Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

verybfullcakebright

Well it seems that, somehow, between hours of mad baking, book writing, recipe testing and getting my cakelets back to school, it became autumn. I’m pretty sure it was summer last time I looked out the window, but nope–not so much! And when there are crisp winds, changing leaves and backpacks, my head and heart naturally say it’s time for sugary, spicy, pumpkiny baked delights . . .

And although I was certain that the Autumn Delight Cake from last year was my go-to for towering sugar and spice cravings, I decided to go for a true pumpkin version and then switch up the fillings and frostings. Tradition pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts of all time, and covered in real whipped cream and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar is the ultimate. But to me, where there is cinnamon there should be gooey cinnamon buns. My heart is divided!

So this cake is an ode to my love for pumpkin pie, cinnamon buns and, well, cake.

fullcakeside540

So what is the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake exactly?

Well, it’s 6 thin layers of moist pumpkin and crystallized-ginger cake topped with a layer of super-cinnamony and buttery Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling (think the middle of a Cinnabon), which is then topped with fluffy-as-air Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream and then the layered cake is covered in that cream-cheesy, sugary frosting fluffiness that usually adorns those beloved Cinnabons. Oh and some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled whipped cream poofs on top never hurts either. So I guess what I’m trying to say it you must bake this cake! Bake it, eat it, share it, marry it. I’m certain you won’t regret any of those decisions.

I actually made this cake twice for this post. The first time I found it had too much pumpkin puree and too much crystallized ginger, so I did the whole thing again (while my husband shook his head with utter confusion), and that was that. Guys, honestly, it really came together in taste the way I hoped, and it is really is a sugar and spice delight. It is decadent, but the whipped cream filling is so light and airy that it really balances it out.

brightcakeslice

Yep.

So more specifically, the pumpkin & ginger cake layers are essentially the sweet potato cake layers (minus the sweet potato and add the pumpkin) from my Autumn Delight Cake, the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is from my Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns, and the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling is that found in many of my cakes (I love this stuff). The Cinnamon Sugar Spread, though, is something that is really simple yet goodness-me, so amazing. Who knew melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla could be so awesome? Actually, I think we all knew that, but I just never thought to spread it in my cakes until now. You can also smother it on pancakes, waffles, toast . . . spouses. Anything.

As a side note, I know some of you have had issues in the past with getting the Whipped Cream Filling recipe to come together, so I’ve modified it slightly for ease. You shouldn’t have any issues now! We add less confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle it in once the whipped cream begins to thicken, so basically we’re just whipping cream (in a super cold stainless bowl) before adding the confectioners’ sugar and stabilizing gelatine mixture.

Stabilized whipped cream makes the most amazing filling because, like I mentioned above, it’s light as air and not sweet at all. It can also stand the weight of the layers, which comes in handy! I turn to this often when I want to include other really sweet elements into the cake, and as much as I love sweet frosting, I find it too much when it’s both inside and outside the cake. You know? It’s also great when you want to pipe whipped cream on top of a cake, as it will remain stable for days (in the fridge, of course).

So, let’s make this cake!

November 28th, 2013 Note: I’ve increased the flour for the cake layers, to ensure the cake doesn’t get over-taken by the pumpkin’s moisture. There shouldn’t be any trouble with this issue now.

December 31st, 2013: I’ve also decreased the pumpkin puree, so the cake should bake up nicely and not be over-powered by the pumpkin.

Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

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

6 layers of moist pumpkin & ginger cake smothered in buttery cinnamon sugar and filled with vanilla bean whipped cream and frosted in Cinnabon-style cream cheese vanilla frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) pure pumpkin puree (canned works well)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) chopped crystallized ginger
  • For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) ground cinnamon (I love Vietnamese Cinnamon for its intensity)
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
  • 1 packet (1 tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 3/4 cups (660 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 package (250 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened 30 mins
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon (5 ml) clear vanilla extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flavor oil (or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract), if possible

