Florentine Cookies + The Cookiepedia Book Giveaway {Winners Announced}

Happy Spring!

Well, sort of. It’s still snowing on and off here in Southern Ontario, but I’m hopeful. The good news is that this week is the first week in over 9 months during which I’ve been able to frolic freely in the kitchen and bake anything I wish. So Florentine cookies it was. And you guys, these are amazing. See, quite awhile back, I became enamoured with my talented friend Stacy Adimando’s cookbook, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, and I’ve been dying to make something, or everything, from it. 

So when I spotted a recipe for Florentines in her book, I knew I had to make them. And although Florentines are known to be an Italian treat (as the name suggests), I first fell in love with these crunchy, nutty discs of caramelized delight back when I was a teenager working at an Austrian bakery. When I googled this, I realized that appears to be a small debate regarding the Florentine cookie’s origin, but it’s safe to say that it is celebrated in not only Italy and Austria, but now here in my kitchen.  These are the most decadent and surprisingly simple cookies to prepare in all of the land, and I’ll just never get over them. I won’t.

So what exactly is a Florentine? Well, there are some variations, but typically they are super-thin, round, caramelized almond cookies made from butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt and of course almonds, and there is usually some form of dark chocolate added. As you probably noticed in my photos, these ones are drizzled with chocolate as Stacy’s recipe includes, but many have their entire bottoms dipped in chocolate with a distinct pattern added, and include additional ingredients, such as candied fruit. Think of them as individual, lacy almond brittles that shatter in your mouth like little round sheets of nutty, buttery, caramel crack. Sometimes it actually kind of freaks me out that we have the power to create such deliciousness in our own kitchens, especially when it only takes a matter of minutes.

Stacy explains that the idea behind her book was to give 50 classic cookie recipes, and then offer ways to spin them into more modern versions with tons of ideas for adapting the recipes for countless variations. So, for example, she shares a chocolate chip recipe, but also a dark chocolate sea salt chip. And a peanut butter cookie, but also a pistachio butter cookie, and so many more. One of the reasons I love Stacy’s book most, aside from the gorgeous photography and charming illustration work, is that the recipes range so greatly–think everything from frosted animal crackers to French macarons, sables to sesame crisps, and so many more.

I know you guys will adore this book, if you don’t already that is, so I’m excited to host a The Cookiepedia giveaway! I have 3 copies of this go-to cookie book, courtesy of Stacy and Quirk Books, and I will be sending a copy to 3 lucky readers!

I’m also excited to share this recipe for the Florentines–they truly are of the most exquisite cookies I have tasted in a long time. I’ve listed the recipe just as it is in the book, but I have also added the ingredient weights, just in case, as well as some of my own notes below.

Florentine Cookies with Chocolate Drizzles

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch round cookies

Decadent nutty, buttery, caramelized cookie discs drizzled in dark chocolate. Recipe as printed in The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 grams) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (210 grams) sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set them aside.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup together over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the cream and salt and do the same.
  3. Let cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then add in the almonds and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes until the mixture thickens and starts to move around the pan in one mass. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Drop 4 small spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving as much room between them as possible (the baked cookies will spread to about triple the size).
  5. Using an offset spatula or a wet hand, spread and flatten the batter into 3-inch rounds, creating a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until edges are brown and centers are just turning golden.
  7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and immediately reshape the cookies back into 3-inch circles, using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to drag the batter back into place and round the edges. The cookies will harden within a few minutes.
  8. tip: if they harden too fast, just return them to the oven for a minute or so.
  9. Cool the reshaped cookies until they are firm and cool enough to handle. Then move them to a wire rack covered with parchment paper to set completely.
  10. As the optional (though delicious and suggested) finisher, melt the chocolate, in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the Florentines. Let harden.
  11. Florentine Ice Cream Sandwiches
  12. When the cookies have cooled completely, skip the chocolate drizzle. Let a container of coffee or vanilla ice cream sit out, or microwave at 10-second intervals, until it's soft enough to dollop. In the meantime, lay half the Florentines on a parchment-lined baking sheet flat side up. Drop a heaping spoonful of the softened ice cream (about 2-3 tablespoons) into the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Cover the baking sheet loosely with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop for my cookies, and they spread quite a bit, yielding more of a very thin, large 5 1/2-inch round cookie, but I love them this size, so I simply worked to round the edges when they first came out of the oven. Use about 1 teaspoon size spoon for 3-inch cookies, or somewhere in between.
  • Much like a caramel concoction of any kind, the longer you heat (bake) the cookies, the darker and more intense the caramel flavour and colour will be, so there is a little room for personal preference with the baking times. I baked 1 sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven, and kept the cookies in for the full 8 minutes. Once they start to turn golden, they have the potential to burn very quickly, so I recommend keeping a super-close eye on them at that point, and remove them from the oven quickly.
  • It might seem as though it’s going to take a lifetime to bake 36 cookies when 4-to-a-tray, but at 8 minutes each, time, it goes by really quickly!
  • I just used a fork to “fling” the melted chocolate onto the cookies in a fun drizzly criss-cross pattern.
  • Stacy mentions that these cookies are best enjoyed right after cooling, and I can certainly agree that these are amazing in that window of time (I could not stop eating them), but I then sealed them in a Ziploc bag after the chocolate drizzle set, and they’re still going strong (ahem) and tasting fabulous at the end of day 2.

