Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I have not one, but two addictions: cake and Vanilla Bean Lattes. I suppose this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since I am a coffee/espresso enthusiast as well as a vanilla bean enthusiast. I love the combination of the deep and dark espresso, vanilla bean, steamed milk, and, for me, a sprinkling of cinnamon; it’s  full and flavourful, while still being light and airy. I’ve been wanting to translate this yumminess into a cake and, after thinking about it for awhile, I realized that there really are many ways to do this, because these flavours are all so cake-friendly, and work so well together. I decided to go about it in a pretty simplistic manner, as my first experiment with Vanilla Bean Lattes cake-style: three layers of moist vanilla bean cake, filled and decorated with Vanilla Bean Latte Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and sprinkled with a touch more cinnamon.

I have to admit that turning a vanilla cake into a latte-inspired confection took only moments to do, because I always keep a batch of vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB) in my freezer, and with the sprinkling of a few flavourings, it was transformed into the perfect filling for this cake. Not that it’s always about decadent desserts made speedy, but I have a feeling many of you are like me in that time is, well, rare! That’s also why I love this “open-faced” method of building the cake, aside from it being pretty and fun (I hope!), it’s very quick to do since there’s no fussing with excessive smoothing, crumb-coating, and focusing on, or obsessing about (#typeA) perfection. You can just fill a pastry bag and have fun. I timed it, and flavouring the buttercream took me about 5 minutes and assembling/decorating this cake took me 5 minutes (granted, it’s a bit of a fancy-free decorating  job I did), at a casual pace, so a total of 1o minutes. Typically, I love sitting for hours and fussing over cakes, but since that’s not always possible, it’s so important to me to have some cakes that can fancy-up quick. This is why I insist on keeping batches of SMB in my freezer!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

To achieve the Vanilla Bean Latte flavour in the buttercream, I added instant espresso powder (has to be the instant variety), vanilla bean paste (interchangeable with vanilla beans), and a few pinches of cinnamon (which is how I love my lattes). The cinnamon is potent, so only a pinch is necessary–you don’t want to overpower the gorgeous vanilla bean and espresso flavours. I’ve included my ratios in the recipe, but if you try this version, play around, because it really is to taste.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

My recipe also uses a vanilla bean cake, but you could easily try a light espresso cake with vanilla bean buttercream, or you could leave the vanilla bean out of the buttercream and use an espresso buttercream with a vanilla bean cake. I have a feeling you can’t go wrong, as long as the flavours aren’t overpowering.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Add a sprinkling of cinnamon before serving, for colour, a few coffee beans for garnish, and voila!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is a butter vanilla cake, so the texture is moist but has some density, but is still fluffy with only the egg whites and a generous amount of baking powder. The recipe method is traditional: creaming of the butter & sugar, gradual adding of the egg whites, sifting & whisking of the dry ingredients, and alternating the wet & dry ingredients gently into the batter. I would say this is my go-to vanilla cake recipe, both for cake and cupcakes, because it’s simple, delicious, and, yep, quick!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I recently tweaked my Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe for a lighter, less-buttery, version, and I haven’t looked back (although, there are many ratios for SMB, and they all taste fabulous!). This, though, was the perfect, airy, not-too-sweet base for this Vanilla Bean Latte version, with a fluffiness reminiscent of the frothy milk that is happily perched on top of a latte. Delightful.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Yield: One 8-inch round, 3-layer cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4-1/2 cups (570 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 6 large egg whites (180 g)
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 1 teaspoon (5 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  6. For the Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  8. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  9. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add espresso mixture, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. Assembly of the Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake:
  11. Place cooled cake layer on cake pedestal, or cake board, face-up. Spread 1 cup of buttercream on top using a small offset palette knife, leaving narrow border along outside edge.
  12. Gently place 2nd cake layer on top, and be sure to center it with bottom layer. Apply another 1 cup of buttercream and spread as you did the first layer.
  13. Gently place final cake layer on top, face-down (so the clean bottom side is facing up). Apply a final layer of buttercream.
  14. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip (I used Ateco #887), and pipe desired designs on cake to trim and decorate. Sprinkle sliced cake servings with cinnamon, and garnish with espresso beans (optional).

Notes

*This cake is best served at room temperature, and keeps nicely in a cake-keeper for up to 2 days. Swiss Meringue Buttercream cakes are ideally refrigerated after day 2, but should always be served at room temperature, so that it comes back to its light and cloud-like texture; otherwise, it will taste and feel like pure butter!

