{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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Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Well, that was crazy. Were you starting to wonder if I’d thrown in the pink polka-dotted towel? If I’d escaped to Emerald City in search of the Wizard? For those who tag along for my Instagram snippets, you probably figured out that it’s been a busy few weeks for us, as we moved last weekend. Not far, just the neighbouring town, but I spent countless days organizing, purging and packing our stuff for the move. I got really nest-y and couldn’t stop organizing. I think with any big change comes the incentive to make other small changes, and it was so rejuvenating once it was all done. I did shed a few tears as I looked back at my cakelets’ keepsakes, baby clothing, etc. Moving was a much more emotionally draining time for me than I expected, but with so much productivity and order, it was all worth it.

In a flurry of ridding old treasures, I actually welcomed one new one a few weeks ago–the most exciting birthday gift of all time from Mr. Sweetapolita: a pink KitchenAid mixer! The truth is, I have several mixers, mostly because I usually have 2 going at all times, but I’ve always wanted a Pink Mixer. As I said on facebook, if I was a mixer, I would definitely be pink (and I loved reading all of your answers too!). The loveliest part about this mixer is that it is one of the products included in the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure program, so it was a win-win. Because mixers are typically a long-term purchase, though, I had sort of given up on having a pink one, at least for a few eons or so. That’s what made this feel-good gift a true surprise! I actually have even more fun baking now . . . if you can imagine.

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

When I set up my mixer in the new kitchen, and made enough space through the towering boxes I still need to unpack, I decided that my first baked good would be a batch of luscious light double-vanilla cupcakes. Perhaps you’re wondering how I can possibly blog about another vanilla cake/cupcake recipe, but I made a few changes this time that I felt made this batch my idea of a vanilla dream. After using Dorie’s party cake recipe as a base for my Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake, and loving the texture so much, I decided to turn them into cupcakes, with some changes.

One of the things I added was 1/2 cup of soft-peak whipped cream, a trick I read about on The Kitchn a few weeks ago. You simply whip it and fold it into your cake batter, any cake batter, before dividing into cake pans or cupcake tins–needless to say I was intrigued! It had been on my mind since then, and I was dying to try this, so I thought classic vanilla cupcakes can never be too velvety, or too moist, so why not? I did notice a difference and these cupcakes were of the best I’ve ever made (toot, toot!).

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Since I was feeling all whipped-creamy and such, it dawned on my that clouds of vanilla whipped cream would be a welcomed change from buttercream. The second-best part about Whipped Cream Frosting? It takes only minutes to make and has no butter or icing sugar. I tinted it a very pale turquoise and sprinkled the cupcakes with pink sanding sugar for sweet crunch, you know, since pink was in the air . . .

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

And by air, I think I mean the gale-force wind that busted through my wide-open front door while I was photographing the cupcakes. It came out of nowhere, knocked over my white board (it might be time to stop MacGyver’ing my photo shoots), which consequently knocked over my trio of small plastic bottles and turquoise paper stripey straws that I was so excited to use. As disappointed as I was that my shoot was ruined, how could I possibly cry over pink spilled milk? So forgive the fact that I don’t really have any close-ups on the poufs of vanilla clouds and the inside of the luscious cupcakes–maybe I’ll make these again . . . you know, for you. I’m good like that. ♥

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes

Yield: 24-28 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Moist, fluffy white whipping-cream-infused vanilla cupcakes topped with airy whipped cream frosting and sprinkled with sanding sugar.

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 2-1/2 cups (275 g) sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites (60 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) Pure Vanilla Extract (or 1 teaspoon –5 ml–, if you aren’t using vanilla sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) Pure Almond Extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 stick (115 g)(8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (119 ml) whipping cream or heavy cream, cold
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 cups (711 ml) whipping cream or heavy cream, cold
  • 6 tablespoons (95 g) vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Pure Vanilla Extract; use 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) if you're not using vanilla sugar
  • pink sanding sugar for sprinkling, optional

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and center the oven rack. Line 2 muffin/cupcake pans with your favourite standard-size cupcake liner, and put the first cupcake pan on a baking sheet. (You will place the second cupcake pan on the same sheet in the oven once the first tray is baked.)
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment (I used the whisk), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Chill a clean stainless mixer bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then beat whipping cream until soft peaks form (don't beat until stiff). This is where a second mixer bowl comes in handy, as you can simply wash the whisk and use the stand mixer to whip the cream. If you don't have a second mixer bowl, you can use a hand mixer or even transfer the batter to another bowl, wash the bowl and whisk then whip the cream with your stand mixer. Fold whipped cream into cake batter.
  6. Divide batter evenly among your cupcake liners--about 2/3 full--and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs only, about 16 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on wire racks. Repeat with second tray.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. Chill a stainless mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer for at least 5 minutes (or refrigerator for 20 minutes).
  10. Pour the cream into the bowl and whisk on medium-high (I used #8 on my KitchenAid mixer) until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and whisk until the frosting becomes stiff, but be careful to not over-beat, or the frosting will become grainy.
  11. Add a drop of turquoise gel colour, if desired and gently mix in with a spatula.
  12. Best used right away.
  13. Assembly of the Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes:
  14. Fill a medium Piping Bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice (I used a plain Large Round Tip) about 1/2 full with Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the cooled cupcake. Holding the piping bag directly above the cupcakes, put pressure on the bag while guiding the frosting in a circular swirl pattern beginning on the outside and working your way up and in, about 3 times, then releasing pressure.
  15. Top with pink sanding sugar for a lovely, sparkly crunch!
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[cupcake portion loosely adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours]

 Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Lately I use vanilla sugar for almost all of my baked goods, whipped cream and cooked frostings–I keep a scraped vanilla bean with pod buried in my sugar canister at all times. Once your vanilla bean is scraped and seeds and pod are buried in your airtight sugar container, you will have vanilla sugar in about 1-2 weeks. The longer it sits, the more vanilla you will taste. I typically add pure vanilla extract to recipes as well, but usually a little less than I normally would. Vanilla Beans are a bit pricey, but I sincerely feel it makes a difference–nothing beats the authentic flavour of vanilla bean.
  • For filling cupcake liners, I always use this Stainless Steel Scoop–perfectly consistent cupcakes every time.
  • I always use Pure Vanilla Extract and Pure Almond Extract.
  • As with any vanilla cake or cupcake recipe, feel free to get kooky and toss a handful of sprinkles into the batter for a funfetti version!
  • As with Dorie’s cake recipes, I went ahead and placed a baking pan under the cupcake pan while baking–I like this because the bottoms of the cupcakes don’t get brown.
  • Whipped Cream Frosting is best used within a few hours of whipping, and best made and enjoyed on the same day. Once on cupcakes it keeps in refrigerator overnight, if necessary.
  • For sprinkling, I used Pink Sanding Sugar.
  • Avoid keeping undecorated cupcakes in airtight containers, particularly vanilla, as the cupcake liners tend to pull away from the cupcake (this is so disheartening!). I usually place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on top of them if I have to leave them out overnight.
Good luck & enjoy!



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