in the recipe to balance it out (thank Joy of Baking for that tip!).
  • I made the cake 2 days ahead and wrapped the uncut layers tightly in plastic wrap and kept on the counter (room temp).
  • I made the frosting right before needing it, but the recipe notes that frosting can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered–bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) and beat until fluffy before using.
  • I frosted the cake and covered and chilled it (because of the sour cream and soft nature of the frosting) overnight, and it was still moist.
  • I found the small alphabet candles at a local bakery, but I can’t seem to find the same ones online for you to source (for those of you who may want to know). I’ll keep checking, because they’re so cute and fun.

Good luck & enjoy!

 


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Pink Champagne Cake Pops

Pink Champagne Cake Pops via Sweetapolita

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Well, you know what they always say: When life hands you Pink Champagne Cake, make Pink Champagne Cake Pops! They do say that, right? So here’s what happened, as there’s kind of a serendipitous story behind these fun, sparkly and boozy Cake Pops. For months now, I’ve planned on doing a girly Pink Champagne Cake post for New Year’s Eve. In preparation for the post, I spent many hours reading what seemed to be every Champagne Cake recipe out there, including every Champagne frosting–I had a vision and wanted to make sure it tasted as decadent and perfect as it sounds. I discovered many (delightful) cupcake variations, but you know me, I had my heart set on a pink fluffy layer cake.

If you’ve not heard of Pink Champagne Cake, it’s a retro American celebratory cake that seems to have gained popularity back in the 1950s. From what I can tell, the original recipe consists of a champagne-infused layer cake (with traditional champagne, not pink) filled with a sweet coconut marshmallow filling and topped with a sugary melted fondant-style frosting (the pink comes into play with pink-tinted frosting, although you can tint the cake pink as well). As you can probably imagine, this rang every single one of my retro-recipe-loving bells. So after much research, I enthusiastically set out last week to make this cake with my own spin on the presentation, but using the traditional combination above. I made it with care, but dare I say the traditional combination just wasn’t for me–the cake layers were wonderful, but the filling was so sticky and tricky to work with, and the frosting much too sugary for me. So…I tried another version I found in the clever baking book, Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer. Again, I loved the cake layers and the frosting was delightful–overall it tasted great, but I really had my heart set on incorporating the traditional coconut and marshmallow! I have since come up with some ways to tie these ingredients in, in a way that makes me much happier, but alas–New Year’s Eve is already here!

So back I headed into the kitchen when I realized that I used my favourite bottle of champagne (Veuve Clicquot) in the cake (which was kind of a good thing, since the champagne taste is very present). There was no way I was going to waste these yummy champagne-infused cake layers, so it came to me: I’ll use the cake layers and the frosting to make Cake Pops (cake + frosting + blend + ball + stick + dip in melted chocolate coating + decorate)! Well, the idea of transforming my cake layers and frosting into Bakerella’s Cake Pops that is, I didn’t come up with the actual concept of Cake Pops. Wouldn’t I be clever if I did? That is the crafty brilliance of Angie (aka Bakerella), and if she only knew that day she created her first Cake Pop that they would change the world of dessert and parties forever. She’s one incredibly talented woman who creates some seriously adorable and unique Cake Pops, among many other fabulous baked goods, and who I’ve discovered is simply as sweet as her cake pops. Strangely, though, I’ve never attempted to make her fabulous creation before, until now.

So off I went to blend my champagne cake layers and champagne frosting (I used my favourite whipped vanilla frosting and modified it to be champagne frosting) and turn them into deluxe cake pops (then I remembered how much I loved the glittery pops I spotted here). I’m sorry for not sharing this earlier so you could have given them a whirl for tonight’s festivities, but how fun for any party, wedding or pretty much any celebration. And, yes, we will definitely be snacking on these tonight as we ring in the new year!

The recipe I’m sharing is for the cake layers and my frosting, which together do make for a wonderful cake, so feel free to create it that way, but I’ve also included the steps I took to make them into cake pops. Consider this a raincheck for my Sweetapolita version of the Pink Champagne Cake!

I also want to say thank you from the bottom of my cake-loving heart for all of the support, kind words and enthusiasm you’ve all showed me and this blog in 2011. My mind is flooded with so many fun ideas to share with you, and I look forward to a year filled with even more baking, blogging and sharing.

I wish you all a fabulous New Year’s Eve and New Year filled with love, creativity and magic. Bring on 2012!

