6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, all I can say is thank-the-cake-fairies that Neapolitan will never be oh-so-vanilla. It’s nearly impossible to get tired of making, serving, seeing, or eating anything with the beloved trio of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. But since it’s such a classic, and many bakers love to create Neapolitan-themed treats, it never hurts to put a new spin on things. I’ve had some fun with this idea before with the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake, which was a combination of chocolate butter cake with a trio of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream flavours. I’ve also made it with a more classic flavoured cake layers variation with the Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, which is perfectly delightful, but this time I wanted to kick it up a notch and make it a bit more unique and decadent. And since that’s what I love to do, I did!

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

This time I opted to split the layers into 6 (one of the easiest ways to add instant wow-factor to a cake), fill them with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, vanilla Swiss buttercream, and whole neapolitan macarons. I frosted the entire cake with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, and then added a pink glaze for drama and topped with more of the macarons and a few small pink sugar beads. As with this lemony blueberry cake I made awhile back, the macarons add the most amazing texture inside the cake, as well as a unique visual when the cake is sliced. The distinct macaron crunch & chew factor is the perfect match for the rich and decadent ganache, satiny buttercream frosting, and of course the deep, dark, and moist chocolate cake.

Neapolitan Macaron via Sweetapolita

Okay, so let’s talk macarons. I know if you’ve had any type of macaron failure, like I had over the years, you might be somewhat traumatized and avoid them at all costs. Or, maybe you’ve never tried them but the baking world has freaked you out with all of this talk about how hard they are to make. Either way, I’m here to tell you that not only are they totally doable, but they are so quick to make as well. And while these facts are, well, facts, there is a trick to it. After trying many, many macaron recipes, I’ve discovered what works each and every time.

I’ve included the recipe below, but I thought it might be easier if I followed this post with one devoted to macarons. I will go ahead and make a little video as well, just to make it a little more visual. If you are comfortable with making macarons, and you’ve never made a neapolitan version, I know you will adore these! Dark chocolate macaron shell (which tastes just like a chewy brownie with a hint of almond) paired with strawberry macaron shell filled with vanilla buttercream. Simple and splendid.

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

For such a quick and easy step, I love how much drama the pink glaze adds. Of course you could use this technique for any cake and have fun with other color palettes. A simple whisk of confectioners’ sugar and milk and you’ve got yourself a sweet and versatile white glaze, or of course you could have fun with other colors, play with adding extract or flavor oil, and use this technique for any cake (just remember to chill the cake first, so that the frosting is firm to the touch).

Weneapolitan.

And while this cake does have several components, most of them can be made ahead (see Sweetapolita’s Notes), making this recipe much less daunting. I promise.

In other news, I’m so thrilled about the upcoming launch of my new & improved site coming early September! While the new design makes me giddy, one of the things I’m most excited about is the visual recipe index–finally! So all of my recipes are grouped with images, and not just the recipe names, and the index categories are easy to navigate and super functional. There are many other updates and changes in the new design, and I can’t wait to show you. My graphic designer, Melissa, did such an amazing job, and I just know you will adore what we came up with. I can’t stop looking at it. Counting the days until the launch! ♥

And if you missed my update in my last post, Birthday Party Ice Cream Cake, my first book, The Sweetapolita Bakebook, hit shelves April 7th, 2015, but it is already on pre-order on Amazon, Indigo, and many other online retailers. Yay! (Just thinking that this would be a good time for me to grasp that this whole book thing is actually happening. Oh my!) The book’s cover will soon be added to the listing, and I can’t wait to share it here on the blog when it’s ready to go.

So here’s the recipe for this towering delight:

6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 8 large fresh egg whites
  • 2 cups (400 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (510 g) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 ounces (300 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry puree OR preserves
  • Few drops pink gel colour
  • For the Strawberry Macarons:
  • 135 g almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 125 g confectioners' sugar
  • 105 g egg whites, room temperature
  • 105 g superfine OR instant dissolving sugar (see Notes)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon strawberry flavor oil (I use Lorann)
  • Few drops AmeriColor Soft Pink gel paste
  • For the Chocolate Macarons:
  • 1 recipe Strawberry Macarons (above) but omit the flavor oil and pink food color, and add 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • For the Ganache:
  • 10 ounces (300 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (440 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • For the Glaze:
  • 1 cup (125 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Drop AmeriColor Soft Pink gel paste

