Autumn Delight Cake

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So it turns out this cake has more ingredients than any cake I have ever made! And when I started to write the cake description in the blog title, I realized that there are 18 words and two ampersands in the name. Yep. Okay, ready? The Autumn Delight cake is a 4-Layer Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream. When I tried to edit that, I realized that each one of those ingredients are key, and I couldn’t bare the thought of taking any words away. Okay, you’re right, I’m just being silly, but most importantly I am really excited about this cake. In my heart, I am drawn to all thing pastel and sprinkly, but there is a big part of me that just loves autumny, spiced flavours. At this time of year, my sister-in-law, Mary, makes that gorgeous southern sweet potato casserole dish that you have likely heard of or tried, that marries sweet potatoes, brown sugar, marshmallows, vanilla and pecans, and I thought it would be a nice treat to create a cake version of that dish. So on with the apron and into the kitchen I went . . .

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

What I love about this recipe is how moist, creamy, and unexpected some of the elements are. I made a sweet potato layer spice cake and added a generous quantity of crystallized ginger for texture and taste to the cake layers themselves, and then filled the cake with whipped toasted marshmallow filling (remember the one from this cake?) that I sprinkled with candied pecans for crunch (you even get those little buttery brown sugary bits that fall off the pecans every now and then). Since the filling was quite sweet, I decided to frost it with a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is fluffy, satiny and perfectly brown sugary and not-too sweet, in true Swiss Meringue Buttercream fashion. The neat part about making Brown Sugar Buttercream is that you essentially just switch the white sugar for brown sugar, and voila! The taste is really quite different and it was the perfect addition to this concoction–particulary when topped with a generous handful of the candied pecans and crystallized ginger.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So think about it this way: Every bite is crunchy, then brown sugar creamy, then dense, moist & spicy, then sweet and crispy, oh, and then crunchy, and then dense, moist & spicy, and then sweet and crispy, and oh, yet again crunchy, then dense, moist & spicy, then, alas, sweet and crispy, and then dense, moist & spicy. Help me, Rhonda.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

If the sweet potato thing is throwing you off your dessert-loving game, well, don’t fear. It’s much like carrot cake or pumpkin cake, and the texture is like no other–it’s dense yet light all at once. You have my word. I wasn’t sure either, but now I am pretty certain.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I once wrote that the Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing is my ultimate-tasting cake, and I have always stood by that statement because I meant it. Well, this cake comes a close second or possibly ties for first. Or possibly the unthinkable: it could be even better.

If you make this cake, just know that it does take some time, but I felt it was completely worth it, and I think it would make an incredible addition to any Thanksgiving event or any autumn day.

Autumn Delight Cake

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

Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream

Ingredients

    For the Cake Layers:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes (about 900 g)
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) crystallized ginger, chopped
  • For the Filling:
  • 16 large white marshmallows
  • 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
  • 1 cup butter (227 g)(2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 jar (213 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites (150 g))
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • a few pinches of cinnamon, to taste
  • For the Candied Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (24 g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (100 g) pecan pieces

Instructions

    For the Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and pierce them with a fork. Microwave until they are tender (about 7-8 minutes each side). Carefully remove the skin when cool enough to touch, and mash the flesh into a coarse puree.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled sweet potato puree and mix until combined.
  4. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to sweet potato mixture.
  5. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  6. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  7. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  8. For the Filling:
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.
  11. Add marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute.
  12. For the Buttercream:
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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. Add cinnamon to taste and blend.
  16. For the Candied Pecans:
  17. Melt the butter in a small pan. Mix in brown sugar, and add the pecans. Toss to coat.
  18. Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to watch carefully so they don’t burn.
  19. Turn out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and let cool for 5 minutes; break apart into smaller pieces if using halves.
  20. Assembly of the Autumn Delight Cake
  21. Slice both cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 4 cake layers.
  22. Place the first layer on a plate, pedestal or cake board cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread ~3/4 cup of Toasted Marshmallow Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge. Sprinkle with a handful of candied pecans pieces.
  23. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down and chill cake for 30-40 minutes.
  24. Frost cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and top with a generous handful of candied pecans and crystallized ginger.
  25. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but always serve at room temperature (Swiss Buttercream should never be served cold, as it goes back to a cold-butter texture).

