{My Favourite} Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

While these cupcakes aren’t anything super-frilly or fancy, they are my best-loved and most-baked treat, so it seemed only natural to share them with you. This past weekend we celebrated my sweet cakelet Reese’s 7th birthday (how is this possible–didn’t she just turn 4 and decorate this Rainbow Doodle Cake?), and we had almost 20 little girls are her party. I made a really neat rainbow vanilla cake for the girls, but because Reese loves chocolate cake and cupcakes best, I made a few dozen of these rich, dark chocolaty cupcakes and topped them with fluffy, creamy swirls of blue-ish frosting and colourful quin sprinkles.

Aside from being perfectly party-pretty, the cupcakes are incredibly moist and not overly sweet, and the frosting is whipped to an airy consistency ideal for piping higher swirls (a denser sugary frosting with these generous swirls could be buttercream-overkill).

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Reese and I thought it would be pretty to create a bit of pastel swirly effect with a mix of white, turquoise and a pastel shade of sky blue (kind of reminiscent of the Pastel Swirl Cake). To keep it easy, I simply divided the frosting into 3 parts, tinted 2 and left one the creamy white colour, and then scooped a bit of each colour into a large piping bag fitted with Ateco swirly decorating tip #887 for billowy swirls.  Really quick and easy, and even kid-friendly.

You can certainly use any array of colours you wish, but just note that because the frosting is doing a lot of blending during the piping process, you might want to stick with different shades and tones of the same hue for the most part, and maybe incorporate one other colour at the most (I love purple or bright pink with these colours).

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Because the cupcakes are a one-bowl situation, they couldn’t be simpler. And to really get that enchanting dark-as-night chocolate colour, be sure to use a quality dark cocoa powder. I’ve also modified this recipe to include a very generous dose of the cocoa powder, ensuring an ultimate chocolate cupcake. For the frosting, well, it’s a version of the sweet frosting I’ve used many times here on the blog, but the secrets are using the best pure vanilla extract you can find, and the extensive whipping. You’ll get some air bubbles, but it’s worth it for the fluffy, dreamy texture. Simply use a rubber spatula to beat the frosting back-and-forth a bit to knock out of the bubbles, and it will be ready for piping swirls aplenty.

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

I think every baker needs a go-to chocolate cupcake and party frosting, and I don’t think I could live without this combination. My non cake-eating husband can’t even resist these, and neither can I (believe it or not, I’m actually really particular with the cake and cupcakes I’ll eat). So easy, so beloved. The recipe is for 12 cupcakes, but this recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled–you’ll thank me!

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Cakelets and cupcakes. ♥

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) coffee, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops AmeriColor gel paste food colour in Turquoise and Sky Blue
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 360° F. Line a standard cupcake pan with your favourite cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide batter among the liners (about 3/4 full).
  5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cupcake comes out with a only a few crumbs, about 18-20 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cupcakes cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.
  8. Add confectioners' sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.
  9. Decorate the cupcakes:
  10. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint one part of the frosting bright turquoise using Turquoise, one part pastel blue using Sky Blue, and leave the remaining part white.
  11. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip (or swirl tip, such as #887), add a spatula-full of each frosting colour. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in. Top with sprinkles.
  12. The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake for Two

Vanilla Mascarpone Blackberry Cake via Sweetapolita

So, are you still feeling the love from yesterday? Are you all stocked up on chocolate-ness? After much frolicking with the recent Vanilla Cream-Filled Double Chocolate Cake for Two (which actually became for one), I was feeling a serious need for vanilla and pastel. That, and Grant is a vanilla-man, through and through, so I thought I might make something for us to share to celebrate Valentine’s Day — something super vanilla, but made with a bit more love, a bit more going on and a whole lot of colour. This time, the colours took cue from the flavours, which I knew had to include blackberry compote and fresh blackberries. I’ve been craving this for so long, and I don’t know why I waited this long.