Instructions

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  4. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  5. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 g per pan), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. (Depending on your oven, you will likely need to bake 2 pans, followed by the third.) Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  6. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  8. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  9. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  10. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  11. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream until it thickens just slightly, and then add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt until very soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread, but not spongy). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  12. For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and butter for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Add 2 cups (250 g) of the confectioners' sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining icing sugar and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  15. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  16. Assembly of the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake:
  17. Chill cake layers until cold and firm. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 6 cake layers total.
  18. Smear a small dollop of the frosting on the plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread 1/5th of the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling on the layer, followed by ~3/4 cup of Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge.
  19. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill cake for at least 30-40 minutes to set.
  20. Frost entire cake with a thin "coat" of Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat frosting, using 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. Top with dollops of the remaining Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon and white sugar. Chill cake to set.
  21. 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 (although it does taste very good cold!.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Pumpkin cake is similar to other spice cakes, carrot cakes, etc. in that it not only lasts several days in the refrigerator but almost gets better with age. It retains its moisture so well that you can make it up to two days ahead, chill and serve at room temperature, however it also tastes great cold!
  • The cake layers are essentially the same as the Sweet Potato Cake layers from the Autumn Delight Cake, but with pumpkin puree in place of the sweet potato puree and less crystallized ginger.
  • If you’d rather not be bothered with slicing the baked layers, you can always serve this as a 3-layer cake–I doubt anyone would complain!
  • The Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling can be made the day ahead and covered in plastic wrap. To soften for spreading, simply microwave for about 10 seconds, or until it has softened enough to spread. On a sidenote, this spread is amazing on toast, pancakes, waffles or pretty much anything. And just when you thought cinnamon was cinnamon, there are several varieties, and each one will yield a very different taste in your baked goods.
  • The Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is very fluffy and almost “loose” because we’ve beat the cream cheese to smithereens, but it tastes so good and creamy this way. I personally like using a really soft frosting consistency when frosting a cake, but it does take getting used to it wanting to slip and slide. If you find it too soft you can refrigerate the frosting itself until more firm, and in turn if you over-chill it and it’s too firm, you can soften in the microwave in very short intervals (about 10 seconds). It’s very forgiving. Just be sure to “beat” any air pockets out of it with a rubber spatula in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the bowl.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Diner Dream Cake

You’re here! Thank you for not forgetting about me completely while I wasn’t able to post for the past few weeks. I promise it won’t be like that forever, but I have to admit while I work on the book it’s been more difficult for me to post often. (It will be worth it!) It could also have something to do with my crazy side, and how many times I make a recipe before I’m happy with it and ready to share. Either way, I’m here now and I’m so pleased you are too. xo

So let’s talk about Diner Dream Cake. (And my need to give include superfluous adjectives in my cake titles?) I call it that because after I made it to satisfy my recent craving for diner-ish flavours — things like chocolate chips, peanut butter, vanilla and whipped cream. After I assembled the cake I realized that it actually did look like something you’d find in a little hidden gem of a diner (I think it was the cherry on top that did it).

It’s a super simple cake to make, which is always a plus, and I love the way these flavours came together: moist chocolate chip buttermilk cake filled with a fluffy peanut butter mousse and then frosted in a quick and easy vanilla bean whipped cream frosting. It was looking rather . . . vanilla, so I crushed up some roasted peanuts and tossed them with turbinado sugar and a bit of pink sanding sugar and coated the cake — it always tastes so good to me when things are super fluffy and then there’s a hit of crunch in there. (Yep, I was the one kid who always ordered those little peanuts on my McDonald’s sundaes.)

I assembled this final cake moments before the sun was out and ready for me to photograph it in the short time I had with the right natural light, so you can see that perfect slices only happen when cake is chilled ahead of time, and that I don’t have cake-cutting super powers unless the cake is set. But isn’t it true that the messiest cakes are the best tasting? Soft, fluffy, fall-apart cakes are the ultimate to eat.

And I don’t know, I haven’t made a lot of chocolate chip cakes yet, but I realized that simply tossing premium chocolate chips into vanilla cake batter really is what makes a cake “chocolate chip cake,” so if you have a favourite vanilla cake recipe, you could always use that and toss in the chips and go from there.

The peanut butter mousse filling is a cream cheese based filling with peanut butter, icing sugar, whipped cream and vanilla — a simple mix, whip, mix and it’s done. When I spotted it on Serious Eats I knew it would be the perfect peanut butter filling — there’s something about cream cheese and peanut butter that is so magical and reminds of peanut butter pie. The vanilla bean whipped cream frosting I did this time is just a simple whip of whipped cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. It takes 2 minutes to make, and if you whip it until firm peaks form (just don’t overdo it until it appears dry and spongy), you can pipe a border and frost the cake with ease.