Notes

* You can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping 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. If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

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[cake layer recipe adapted from Martha Stewart]

[candied pecan recipe adapted from Creative Culinary]

Good luck & enjoy!

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Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

Six-Layer Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, since my last post, I aged a year . . . yes, a year! I celebrated my birthday this past weekend, and, although we kept it cozy here at home, I couldn’t resist baking two different cakes. The truth is, I couldn’t decide what to bake, and since it was just going to be my little family, and I wanted to spend some time relaxing,  I didn’t want to get too fancy or crazy, but I still couldn’t decide what to make. Sadly (sort of), I can’t blog about the first cake I made because we (and by “we” I mean “I”) ate most of it and it was quickly out of the running to be photographed. If you’re curious what it was, I found the recipe here. It was delicious and intense in its chocolate-ness, and it had been on my mind for months. It was a perfect opportunity to give it a try! This 6-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake was the second cake I made, and I made it because I wanted to bake a different version of the one-bowl dark chocolate cake I normally use, and I was craving Strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s really a simple combination, but I love the deep, dark chocolate cake paired with the light, creamy strawberry buttercream. The strawberry version of the buttercream is simply a matter of adding strawberry puree or fresh strawberries to your vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. I don’t make this version as much I should, actually, and it gave me a much-needed hit of strawberry and chocolate!

I couldn’t resist splitting the 3 layers into 6, since it’s a fast and easy way to create some drama in an otherwise classic birthday cake, and of course it’s a chance to include that much more Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I don’t think I could do this with a sugary frosting, as it would just be too much sweet (and, yes, I really do think there’s such as thing!), but it works well with this cloud-like, and not-too-sweet buttercream. As with the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe I use so often, this is a simple one-bowl recipe that offers a dark, super moist, and chocolate-y cake made with oil and my favourite extra dark cocoa powder: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark. I love the intensity of this cocoa powder, both in its flavour and colour, and it really comes through in this cake. You may notice that I can’t stop baking with it!

Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Cake via Sweetapolita

I topped the cake with a dark and shiny (and simple) glaze, made with my favourite Callebaut Belgian bittersweet dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) callets, which also have a touch of real vanilla in them, and butter melted over a pot of simmering water. A quick and yummy way to add another hit of chocolate to the cake. I love this chocolate! I use it for brownies, ganache, buttercream, and more. It comes in callet form (like chips), which is so easy to melt without having to chop from a huge block. If you’re not a huge fan of such dark chocolate, you can always use semisweet, or in some cases milk chocolate. I use milk chocolate sparingly in baking because I find it so sweet, but there is definitely a time and a place for it–especially when it’s Belgian milk chocolate. In any case, I tend to use the extra dark variety in most cases.

For those of you who have requested a few more caking-baking tips, I’ve included a few below, and you can also refer to one of my earlier posts on the subject, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Here is the recipe for all of the components of this cake–use them all, or any of them on their own, or mixed and matched with some of your other favourite recipes!

Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

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

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/3 cups (275 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 140 ml (5 liquid oz) buttermilk
  • 130 ml (4.5 liquid oz) espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue 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) strawberry puree OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried strawberries, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • few drops pink food colouring (optional)
  • For the Glaze:
  • 4 oz (115 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or callets
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds, and flour or cocoa powder. Tap out excess.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes total. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  7. If using strawberry puree, place a handful of frozen strawberries in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree. Measure approximately 1/4 cup and set aside (you may want to add more puree to taste).
  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. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Add strawberry puree to taste or the finely chopped strawberries, and blend until combined. Add small amount of pink food colouring, if desired.
  12. For the Glaze:
  13. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. *Be careful to not get even a droplet of water into your bowl of chocolate and butter.
  14. Assembly of the Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake
  15. Slice the 1st cake layer in half horizontally, using a large serrated knife and place cut side up on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.
  16. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 1/2 cup of buttercream evenly on the top.
  17. Repeat this with remaining cake layers, until you come to the final layer, which you will place face-down on the top of the cake.
  18. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top "coat" of buttercream.
  19. Repeat the previous step and for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady--let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.
  20. Chill cake.
  21. If glazing the cake, make the glaze and set aside for a few moments to cool a bit. Pour glaze over chilled cake, smoothing the top with a clean small offset palette knife.
  22. Chill again to set.
  23. *Bring to room temperature before serving--about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature.
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For more about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream (and troubleshooting), you may enjoy reading these previous posts: Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystyfied and Inside-Out Neapolitan Cupcakes & More About Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