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

So colourful swirls aside, what’s going in inside this cake? It’s 4 layers of a moist and fluffy vanilla cake, filled with a vanilla mascarpone whipped cream filling and a homemade blackberry compote, fresh blackberries and frosted in a whipped vanilla frosting (on the sweeter side). I recently started using this fabulous Princess Bakery Flavor, which I use in place of vanilla extract. It imparts the most nostalgic vanilla-almond, hard-t0-describe flavour and doesn’t look flavour while baking (remember my passion for the Red Velvet emulsion from this Red Velvet & Raspberry Supreme Cake?). Now I’m finding I use it in cookies, french toast, pancakes and pretty much anything I can manage to add it to. And with all of this vanilla-ness happening in this cake, I feel that the blackberries and mascarpone whipped cream create a balance, making it a glorious eclipse of childhood nostalgia and a grown-up palate.

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

Sure, I do call this a “cake for two” with its bitty 5-inch diameter, but it could definitely work for three or four (if you’re into that sort of thing). I just love a dessert that you can dig right into with someone .

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

Kind of like this. This was the iPhone snap of the test-run of this cake I made last week – there’s just something awesome about digging right in (and here’s another 6-second looped video of me doing just that). The first time I made it I added more compote and blackberries (which is reflected in the recipe below), and that was the way to go. Bursts of blackberries and clouds of mascarpone meringue in every bite — a must.

You might notice that the whipped cream filling that I used here (minus the mascarpone) is the same recipe from the past 2 cakes I’ve posted, and some of you have written me with issues of your cream falling apart when you add the gelatin mixture. Just a note that, although it’s a fairly straight-forward recipe, it’s crucial that you add the gelatin mixture very gradually while the cream in the mixer has just reached a soft peak. If you whip the cream past this point and then add the gelatin mixture, and/or if you add the mixture too quickly, it will flop (I did this). Once you get used to it, you’ll find that this filling is an amazing cream base that can be modified and flavoured in so many ways. I love that it’s not sweet, and that it’s so cloud-like.

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

For the swirly colour technique (previously shared in this early post with a similar cake, Pastel Swirl Cake {Video Tutorial}), I chose to work in a dark blackberry colour, and then tied it into a pastel version of the same colour and then some minty turquoise for interest. You can certainly work with any colours you like, but I felt that this was a neat way to hint at what flavours are ready to burst inside.

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

I’ve included the previous video tutorial, which you might find helpful if you’re making this cake. The good news is that you really can’t go wrong, as long as you choose colours that work nicely together. If you aren’t sure what colours to work well together, you can pull ideas and inspiration from almost anything around you. Pinterest is, of course, a great place to start.

So there we go! As you can probably imagine, the colour combinations are endless for this technique, which is one of the reasons it makes me so happy — no two cakes are ever the same.
Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake for Two

Yield: One 4-layer, 5-inch round cake

Four layers of light, moist and fluffy vanilla cake filled with blackberry compote, fresh blackberries, whipped vanilla mascarpone filling and covered in a sweet, creamy vanilla frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 egg whites (65 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) *Princess Cake & Bakery Emulsion OR pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons (142 g) cake flour, sifted twice
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) vegetable shortening
  • For the Blackberry Compote:
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) superfine sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Mascarpone Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 1-3/4 cups (420 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3.5 cups (400 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
  • Pinch of salt
  • You Will Also Need:
  • Medium or Large Pastry Bag fitted with plain round tip (a resealable Ziploc bag will do in a pinch)
  • Soft Gel Paste Colours of your choice
  • Small Offset Spatula