Instructions

    Make the Buttercream:
  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 125°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  2. 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 15 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).
  3. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Keep in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, refrigerated for up to 7 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. !Make the Strawberry Macarons:
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. Fit a large pastry bag with a large plain round tip, such as #1A.
  5. Into a medium bowl, use a fine mesh sieve to sift the almond flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt, twice. It might take a little effort to push through the larger bits of almond flour, for which you can use a wooden spoon. Discard any bits that won't fit through the sieve.
  6. Wipe a stainless steel bowl and whisk attachment with lemon juice to eliminate any grease (or beaters and bowl if you are using a hand mixer). Whisk the egg whites on low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and add the superfine sugar one tablespoon at a time. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes Add a drop or two of pink color and the flavor oil to the meringue and beat until combined, about 20 seconds.
  7. Add one-third of the dry mixture to the meringue and fold in with a rubber spatula, but working deflate the meringue at the same time. It should take about 15 stirs/folds (strokes) before the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Add the remaining dry mixture to the bowl and fold/stir/deflate in the same manner until the batter "flows like magma," about 25 more strokes.
  8. Fill the pastry bag two-thirds full with the mixture and pipe 1-inch circles about 2-inches apart on each tray. Lift and drop the trays firmly on the counter a few times to rid of air bubbles.
  9. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Let the piped macarons sit while the oven preheats. Bake one tray at a time in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool on trays. When completely cool, carefully peel the macarons off of the paper/silicone mat. If you find they are sticking even slightly, use a thin metal spatula to pry them off.
  10. Make the Chocolate Macarons:
  11. Repeat the steps for the Strawberry Macarons, but omit the strawberry flavor oil and pink color, and sift 3 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder along with the dry ingredients.
  12. Assemble the Neapolitan Macarons:
  13. Pair one of each strawberry and chocolate macaron with the closest in size and pipe a dollop of the vanilla buttercream on the flat side of each chocolate macaron. Sandwich each one with the strawberry macaron. Reserve the "best" macarons that are the most uniform for the top (8-10). For best results, let macarons sit in an airtight container in the fridge for at least a day. Bring macarons to room temperature when ready to use/eat.
  14. Make the Ganache:
  15. Place the chocolate in a medium saucepan or bowl with tall sides. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream, corn syrup, and salt just until the edges start to bubble (watch carefully, as it's easy to scold the cream). Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute and then use an immersion blender to combine the mixture until glossy and smooth. Add the butter and vanilla and blend until well incorporated. Let sit at room temperature until spreadable, about 2 hours. Refrigerate for up until 5 days. Bring to room temperature on counter, or microwave in 10-second increments until desired consistency is reached.
  16. Make the Cake:
  17. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 7-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.
  18. 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 8 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  19. 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.
  20. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  21. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan (about 450 grams per pan, excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) This ensures even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs, about 25 minutes.
  22. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  23. Assemble the 6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake
  24. Spread a small dollop of buttercream onto an 7-inch round cake board. Cut your 3 cake layers each once horizontally with a long, serrated knife, so you have a total of 6 thin layers.
  25. Transfer about 2 cups of buttercream to a medium bowl and stir in the strawberry preserves and a drop or two of pink gel paste color.
  26. Place your first layer face-up on the board (or plate) and spread one-fifth of the ganache using a small offset spatula, leaving about 1/2" around the edge. With a clean offset spatula, spread about one half of the strawberry buttercream on top. Place another cake layer to top, face-up, and spread another fifth of the ganache on top, followed by a layer of macarons. Press the macarons gently into the ganache.
  27. Place another layer on top and spread more ganache, followed by about 1 cup of the vanilla buttercream. Place the next layer on top and spread more ganache, followed by another layer of macarons, gently pushing them into place.
  28. Place the next layer on top and spread the remaining ganache followed by the strawberry buttercream. Place the final layer on top, face-down. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and use your hands to wiggle and straighten the cake into place, if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  29. In a medium microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, melt the 10 ounces of dark chocolate in small increments, about 90 seconds total. Once the melted chocolate cools slightly add it to the remaining buttercream and beat to combine.
  30. Remove the cake from the fridge and place on cake turntable, if using. Frost the entire outside of cake with a thin layer of the chocolate buttercream to seal in crumbs. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with another layer of frosting, this time working to get the frosting as smooth as possible. Chill again until firm, about another 30-60 minutes.
  31. Make the Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar and milk. Add the color until desired shade of pink is achieved.
  32. Use a small offset spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake, pushing it slightly over the edges to allow the glaze to drip down the sides. Top the cake with 8-10 neapolitan macarons, pushing them gently into the glaze to secure. Add sugar pearls or other decorations of choice, if desired.
  33. You did it! Hooray! Serve cake at room temperature, but keep refrigerated if not serving the day it's made. Cake will keep for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature several hours before serving.
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Sweetapolita‘s Notes: 