You definitely don’t have to coat the cake in peanuts and sugar to make it a tasty cake, but who wants to pass up a chance to, literally, through handfuls of sugar and peanuts at your cake? Plus I love that the sugar creates this subtle sparkle on a cake you wouldn’t expect to find sparkle . . .

I hope you’re all having an amazing summer so far. With the sugar storm in my kitchen for the past few months, the time has been going by alarmingly quickly. So much so that it just dawned on me that next Tuesday I’m turning thirty nine. As in years old. As in next year I’m, you know, the number that comes after thirty nine. I’m not one to worry about age, but I have to admit that number frightens me. But hey, a birthday is a birthday, and where there is a birthday there is celebration. And where there is celebration there is confetti. And where there is confetti, you know there’s going to be cake. And around cake is no place to be anything but happy. ♥

Diner Dream Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 6-inch round cake or one 2-layer, 8-inch round cake

Three layers of moist chocolate chip buttermilk cake filled with peanut butter mousse, smothered in vanilla bean whipped cream frosting and coated with sugar & peanuts. With a cherry on top!

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Chip Cake:
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1-1/3 (320 ml) cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract OR Princess Bakery Emulsion
  • 2-3/4 cups (317 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (18 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 10 tablespoons (130 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 20 even pieces
  • 3/4 cup (130 g) quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
  • 1 package (250 g brick) cream cheese, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners')
  • 3/4 cup (130 g) smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) whipping cream (35% fat)
  • For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Frosting:
  • 2 cups (480 ml) whipping cream (35% fat)
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing sugar (confectioners')
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Peanut Sugar Coating:
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) roasted peanuts, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) turbinado sugar
  • Few tablespoons of pink sanding sugar, optional
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Chip Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottom of three 7-inch round cake pans (or two 8-inch round or 9-inch round pans) and line bottoms with parchment rounds.
  2. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk the egg whites and yolk. In a separate measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, 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. (You can keep half in the fridge while you add the first half of butter.) Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture to these dry ingredients, and mix 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.
  5. Toss the chocolate chips with a few pinches of cake flour and gently fold into batter.
  6. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers--cakes should weight ~450 g each). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 23 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  7. For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the cream cheese, icing sugar, peanut butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to another bowl (unless you're lucky enough to have another mixer bowl). Wash and dry both bowl and whisk attachment and chill in the freezer or refrigerator.
  9. Fit the mixer with the chilled bowl and whisk and whip the cream on medium high speed until firm peaks form (but not clumpy), about 1 minute. Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture and cover and chill until ready to use.
  10. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Frosting:
  11. Chill your mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for 5 minutes, then whip the cream, icing sugar and salt on medium high speed until firm peaks form (but not clumpy). Add vanilla bean paste and mix on low speed until incorporated. Best used right away.
  12. Assembly of the Cake:
  13. I recommend making the filling while the cakes are in the oven, and then chilling until the cakes are cool. Once cakes are cool and you have filled them with the peanut butter filling, make the whipped cream frosting (it only takes a couple of minutes to make).
  14. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or cake board. Place half of the peanut butter filling on top of the layer and spread evenly using a small offset spatula.
  15. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  16. an even layer of frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  17. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Using an offset spatula, spread the whipped cream frosting on the top of the cake, letting it extend about 1/2" over the edge, then smooth excess onto side of cake. With a medium straight spatula, cover the sides of the cake until you have a smooth even coat of frosting by slowly turning the cake turntable with one hand while holding the spatula steady with the other. Use your small offset spatula to smooth top of cake. Place remaining whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip (I used #887) and pipe a border around the top perimeter for the cake. Chill for 30 minutes.
  18. In a medium ziploc bag, combine the peanuts and sugar. Remove cake from fridge put back onto turntable. Place turntable and cake onto a baking sheet (for ease of clean-up), and gently coat the sides of the cake with the sugar mixture. (You may have to "throw" it at the cake!) Top with a maraschino cherry.
  19. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature. Best enjoyed day 1.
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[peanut butter mousse filling adapted from Serious Eats]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • The recipe is for a three layer, 6-inch round cake, but the one in the photo is an 8-inch round. If you want to make a three layer, 8-inch round cake, you can increase the cake recipe by half (rather than doubling the recipe). You can keep the filling and frosting recipes the same.
  • You can make the cake layers up to 1 day ahead, but keep them wrapped tightly and at room temperature. I do, though, recommend making them the morning you need the cake, if possible.
  • You can make the peanut butter filling one day ahead, but keep refrigerated.
  • The whipped cream frosting is best made right before you need it.
  • For the frosting, I used Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste – a quick and easy way to get that real vanilla bean taste and those awesome little black vanilla flecky things we all love.
  • For all of my cake decorating, I use a cake turntable–it’s definitely a must-have. I have a homemade version, but have recently started using the Ateco Revolving Cake Stand, and I love it.
  • I always use a Small Offset Spatula and Medium Straight Spatula when frosting a cake.
Good luck & enjoy!