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You may find these previous posts helpful when creating this cake:

1. 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

2. Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

Good luck & enjoy!



 

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For the Love of Fondant Asparagus (and 8-Layer Cakes)

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello! Please forgive the fact that it’s been 10 days since my last post–I would have shared one sooner, but I swear I’ve been dyeing, rolling, snipping, and dusting fondant asparagus since the last post. If you’ve never seen the earlier version of this cake, then I’m excited to share it’s craziness (and deliciousness) with you for the first time; if you have and you’re wondering why in the world I’ve made it again, well, I couldn’t resist.

The thing is, I’m usually partial to much traditionally prettier, and much less hyper-realistic novelty cakes, but under the circumstances of the first Asparagus Cake, it just made perfect sense to attempt a fondant asparagus wrapped layer cake. After the first time, I somehow fell in love with it’s quirky beauty and unexpected appearance. You can read all about the creation of my first version here (which happened to be one of my very first blog posts!), but I’ll quickly explain that I first made it back in October, for Grant’s gorgeous sister, Mary. She had eaten heaps of asparagus for months, while rigorously training for a fitness competition. I recall a text she sent me a few days before her show, expressing her disgust with eating even one more asparagus, and when I had asked her what she wanted for her first post-show meal,  she said “anything but asparagus!” She also requested that we have any kind of chocolate cake with Swiss meringue buttercream for dessert. At first I started planning a pink, ruffly cake, and then with no warning, it came to me in the middle of the night: whatever it took, I had to conceal her rich chocolate cake and buttercream with a bunch of asparagus made from fondant.

I began working on it the very next morning, and didn’t stop until it looked as realistic as possible. She loved it and the proverbial “icing on the cake” was that she came in first place! Ever since that time, I’ve been eager to create and photograph this cake again, and I thought it would be fun to kick it up a notch this time by building an 8-layer chocolate cake inside, as opposed to the traditional 3-layer version I did originally. Asparagus or not, slicing and serving an 8-layer cake just feels right.

Asparagus via Sweetapolita

Just as I did the first time, I referred to a real bunch (above) of asparagus for inspiration, but, it’s funny — even though they’re green and, well, all vegetable-ish, I see such beauty in them, particularly raw and full of purple highlights. Creating them out of fondant and petal dust is actually very similar to creating hundreds of sugar flowers — each one unique and full of organic details and personality.

Sweetapolita

Little Neve was a trooper through this project, and I’m pretty sure she spent the duration of the week trying to figure out what I was doing. She sat with me in the daytime while I made hundreds of fondant asparagus tips and stalks . . .

Sweetapolita

I’ll give her another year of freedom, but then she’ll be ready for some official fondant-asparagus-training.

Sweetapolita

For now,  just being adorable, making me laugh, and keeping me sane while I dye, roll, cut, snip, and dust for days, will do perfectly fine.

In the works . . . can you believe I actually find building this cake therapeutic?

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

After a few days, it’s done! I was dying to slice into this because I knew the 8-layer chocolate cake factor was going to make it even crazier looking . . .

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

And I’m always up for some crazy! Ooh, dramatic desserts will always have my heart. Always. Most of the time when I make chocolate layer cakes, I use my standby Rich Chocolate Cake recipe, which is a one-bowl, moist, dark cake. A few weeks ago for the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake, I did a southern version of Devil’s Food Cake including butter, mayonnaise, and buttermilk; it was unbelievable! This week, I thought it would be fun to try another Devil’s Food Cake recipe (typically richer than the one-bowl cake and made butter-cake style by creaming sugar, adding wet and dry ingredients separately, etc), so I played around with a more traditional version that didn’t include mayonnaise.

I baked three 8-inch round pans and then sliced each one into 2 for this cake. You may be asking yourself how I get an 8-layer cake with a total of 6 layers, but the truth is I had a layer of chocolate cake I needed to use up, and so I sliced it in two and popped it on top to create 8-layers sandwiched between vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (I should add that I added about 20% less butter this batch, and it was gorgeous; don’t be afraid to play around with your ratios.). I can’t stress enough how quickly you can create a wow-factor by slicing a regular 3-layer cake into a total of 6 layers — it only takes a few extra moments, and it changes the complete dynamic of the cake! It could even be a classic vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream or filling, and once you start stacking layer upon layer, it offers a touch of drama.