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Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake

Hello, hello! After many, many months of devoted book creating, I’m excited to be back here with you, blogging on a regular basis! I’m also incredibly eager to share my book with you all, once it’s printed and released–it has been, wow, an incredible learning experience. It’s still kind of surreal to me that a book with my name on it will actually exist. A dream come true, for certain.

So . . . cake! And not just cake–the most decadent sweet & salty cake you could ever imagine. I call this layer cake “Sweet & Salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake” because it is my take on those ridiculously addicting Millionaire’s Bars–you know the ones: buttery shortbread topped with gooey caramel and a layer of rich, shiny chocolate. If that doesn’t beg to become a layer cake, I don’t know what does.

So I baked up 3 layers of dark, moist chocolate cake, torted them into a total of 6 thinner layers, and then filled them with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble and dark chocolate ganache frosting. To finish it off, we smother the whole thing in a generous layer of more dark chocolate ganache frosting and a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel. I find that the satiny vanilla bean buttercream really balances out the intensity of the dark chocolate and sweet and salty caramel, and the shortbread adds an amazing melt-in-your-mouth textural surprise.

The ganache frosting is essentially a typical ganache (an emulsion of dark chocolate and heavy cream), but with some corn syrup and butter added in to keep it luscious and glossy and a pinch of sea salt to celebrate our love for sweet & salty.  I used a really dark chocolate this time, at 70% cocoa solids, but you could use any quality dark chocolate with at least 53% cocoa solids. I was almost out of the usual dark chocolate callets I love to use from Callebaut, so I bought 2 ginormous (300 grams each) premium chocolate bars, chopped them up and tossed in 100 grams of the chocolate callets I had left. With the super-sweetness of the caramel, I love the deep, dark chocolate frosting.

The 3-ingredient shortbread component is so quick and easy, and these bits & boulders of buttery love are just what this cake needed to really pay homage to the Millionaire’s Bars it was inspired by. Heck, they would even make an amazing little ice cream topping, along with the salted caramel perhaps? The salted caramel is so much easier to make than you might think and, as you might imagine, it can be used for so many things–pancakes, waffles, dipping apples, and more. You don’t have to “salt” it, but I feel it really heightens the natural caramel flavour and added vanilla.

One thing I’ve discovered is that when making ganache of any kind, an immersion hand blender (you know, the “stick” type hand blenders) works best to create perfectly homogenous ganache that won’t threaten to separate and become grainy. You can certainly use a whisk, but if you have an immersion blender I feel it works just that much better. I included 2 layers of ganache in the cake layers because I felt that 5 layers of caramel could be a little much, but maybe I’m crazy. So you could always keep the ganache as the frosting and fill all of the layers with the buttercream, caramel and shortbread. I’m thinking there’s no wrong way of doing this, you know?