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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!

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Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting

Orange Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello from the land of orange cake! I’m finally getting a chance to share this happy-happy orange cake with you guys. Let’s just say since my last post, where lavender & strawberry made a summery debut, it’s been all about orange (and a whole lot of book recipe testing!). I made orange layer cake exactly 5 times in one week, and this was the one I was truly pleased with. Why did it take me 5 tries, you ask? Well, it was one-part cake fail, one-part inferior butter (we’ll talk more about that), one-part aesthetic let-down, one-part perfectionism, and two-parts me being completely Willy Wonky at (most) times. 

But alas, I really love this cake! It’s a moist yellow cake infused with fresh orange juice and zest, filled with an orange vanilla whipped cream, and frosted with an orange frosting tinted in a few sherbet shades using one of my favourite decorating techniques, the super-simple but strangely rewarding Pastel Swirl style. It’s a really neat (and quick) way to tell a story of the flavours inside the cake (much like the Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake  I shared recently), or simply to add an artistic flair to any layer cake. Just remember that, although the colour combinations are virtually endless, I find this works best when the colours really blend together (but not over-blended or they’ll become one colour), so I’ve discovered that sticking to three (or so) colours that actually look nice when combined is ideal, not just colours that look nice beside each other. So in this case, since orange and pink make coral, I was able to blend them together to achieve a pretty new colour. I added some un-tinted frosting in there too, so that it would create pastel versions of the same colour scheme.

I made a little batch of sugar flowers (which would be super cute on the cupcake version of this cake, which I will likely do with the extra flowers from this post!), and ended up using a single little blossom and some pink and white sanding sugar to give the cake a little bit of a tropical feel. Real flowers would be so lovely on this style as well, and I can see a tropical shower cake, birthday cake, or even wedding cake a few tiers high becoming a total showstopper.

So I’m lucky enough to have you as a regular reader, you’ll likely notice that the filling and frosting recipes are variations on those found in many of my cake recipes. See, I don’t think you always have to start from “scratch,” but rather can make a few modifications on your favourite existing recipes to make a whole new cake. In this case, I simply added orange zest/juice to my favourite vanilla recipes, and it completely changes the experience. I absolutely love working with oranges in dessert, as I think they offer so much flavour and instantly make most desserts so much more interesting. And they literally fragrance the entire house one you start zesting away. It’s truly a lovely baking experience.

I typically use Valencia oranges when baking/juicing, because they’re so, well, juicy! I also find them even more fragrant than Navel oranges, offering even more orangey-ness to recipes. I did experiment with Pure Orange Extract while making this, but in the end I took it out of the recipe–it just gave it a medicinal quality that wasn’t so happy-happy. One option would be to experiment with Orange Blossom Water to the frosting, as that would give it a unique orange flavour as well (as with these cookies I made last Easter), but I find the juice and zest of the Valencia oranges worked well.

So, remember way up there when I mentioned that I had an inferior butter experience? Well, I’m actually glad I did, even though it meant 3 layers of cake in the garbage. And this feels important enough to make a separate post about butter in itself, but for now let me touch on what happened. So, as you know, I’m working on my first book (hooray!), which means I’m currently living in a sea of bags of sugar and flour that weigh more than my children, and have had to forgo buying groceries so I can make room in our fridge for the endless pounds of butter (kidding .  . . sort of), I decided that maybe I need to experiment with the less pricey butter variety, to see if it really makes a difference, or if it’s at least good enough for everyday baking. I decided that I’d buy my favourite butter, Lactancia My Country Unsalted Butter, for frostings and buttercreams, and try the Great Value butter for the actual cakes, etc. I made the cake back-to-back using each butter, while keeping every single step and ingredient the same, but the Great Value version was so dense and greasy. I tried it, and it tasted like cornbread–it was honestly, inedible, in my opinion. When I made it right then again with the Lactancia, it was just as it should be: light, tender and orange-y. I can assume that the Lactancia has a higher fat content, but it’s hard to know . . .