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, the good news for you is that I’ll spare you the step-by-step tutorial on how to make an Asparagus Cake, because I have a feeling that I’m the only one silly enough to spend days making a layer cake so unusual, but I’d love to share this variation of the Devil’s Food Cake I baked for this cake. Its texture is a bit lighter than the southern Devil’s Food Layer Cake, but it’s a gorgeous classic version and divine in its own right.

NEW! How to Make a Fondant Asparagus Cake {a Tutorial}

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dark Devil’s Food Cake            {click here for printable recipe}

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans

3/4 cup Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark

1/2 cup boiling water

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Add boiling water to sifted cocoa powder in medium bowl and whisk; set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting and whisk together. Whisk buttermilk into cocoa mixture. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan to ensure even layers.  Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 35 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Try not to over-bake. I tend to under-bake a few moments, so the skewer is a little bit gummy. This works well for a moist chocolate cake (not vanilla). Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Moist Devil’s Food Cake

For Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe, visit the previous post Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

You may also find this previous post helpful 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

The Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (my all-time favourite) is what makes this chocolate cake taste so incredible. You can find it by clicking here: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I have great news! My temporary cake-diet, you know, the one during which I stopped eating cake, is over, and I’ve resumed my more permanent cake-diet, the one where all I think about and often indulge in cake. And, let me say, I ended it and restored order just in time: 3 layers of rich Southern Devil’s Food Cake stacked between fluffy Neapolitan flavoured Swiss Meringue Buttercreams: Belgian Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry, and topped with pure dark chocolate sprinkles from Holland. If you read the past post of mine, Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, you’ll recall that I adore Neapolitan. In that case, the cake itself was Neapolitan. The flavours really bring me back to my childhood, and I was so happy to see that so many of you felt the same way after reading that post. Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about Neapolitan and how I think there may be a serious shortage of it in my day-to-day life, so I’ve been dreaming up new ways to incorporate it into my world. This was a really fun start to that mission!  

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

If someone was ever cruel enough to force you to choose, would you say that you’re a cake person, or a frosting person? I find the older I get, the more I appreciate the cake itself. I would say that most times I would be perfectly content with a fresh piece of cake icing free, but wow, Swiss Meringue Buttercream makes me so very happy, and I’m pretty sure, with some focus, I could sit down and eat an entire bowl of it. Of course, its rich-but-light texture that’s not too sweet but just sweet enough is a dream in itself, but working with it, well, there’s just nothing better. It’s so satiny and holds up so well under fondant, on its own, in ruffles, smooth & perfect, or just about any way at all. You can flavour it with just about anything, and it can be frozen, then thawed, refrigerated, then room temperature–it will take just about anything! It may seem intimidating to make at first, but it’s really quick once you get the hang of it, and you will never look back. It’s also a really great way to take a simple layer cake and make it a bit more special and luxe.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

As for the cake itself, I decided to take a break from my favourite Dark Chocolate Cake and go for a really rich and decadent Southern Devil’s Food Cake recipe I found, from Fine Cooking, that’s made with a few different ingredients than my usual recipe, such as mayonnaise, butter, and dark brown sugar. I did, though, make sure to include my must-have cocoa powder, Cacao Barry Extra Brute, for that really dark and rich taste. Divine. I really can say that I notice that extra richness that the butter and mayonnaise add–incredible!

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

What better way to show off all of these buttercream flavours, than to just tie it into the design of the cake, and leave the frosting off of the outside? I personally love cakes that are left open like this, and I think it’s a really refreshing change once in awhile, particularly when you play with interesting filling flavours, textures, and colours. Now, I did go quite generous with this filling because of the gorgeous, not-so-sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I wouldn’t recommend this with sugary frosting. As a “rule,” not that I’m big on those, you would aim for your layer-cake filling to be about 1/2 of the thickness of your cake layers.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I sliced this piece for the photo, and then covered it with wrap once I was done with the photographs. I wasn’t going to eat it (I promise), but then as the girls were walking to the bathroom for bath-time, they discovered it, and well, there we sat in the upstairs hallway sharing this with 3 forks and a lot of “mmmm”s. Nothing could have prepared me for the extreme cute that is watching a 4-year-old and a 19-month-old eat cake and sprinkles while sporting bare bums.

Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Speaking of sprinkles, I have to tell you about this incredible range of imported sprinkles I found at the cutest little bakery and European grocer located in a wee little town near me, Orono, where I buy most of my antiques. I was there this past weekend, and I discovered an entire shelf of these gourmet sprinkles from the Netherlands. Aside from the fact that they offer pure dark chocolate, milk chocolate, anise, and many more sprinkle variations, they won me over at first glance–can you guess why? Yes! They have smothered these sprinkles all over toast, and this is, what I since discovered something the Dutch love to do! I can’t say it ever crossed my mind to do that, but I think I need to give that a try–immediately. Besides, any country that swears by mayonnaise and french fries is clearly on the brink of culinary genius (did I mention that the little grocer also sells large squeeze bottles of the french-fry-designated mayo?), and I trust them completely. I sprinkled a handful of the dark chocolate variety as the finishing touch to this cake. Love them! You can learn more about these De Ruijter sprinkles here or buy them here.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my bare-bummed little cakelets and I did.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (460 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon (7 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (10 g) kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) mayonnaise
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cup (250 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 oz (150 g) quality bittersweet chocolate
  • Few drops Strawberry Flavor Oil, or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) strawberry puree
  • Few drops pink gel colour

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting, and whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently. Fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan for 454 g each (excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) This ensures even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Try not to over-bake. I tend to under-bake a few moments, so the skewer is a little bit gummy. This works well for a moist chocolate cake (not vanilla).
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  9. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  10. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  11. Assembly of the Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake
  12. Divide buttercream into 3, and flavour 1/3 chocolate and another 1/3 strawberry. Leave remaining buttercream vanilla. For chocolate, add melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate and blend until combined. For strawberry, add a few drops of Strawberry Flavor Oil (minimal) or 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry puree. Add a few drops of pink gel food colouring to strawberry buttercream
  13. Trim any doming on your cake layers with a very sharp, serrated bread knife. Wrap layers in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes in freezer.
  14. Spread a 1" circle of icing onto an 8" round thin cake board using an offset palette knife and place the first cake layer on top, face-up.
  15. Using a small offset palette knife, spread 1 cup of chocolate buttercream on top, leaving about a 1" gap from edges. Place second cake layer on top, face up, and repeat, using Vanilla Buttercream.
  16. Place final layer on top, face-down and repeat using Strawberry Buttercream.
  17. Fill 3 piping bags with remaining buttercreams fitted with Wilton 8B decorative tip, or the tip of your choice, decorate edges, filling in gaps. Top with dark chocolate sprinkles.

Notes

*Keep buttercream in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze buttercream for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

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[Southern Devil's Cake Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, by David Guas]

Good luck & enjoy!

 

 

PS. I love receiving your baking questions, and I find it works really well if you ask them in the comments section, so that when I reply to post-related questions in the comment section as opposed to via email, other readers with the same questions can read the information as well. Thanks so much!

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Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cake via Sweetapolita

I have a bit of a dilemma. Okay, I have a big, big dilemma: this cake is sitting 6′ away from me in the fridge right now, and I’m trying to resist it! You’d think I’d be used to sitting in arms’ reach of cake all day long, but sometimes, well, maybe often, it’s almost impossible not to sit down to the entire thing with a fork and just go to it. The thing is, as much as I joke about the amount of cake I eat, I also take a break from the sweets now and again, to make sure I stay healthy & fit. Sadly, now is one of those times! I did take a few bites, to makes sure it all tasted great, but that’s all.

For me, the joy is actually about baking and making the cakes, and usually the even bigger joy is watching someone else enjoy them. It kind of reminds of my fellow foodie sister-in-law, Mary. She also loves to bake, and when she trains for fitness competitions, she just carries on and keeps baking, knowing that she never will actually eat any of it. Pretty amazing, if you ask me, since that goes on for months and months; for me, it’s more of a one or two week cake-free situation, and then right back at it. So, why did I make a rectangular cake this time? Well, that I’m not completely sure about, besides the fact that I have a fascination with beautiful ice cream cakes, which often are built this same way. No, this isn’t an ice cream cake, and no, I’ve never eaten such an ice cream cake, but I love photos of lovely ones, and this is often their shape.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake via Sweetapolita
I began to wonder if a buttercream cake would taste even better that way. It really does get difficult to make a buttercream cake look unique, aside from getting too crazy on the inside of the cake, which I tend not to do. I love classic layers, and I love gorgeous fillings, so really, that means getting creative with combinations of the flavours, as well as scale, height, and, well, shape.