A Few More Steps to Baking/Making Better Cakes

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

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

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

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

I hope that helps those of you who were curious! See you soon with another baked treat.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

It’s a beautiful Canadian day! Last night I was attempting to compose this second part of  my favourite-cakes-into-cupcakes post, and I was literally falling asleep sitting up, so I decided to close the laptop and go to sleep (it was still light out!). After eight wonderful, beautiful, and, most importantly, uninterrupted hours of rest, I woke up this morning at 5:30am–before the kids! I decided to make some strong French press coffee and write this post in bed with windows open, early-morning sun, and country breeze (very French indeed). There are, however, a pair of little wee feet pressed up against my leg as I write, but at least they’re sleeping feet. I am, undoubtedly, a morning person: a morning baker and a morning writer, so now that I’m rejuvenated, caffeinated, and motivated, let’s talk cupcakes. If you read Wednesday’s post, Campfire Delight Cupcakes, you’ll recall that I’ve been recently pondering what some of my favourite layer cakes would be like in cupcake form. This is mostly because we spend a lot of summer weekends away, and I find cupcakes are quick easy-to-grab treats for the gang & co. at the lake.

The thing is, I still want to share some of my favourite cake flavours and combinations, as well as switch things up, so rather than pack up the towering cakes, I thought cupcakes would be a fun change (not to say I won’t be packing up some highly inappropriate and overly dramatic cakes to the cottage this summer). I also find that I’m often left with extra cake batter, fillings, and frostings when I make the layer cakes, so why not use up every bit and create some cupcakes as a fun and mini addition to serving the cake itself? That way, the cupcakes can either be served that same day alongside the cake, or, after freezing the separate cake components, I can pull the tupperware containers of frostings and cupcakes from the freezer and flavour/assemble for a really quick (and hopefully impressive) treat for another day. That being said, I’m sure I don’t have to sell you on all of the fabulous reasons to make cupcakes!

Here is the mama version of these particular cupcakes from my previous post Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle, where I had fun creating this unusual rectangular dark chocolate layer cake covered and filled with Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and topped with Dark Chocolate Ganache. For the cupcake version, I used my Rich & Dark Chocolate Cake recipe and topped it with raspberry buttercream swirls, and then poured some dark chocolate glaze over top. I didn’t add sprinkles this time, but you definitely could! I can’t think of a single occasion that isn’t enhanced by a good handful of sprinkles.

When I look at this cake, I can’t help but have painful flashbacks from the week I made it–I was cutting out sugar, and I vowed (to myself) that I wouldn’t indulge. I actually managed to avoid it and, with much agony, gave it all away without so much as eating a piece. But . . . this week I made these and it was sweet justice. I love raspberry & chocolate combination, and the generous swirls of satiny buttercream and drizzles of dark chocolate glaze were the highlight. The deep chocolate cupcake portion didn’t hurt either.

