Things To Consider Before Quitting Your Job To Be Self-Employed

Once I had fully committed to switching careers and pursuing my baking business full-time (you can learn more about why and how I made that decision here), my mind started working in overdrive. I had so much to figure out. My immediate concerns around starting my business were:

  • How was I going to have health insurance if I was self-employed?
  • How was I going to save for retirement without a company-matched 401k?
  • How much would I need to save to be able to pay my taxes at the end of the year?
  • Should I establish an LLC?
  • What would my cash flow look like each month? 

Health insurance is a tricky topic when you’re a freelancer of self-employed, but there are a few routes you can go:

  • The easiest by far is to simply be married and be added to your significant other’s insurance.
  • If you aren’t married, but in a serious relationship, you can request to be added to your significant other’s insurance as a domestic partner (must be in a relationship and have lived together for 6 months in the state of NY).
  • If you are single, you can get insurance through the Affordable Care Act as an individual (you can enroll here). In 2018, the average cost per month for an individual was $440. 

None of these options are cheap (all are at least $400/month for standard health care options), but health insurance is an absolute must in my opinion.

Saving for retirement as an entrepreneur is another concern. Assuming your business is successful and profitable, you’re going to want to continue to save for the future. While you may not have a 401k or company match anymore, there are plenty of tax-advantaged saving options. There are different rules and caps on how many pre-tax dollars you can contribute based on whichever option you pick, so I highly recommend reading through them. I plan to set up a SEP IRA next year.

Another super important part of being self-employed is withholding taxes from your earnings to be sure you can pay your taxes each April. This may sound crazy but living in NYC and being taxed by both the city and state, my tax rate is over 40%. If I didn’t set aside money from each partnership or plan accordingly to have significant savings to pay my taxes, I would be totally screwed. 

It’s also something to keep in mind when negotiating rates or setting prices; know that you will only get to keep 60% (or whatever your tax rate may be) of your earnings.

Then I began thinking about the legal implications of running my own business. I had previously established Chelsweets as a sole proprietorship. It was tiny, I wasn’t making a ton of money, and I wasn’t worried about any liabilities I might face down the road. I spoke with my Dad (who is the best accountant I know) and he recommended establishing a single member LLC, to limit my liability if something ever goes wrong with my business. The requirements and price to establish an LLC vary by state, but for most it takes less than hour to do and the average costs is around $150.

And then my final concern… MONEY! I have recurring monthly expenses and income as a freelancer/entrepreneur is anything but steady. While I knew partnerships would come in waves, I wanted to make sure I had enough money coming in every month to pay for rent, health insurance, phone bill, groceries, etc. I literally made a table of cash inflows and outflows in excel – you’d almost think I was an accountant… 😊

The most important thing to having steady income is to have diversified revenue streams. Each month, I make revenue from:

  • Advertising on my blog
  • Ads on Facebook (you can monetize videos with ad breaks if they are 3+ minutes long)
  • Advertising on YouTube
  • Contract with the Food Network (creating content for their social channels)
  • Paid brand partnerships
  • Teaching private cake lessons

Being able to earn money in different ways gives me peace of mind. That way, even if my YouTube earnings are tanking one month, my blog might be getting a ton of traffic! There are a lot of things that I can’t control about income with what I’m doing, but the more ways I can make money, the more secure I feel.

This is just scratching the surface, but I think these are some of the most important things to think through. Making a career change and becoming self-employed is definitely scary, but the idea of it is much more manageable when you feel like you’ve thought it through and have a game plan.

If any of you have made a similar switch to becoming a freelancer/entrepreneur, or are thinking about it, I’d love to hear your experience or thoughts! I’d also love to know if you have any concerns I didn’t touch on 🙂

me with bench scrapper

Why I Quit My Job To Pursue My Baking Business Full-Time

I just finished my last day at my corporate job. For context to those who only know me as a baker – I studied accounting in college and spent an entire summer studying to get my CPA. I worked hard to get to where I was in my career. Six and a half years later, I quit my job as a digital client finance manager at one of top public relations agencies in New York.

Did I hate my job? Did I have a terrible boss? Was my work boring?? Not at all! My situation at work could not have been more ideal for me. It combined my love of all things digital (including social media) and finance. My boss was a wonderful mentor and I loved my colleagues. The environment was open and honest, and I felt respected and appreciated.