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease, line with parchment, butter and flour two round 5-inch pans.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, egg, 2 tablespoons of the milk and emulsion (or vanilla). Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and shortening, and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1-1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium for 20 seconds after each addition.
  6. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the batter in the pans to ensure 2 even layers (they should each weigh about 270 g).
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals.
  8. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  9. For the Blackberry Compote:
  10. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1-1/2 cups of the blackberries, sugar, orange juice and salt until the berries start to break down, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  11. Lower the heat and simmer until compote coats a spoon, about 15 minutes.
  12. Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. Using an immersion blender (carefully) or counter-top blender, pulse until smooth. Push compote through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass bowl and discard the seeded pulp from the sieve. Stir in remaining fresh blackberries. Keep covered and chilled for up to 3 days.
  13. For the Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone Filling:
  14. In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes.
  15. In a chilled stainless steel bowl with a chilled whisk attachment (for stand mixer), beat the remaining whipping cream, icing 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). In a large bowl, soften mascarpone and gently fold in whipped cream mixture. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  16. For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  17. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  18. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Separate into 3 bowls and tint with your favourite gel paste colours. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency).
  19. Assembly of the Vanilla Blackberry & Mascarpone Cake for Two:
  20. Cut your 2 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 4 layers. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a small plate or cake stand (or 5-inch round foil cake board).Fill your pastry bag with about a cup of the Whipped Vanilla Frosting (un-tinted) and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our compote and Whipped Mascarpone Filling in place). Spoon a few tablespoons of the compote and berries inside of the dam, along with a few tablespoons of the whipped filling. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  21. 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. If you see any spots where the compote is peeking through or starting to ooze out (ahh!), use your piping bag to squeeze more frosting over it, between the layers. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  22. 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.
  23. 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 (at least). While the cake is chilling, you can divide remaining frosting into 4 small bowls, and tint 3 of them with your soft gel paste. Keep one bowl of frosting un-tinted.
  24. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your 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. Apply a thick layer of your darkest colour to the bottom third of your cake, then another above it over the middle of the cake, and finally your final colour of frosting all over the top and upper third of cake. Add the un-tinted frosting in a few areas, to add interest. Using a metal spatula blend the colours together by smoothing frosting all over cake, as you would a typical one-colour cake. Be careful to not overblend. For textured effect (as in photos) you can use a small metal spatula, holding it with one hand on an angle starting at bottom of cake, keeping it fairly still, move the turntable with the other hand, slowly letting the spatula move up slightly with every turn.

Notes

*You can make the compote up to 2 days ahead. **Keep cake chilled for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature. [blackberry compote recipe adapted from Globe & Mail]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used this Princess Bakery Flavor for the vanilla cake, which is an amazing emulsion that gives the cake a vanilla-almond sort of flavour and doesn’t lose taste when baked. You can simply use vanilla if you can’t find this.
  • I use this MAC Knife for all of my cake layering. It’s super sharp and makes clean cake layers, ideal for building not-so-crumby layer cakes.
  • To achieve the colours on this cake, I started with the darkest purple, using a mix of Regal PurpleSuper RedViolet and Electric Purple. You will have to play around for a few moments, adding more and more colour — if it’s getting too drab, add quite a bit of electric purple. If it’s too blue violet, add more red. You’ll find eventually you’ll end up with this deep dark blackberry colour. Then I took about a teaspoon of the mixture and added it to one of the bowls of un-tinted frosting, creating a pastel version of the same colour. Finally, I added a drop or two of Sky Blue for the pastel minty turquoise colour.
  • You’ll want to keep this cake in the fridge between servings for up to two days, but it’s best served at room temperature and day 1.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Whimsical Pastel Swirl Cotton Candy Apples

So I lied. This recipe isn’t really spooky at all! I had serious intentions of making a super-eery Halloween-inspired confection, but here’s the thing: in my world, Halloween isn’t necessarily filled with orange, black, witches and ghosts, but rather two small girly cakelets masquerading as fairies and quirky princesses with ensembles slightly askew. When I was reflecting on what I find most spooky (and yet most enchanting), my mind kept wandering to the world of the vintage carnival–the world of strange whimsy and a balance of mad and wonderful. (This is actually one of several sweets I envisioned, so I hope to share a few more.) For the swirly effect, I looked to one of my favourite colour-schemes found in the Pastel Swirl Cake I shared this past summer. Much like with the cake technique, I love that each apple becomes a one-of-a-kind, and that you can create a completely different look by simply using different colours.

A Pastel Swirl Cotton Candy Apple is an almost-traditional candy apple in the sense that it’s a fresh apple on a stick, dipped and coated in a sugar mixture that’s brought to the hard-crack stage. The difference is that, in this case, we play with flavour by adding a cotton candy flavoured oil, and colour by whitening the coating and then adding a few drops of other colours to create a swirl effect. Top that with a generous array of actual cotton candy and sprinkles, and whimsy prevails.