  • When making a French meringue, as we do with the macarons (this is a meringue made without heating the sugar and/or egg whites prior to mixing), I splurge on instant dissolving sugar (aka fruit and berry sugar). This is basically granulated sugar that is even more fine than superfine sugar, and it dissolves much quicker than superfine sugar. You can make your own superfine and dissolving sugar by pulsing regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute for superfine, and about 90 seconds for the fineness of dissolving sugar. I have to admit that for dissolving sugar I tend to buy it prepackaged, just to ensure it’s fine enough. For superfine sugar in everyday baking, I use the food processor.
  • For the chocolate cake, I used my favourite cocoa powder, Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute. It’s fabulously dark and lends an intense chocolate flavor to cake and tons of other desserts.
  • For the ganache and chocolate buttercream, I used Callebaut Semisweet Chocolate Callets.
  • For the macarons, I always use Bob’s Red Mill Flour Almond Meal–since we use such a small amount for each batch of macarons, the splurge is worth it, as this is the only almond flour I’ve had great success with.
  • True, having three 7-inch round cake pans on hand might be a bit of a stretch, but if you think you will be baking a lot of layer cakes (especially those from this blog), I do recommend investing in them (I love Fat Daddio’s brand, but any good quality pan would work). They are just the right size to bake up three layers that are easily cut horizontally into 2. If you are eager to make this cake and don’t have access to those pans, you can bake in three 8-inch round pans, but will likely find the layers a bit too thin to cut into two, so you could stick with a 3-layer cake.
  • To make this cake recipe a lot less daunting, I recommend making a few of the components ahead of time. Make the Swiss buttercream up to 5 days ahead, or up to 2 months ahead if you freeze; make the ganache up to 5 days ahead; and make the macarons up to 2 days ahead.
  • Just a reminder that I will be back soon with a macaron-devoted post!

Good luck & enjoy!

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{My Favourite} Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

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

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

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

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

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

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

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

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

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

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Cakelets and cupcakes. ♥

Chocolate Party Cupcakes with Vanilla Swirl Frosting

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Good luck & enjoy!



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Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme

Hello, hello!

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

Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme by Sweetapolita

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

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

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

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

Butterscotchy love. ♥

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

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

Butterscotch Cupcakes Supreme

Yield: 18 standard cupcakes

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Cupcake recipe adapted from parenting.com

Butterscotch Sauce recipe adapted from LifeStyle FOOD

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

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

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Cheesecake Party Pops

Cheesecake Party Pops via Sweetapolita
So far this “spring” seems to be party-filled in our family — cakelet birthdays, little-cousin birthdays, a baby shower and more. And it seems that, for some reason, I’ve been feeling the need to add cheesecake pops to the mix for every party I attend. I love making them because no two batches of cheesecake pops look the same — you can flavour the cheesecake any way you like (I did these chocolate banana pops for a recent sock-monkey-themed party — so fun!) and pair it with any colour scheme and decorative flags for some festive flair. Essentially you can tailor-make every batch to any event, and, just like their cute-as-can-be cousin, the original cake pop, they seem to be a crowd-pleaser wherever they go. Who doesn’t love a pretty little cakey treat on a stick?

Cheesecake Party Pops via Sweetapolita

For this batch (which was a trial run of what I’ll bring to my cakelet’s upcoming Princess birthday party), I went with a classic cheesecake flavoured with Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion and coated them in Wilton’s Pastel Colorburst Candy Melts (here’s a progress shot). The emulsion gives the cheesecake an elevated vanilla taste with a hint of citrus, and the cheesecake base is more rich than sweet, so the super-sweet candy coating is like a blanket of happy wrapped around the creamy cheesecake. Plus, they just look so darn cute!

Sweetapolita

Speaking of so darn cute, Neve was more concerned with putting them in their own paper candy liners than eating them, which is probably a good thing. Before inserting the lollipop sticks in the cheesecake pops, I made the little pink polka dotted flags by simply wrapping a piece of washi tape (paper crafting tape) around the tops, sticking the two sides together and snipping a little decorative “v” from each one. It’s definitely a quick and easy way to instantly turn any pop into a party.

Cheesecake Party Pops

If you find your cheesecake pops looking a little lumpy and bumpy after you coat them with the candy melts, you can dunk them a second time once they set (which happens super-fast), just as you did the first round. This gives them a smoother finish, but a thicker layer of the coating, so it’s personal preference. I did two “coats” on this batch, but I probably could’ve done with just the one. There’s just something about a bowl of melted confetti-filled vanilla candy coating that makes me want to dip everything in sight. I figured it was probably my safest approach to stick with the pops. (“Honey . . . have you seen the kids?” Whoops!)

Cheesecake Party Pops via Sweetapolita

Cheesecake Party Pops are rather addicting to make and eat – I usually make them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer (not airtight, as they tend to crack that way) until needed — they keep exceptionally well, and this way it leaves me time right before a party to make the cake (and they come in handy when you need to sneak a little sugar fix from the freezer). Wrapping them up as little party favours, or even sending with your cakelets to school for class parties, is a fun way to go!