I was convinced I found my niche in the corporate world. It was wonderful in the beginning, but then Chelsweets began to grow, at a faster rate than I could have imagined. Big partnerships (with insanely short timelines), TV appearances, an ongoing content partnership with the Food Network, and a book proposal (a story for another day) began to push me to my limit.

I never thought I would reach a point where I couldn’t pursue both my professional career and my passion for baking. I had always found a way to do both and cherished being able to do it all. I loved showing the world that I could have traditional success in my corporate career and pursue my other passions. But, in the wise words of my friend Heather Maclean; “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I was working at my day job during the week, baking after work, filming on the weekends, and editing videos/blogging whenever I could find the time. I wasn’t sleeping enough and I had lost balance in my life. I felt so run-down – I was operating at 70% all the time. I’m the type of person who wants to give her all to everything she does, and it became impossible to do so. Being a perfectionist by nature and someone who wants to always be improving, this made me feel terrible about myself.

I’m sure to no one’s surprise, I hit a breaking point. I had 5 big partnerships in a four-week span on top of my content partnership with the Food Network (4 cakes each month) – while also being out of town for two of those weekends. I was working around the clock and I felt like I was losing it. I had a moment of clarity and realized, it’s time.

Originally, I had set some ridiculous goals for myself, thinking that once I hit those goals, then I would quit. But in reality, I never thought I’d reach them. These included:

  • Making 2x my corporate salary doing Chelsweets (for the full year)
  • Paying off my mortgage (another long story…I bought a condo in Seattle a few years ago that I could rent out until I moved back to Seattle)
  • Having a consistent monthly income that I felt comfortable with

As I took a step back and realized how much my little baking business had grown, I was in awe of the fact that in 2018, I hit ALL these goals. That’s when the gears in my head started turning. I hit all these while only doing it part-time.

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I spent years building Chelsweets to where it is now, months contemplating this decision, and hours analyzing my business strategy and financial position. I went back and forth while getting to this point. Was time to quit? No, I should stay in the corporate world I’d worked so hard to establish myself in. I spent years studying accounting, and lost countless weekends working as an auditor at one of the biggest accounting firms in the world. Becoming a CPA was a big accomplishment for me. Was I really ready to leave all that behind?

While being self-employed and running my own business is a huge accomplishment, I felt like it was less respectable than my corporate career. That was one of the biggest mental hurdles I had to overcome. I spoke with my fiancé, family and friends at length about it, and they reminded me that creating something out of nothing is an incredible feat, and that they would be there for me. My mom even sent me a card the day I put in my 2-weeks notice, telling me that she and my dad were proud of me. It sounds silly, but I cried when I read it. Their support helped reassure me that I wasn’t crazy for making this career change.

There also is the stigma of being an “influencer” or “doing Instagram full time.” In reality, I’m not doing either of those things. I’m going to be developing my baking techniques, refining my filming/editing/photography skills, learning SEO and Pinterest strategy, and partnering with brands/media companies to create engaging content that people love to watch. People don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. They just see you post on social media, and know you have a large following. When people asked what I did for work, what would I say? Am I a freelancer? An entrepreneur?? That I’m a baker but I don’t actually sell cakes or take cake orders?

me painting blue cake-2

Another huge factor in this decision came down to money, but not in the way you’d think. To me, money means security. It comes from a lasting career and provides peace of mind. Instagram didn’t even exist ten years ago and I’m not formally trained in anything I do for Chelsweets. Is this really a career path? Will I still be able to support myself in ten years?? I mean, as a kid I used to count my money in my piggy bank every day. I like money and the security that comes with it. What would I do when I didn’t know how much money I’d make each month? How would I live my life not knowing?

These are questions without an answer. The hardest part of the jump from my corporate job to running my own business was the fear of the unknown. Despite all of this, something in my gut just told me to go for it. I am a huge believer in intuition and even with these worries, I feel like I’m making the right decision for myself.

I know I still have a ton to learn, but I feel like I’ve figured out just enough to be able to make this leap. I’m filled with nervous energy and ambition. I’ve promised myself to give this my all so that when I look back, I’ll have no regrets. I’ll know I went for it and I did the very best that I could. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do (the wise words of my Dad).