These are really so simple to make, especially if you happen to have any extra cake batter from your chocolate cake batches, as you can just pour remaining batter into standard cupcake liners and bake after your cakes are baked. If you keep Swiss Meringue Buttercream in the freezer, you’re even further ahead of the game–you pop some fresh raspberries into your Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and mix for a moment or so to incorporate and add a bit of pink colour for punch (I got a bit pink-happy with these and next time I would use less for a softer pink, as I did in the cake version, so the raspberry bits stand out). The dark chocolate glaze  is very quick to whip up and adds a sort of ice-cream-sundae sort of feel and a nice hit of dark chocolate. The glaze is a quick process of melting the three ingredients (dark chocolate, butter, and corn syrup) over a pot of simmering water. It’s has such a great shine and deep chocolate flavour, but since it’s all about the chocolate in this type of recipe, I recommend you use a premium Belgian chocolate or similar. If you aren’t a fan of using corn syrup, you can definitely use ganache in place of the glaze; it creates an even more decadent treat with its heavy cream. These aren’t fussy, fancy, or difficult, but they pack some seriously decadent flavours and textures into such a little package. If you want to give these a try, here’s the recipe:

*Product notes: the Cacao Barry Extra Brute (my favourite) cocoa powder is what makes this chocolate cake recipe so incredible. You can purchase it here: Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (95 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Raspberry Swiss Meringue 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 Glaze:
  • 4 oz (115 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or callets
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/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, cornstarch 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 mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer), Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
  5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it's hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Raspberry Swiss Meringue 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 vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  10. 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.
  11. For the Glaze:
  12. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. *Be careful to not get even a droplet of water into your bowl of chocolate and butter.
  13. Assembly of the Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Cupcakes:
  14. . Fill a large pastry bag (18") fitted with Ateco #887 (or the decorative tip of your choice) about 2/3 full and swirl the buttercream in a circular motion, beginning on the outside rim of the cupcake and moving inward. Gently release pressure when you reach the top of your swirl.
  15. Drizzle the top of the cupcake with Dark Chocolate Glaze (~1 tablespoon each).
  16. Top with a fresh raspberry and chocolate sprinkles (optional).
  17. Cupcakes are best enjoyed the day they are made, but these keep particularly well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days (however, I've been known to eat them up to a week later, and they taste great!). If you do refrigerate, serve at room temperature--particularly Swiss Meringue Buttercream cupcakes, otherwise the buttercream is too hard and butter-like.

Notes

*Essentially, this is vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream with some clean, dry, fresh raspberries into it. It doesn't require many raspberries to give it a nice flavour, but it's personal preference. You can also use seedless raspberry-puree for a smooth finish. Add a drop of pink food colouring for a touch more pink.

**Cupcakes are best enjoyed the day they are made, but these keep particularly well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days (however, I've been known to eat them up to a week later, and they taste great!).

***If you do refrigerate, serve at room temperature--particularly Swiss Meringue Buttercream cupcakes, otherwise the buttercream is too hard and butter-like.

[Glaze recipe source: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented]

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Good luck & enjoy! I’ll see you soon with my 50th blog post!



 

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Well, this is my first impromptu post or, well, as impromptu as I can get around here! I was planning another cake post, which is coming soon, but this week I’ve received so many emails and comments asking about the ever-intimidating Swiss Meringue Buttercream (let’s call it SMB), that I thought it may help to run through how to make this glorious not-too-sweet and satiny-smooth delight. Warning: this is a very wordy post, and it’s seriously lacking fun and pretty photos. There’s no photo-styling going on and in some cases not great lighting, but I just really feel that if everyone is comfortable with making SMB, then you will get so much more out of my cake recipes, because I use it so often. So, if you’re up for it, let’s talk SMB!

I remember sitting down for one of my very first courses at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts, and learning about how this was the ultimate buttercream for wedding cakes, birthday cakes, fancy cupcakes, and pretty much any cake at all. Up until that point, I, like many, loved sugary frosting made with powdered sugar, butter, etc., because it’s really all I knew. I will admit that there is definitely a place in my heart for super-sweet frostings, because, well, that’s just me–a devoted sugar junkie, but once I got a taste for “the good stuff,” well, I rarely opt for the other on a cake. Cupcakes, well, I think that is where sugary frosting rocks it like no other. SMB is gorgeous on cupcakes, but for  me, there’s nothing like a super-sweet cupcake fix. It was explained to my class that if we planned on making wedding or event cakes, we need to embrace SMB, since it’s most-often used under fondant as well as on its own for fancy cakes. There really is no comparison. The key, though, is enjoying SMB at room temperature. As soon as it starts to chill in the refrigerator, it solidifies, much like pure butter, and biting into that consistency just doesn’t have the same appeal as tasting fluffy, satiny icing. You also really taste all of the flavours in both the cake and the fillings/frostings when they are at room temperature.