Aside from the ganache drizzle (which, oops, isn’t as smooth as it should be, so we’ll talk about that!), all the components of this cake are my trusty standbys: Swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate cake baked in a sheet pan (although I did use a slightly different chocolate cake recipe), and the newest addition, toasted marshmallow filling in place of the raspberry buttercream in the middle layer. To be honest, this cake really doesn’t necessarily need any marshmallow representation (amazing, though), but I happened to have some left from a cake I did the other day, and I thought it would be fun to use it to fill one of the layers. It really does work well, and it tastes so good together, but if you were to create this cake, you could most definitely just do all raspberry buttercream, or even just vanilla buttercream, or both. You could even alternate a whipped ganache filling and raspberry buttercream — trust me, there is no wrong answer here.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake via Sweetapolita

Do you think that this cake would taste even better because of its unusual shape, even though all of the parts are the same as some of my round cakes? I don’t know why, but I think it does. Slicing into this was so fun, and for some reason, I think square/rectangular dessert tastes better all around, actually. Is it just me, or when you were a kid, wasn’t it so exciting to have your ice cream sliced right out of the box (especially neapolitan!) and eat a big square piece of ice cream on a plate? That was the ultimate (is ice cream in the box just a Canadian thing?). Even ice cream sandwiches (speaking of which, I would give anything for one of those right now), cookies, marshmallows, cupcakes, and even pie — I just came across square pie in the city and loved it. Can you think of any others?

Chocolate Raspberry Cake via Sweetapolita

I’m not saying this idea is revolutionary, but I hadn’t done it before, and I was thinking this would be a unique way to serve a classic birthday cake, shower cake, or even wedding dessert table cake, or cakes. There are so many gorgeous rectangular platters out there, and you could even build an entire dessert table out of these cakes, all different lengths — am I getting carried away? Even so, this one really has presence (in my humble opinion) and of course you could build it any way you like, with any flavours, or more or less layers. I’ll write the full how-to below, but just to give you an idea of what I did was just bake the chocolate cake in a bakers’ half sheet (the same one I use for baking my cookies), and slice it into 4 even slices.

I started with a double batch of vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, added about few handfuls of fresh raspberries and some toasted marshmallow filling. Then I just built the cake as I would a round cake, but did it right onto the platter. Once it was all frosted, smoothed, and chilled, I made a ganache to drizzle over the top for a dramatic touch. I then threw on a handful of chocolate sprinkles and one fresh raspberry and trimmed the bottom with more chocolate sprinkles. I’m sorry to say that my ganache was a tiny bit bumpy, but, sadly, I didn’t realize that until after I drizzled it.

Well, I suppose that’s okay, because now we can talk a bit about that. Ganache, being just a simple (albeit incredibly decadent) pairing of heavy cream and chopped chocolate, does seem pretty easy, but I’ve learned that it can be sensitive. If you’ve never made it, don’t let that deter you, because it really isn’t difficult. I’ve done it successfully several times with a different ratio, but this time I wasn’t so lucky. It’s possible, in this case, my chocolate wasn’t chopped finely enough or that the cream was too hot; I wondered if that may happen.

To learn more about ganache and how to ensure a perfect result, you can check out this post on the Global Gourmet. I did find a recipe with a different ratio than my old recipe last night, and made a batch that worked beautifully, so just in case, I’ll include that version instead. You could also just make a chocolate glaze, if you’d prefer. Either way, it’s still gorgeous and yummy, but I’ll be sure to not let that happen again. It actually worked out for the best, because the new ganache recipe is even better, and now I can add that to my repertoire.