If any of you have made a similar leap, or are thinking about it, I’d love to hear your experience or thoughts!!! Life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will – I thought I wanted to be a Partner at an accounting firm or CFO when I first moved to New York and began my career, but sometimes the unexpected turns can lead to the most rewarding paths. I’m hoping that’s the case for me and am excited to start this journey!

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Hot Cocoa Chocolate Layer Cake

The holidays are over, and I feel like January is when winter really begins to set in. Christmas decorations have been taken down, the temperature seems to dropp 10 degrees, and our brains are still frazzled from copious holiday cocktails and excessive amounts of sugar cookies.

There’s a nip in the air that makes you just want to stay inside. It makes scarves a necessity rather than a fashion statement. It also makes you want to pull out your coziest blankets, and stock up on hot cocoa.

That’s the exactly feeling that inspired this cake. I’m a sucker for a big mug of hot cocoa, especially this time of year. I want it made with real milk, loaded up with chocolate, and topped with ooey-gooey marshmallows.

I wanted to incorporate all of those flavors into this cake, and have each bite warm your taste buds up just as much as a sip of hot chocolate. It’s made with my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe, frosted with both marshmallow buttercream and milk chocolate ganache, and filled with mini marshmallows.

I chose to also soak the cake layers with hot cocoa simple syrup (I normally don’t add it to this chocolate cake recipe), because I wanted it to be SUPER moist. After all, it is trying to emulate a beverage. It also helps pack a bit more of that wonderful hot cocoa flavor into this cake, which I’m all for!!

Begin by making the milk chocolate ganache filling. It needs a few hours to set, so I highly recommend making it first, or even the day before! If you prefer dark chocolate, the recipe for my dark chocolate ganache filling can be found here.

To make it, place both the milk chocolate (750 grams – about 2 bags of chocolate chips) and heavy cream (250 grams) in a heat proof bowl, and heat for 30 second increments (stirring between).

Usually after about 2 minutes of heat, all the chocolate is melted. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight (or at least a few hours). Before adding the room temperature ganache to a cake, give it a slow stir with a spatula to ensure it’s nice and smooth, and the right consistency.

ganache-2

Next, make the chocolate cake layers. These can also be made in advance if desired! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.

Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.

Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of baking cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.

Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.

Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don’t, you’ll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen! Please learn from my mistakes :P).

Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.

Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.

Evenly divide between the four prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.

Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.

Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers. If desired, level the cakes with a serrated knife once fully cooled.

It’s important to make the hot cocoa simple syrup ahead of time as well, to allow it to cool before adding it to the leveled cake layers. Mix together the water and granulated sugar into a pot, and heat on high until the mixture just begins to bubble. At this point the sugar should be fully dissolved. Turn off heat and remove pan from stove. Mix in the hot cocoa, and set aside to cool.

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the marshmallow buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla, marshmallow fluff and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Once each component of the cake is ready, it’s time to assemble the cake!! Begin by using a large sterile paint brush to lightly soak each cake layer with the hot cocoa simple syrup.

Then add a dab of frosting onto your cake board or cake plate. This will help keep your cake layers in place as you frost and stack the layers.

Use a large offset spatula to spread an even layer of marshmallow frosting and milk chocolate ganache onto each cake layer. If you have trouble with the two blending together, you can always chill the cake in the freezer for a couple minutes after adding the marshmallow buttercream, to keep the two fillings cleanly layered.

spreading ganache onto hot cocoa cake-2

Sprinkle mini marshmallows on top of the ganache, and gently press into place using you fingers. This will help keep them in place as you assemble cake, and help reduce air from being trapped between the layers.

hot cocoa adding marshmallows-2

Repeat until all four cake layers are stacked. Next, cover the cake in a thin  layer of frosting and chocolate ganache! Place dabs of both the ganache and buttercream around the cake, then gently spread them around the cake to cover the layers.

Use a bench scraper to get the frosting really nice and smooth. Normally I add a second, thicker layer of frosting, but I decided to give this cake a semi-naked look. I just loved the way the ganache and frosting swirled together. It reminded me of whipped cream melting into a warm mug of hot cocoa!

Place the cake into the freezer for about 5 minutes, to chill it before adding on the warm ganache drips.

frosted hot cocoa cake-2

Place about 1 cup of remaining ganache into a piping bag fitted with a french tip, and set aside.