Pink Champagne Cake Pops

Yield: Two 8 or 9-inch cake layers, or 48 cake pops

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 3 cups (360 g) cake flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 6 (180 g) egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (480 ml) champagne, room temperature
  • Red food colouring (optional)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups (480 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) champagne
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Few drops of red food colour (optional)
  • For the Cake Pops You Will Need:
  • The two 8" or 9" round Champagne Cake layers, broken uup into pieces
  • ~2 cups of the Champagne Frosting
  • 1 lb (453 g) of white chocolate couverture (I used Callebaut Belgian White Chocolate because I love the quality taste, but you can also use chocolate candy coating--note that white chocolate doesn't get as candy-hard as the candy coating)
  • Some coloured white chocolate coating melts (if you want to add colour to the coating)
  • White lollipop sticks (I used 6" Lollipop sticks)
  • Gold Disco Dust, optional
  • Gold Star Sprinkles, optional

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two round 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans with butter, line bottoms with parchment, butter again and dust with flour.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy on medium speed, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the butter and sugar are blending, sift all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) together and set aside.
  4. Gradually add egg whites to creamed mixture with mixer on medium speed, followed by the vanilla. Add and alternate dry ingredients and champagne, beginning and ending with dry (3 dry additions, 2 wet) and mix until fully incorporated, but be sure to not over-mix.
  5. Distribute batter evenly between the two prepared pans (use a digital kitchen scale for perfectly even layers), and smooth tops with an offset palette knife.
  6. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted comes out clean (don't open the oven door before 25 minutes), about 35 minutes. (Ovens vary greatly, so be sure to keep a close eye.) The top of the cake should bounce back when gently touched. Let sit in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before gently removing from pan. Let cakes rest on wire rack until completely cool.
  7. For the Frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. If you are using the frosting for the Cake Pops and not to frost a cake, you can simply blend on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes.
  11. Assembly of the Pink Champagne Cake Pops
  12. Prepare 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
  13. Place your broken up (but completely cooled) cake layers in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for a few moments until you have a nice crumbly consistency (or you can do by hand in a large bowl).
  14. Add frosting gradually into the cake crumbs and blend on medium speed until you have a nice dough-like consistency (I found the mixer very helpful for this), about 2 cups of frosting total.
  15. Using a small cookie scoop (or similar), roll dough into evenly sized balls and place on lined cookie sheets, until all of the dough has been rolled and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
  16. Melt a small amount of the chocolate in the microwave (10 second intervals and stirring in between). Dip one end of a lollipop stick in the chocolate and insert into the cake ball. Repeat until you have a stick in every ball. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes, or refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  17. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt your chocolate coating in the microwave (20 second intervals and stir). If you're adding some colour, you can include some coloured pieces along with the white.
  18. Dip each ball into the chocolate and gently tap off excess (you may need to place back in microwave for a few seconds if chocolate starts to thicken). If you are serving the Cake Pops ball down (as I did in the photo), you can place onto a clean piece of wax paper or Silpat, stick up, to dry. If you are adding glitter and/or stars, you will want to sprinkle them on immediately after placing each one on the wax paper, as the coating hardens very quickly. If you want to serve your Cake Pops lollipop-style (ball on the top), you will want to insert the end of the stick into a polystyrene foam brick to dry (or florist's foam).
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[adapted from Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer and Oceana restaurant's YouTube video recipe]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Winter Delight Peppermint Cake

Earlier this season, the stunning, elegant and fabulously talented Camille from the entertaining site Camille Styles asked me to contribute to her 12 Tastes of Christmas series (which has been amazing so far, filled with everything from Candied Orange Peel to Winter Citrus Curd). Camille’s work and blog are centered around “creative parties and inspired entertaining,” so I knew that I wanted to create a little something special that I would like to serve at a holiday dinner or party, but that did not take hours and hours to prepare. So, I came up with this Winter Delight Peppermint Cake. Isn’t it funny how the moment the holiday season arrives, we seem to yearn for minty confections? And chocolate? And sparkles? Well, actually, that may be an all-year-long thing, but it’s definitely a much-welcomed winter treat, and I love bringing these flavours together with some contrast: dark fudgy chocolate layer cake filled with fluffy pastel mint frosting, fine-crushed peppermint candy (or as I like to call it, Peppermint Pixie Dust), and a generous coating of sanding sugar. In other words, winter in a cake!

Image Source 

Remember a little while ago, I was writing about some of the sources of inspiration I love? Well, among those was Pinterest, of course, where I came across this vintage Christmas card (a scanned childhood Christmas card of a fellow Flickr member). When I saw that beautiful holly & ivy-adorned glisteny dome (yes, I am creatively writing to avoid the word “muff,” forgive me!), I was suddenly needing to make a domed-style layer cake. I love the retro quality to it all, and it takes no extra time to make, bake, or frost, so why not? Sometimes I think the classic layer cake needs a twist, don’t you?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a flurry of baking (and other things) on the go at this time of year, so you might agree that fancy-but-fuss-free is a great approach to holiday dessert. Sure, we could stick with just fuss-free, but who doesn’t want to infuse a little fanciness into their holiday? With a simple (but delicious) one-bowl chocolate cake and a whipped version of a classic bakery frosting, I find this cake to be just the answer (not entirely fuss-free, but pretty close if you go with a simple topper). The cake’s unique dome shape paired with the sparkly sprinkling of white sanding sugar gives it a pretty finish that is actually pretty quick and easy to do. A contour cake pan is the easy trick (I used the 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch) to quickly achieving this shape with no carving (I avoid this at all costs), a generous sprinkling of the crushed peppermint candy between the layers and a simple “tossing” of coarse sugar onto the frosted cake adds a snowy twinkle (and a delightful sugar crunch!).