Here’s the recipe:

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle

Yield: One 4-layer 13"L x 5"H x 4.5"W cake

Ingredients

    For the Sheet Cake:
  • 2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon (330 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (135 g) Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 g) baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) strong black coffee, hot
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Filling:
  • 8 large white marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup (63 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
  • 1/2 cup butter (113 g)(1 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 jar (107 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
  • For the Raspberry Buttercream:
  • 5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml)(or to taste) raspberry puree OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried raspberries
  • pinch of salt
  • few drops pink food colouring (optional)
  • For the Ganache:
  • 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

    For the Sheet Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat the bottom & edges of a commercial baking sheet (bakers half sheet 13 x 18 x 1) with butter then add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom. Dust it all with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pan. (Batter will be thin.)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pan. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 more minutes. Cool on wire rack in pan until completely cool.
  5. For the Filling:
  6. Place marshmallows on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on lower rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, between 30-60 seconds. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the marshmallows over, and broil until they are golden brown. (Be sure to keep an eye on them--they burn very quickly.)
  7. In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and icing sugar on low until blended, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on med-high for about 3 minutes.
  8. Add marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute.
  9. For the Raspberry Buttercream:
  10. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  11. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  12. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  13. Add raspberry puree to taste or the fresh raspberries in small increments, and blend until combined. Add small amount of pink food colouring, if desired.
  14. For the Ganache:
  15. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil (watching very carefully) then swiftly remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minutes and then whisk until smooth.
  16. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward.
  17. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.
  18. Assembly of the Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake:
  19. Chill sheet cake in freezer for 30 minutes, or refrigerator for several hours. The cake will be a bit sticky, but should not be soft and fragile. If so, place in freezer or refrigerator again until more firm.
  20. Using a sharp, serrated bread knife, cut the cake in half, then those halves in half--4 total. The pieces will be 11" long and about 4.5" wide.
  21. Place 1st layer face-up (on a platter, or whatever you choose to serve the cake on), and spread about 1/2" thick layer of buttercream on top. Repeat this step, adding any flavours of buttercream or filling you like, placing your final layer face down. Cover with plastic wrap loosely, and chill for about 15 minutes in freezer or 30 minutes in refrigerator.
  22. Crumb Coat Coat cake with thin layer of buttercream using a small offset spatula for the top and a straight offset spatula for the sides--if you have a metal bench scraper, you can run along cake to get smooth finish and to achieve sharp corners. Always start at the top of the cake, working your way down. Chill cake for about 30 minutes, or pop back in freezer for 10-15 more minutes to set buttercream. This is a good time to wash and dry your spatulas and bench scraper for the top layer of buttercream application.
  23. Using your clean tools, add a thick layer of buttercream on the top of the cake, working it over the edges and then finish the sides. Be very generous with your buttercream, because you will be scraping most of it off with the scraper. It just makes it so much easier to get the smooth finish. Chill the cake for as long as you need, but at least 15 minutes to set the buttercream.
  24. Drizzle your warm (but not hot) ganache over the top of your very chilled cake so it seeps down the sides. Be careful not to use too much, or you will lose your pink cake underneath! You can use your clean small offset metal spatula to smooth it over the top. Chill to set.
  25. Add any topping you like or none at all. I sprinkled chocolate jimmies on top, and added one single fresh raspberry.
  26. Get creative!
  27. Keep refrigerated, but serve room temperature. Leave out of refrigerator for about 2 hours prior to serving. Keeps up to 3 days in an airtight container, although, I've been known to eat it past that and it was still great.

Notes

*The filling recipe is enough to fill the middle layer of this cake.

**For the Raspberry Buttercream, add about a 1/2 pint of fresh washed & dried raspberries if you like the textured effect, or raspberry puree for a smooth finish. *Be sure to add the raspberries right before you are to frost the cake, otherwise, if you store in refrigerator overnight, the moisture of the berries will turn your buttercream into an icky mess.

***You can also add a drop or 2 of pink gel colour to get a pinker look.

****Keep in Raspberry Buttercream in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes. You can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

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Rich & Ruffled Chocolate Celebration Cake

Ruffle Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Thursday! I’ve been eager to talk chocolate cake with you, ever since my post on Classic Vanilla Butter Cake. If you read that post, you might recall that I mentioned my husband and I often debate which cake is a bigger crowd-pleaser: chocolate or vanilla. He’s a vanilla man, and although I used to be a full-on and devoted vanilla lover, my heart is now true to my all-time favourite chocolate cake recipe: Rich & Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s simply the yummiest, richest, most delicious cake recipe I have (not to mention the easiest). It pairs well with many icings and fillings, but works particularly well with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For fellow cake decorators, you are likely all-too familiar with it, but for those who aren’t, it will likely become an important addition to your baking repertoire. It’s super-creamy, silky, satiny texture is only beat by its buttery, rich, yet not-too-sweet taste.