Add an extra splash of heavy cream to the remaining ganache, and heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Stir, and repeat until the ganache has a thinner consistency that will allow you to add drips to the cake.

MAKING A TEST DRIP IS SUCH A CRUCIAL STEP!!! Make one drip on the side of your cake, and let it flow. Allow it to sit for a couple minutes.

See what it looks like, if it’s the length and look you’re after. If not, adjust as needed. Either pop the ganache into the fridge for a couple minutes to allow it to cool off a bit more if the drips are too long or thin, or pop the bottle (or bowl) in the microwave and heat for 5-10 seconds to get less thick and longer drips.

drips on hot cocoa cake-2

Once you’ve covered the cake in ganache drips, pipe some ganache dollops around the top of the cake. Place mini marshmallows on top of each frosting dollop. If desired, dust the top of the cake with hot cocoa powder.

hot cocoa cake uncut-2

I swear this cake really will warm you up on a cold winter day! The filling is rich and decadent, and the mini marshmallows add such a fun texture to each bite. This cake feeds 20-25 people, so make a big batch of hot cocoa and invite your friends over!!

slice of hot cocoa cake close up-2

Chocolate Cake Layers:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Hot Cocoa Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp hot cocoa mix

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 750 grams milk chocolate chips (about 2 bags)
  • 250 grams heavy cream

Easy Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 8 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar (907 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
  • 3/4 cup marshmallow fluff

Easy Christmas Lights Cake

This time of year, I think we all appreciate a simple yet adorable cake design! With all the time that goes into buying presents, decorating, and preparing your home for guests, by the time you get into the kitchen the last thing you want to worry about is a complicated cake!

This cake is made with my one bowl vanilla cake recipe (colored green with gel food coloring), and frosted with almond American buttercream. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but whenever I eat something almond flavored, it feels like a special occasion. Whether it’s from eating almond flavored wedding cake, or the almond cookies I love to eat at Christmas time, an almond flavor just elevates a dessert in my mind.

And if the flavor doesn’t get across the festive spirit, the decoration will. It’s as simple as piping some dark green lines around your cake, and placing almond M&Ms beneath it! It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Ombre Green Layer Cake Recipe:

  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (416 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (13 grams)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (5 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) – 2 sticks
  • 5 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (360 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (9 grams)
  • green gel food coloring

Almond Buttercream Recipe:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar (907 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp almond extract (12 grams)
  • green gel food coloring

Additional Decorations:

Begin by making the Ombre Green Cake Layer Batter. If you want to learn how to make your cake layers in advance, I share all my tips and tricks for freezing cake layers here.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

On a low speed, mix in eggs one at a time. Beat on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between four bowls (using a kitchen scale helps ensure you have the same amount of batter in each bowl). Add an increasing amount of gel food coloring to each bowl, until you have four distinct shades of green ranging from a mint green to a forest green. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 37-38 minutes  (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too, to get my layers perfectly level.

To take this cake to the next level, I torted each cake layer by cutting it in half, horizontally. This allows you to take your four cake layers, and create 8!! This step by no means is necessary, but I love the way it allows you to have an incredible frosting to cake ratio. It makes every bite have the perfect taste of cake and frosting.

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the almond buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

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Once fully mixed, add in the almond and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.

If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Hold off on adding the green gel food coloring until you’ve filled and crumb coated the cake.

Then it’s finally time to assemble the cake!! Begin by adding a dab of frosting onto your cake board or cake plate. This will help keep your cake layers in place as you frost and stack the layers.

Use a large offset spatula to spread an even layer of frosting onto each cake layer. I’m a big fan of frosting, so I’m always generous with the amount I add between my layers.

horizontal stacked layers

Next, cover the cake in a thin  layer of frosting, to trap in any pesky crumbs! Use a bench scraper to get the frosting really nice and smooth, then pop your cake into the fridge or freezer to allow the crumb coat of frosting to chill and firm up.

crumb coated christmas lights cake

While the cake chills, color about 2/3 of a cup of the uncolored vanilla buttercream with a large squirt of forest green gel food coloring, to create dark green frosting. Place this into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip.

Color the remaining frosting mint green with a small squirt of green gel food coloring. I recommend using Americolor’s leaf green gel coloring, which I’ve found creates a really beautiful shade.

Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch (takes about 5 minutes in the freezer), cover the cake in a second, thicker layer of red buttercream frosting. You can see an in-depth tutorial on how to get super smooth sides on your cake here.

smoothing second light green frosting

Once the second layer of frosting is smooth, snip a tiny opening in the piping bag filled with dark green frosting (less than 1 cm). Pipe squiggly lines around the cake, to look like the wiring of a strand of Christmas lights. Pipe all the way around the cake, and then pipe a squiggly circle on top of the cake.

piping on strand of lights

Pipe some small circles beneath the line every 2 inches, to connect the almond M&M Christmas lights to piped strand. Use a small spoon to scoop out a tiny bit of frosting beneath each piped dot, to create a little pocket to nestle each M&M in. This will help the M&Ms stay in place, and reduce how far they stick off the side of the cake.

using spoon to dig out hole

Carefully press each almond M&M into the cake, being sure to alternate colors in the same pattern around the cake.

adding almond M&M

I love this cake design because it’s so simple! It’s also a great cake to make with kids, or any guests you have in town.

staged unsliced cake

This cake is perfect for any holiday party, but be sure you have lots of friends and family, or coworkers around when you cut into this cake! Depending on the size of the slices you cut, this cake feeds 20-25 people.

sliced christmas lights cake

If you’re more of a visual learner, below is the in-depth video tutorial for this cake:

White Velvet Christmas Sweater Cake

Despite my best intentions this winter, I haven’t shared the recipes for all of my holiday cakes! I’ve been so busy baking, filming, and editing my cakes and cake videos, that I totally dropped the ball on blogging!

Usually I’m able to manage my day job in corporate finance with my baking, but sometimes life gets in the way. Between weddings, holiday travel, and closing out the year at work, I feel like that past month has completely flown by.

But don’t worry, I’m  planning to have them all up before Christmas…starting with this festive cake inspired by those adorable knitted Christmas sweaters everyone seems to pull out of their closets this time of year.

There are a lot of cakes that have a “knitted” look out there, but most use fondant and silicone molds. I wanted to make this cake fully with buttercream, and decided that piping the pattern was my best bet.

To mix things up a bit, I decided to make this cake with white velvet cake layers. White velvet, you say?!?! Yes. If you wanted to, you could add in a tsp of baking cocoa and some red gel food coloring, and make red velvet cake layers…but where’s the fun in that?

The essential components of a red velvet cake that give it that delicious, moist taste are vinegar, buttermilk, and baking cocoa. Red food coloring is also a must, but only for aesthetics. While taking away the baking cocoa does slightly change that taste of this recipe, it still is super moist and uniquely delicious, from the vinegar and buttermilk. The amount of cocoa in most red velvet recipes is so minimal, I find I can barely taste it most of the time.

Another reason I chose to make white velvet cake layers was because I wanted to frost the outside of the cake in red buttercream, and I didn’t want to go crazy with red gel food coloring in this cake. I love colorful cakes, but that much red seemed excessive. I also thought the white cake layers would have a beautiful, clean look with the vanilla buttercream the cake is filled with. Like a fresh snowflake, unsoiled by the grime and dog pee that our NYC streets seem to be covered in.

White Velvet Layer Cake Recipe:

  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (416 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (13 grams)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (5 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) – 2 sticks
  • 5 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (360 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (9 grams)
  • 2 tsp vinegar (9 grams)

Easy Vanilla Buttercream Recipe

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar (907 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
  • red gel food coloring

Instructions

Begin by making the White Velvet Cake Layer Batter. If you want to learn how to make your cake layers in advance, I share all my tips and tricks for freezing cake layers here.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

On a low speed, mix in eggs one at a time. Beat on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vinegar, vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too, to get my layers perfectly level.

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

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Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.

If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Hold off on adding the red gel food coloring until you’ve filled and crumb coated the cake.