It’s almost hard to imagine that under all of that shiny pastel coating and feathery cotton candy fluff, there sits these innocent green apples. Tart, crisp, healthy and unsuspecting 80-calorie-apples. Muahahahahaha. Now, there are a bazillion candy apple recipes out there, but for the candy coating I used that of my dear friend, Heather. In her incredible first book, SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, she shares a recipe for the most stunning and elegant Snow Apples (pure white candy apples with swirly sticks and white glitter!), so I followed her steps for creating the candy coating. It worked like a dream. You might remember my talking about her book back when I used her fabulous French macaron recipe for my Lemon-Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake. Her recipes never let me down.

And what every Whimsical Pastel Swirl Cotton Candy Apple maker needs is their own fairy assistant. I just recommend the fairies tend to their fairy business while the hot candy apple coating process is underway. This particular cakelet-fairy was in charge cotton candy quality control, and assisting with adorning the coated apples with the finishing touches. I’ve been kind of obsessed with cotton candy for most of my life, likely for the same reason most people are. It’s as beautiful as it is sugary-awesome, and it’s a rare indulgence. I recently bought this amazing Candy Cotton Candy Maker, which is a whole other adventure, but for this recipe I bought a small tub of store-bought cotton candy. I found that the store-bought variation lasts a little bit longer atop the apples than homemade before it starts to break down and dissolve. I find that if you add the cotton candy within an hour of serving, it holds up relatively well.

And of course allowing me to snap photos of her frolicking in pastel apple glee. You might notice in this photo that some of the apples, depending on how you swirl/coat them, have a much more contrast-y effect (which I love!). The apples’ fate is completely based upon your colour choices and each one can be a little, tasty work of art.

For those wondering, Neve chooses to wear this fairy outfit on an almost-daily basis, so I swear there was no crazy mommy-driven costume bribes going on here. It doesn’t always work out that way, but sometimes it just does. And for the record, my cakelets eat about 10% of the treats that I make. They almost always test a bite or two, but rarely eat an entire dessert in one sitting. It’s kind of how we make it through this thing I call Sweetapolita with our teeth and health in tact.

Wishing you a whimsical weekend! ♥

Here’s the recipe for the apples. As I mentioned, the coating base of the recipe comes from SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, combined with my instructions for creating this bizarre and delightful confection.

Whimsical Pastel Cotton Candy Apples

Ingredients

  • 6 medium granny smith apples (or variation of choice), washed, dried and stems removed
  • 3 cups (600 g)(1 lb + 5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (237 mL) water
  • 1/2 cup (118 mL) light corn syrup
  • 1 dram bottle (3/4 teaspoon)(3.75 mL) cotton-candy candy flavour oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) bright white soft gel food colour, plus 2-3 additional colours of choice
  • cotton candy
  • glitter/sprinkles of choice
  • You will also need:
  • candy thermometer
  • heatproof rubber spatula
  • pastry brush
  • 6 medium cookie sticks
  • 6 paper straws (optional)
  • scissors (for trimming straws)
  • silicone baking mat (optional)

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a baking sheet greased with shortening.
  2. Insert the cookie sticks about 3/4 of the way into each apple, but be sure the stick doesn't come out the bottom. (You might need to use a metal skewer to pierce each apple prior to inserting the sticks.) Place prepared apples close to the stovetop, as you will need to move quickly once the candy coating is ready to go.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan combine the sugar, water and corn sryrup. Brush the sides of the saucepan with a damp pastry brush to rid of stray sugar crystals. Turn the heat to medium-high and clip on a candy thermometer (be sure the thermometer doesn't touch the bottom of the saucepan).
  4. Let the mixture bubble and cook undisturbed until the thermometer reaches 302°F (hard crack stage). In the meanwhile, get your flavour oil and colours ready to go.
  5. When the candy coating has reached 302°F, promptly remove from heat and stir in the flavour oil, followed by the white colour, using a heatproof rubber spatula. Once the white is blended completely, quickly add a drop or two of your favourite food gel colours, but this time do not stir the coating. You can swirl the saucepan once or twice, or use a skewer to marble the colours, but be sure not to over-blend, or you will end up with a solid colour.
  6. Holding the handle of the saucepan with one hand, tilt so the coating pools to one side, and dip/swirl each apple until thoroughly coated. Let the excess coating drip back into the saucepan, and set aside on prepared baking sheet.
  7. When ready to serve, pierce a poof or two of cotton candy and slide down each stick to sit atop the apples. Adorn with sprinkles or glitter of choice.
  8. If using patterned paper straws, simply slide the straw over the cookie stick and trim the tops of each straw to match the height of the stick underneath.