Here’s the recipe:

Cheesecake Party Pops

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen pops

Rich, creamy cheesecake rolled into individual servings on sticks and coated with vanilla candy melts.

Ingredients

    For the Cheesecake:
  • 3 250-gram bars cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) *Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (45 g) all-purpose flour
  • For the Coating:
  • 3 283-gram bags of Wilton Colorburst Pastel Candy Melts
  • You will also need:
  • Waxed paper
  • 36 lollipop sticks (6-inch)
  • Washi tape (sticky paper tape aka crafting tape) of your choice for flags, optional

Instructions

    Bake the Cheesecake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl, when necessary.
  3. Turn the mixer back on and add the sour cream, followed by the flavouring and salt. Sprinkle in the flour and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to ensure the mixture is well combined, including the very bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared cake pan and bake on top of a baking sheet until the centre of cake is set (not jiggly) and top just begins to brown, about 40-45 minutes. Top of cake will crack.
  5. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack, then chill covered loosely with plastic wrap, for at least 5 hours, or overnight if possible.
  6. Make the Pops:
  7. If making the flags for the pops, cut a piece of washi tape approximately 3-inches long and wrap around the top of the stick, making sure the edges line up before you press it down and adhere the two sides together. Use a sharp pair of scissors to snip a "v" shape from the end. Repeat with all of the sticks.
  8. Remove cheesecake from refrigerator and release outer ring of springform pan. Trim any top or edge crust off using a small, sharp knife. (Ideally there are no brown pieces anywhere on the cake.) Using a tablespoon or small stainless steel cookie scoop (35 mm/1 tablespoon capacity), spoon out 1 ball at a time from the cheesecake, rolling with your hands to create a uniform ball (you will likely have to wipe your hands with a clean, damp cloth after every few) like you would a meatball, and place on waxed-paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until your baking sheet is full and continue with a second baking sheet until you have used up all of the cheesecake.
  9. Place 1/4 cup of the candy melts in a small microwave-safe bowl or ramekin and microwave until just melted (do not let them burn), about 20 seconds. Stir until smooth. Dip the end of each lollipop stick into the melted chocolate (about 1/2-inch) and insert straight down into the cheesecake ball about 2/3 of the way down. Repeat until you have a stick in every ball. Chill trays for at least 3 hours, or freeze for about 2 hours (but no longer -- you don't want them frozen).
  10. Once the cheesecake pops have been well-chilled and are firm to the touch, fill a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup (I use a 1-cup glass measuring cup) with candy melts and heat in microwave until melted. Begin with microwaving for 1 minute, stir, then pop back in microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring after each one. Be careful not to burn them.
  11. Remove one tray of the pops from the fridge/freezer and start dipping one at a time, dunking straight down then lifting straight up and out carefully. Holding the pop over the bowl, let excess coating drip back in. Place coated pop stick side up on a fresh piece of wax paper to set. Repeat until you have coated each one.

Notes

*If you can't get Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion you can substitute it with 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I love using Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion in place of vanilla for cheesecake (and oodles of other recipes! For my banana chocolate version I used the same cheesecake recipe, but replaced with Princess Bakery Emulsion with Banana Bakery Emulsion, coated the pops in dark chocolate melts and made little banana flags for the sticks.
  • You can also substitute the emulsion for pure vanilla extract and a tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice.
  • I use this 9-inch Springform Pan for the cheesecake.
  • You could use store-bought cheesecake, but just be sure to avoid the graham crust when rolling the balls.
  • I use this small Stainless Steel Scoop for making the actual cheesecake “balls.” 
  • I used Wilton Colorburst Candy Melts for these Cheesecake Party Pops and 6-inch Lollipop Sticks.
  • You can make the cheesecake up to two days in advance (keep refrigerated) and the cheesecake pops up to 2 weeks in advance and keep frozen. I recommend keeping them in large plastic resealable bags closed with the exception of a small opening (so they’re not airtight). Simply pull from freezer and pop into fridge until ready to use. You could also make up to 2 days ahead if you want to simply leave them in refrigerator.
  • For the party flags, I used pink polka dot washi tape folded over the top of each stick and snipped a “v” out of each one. I bought mine at Michael’s, but I have also seen this pink dotted pattern of tape on Etsy. So quick and easy!

Good luck & enjoy!


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Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake for Two

Vanilla Mascarpone Blackberry Cake via Sweetapolita

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

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

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

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

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

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

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

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

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

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

Vanilla Blackberry Mascarpone Cake via Sweetapolita

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

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

Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake for Two

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Notes

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

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

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

Good luck & enjoy!

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