It also goes on so beautifully, unlike sugary frostings, and therefore gives you some beautiful and simple options when using it to decorate a cake. It’s also what’s used to coat cakes before they are covered with fondant, but it is delicious and diverse enough to be used on its own, especially for occasion and wedding cakes. That’s why I chose to do this gorgeous ruffle cake, to show you how beautiful and show-stopping Swiss Meringue Buttercream can really be. I first saw this ruffling buttercream technique on Martha Stewart, and couldn’t resist it’s frilliness, so decided to use it for this small occasion cake I made yesterday — so simple and so girly.

Speaking of girly, Reese was home while I was getting ready to make the chocolate cake, and when I called up to her room, and asked her if she wanted to help, down she came with her full ballerina-princess costume on. I swear I didn’t stage that, but it sure made for some pretty-in-pink photos of her helping bake the cake.

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First thing she did (her own idea) was start cutting parchment circles for her baking pans–this is so my child!

Sweetapolita

When I look at this photo, besides relishing in how adorable she is, I can’t help but wonder if Grant would appreciate my baking adventures just a wee bit more if I wore this outfit each time I baked. (I can’t help but think that this photo will cause me to tear-up when she’s grown and gone.)

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Such focus! I love this retro mixing bowl and tool set I found at my favourite vintage/shabby chic style shop near our house — perfect for her little hands.

Okay, back to cake.  This chocolate cake recipe is such a simple and delicious one. I call this cake “rich & ruffled” because not only does the cake and Swiss buttercream taste rich, but it’s also a premium cake in its ingredients, although worth every single penny. As far as the cake goes, using a premium dark cocoa powder is paramount. I always use extra dark cocoa powder for this cake, and any other recipe that calls for cocoa powder. It’s a sure way to bring your chocolate baked goods to a new level of quality and decadence.

The ruffling technique itself is quite straight-forward. Once I tinted the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (I went with a retro coral colour using a combination of Sugarflair  “Peach” and Spectrum “Electric Pink” gel colours) and applied a thin layer on the filled and stacked cake, to ensure that the ruffles had something to adhere to. Placing the cake on a rotating cake stand, and with a large piping bag (I used 18″) filled will buttercream and fitted with a large petal tip (I used Wilton #123), I started at the bottom, holding the piping bag straight with tip pointing at cake board and the smaller part of the tip facing outward, and just did a back and forth motion until I reached the top of the cake then started again beside that row, and so on.

Once the cake was ruffled all around the outside, I did a circular ruffling around the top. If you’re a visual person, you may enjoy, and benefit from, watching a quick and helpful ruffling tutorial on YouTube, done by the fabulous Melody from Sweet & Saucy Shop in California. You can also read more about this technique from Martha Stewart here. My ruffled cake wasn’t perfect, but it’s pretty forgiving. Ruffles are always lovely (especially fluffy buttercream ones!).

Ruffle Cake via Sweetapolita

Here is the finished cake in its full ruffled glory. So simple and perfect for showers, birthdays, weddings, or any special gathering. Thank you, Martha and Melody!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Let’s take a minute to adore ruffles. Ruffles, ruffles, and more ruffles!

Ruffle Cake via Sweetapolita

Chocolate cake, anyone?

Happy Ruffling!

Rich & Ruffled Chocolate Celebration Cake

Yield: Two 8-inch round cake layers, 5 cups buttercream

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder - Extra Dark
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (9 g) salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (237 mL) strong, hot black coffee or espresso
  • 1 cup (237 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (119 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 5 large egg whites (150g)
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the cake layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 2 x 9" (or 3 x 8" for slightly shorter layers) cake pans with butter and flour or parchment paper.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients to mixture and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer).
  3. Divide among prepared pans. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean, about 35 minutes. Try not to overbake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  8. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed, gradually add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  9. Add vanilla and salt and mix well.
  10. Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.
  11. Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks.

Notes

*If doing the ruffly cake, you can increase the cake recipe by 50% for a 3-layer cake (or 6, if you slice each in 2) and make the buttercream x 3. It requires tons and tons of buttercream. Trust me!

**This cake is sturdy enough to be used under fondant, stacked, etc. but also moist and tasty enough too go on its own with almost any type of frosting, glaze, etc.

[Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe adapted from Martha Stewart]

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