So, here’s the recipe for this sweet & salty Millionaire’s Layer Cake along with a quick list of the layer-pattern of this cake:

cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake
ganache
cake
buttercream + caramel + shortbread
cake

Millionaire’s Layer Cake

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

Dark moist chocolate cake filled with satiny vanilla bean buttercream, homemade salted caramel, buttery shortbread crumble, dark chocolate ganache and frosted with more ganache and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking soda
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoons (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Salted Caramel:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Generous pinch of sea salt (I used Fleur de Sel)
  • For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • For the Ganache Frosting:
  • 1 pound plus 6 ounces (700 g) best-quality dark chocolate (at least 53% cocoa solids), chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
  2. Into the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the 3 cake pans (weigh batter for even layers at about 520 grams per cake pan).
  5. Bake 2 of the layers until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20-25 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Repeat with the final layer. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 130°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8-10 minutes.
  8. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Increase speed to medium and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add vanilla bean paste and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more, but always add the vanilla first, as it brings out the true taste of the other flavours. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature. Bring chilled buttercream back to smooth consistency by bringing to room temperature and then beating on low speed with an electric mixer for a few minutes.
  11. For the Salted Caramel:
  12. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar and water until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
  13. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour (about 350°F). Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment) until smooth, followed by the butter.
  14. 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.
  15. For the Shortbread Crumbs:
  16. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
  17. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers, until you have distributed the butter and achieved pea-size bits. Turn the mixture in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and, using a heatproof spatula, gently break up the mixture and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Let tray cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  18. For the Ganache Frosting:
  19. Place chopped chocolate (or callets) in a large heatproof mixing bowl (I find a stainless 5QT mixer bowl works well).
  20. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, corn syrup and salt and bring just to a boil. Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute. Using an immersion blender (or whisk, if necessary) combine the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add butter and vanilla and mix again until smooth. Mixture with thicken to spreadable frosting consistency, and eventually become solid at room temperature. To soften, simply warm and bring to desired consistency.
  21. Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Millionaire's Layer Cake:
  22. Prepare your fillings and frosting and ensure they are all at spreadable consistency. For the ganache, this will take about 15-30 minutes after making it, and about 30-60 minutes for the caramel. If you have made ahead, simply warm the ganache and let cool until spreadable, and do the same for the caramel.
  23. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have a total of 6 cake layers.
  24. Smear a small dollop of the ganache frosting on a cake plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and using a small offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of buttercream on the layer leaving about 1-inch around the edge, followed by one-third of the caramel and then a generous handful of shortbread crumble. Place your next cake layer on top, and spread about 1 cup of the ganache frosting all the way to the edge.
  25. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down (cut side down) and frost entire cake with the ganache frosting. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then finish with a thick "coat" of more ganache frosting.
  26. Use a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Use a small offset palette knife to create texture on the top of the cake and sprinkle on some Fleur de Sel. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake layers, I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Dutch-process cocoa powder, but you can use any quality dark Dutch-process variety of your choice.
  • I have become rather fond of using vanilla bean paste instead of actual vanilla beans, as it’s convenient and more affordable.
  • When you make the ganache frosting, you’ll notice that it’s a bit jiggly and gelatinous looking as it sets, but as soon as you being to spread it, it becomes smooth, glossy and glorious.
  • Most cake does best at room temperature in terms of staying moist and fresh, but when it comes to building layer cakes, sometimes there’s no choice but to pop it in and out of the fridge a few times to stabilize it (especially when you get into sky-scraping layer cakes). That being said, I recommend only putting most cakes the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of frosting, or if you feel that things are getting a little wobbly and you want to firm it up before carrying on. For this cake, I didn’t refrigerate it at all, so you will likely find that you won’t need to either. I was able to avoid the fridge between the crumb coat and final coat of ganache frosting because it begins to dry out at room temperature, sealing all of the crumbs.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme

Hello, hello!

It was a crazy cupcake kind of week, let me tell you. Well, not so much crazy cupcakes, as a crazy week o’ cupcakes. I’ve been working about 12 hours per day in the kitchen, testing recipes for my book, and it just so happened to be a truly cupcake-y scene around here the past while. While I don’t make a ton of cupcakes for the blog (not sure why — it just works out that way), it seemed like something I needed to do this post. Although these are very different than what I’m working on for the book, my brain was in wee cake mode. I started to think about what would make the most decadent cupcake around, and I knew butterscotch was key.

Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme by Sweetapolita

I think it’s also because butterscotch reminds me so much of summer — butterscotch sundaes have my heart, even though I’m not really an ice cream kind of gal. What is butterscotch exactly? Well, it seems to me that it’s a term used loosely for the combination of brown sugar, butter and cream. Adding vanilla and salt is a common way to make it even more divine. Scotch as we know it, however, isn’t part of the equation (sorry, Ron). Although, I’ve taken to adding a tablespoon of dark rum to mine, and it’s rather delightful.

When it comes to butterscotch sauce, it’s really similar to a caramel sauce, but it’s not quite as technical to make (we don’t need to worry about a candy thermometer) and, again, we use brown sugar over white sugar. That’s not to say that caramel can’t have brown sugar and butterscotch can’t have white sugar, because that would make my explanation way too easy to follow.

So aside from being the most decadently caloric cupcake I’ve ever made, what is a Butterscotch Cupcake Supreme? It’s a super-moist, tender brown sugar cupcake brushed with a rum syrup, injected with homemade butterscotch sauce and topped with whipped mascarpone frosting drizzled with more butterscotch sauce and toffee bits. Kind of butterscotch heaven, in my mind. The cupcakes themselves aren’t super-sweet, but rather tender and subtly vanilla and brown sugary. The whipped mascarpone frosting is very minimally sweet, but oh-so-creamy.

The tang from the mascarpone goes so well with the super-sweet, buttery richness of the butterscotch. I’m not going to lie — you could pour this butterscotch sauce over a week-old mediocre donut and it’d suddenly be a life-altering dessert sensation. It’s that good. Try pouring it over vanilla ice cream or pretty much anything else you have in your kitchen — it’s amazing.

Butterscotchy love. ♥

And while we’re talking love, I want to tell you that I love you for being so patient with me and my lengthy between-posts gaps. Just know that all sorts of confectionery madness is happening from morning to night in my kitchen right now, and I can’t wait to share it all with you in book form.

That being said, I can’t wait to share my next blog post with you!

Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme

Yield: 18 standard cupcakes

Moist brown sugar cupcakes brushed with rum syrup, injected with homemade butterscotch sauce, topped with whipped mascarpone frosting and drizzled with more butterscotch sauce and toffee bits.

Ingredients

    For the Rum Syrup:
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) white or dark rum
  • For the Butterscotch Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (228 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) whipping cream (35%)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) sea salt or fleur de sel
  • For the Brown Sugar Cupcakes:
  • 1-3/4 cups (236 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (57 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup (230 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons (13 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon juice
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • For the Whipped Mascarpone Frosting:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whipping cream (35%), cold
  • 3/4 cup (94 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) mascarpone cheese, softened
  • Toffee bits for sprinkling

Instructions

    For the Rum Syrup:
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Let cool. Keep in an airtight container for up to one week.
  2. For the Butterscotch Sauce:
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and swirl to combine. Whisk in cream then let mixture bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes -- don't stir. Whisk in vanilla and sea salt. Let cool. Keep in an airtight jar in refrigerator for up to one week.
  4. For the Brown Sugar Cupcakes:
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two muffin tins with 18 standard cupcake liners.
  6. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps, about 5 minutes. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  7. Combine the milk and lemon juice and gradually add mixture on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, but no more. Gently fold batter once or twice (but no more) to ensure the egg mixture has all been incorporated.
  8. Divide batter evenly among the cupcake liners (a little more than 2/3 full) and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 13 minutes. Turn baked cupcakes onto wire cooling racks (face up) and brush with rum syrup while hot, then let cool completely.
  9. For the Whipped Mascarpone Frosting:
  10. Chill a stainless steel bowl and whisk attachment (from electric mixer) in the freezer for 10 minutes. Return bowl and whisk to mixer and whip heavy cream and confectioners' sugar on medium-high speed until medium-firm peaks form. Fold in softened mascarpone cheese. Use immediately.
  11. Assembly of the Butterscotch Cupcakes:
  12. Fill a plastic squeeze bottle with butterscotch sauce and push tip of bottle into top of each cupcake, applying enough pressure to fill each cupcake with sauce (don't over-fill or sauce will ooze too much from top). Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, cover each cupcake with mascarpone frosting. Drizzle more butterscotch sauce over frosting and sprinkle with toffee bits.
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Flavour combination inspiraiton: Tartelette