In the world of meringue buttercream, there are really 3 main types: Swiss, Italian, and French. What is Swiss Meringue Buttercream exactly? Essentially, SMB is a meringue-based buttercream (what gave it away?) in which copious amounts of butter are whipped into a sugary whisked meringue base, followed by pretty much any flavour, chocolate, puree, extract, etc. It’s a super-stable, resilient, and delightful buttercream that I simply cannot get enough of. The variations are endless: vanilla bean, raspberry, mocha, caramel . . . endless! I should mention that Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Italian Meringue Buttercream are almost identical, but the difference lies in the method: SMB is created by heating  and whisking white sugar and egg whites over a bain marie (simmering water on the stove) to about 140 degrees F, before whipping the meringue. Italian Meringue Buttercream is created by adding a heated sugar-syrup into an already whipped meringue base, followed by the addition of butter and flavours.

There is also French Meringue Buttercream, albeit less popular from what I can tell, which is created by whipping the egg whites while adding a steady flow of white sugar, until it thickens, followed by adding the butter and flavourings. I personally prefer the SMB because it’s what I was taught, but I also  find comfort in knowing that the egg whites are actually heated prior to adding the butter, but it’s completely personal preference in method. Also, like pretty much any technique in baking, there are many ways to create SMB, but this happens to be the way I do it. So here we go–let’s make some!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Because we are first making the meringue portion of the buttercream, we want to ensure everything is grease-free, otherwise the meringue won’t do it’s “meringuey” job the way it needs to. Even a trace of grease can cause the meringue to flop. So, let’s take a paper towel with some lemon juice or vinegar and wipe our equipment clean. I also have white rubber spatulas that are devoted to meringue only–royal icing, meringue, etc.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Now that everything is meringue friendly, let’s set up a bain marie (a fancy term for a pot of simmering water on the stove). You don’t want  the water to come close to the bottom of the bowl you’re going to place on top, nor do you want the water to be at a rolling boil (let’s not cook those egg whites), so even just an inch or so of water will do.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Then I take the butter from the refrigerator and cut it up into cubes and leave on the counter while I complete the rest of the steps.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Now we measure/weigh (I prefer to weigh) our granulated sugar. Using a measuring cup, or other bowl, place it on the scale, tare it so it so the scale starts back at zero, and add the sugar until you have the correct amount (I was making a bigger batch in the these photos, so disregard the 800 g).

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Clip on your candy thermometer and add your egg whites. Whisk gently, but constantly, until it reaches 160° F. A quick note about egg whites: I wanted to talk about the issue of using fresh egg whites versus 100% egg whites in the carton for meringue. To be honest, I got used to using the cartons of 100% egg whites during what seemed to be the longest stretch of being pregnant–I loved knowing that they were pasteurized and completely safe. I also love that I can make large batches of meringue without wasting yolks (although there are many fabulous uses for yolks only, but it’s just easier for me to not go through all of those eggs), and simply weigh the total of egg whites needed on my kitchen scale and get whisking. The thing is, some bakers swear that the liquid egg whites don’t whip up quite as stable and thick as fresh egg whites do, and I’ve heard that due to the fact that during the process of being pasteurized, the egg whites are heated to a point that, yes, makes them safer to eat, but prevents them from foaming and whipping up into a stable meringue. I have to tell you that I’ve always used Naturegg brand 100% liquid egg whites, and they’ve worked very well for me. Today, though, I was curious about this, so I whisked up a batch of meringue using fresh egg whites. I definitely noticed a difference, but it was slight. I think, personally, I would opt for real egg whites for baking meringue, and liquid egg whites for buttercreams.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Once your egg whites and sugar have reached 160°F, take the bowl off of the stove and back to the mixer, where you will use the whisk attachment to whip up the meringue. I start on about medium-low (3 on the KitchenAid) for the first moment or so, and then increase to medium-high (7 on the KitchenAid). This photo was taken about 2 minutes into beating the egg whites. It typically takes about 10 minutes for the meringue to become thick, glossy, and cool.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Here it is a few moments later. You can see it’s fluffing up nicely, and becoming nice and glossy.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