I can see this is a topic that likely requires extensive research, because aside from experimenting with every brand of butter out there in the same cake recipe, it would be impossible to know from simply looking at the butter packages at the store. The nutritional info on the packages are typically all the same, but that doesn’t mean that butter is made up of the same fat/water ratios. I would love to spend more time really figuring this out, because this is the first time in my life I’ve tasted a cake that tasted like cornbread, yet in this previous post from the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, some people have mentioned that they thought it tasted that way. I was perplexed! Especially since out of over 450 reader comments on that post, hundreds of people seem to share my love for how fluffy and light that cake is. Very mysterious . . .

Now I’m also wondering about those who have had separation issues with their Swiss Meringue Buttercream–again, something that’s never happened to me, and not because I don’t have epic baking fails, but maybe because I’ve only used higher-priced butter. It does kind of all make sense . . .

So that being said, it seems that in some cases, you might “get what you pay for” when it comes to butter for baking cakes and making meringue buttercream. I can’t say that every fancy brand is perfect for baking, and every inexpensive brand is terrible, but between these two brands for my cakes it was night and day. Something to think about! And if you have any experience with this, feel free to share your story in in the comments. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for this happy-happy orange party cake:

Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting

Ingredients

    For the Orange Cake:
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I like Valencia oranges)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (19 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • Zest from 2 medium oranges
  • For the Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4-1/2 cups (565 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Orange Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment round and dust sides with flour.
  2. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, lightly break up the eggs and yolks. In a separate measuring cup, combine the orange juice and milk.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, 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. (You can keep half in the fridge while you add the first half of butter.) Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Gradually add the milk/orange juice mixture to these dry ingredients, and mix 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 in the zest.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers--cakes should weight ~460 g each). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 23 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  7. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  8. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing/confectioners' sugar, vanillla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Fold in zest. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  9. For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  10. 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.
  11. Add sifted icing sugar, orange juice and salt, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy.
  12. Assembly of the Orange Party Cake:
  13. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or 8-inch round foil cake board. Fill your pastry bag with about 1-1/2 cups of the Whipped Orange Frosting and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling in place). Place about 1 cup of the cream filling on top of the cake layer, inside of the dam. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  14. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  15. Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap (I like Press n' Seal), and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  16. Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  17. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your remaining frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.
  18. Divide frosting into 4 separate small bowls. Tint 3 of them: 1 orange, 1 bright pink, 1 bright coral (pink + orange). Leave the remaining frosting un-tinted. Place cake on a turntable, if possible.
  19. Using a small offset spatula, spread the orange frosting on the top of the cake, letting it extend about 1/2" over the edge. Using a straight medium spatula, spread a thick layer of bright pink frosting along the bottom third of the entire cake, followed by the un-tinted frosting on the middle of the cake, and the coral on the upper third of the cake. Clean your medium straight spatula and then smooth the sides of cake, slowly turning the cake turntable while holding the spatula steady. Use your small offset spatula to smooth top of cake. Top with sanding sugar and sugar blossom, if desired.
  20. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Here’s my video tutorial on this frosting technique. 
  • For this sherbet colour scheme, I used the following gel colours: Electric Pink for the bright pink, Electric Yellow Red Red for the orange, and combined the two colours for the coral. Just a note that you’ll want to get your pink super bright, as it will fade a bit after applying to the cake. The reason I use “electric” colours when tinting frosting with an ivory tone (so pretty much anything with butter), is because I feel that the electric colours cut through the yellow better than regular colours. You just have to be careful that you don’t end up with neon frosting (however, that might not be a bad thing in some cases!).
  • For all of my cake decorating, I use a cake turntable–it’s definitely a must-have. I have a homemade version, but have recently started using the Ateco Revolving Cake Stand, and I love it.
  • I always use a Small Offset Spatula and Medium Straight Spatula when frosting a cake.
  • For the blossoms, I used 5-Petal Flower Cutter set, and simply cut them from thinly-rolled Gum Paste , shaping them by letting them dry in a egg carton (or you can always buy flower formers, but I have a designated egg carton for this kind of thing). Once dry I brushed on a little pink petal dust into the centre, and attached sugar pearls in the centre using a tiny dab of Clear Piping Gel.

Good luck & enjoy!



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