Notes

[candy coating base recipe from the book Sprinkle Bakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Pastel Swirl Cake {Video Tutorial}

Pastel Swirl Cake via Sweetapolita

It seems that I’m on a layer-cake-making frenzy lately, and you know, it kind of feels like home. So here’s what else: I’m excited to share my first cake tutorial video, as I mentioned I was working on in my “hello” video yesterday. Just a note that it’s not fancy, and it turns out I’m no cinematographer, but it was kind of fun talking to you for a change.

Back in September, I shared this cake to celebrate my blog’s 1st anniversary, and since then I’ve received several requests to explain how to achieve this sort of watercolour, pastel swirly effect, so here we are!

I came across this technique a few years ago from Serious Cakes, and it remains one of my favourite ways to whip up a super-pretty cake, and quickly. I’ve added my own twist, and what I love most about this effect is that no two cakes are the same, making it even more artful.

Pastel Swirl Cake via Sweetapolita

As I mention in the video, it really doesn’t need sprinkles, but I like to add some metallic and shimmer bits on top when I make this cake. The pastel swirling feels beachy to me, and these little decorations somehow fit (in my mind, anyway). Even sans sprinkles, the way the colours blend and change before your eyes while frosting is reason enough to give this a try. I tinted three small bowls of frosting for this version, but you can add as many colours as you wish–you honestly can’t go wrong.

Pastel Swirl Cake via Sweetapolita

This time I opted for dark chocolate cake, because I love the contrast of the pastel whipped vanilla frosting and the dark cake, but vanilla, or any flavour you can dream up, would likely be a delight. Taking cues from the cake layers for colour choices, or the other way around, works well too–a strawberry layer cake would be charming with blended shades of pink, white, red and even a hint of mint green. I personally love when a cake’s design, colours and flavours all make sense. You know?

Pastel Swirl Cake via Sweetapolita

When I look at this cake I suddenly feel an unrelenting need for a beach house, cotton candy, saltwater taffy and possibly a canvas and paint brush. Oh, and a slice of dreamy swirly pastel cake.

Pastel Swirl Cake via Sweetapolita

So, here’s the how-to video (a tad longer than the others will be) on how I frost this style cake, or how my hands do–I kept it zoomed in so you could really see what I was doing. Hopefully it helps you along!

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!





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How to Make a (Perfectly Delightful) Vanilla Birthday Cake

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

As you may have guessed, I love birthdays. Not just mine, but pretty much any birthday I can be part of. I especially love those celebrated by my family and friends, and now that we’re into spring nearing summer, it’s a birthday extravaganza. Between my husband, myself, my kids, my dad, and more, it seems there’s a birthday every week (and one wedding anniversary in 3 days!), and that’s one way to guarantee there will be no shortage of birthday cake (in case you’re concerned about my lack of cake). The kick off was on April 25th, when our little (but not so little) Reese turned 5. You might remember this colourful post from last year, when she turned 4–I feel as though I just made that cake, and yet it was a year ago. As a mom, that both amazes and saddens me, but of course it’s always a super happy occasion, and making cake for my girls is one most fulfilling things possible.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

This year we threw her a Baking Party, which was something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I saw this party. I made her a cake just like this pink party cake–it was the perfect balance of girly, fancy, and delicious (and shh, don’t tell the girls, but this is one of the easiest and quickest cakes to make). The party itself was, as you can imagine, so much fun and complete chaos! The girls wore handmade chef’s hats (complete with pink satin lining–thank you Auntie Mary!), adorned with cupcake liner flowers (which the girls made when they arrived) and their names added by them in colourful letter stickers.