At this point, a few moments later, it’s looking nice and thick, but the outside of the bowl is still hot to the touch, so we know it’s not quite ready yet. If we threw the butter in there now, it would basically melt. Let’s keep whipping it up . . .

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So now the bowl is neutral to the touch and the meringue looks thick and glossy. Just a note that at this point, you have a meringue! You can eat it, as I tend to do, just as it is, or you can pipe it and bake it, or top it onto a lemon pie, or do just about anything with it. This is Swiss Meringue, just minus the “buttercream” part. Trust me, it’s gorgeous and sweet just the way it is. I love this stuff, and I could eat it all, but, since we likely have a naked cake waiting to be prettied, we better add the butter.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Switching over the flat beater of our mixer now and decreasing the mixer speed to low speed, we’re going to add cubes of butter, one at a time, until each one is incorporated. This is a few cubes in, so you can see that the meringue has started to deflate, but once we add all of that butter, it will fluff up.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

Here it is a few moments later, after more butter was added. You can see that it’s actually looking a bit soupy–see, my butter was a bit too soft by the time I stopped to take photos, which is actually great news, because I can show you what it looks like when that happens, and what we can do to fix that.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So, at this point, I’ve added all of the butter, but, again, because the butter was too soft, it seems too loose. So, I placed the bowl into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and then beat the buttercream for a few moments more on low speed. It thickened up, but was still a bit loose, so I added a few extra cubes of butter and mixed for a moment or two.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

So, it’s getting much thicker, but doesn’t it look almost scrambled-egg like? Under any other circumstances in the kitchen, that would seem scary and disheartening, well, unless of course you’re actually making scrambled eggs, but like I said SMB is very forgiving. Just keep on whipping this up in the mixer on low speed, and it should just magically thicken up and come together. Let’s have a moment of silence for all of those batches of SMB that were thrown in the garbage at this stage, because they were deemed hopeless.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream via Sweetapolita

And there you have it! Actually, we almost had it here, but I whipped it for another few moments, added the vanilla and salt, and it ended up as satiny and shiny as it should be–I’m sorry that I must have been distracted! Either way, at this point, it’s ready for colouring, additional flavouring, and decorating! Here’s an example of cake I did where fluffy and satiny SMB is the star (you can read more about this cake here):

Ruffle Cake via Sweetapolita

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~ 10 cups of buttercream

Ingredients

  • 10 large, fresh egg whites (300 g)
  • 2-1/2 cups (500 g) sugar
  • 3 cups (680 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (20 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add additional flavours, purees, as desired.

Notes

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

***If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes on a few Variations:

  • Chocolate Buttercream:  Add 300 g (1 1/2 cups before melting) melted bittersweet high quality chocolate (the best you can get–I use Callebaut) for every 5 cups of vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and beat until incorporated.
  • Strawberry Buttercream (or any other berry version):  Add fruit puree to taste (approximately 1/2 cup for 5 cups of SMB).
  • Vanilla Bean Buttercream: Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste OR 1 vanilla bean, scraped for every 5 cups of SMB, and beat until incorporated.
  • Lemon Buttercream: Eliminate vanilla extract and add 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract  for every 5 cups of SMB, or to taste, and beat until incorporated.
  • You can also add liqueurs and other flavourings, as well as any food gel colours to achieve any desired colour.

Have a wonderful Friday, and I’ll be back in the next day or so with my next baked good post.

Good luck & enjoy!

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