Cupcake recipe adapted from parenting.com

Butterscotch Sauce recipe adapted from LifeStyle FOOD

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • You can make the rum syrup and butterscotch sauce up to a week ahead and keep airtight in the refrigerator (cool completely before refrigerating). 
  • The butterscotch sauce is beyond delicious on its own, over ice cream, cake, bread pudding, cookies, etc. You can even add a tablespoon of dark rum to it with the vanilla and salt. Divine.
  • You can make the cupcakes 1 day ahead.
  • To fill the cupcakes liners, I used a heaping 50mm Stainless Steel Scoop full for each and used Ateco brand gold foil liners.
  • You should make the whipped mascarpone frosting right before you assemble the cupcakes. Once on the cupcakes, they’re best served within a few hours, but I noticed that once I refrigerated mine for photos the next day, the frosting held together just fine.
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

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

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

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

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

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

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

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

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

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Pear Cupcakes with Miso Salted Caramel from Cupcake Project

Caramel Pear Pudding from Taste of Home Recipes

Good luck & enjoy!

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Sweet & Salty: Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

 

I’m starting to notice that I have become a wee bit of a chocolate enthusiast these days: dark chocolate, extra-dark chocolate, and sometimes even-more-than-one-kind-at-a-time chocolate. I know that sounds like a stating of the obvious, but, in the big scheme of things, that’s a new thing for me. I have always been a vanilla, or even white-of-any-kind dessert girl, and would never think to eat chocolate anything, if there was a vanilla, or the like, option. A cake girl, though, well that I’ve been since birth, so, of course, vanilla cake with vanilla icing was always on the top of my list.

But I remember things like white cheesecake (never chocolate), carrot cake, lemon & poppy seed cake, apple cake with fresh whipped cream, crepes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, strawberry pie, sugar cookies, shortbread, bread pudding, cruller and even white powdered donuts (I know, I know . . . but I was a kid, and it’s an obligatory Canadian thing to have a favourite donut or two) etc., were all alone up there on my dessert-love list. (I suppose being among a dozen others isn’t exactly “alone,” but looking back, I suspect they were all lonely without their future friend “chocolate.”)

I still love and appreciate all of those sweets, but chocolate has really taken on an entirely new role and appeal in my life, and I think about it–a lot. Maybe the problem was, as a kid, that I was turning to the wrong chocolate desserts, or is it perhaps an appreciation that grows with age? Hormones? Post-baby? Has this happened to anyone else?

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I’ve also found that straight chocolate-on-chocolate dessert just doesn’t seem to excite me as much as one would think, considering my recent love and adoration for it, but I find myself needing to pair it with other flavours to truly appreciate it. Ironically, I often find that I opt for the deepest, darkest chocolate cake paired with vanilla Swiss buttercream–I love the contrast, and a part of me will always need to incorporate vanilla into a dessert somehow or another. In this case, though, the contrast of sweet and salty and chocolate & caramel is what I’m passionate about: 3 layers of dark fudge cake filled with salted caramel Swiss buttercream and frosted with dark fudge frosting and sprinkled with more Fleur de Sel.

This cake is extremely chocolaty, with billowy salted caramel buttercream, and very fudgy frosting–so for the truest of chocolate lovers, and very decadent. The day after I made this, I made a larger version to take with me to the cottage, but I decided to make a Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and actually just added the actual fudge frosting to some vanilla Swiss buttercream I had made, to create an even lighter, satiny, and less fudge-like consistency and taste ( I wish I had a photo, but it was quickly enjoyed!). It was still very full in chocolate flavour, but it was the same consistency as the caramel buttercream inside. I found it was a nice variation on this super-chocolatey combination.