Wearing their favourite aprons, we whipped up chocolate sprinkled party spoons, decorated cupcakes, made strawberry jam and more. They each took home a pink-twine wrapped bakery box filled with their own creations as well as a “slice” of this goodie box cake filled with loot bag treats, designed by the talented Linnette of PaperGlitter, and printed and assembled by our friend, Danielle. Planning, preparing for and playing at this party made my inner 5-year old super-duper happy.

I was determined to engage, partake and enjoy every minute first hand this year, which I was able to do, but I wasn’t able to take photos as well, which does break my heart a bit. Looking back I would have designated someone to take photos or even hire a photographer, because there were just too many adorable, hilarious, messy, crazy moments. Most importantly, though, is that the we made the memories and nothing can take that away.

Perfectly Delightful Cake via Sweetapolita

The recipe itself for this cake is really just a very slightly adapted version of some of the other vanilla cakes I’ve posted (like this and this) but enough for 4 layers, paired with one of my best-loved sweeter frosting: a quick and easy (but super creamy and delightful) Whipped Vanilla Frosting that, as a result of whipping the butter and the blended frosting, tastes like creamy ice cream, and there is no sugary residue or chalky texture as with some sweet frosting. With an all-butter base and the addition of pure vanilla (and often vanilla bean), there’s an authenticity to it, even with all of that icing sugar. It also has a glide factor that makes it wonderful when applying it to the cake. I use this recipe anytime I need a fast fix or when baking for those attached to bakery frosting memories from childhood (although, isn’t that all of us?).

The reason I’ve put it together again for this post (aside from the slight adaptations of the cake), is because I’ve never posted it for a full 4-layer version of the cake, which is a simple way to make the cake party-worthy, along with some , again, quick and easy decorating I do when I can’t spend oodles of time on a cake. Truth is, sometimes even if I have the time, I still prefer cakes like these, and cakes that trigger all of my childhood memories.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

If you knew Reese, you’d know that, like most 5-year-old little girls, she’s devoted to pink. And cake. And anything involving tutus and twirls, so the simple addition of a few retro ballerinas and sprinkles really fancies it up. In the past, I’ve done cakes for the girls that have taken me a week to do, but honestly, not only could I simply not make that happen this time with all of the party prep, but it wasn’t necessary. You know I love that kind of thing, so it’s not to say I won’t make more of those for her down the road, but this cake was enough to make all the girls giddy (even the moms!).

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

The best part about this kind of moist, buttery white cake is that it pairs nicely with this type of sweeter party frosting, as I like to call it, as well my all-time favourite, Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I took the super-simple approach of filling and frosting the cake with the same thing, but I’ve also filled this cake with strawberries and whipped cream, lemon curd, homemade jam, and more.  Just remember that for best results with these cake layers, you really need to weigh your ingredients. It really is the only way to guarantee cake success with this recipe–I promise!

And before I go, I thought it would be fun to share a short home video of Reese when she was 2 years old (I don’t normally share home videos, but just for fun!) This was at a little family dinner at my dad’s for her 2nd birthday (notice one of the early fondant cakes I made–apparently I thought we were serving a few million), and although it’s just your standard Happy Birthday song video, I love the look of wonder in her eyes and the fact that she was almost going to bust of excitement–it’s kind of what this whole baking thing is all about.

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And, if you have 3 minutes and 24 seconds to fill, you can watch my all-time favourite video of Reese here. It has nothing to do with cake or birthdays, but funny as can be.