And of course fuss-free really does matter, because there’s just never enough time to get everything done over the holidays, particularly if you are entertaining (you know…planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, baking, cleaning, setting, decorating, hosting–no biggie, right?), but it’s wonderful when fuss-free tastes so good and pleases your crowd (a few oohs and aahs never hurts a hostess’ feelings either). This old-fashioned chocolate cake is dark and decadent (a good quality dark cocoa powder is key), and the whipped minted frosting is light with a supreme fluffiness (a simple extended whipping of the butter is to thank for this texture)–all with a subtle peppermint candy crunch hidden on top of each filling layer. From what I can tell, this combination never disappoints.

You can also add some glittery holly and ivy decorations for some fun and wintery vintage flair (you can even buy a faux-floral decoration or use your imagination–I think even a quirky ornament would be a cute topper!). I made mine by tinting a small bit of fondant raspberry pink and rolling 3 small “holly berries,” and then some green to cut 3 ivy leaves. I let dry and then dusted with edible glitter. I bet any sparkly little cake topper would add a unique touch, sugar or otherwise. I also loved the look of the sugary mint green cake sans adornment, so you truly can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays!

Winter Delight Peppermint Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round, domed cake (serves 10)

Moist, dark chocolate cake filled with fluffy peppermint frosting, crushed peppermint candy, and topped with sugar-coated peppermint frosting. The holidays in a cake!

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups (550 g) white sugar
  • 1 cup (120 g) dark unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Cacao Barry Extra Dark
  • 2.5 teaspoons (12 g) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon (10 g) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon (14 g) salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280 ml) hot brewed coffee or espresso
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4.5 sticks (563 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4.5 cups (720 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 ml) peppermint extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Few drops of green food colour + a few drops of pink (or a drop of red) food colour
  • Crushed peppermint candy, for sprinkling over each layer of filling
  • White sanding sugar for outside of cake (optional)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare one round 8-inch cake pan with butter, a parchment paper round and cocoa powder. Tap out excess. Prepare an 8-inch contour pan with a generous greasing of butter and cocoa powder (or flour), and tap out excess.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift and add all dry ingredients. In a larger measuring cup gently whisk together all remaining ingredients.
  3. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium for 2 minutes (you will need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Pour into prepared pans--fill the cake pans 2/3 full. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake until a toothpick or skewer comes almost clean, about 30 minutes (this is approximate and can vary) for the standard cake pan and about 40 minutes for the contour pan. Avoid opening oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking, and try not to over-bake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Frosting:
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  8. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  9. If desired, tint ~2 cups of frosting pink (for filling) and remaining frosting mint green (for outside of cake).
  10. For a thicker frosting, you can add and whip in small amounts of icing sugar; for thinner frosting, you can add a touch more milk until it reaches desired consistency.
  11. Assembly of the Winter Delight Cake:
  12. Spread a small dollop of pink frosting onto desired cake plate or cake board (this keeps cake from shifting) and place your 8-inch cake layer (standard round), top-side facing up and trim top until flat, if necessary, using a long sharp serrated knife.
  13. Take your 8-inch contour cake, with bottom up, and trim any doming (from the the flat side), and then make 1 horizontal slice in the middle, resulting in 2 layers. You should now have 1 standard 8" layer and 2 layers from the contour pan, totaling 3 cake layers.
  14. Place 1 cup of peppermint frosting on top of your first layer and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.Sprinkle a generous layer of the crushed peppermint candy on top of the frosting (I like it really fine, like peppermint a "pixie dust" of sorts, but slightly bigger pieces would be great too, giving more crunch), leaving about a 1" edge un-sprinkled.
  15. Gently place the next cake layer on top, with the more narrow end (contour side) up, then repeat previous step. Gently place the final cake layer, smooth domed side up, on top.
  16. Put a very generous scoop of mint green frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. You will want to start with very generous additions of frosting, as much of it will be scraped off with your palette knife when smoothing. To keep the distinct rounded top, be sure to smooth over the domed top as much as possible. Chill until set -- about 30 minutes in refrigerator or 15 minutes in freezer.
  17. Remove from refrigerator/freezer and cover with remaining mint green frosting. Once your cake is frosted, you can place it (cake stand and all) over a cookie sheet and generously sprinkle with sanding sugar for an icy effect (you will actually need to "toss" sugar at the sides, but your cookie sheet will catch excess, allowing you to return remaining sugar to container when finished). Add wintery topper decoration, if desired.
  18. Store in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerator for 5 days. Best enjoyed at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Contour cake pans are available in many sizes at baking supply shops. I used 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch
  • You can also bake the cake layers in 3 standard 8″ pans, if you don’t have a contour pan or if you prefer a more classic cake shape.
  • The chocolate cake batter also makes delicious cupcakes. For a Winter Delight Peppermint Cupcakes, you can add a generous swirl of minty frosting and sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy.
  • For a quick and tidy candy-crushing method (and to get out all of your holiday-induced stress), place your candy on a large cutting board with a tea towel on top and crush away using a meat pounder, or the like. The more you crush it, the finer it will be. Lift towel, and voila!
Good luck & enjoy!



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