You could try it either way (you don’t have to actually make the fudge frosting to add to/make the chocolate Swiss buttercream, but rather just melted chocolate will do–I’ve included the recipe below), and both are delicious. The only thing I would change next time I make it with the fudge frosting is that I would make my layers of salted caramel buttercream filling much thicker, and I might even add more caramel to the buttercream for a stronger caramel flavour. As with any recipe or cake/filling combination, experimenting is key!

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I have to admit that when I made the Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting for this little cake, it was the first time I made it, so I somehow used a bit less boiling water than I needed to when mixing with the cocoa powder, so the frosting in the photo doesn’t look as gloriously shiny as it did when I did it the second time and added the correct amount of water to the cocoa. It’s such a gorgeous, intensely chocolate, and full-of-sheen frosting that would be incredible on pretty much anything. I particularly love it sprinkled with the Fleur de Sel.

For those of you who aren’t big sea salt users or lovers, you may want to make an exception for this glorious and special sea salt. Fleur de Sel is a gourmet salt hand-harvested, typically in France (and translates to “flower of salt”), that, albeit pricey, adds a perfect balance of salty (yet not too salty) flavour and a flaky, moist-yet-crunchy, and sprinkle-like texture. It can be a delicious and lovely touch to both sweet and savoury dishes. To calculate and compare the cost per pound to table salt may be a painful thought, but luckily you only need the tiniest bit for impact. You can find smaller packages of it at most gourmet shops or online for under $10, and it would last you quite some time, unless you develop a serious sweet & salty addiction, but I would know nothing about that . . .

Because it seems to be best appreciated in its natural form and texture, you could use regular sea salt when the salt will be dissolved and mixed into a recipe, such as the salted caramel buttercream. You can then save the Fleur de Sel for sprinkling over top of any other yumminess you decide to sprinkle it upon!). There is definitely some debate among foodies/chefs as to if using the Fleur de Sel, dissolved or not, within the recipe will always yield the best result, so feel free to give it a whirl and decide for yourself.  I used all Fleur de Sel, even in the caramel, but next time I will save it for just sprinkling and try the rest of the recipe using a good sea salt to compare.

Here’s the recipe for all of the cake’s components, but don’t be afraid to even use them separately, and paired with your other favourite frosting/filling/cake recipes. Experiment, experiment, experiment! For this cake, you will fill with the Salted Caramel Buttercream, but there are two options for the outside frosting of this cake: 1. Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting (as shown) OR 2. Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. You’ll notice that the method for the caramel buttercream is a little different than our usual Swiss meringue buttercream method, because I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart who actually whips the butter first for caramel buttercream and then adds it in slowly, as opposed to the chunks of butter. You can also simply add a cooled caramel sauce as the last step of your typical Swiss meringue buttercream recipe. I was curious to see if there was a difference, and although I can’t pinpoint the difference exactly, it was definitely a heavenly version–as fluffy as can be.

The recipe is for a 6-inch round 3-layer cake (but note that in the photo I made a 5″ round cake with 4 thin layers). It does look like a ton of work, but I promise, it’s really not so bad, and it’s worth it! Here are the recipes:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake          {click to print}

Yield: One 6-inch, 3-layer cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Yield: Three 6-inch round layers

Serves: 8+

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (180 g/6 oz) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 oz) sugar

3/4 cup (90 g/3 oz) dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL/6 g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 mL/4 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 mL/5 g) salt

1/4 cup (60 mL/2 liquid oz) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) buttermilk

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) hot brewed coffee

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds and cocoa powder. Tap out excess.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients and add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use a digital kitchen scale and weigh divided batter in pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.

3. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean–approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake.

4. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

Salted Caramel Swiss Buttercream (for filling)

Yield: ~4 cups

Ingredients

1 cup (200 g/7 oz) sugar

1/4 cup (60 mL) water

1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream

generous pinch of sea salt (and additional sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling), for example: Fleur de Sel De Guerande- French Sea Salt ; 6oz

1 1/2 cups (340 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large egg whites (120 g/4 oz)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Method

The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven’t tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.

1. Place 130 grams (5 ounces or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Whisk in sea salt and vanilla. Let cool.

2. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

3. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering water (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160° on a candy thermometer.

4. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5-6 minutes). Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel, and beat until smooth (about 3-5 minutes).

6. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.

*Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Caramel Buttercream

Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (45 g/1.5 oz) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL/3 oz) boiling water

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/341 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (63 g/2 oz) confectioners’ (icing/powdered) sugar

pinch of salt

1 pound (454 g/16 oz) good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Method

1. Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until it cocoa has dissolved.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater), beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy–about 5 minutes.

3. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated.

Notes:

1. Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 1 month in an airtight container.

2. Before using, bring to room temperature (usually overnight on counter does the trick), and beat on low speed until smooth.

*Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

*Alternatively, for a lighter, less dense and fluffier chocolate frosting option for this cake, you can use Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream to mask and frost the outside of this cake. The colour will be a lighter chocolate colour and much more subtle chocolate flavour (less fudgy), and it goes very well with the caramel buttercream filling. If you are opting for this buttercream in place of the Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake, then you can make it easier by making a double batch of the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and simply divide, then add your caramel sauce to the first half, and your melted chocolate to the second half.  

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

300 grams (10 oz) chopped semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted, and cooled

5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g/5 oz)

1 1/4 cups (250 g/9 oz) sugar

3/4 lb (3 sticks/340 g/12 oz) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

pinch of salt

Method

1. Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over pot of simmering water, or in a microwave-safe bowl in 25 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth. Set aside to cool (you can scrape it out into a new container to speed up cooling).

2. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.

3. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 150°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

4. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don’t begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.

5. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together.

6. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

7. Add melted chocolate and mix on medium-low speed until combined.

Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Cake

1. Trim any doming from the tops of your cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife and place first layer, face up, on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.

2. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 3/4 cup of the caramel buttercream evenly on the top.

3. Repeat this 1-2 until you come to the final layer, which you will place face down on the top of the cake.

4. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of chocolate frosting (or chocolate buttercream, if using) to mask (seal in crumbs). Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top “coat” of buttercream.

5. Repeat step 4, and, for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady–let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.

6. Chill cake to set. *Bring to room temperature before serving–about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature, as cold buttercream is, well, kind of yucky!

7. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

8. Place any remaining buttercream/frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months, bringing back to room temperature before rewhipping to smooth consistency.

9. Serve at room temperature, and slice with a long, thin-bladed, sharp knife. Rinse knife with hot water and dry before each new slice, for best results.

As I included in my last post (Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake), here are a few tips for baking your best cakes, and some of my favourite baking tools:

A Few More Steps to Baking/Making Better Cakes

1. I always use a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. They’re small, light, and don’t have to be fancy or expensive; here is what I use: Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale. It’s just a great habit to get into. You wouldn’t believe the difference in what one person may scoop as a cup of flour, versus another, and weighing it to the exact gram/oz is your safest bet. Having too much flour can sure dry out a cake in a hurry, just as too little will throw it off kilter. I really believe that using a scale is one of the habits that made me a much better baker, and definitely more consistent. Trust me! I even use mine to weigh my coffee grinds for a perfect pot, my serving portions (when I’m eating clean), homemade burgers, and when dividing batches of pizza dough, etc.

2. You may notice that I bake “layer by layer,” so rather than baking a higher cake and slicing layers for a standard 3-layer cake, I bake 3 more shallow layers in 2″ high pans. This way, the cakes seem to come out more moist, with no “doming,” and ready to be frosted. It may seem an inconvenience at first, because you have to buy 3 cake pans in each diameter, but you get used to it quickly, and it’s so worth it. You also save the time trying to slice even layers, unless of course you are turning 3 layers into 6. But, then again, that’s worth it too!

3. Never open the oven before 20 minutes, or you could disrupt the baking process. Always wait 20 minutes, and then, if you’re baking 3 cake layers at a time, rotate the pans and then continue baking.

4. There are a few tools that I mention in almost every post, and since I’ve been receiving many emails asking more about the cake baking/decorating essentials, I thought I would take this chance to create a list of some of my favourite things in the kitchen, and things that I believe really make a difference:

Good luck & enjoy!



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