These videos may make me cry, but I hope they make you smile. ♥

Sweetapolita

Beautiful baker birthday girl, Reese.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Birthday Cake

Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 7 large egg whites (210 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract
  • 3-3/4 cups (430 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2-1/4 cups (450 g) sugar
  • 1-3/4 tablespoons (25 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (8 g)
  • 1-1/2 sticks (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) vegetable shortening
  • For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  • 2-1/2 cups (5 sticks)(575 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 5-1/4 cups (600 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (23 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch or two of salt
  • few drops pink gel colour
  • pastel sugar pearls (I used 4mm), or any other sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 8-inch pans (you will be using each one twice), or four 8-inch pans (if you're lucky enough to have four on hand). I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir 1/2 cup of the milk, stir the egg whites, whole egg, vanilla and the almond extract. Set aside.
  3. Sift cake flour twice. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low-speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and shortening, blending on low-speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 1 cup of milk, and mix on low-speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 -1/2 minutes (90 seconds), but no more.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk/extract mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.
  6. Pour 1/4 of your batter (~2 cups)(445 grams) into each prepared pan (if you have 2 pans, you will bake 2 layers first followed by the remaining 2), spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If possible, weigh the batter in the pans to ensure 2 even layers.
  7. Bake cake layers two-at-a-time in center of oven and 2" apart for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  8. Wash the 2 cake pans and line, grease and flour again and repeat.
  9. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2.
  10. For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  11. 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.
  12. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low-speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy. If you want all of your frosting (for filling and frosting cake) pink, then add a drop of pink gel colour and mix again, adding one drop at a time until desired pink shade is achieved (see notes). If you want just the outside of the cake pink, you will fill the cake layers first, and then colour the remaining frosting pink.
  13. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency), but keeps well once frosted.
  14. Assembly of the Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Birthday Cake
  15. Trim any doming or top crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife.
  16. Use a cake turntable for filling, frosting and decorating, if a possible. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 8″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, face-up.
  17. Place ~1 cup of frosting on top of the cake layer, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Gently place 2nd cake layer, face up, on top. Repeat until you come to your 4th layer, which you will place face down.
  18. Put a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  19. Remove from refrigerator and apply another "coat" of frosting.
  20. For the top of the cake border, place a large star decorating tip (I used 1E) in a large Decorating Bag filled no more than 1/2 full with pink frosting.
  21. Hold pastry bag in one hand (your dominant hand) and slowly rotate the turntable with the other. Holding frosting-filled bag at a directly above the top of the cake (90° angle), squeeze a small bit of frosting and turn the table a bit at the same time, releasing pressure slowly then stop (this will create a tapered decoration). Repeat all the way around the cake, overlapping slightly each time you pipe a new "shell."
  22. For bottom border, you will want to have the cake on the plate or pedestal which you plan to serve it upon. Fill another pastry bag the same way, and this time use tip 1M. You will pipe at about a 45° angle this time (give or take). Sprinkle with your favourite sugar pearls or sprinkles atop the top border. For some kitschy charm, add a few Vintage Ballerina Cupcake Toppers to your cake!
  23. Store, covered in a cake dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2 at room temperature.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you do not have access to cake flour, you can quickly and easily make your own to cake flour substitute. Learn how in this previous post, Bring Me Flours. Substitutions with other flour types will result in a drastically different cake.
  • This cake batter method of blending the butter with the sugar and dry ingredients first is called the “reverse creaming method,” and was pioneered by cake guru, Rose Levy Beranbaum.
  • As with any vanilla cake, you can use 100% liquid egg whites in the cake layers (simply weigh them on your kitchen scale), which saves wasting the yolks. If using whole eggs and separating, always separate when eggs are cold, but use when room temperature.
  • Baking the cake layers in 4 pans, rather than 2 and then splitting the layers afterwards, yields an evenly baked cake that bakes faster and without overdone edges.
  • I highly recommend (strongly urge!) you to use a digital kitchen scale to measure ingredients.
  • This batter makes fabulous cupcakes.
  • The frosting tastes like vanilla ice cream–you’ll see!
  • Some pink food gel colours cause streaking. I find that, for me, Americolor Electric Pink does not cause streaking (but it’s an intense pink, so go easy!). After several hours there are some teeny darker pin-sized dots, but the cake in the photos is after several days, to give you a better idea. Also note that pink colour fades, particularly in the sun. You still want to go easy with the colour, but just keep it in mind.
  • You may enjoy reading my previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Good luck & enjoy!



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