Then it’s finally time to assemble the cake!! Begin by adding a dab of frosting onto your cake board or cake plate. This will help keep your cake layers in place as you frost and stack the layers.

white velvet sweater cake first layer-2

Use a large offset spatula to spread an even layer of frosting onto each cake layer. I’m a big fan of frosting, so I’m always generous with the amount I add between my layers.

smoothing frosting on white velvet sweater cake layers-2

Next, cover the cake in a thin  layer of frosting, to trap in any pesky crumbs! Use a bench scraper to get the frosting really nice and smooth, then pop your cake into the fridge or freezer to allow the crumb coat of frosting to chill and firm up.

crumb coated white velvet sweater cake-2

While the cake chills, place about 2/3 of a cup of the uncolored vanilla buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Color the remaining frosting red with gel food coloring. I recommend using Americolor’s super red gel food coloring, which I’ve found gets the most vibrant shade.

Red can be a hard color of frosting to make. Using gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring can make a big difference (especially when you use Americolor). In full disclosure, I’m not sponsored by Americolor, I really just love their food coloring and use it in all my cakes 🙂

Another way to deepen the shade of the frosting is to make the red buttercream in advance, and let it sit for a bit (either in the fridge if it’s going to be more than 1 day, or on your counter if you plan to use it the following day). The longer the frosting sits, the deeper the shade will get. It sounds crazy, but trust me it works.

Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch (takes about 5 minutes in the freezer), cover the cake in a second, thicker layer of red buttercream frosting. You can see an in-depth tutorial on how to get super smooth sides on your cake here.

smoothign red frosting sweater cake-2

To create the pattern on this cake, I love using a cookie cutter to outline the shapes you will be piping. It ensures the pattern is symmetrical and evenly spaced.

Use a square cookie cutter (this one was 2 in x 2 inches) to create each knitted square of the sweater, and then a small heart cutter (about 1 inch tall) to outline the heart within each diamond. Carefully press each cutter against the cake, just hard enough to create a faint outline that you can follow as you pipe.

making outlines in sweater cake with square cutter-2

Next, use the white buttercream to (painstakingly) pipe each little stitch. To make the process less painful, be sure not to fill your piping bag too full! I filled mine with way more frosting than I needed (see photo below), and it made the process so much more difficult.

It’s easier to have control and precision over your piping when there’s less frosting in the bag, It also means you have to squeeze less hard, which matters when you’re having to pipe this much.

piping pattern onto sweater cake-2

Continue the patter from the sides of the cake up to the top. I recommend taking breaks as you pipe, to give your hand and wrist a break!! It also helps control how much heat from your hand is transferred to your frosting.

The longer you hold your piping bag, the warmer your frosting will get. This can throw off the consistency of your frosting, and can also deepen the shade (the frosting becomes more of a cream), making some of you piped stitches a different color.  To avoid this, you can either take breaks while piping, or wrap a thin dish towel or paper towel around the bag, to minimize the transfer of heat.

piping top onto sweater cale-2

Once your patience and hand strength have been pushed to their limits, you’ll have a cake just as cute as the sweater you plan to wear to your Christmas party!!

finished piped sweater cake-2

This cake is perfect for any holiday party, but be sure you have lots of friends and family, or coworkers around when you cut into this cake! Depending on the size of the slices you cut, this cake feeds 20-25 people.

sliced sweater cake-2

See what I mean about the white velvet cake layers? They look so pristine and perfect when paired with the bright red buttercream. If you want to watch the full video tutorial, below is the YouTube video I created of this cake:

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with lots of baking 🙂

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookie Cake

Who else loves peanut butter blossom cookies?? They're one of my favorite holiday treats, and were the first thing I baked on my own when I began experimenting in my kitchen. I always make them with Jif® Peanut Butter , and they never disappoint!

close up of PB cokies.jpg

To mix things up this year, I decided to kick off my holiday baking with a cake inspired by these classic treats.  I used Jif to make peanut butter frosting and cake layers, which gave my cake the same fresh-roasted peanut taste that makes the sweet and salty cookies so delicious! I decided to add some Christmas lights too, since Christmas is just around the corner.

To make this cake look just like these delectable cookies, the bottom tier is made with two massive 10-inch peanut butter cake layers. The top tier is made with chocolate cake layers, frosted with peanut butter chocolate buttercream. I also carved some lines into the base of the cake, and added a sprinkle of granulated sugar to stay true to each delicious component of this cookie.

Peanut Butter Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
  • ½ cup creamy Jif Peanut Butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (or about 7 egg whites)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup Jif creamy peanut butter
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup of unsweetened baking cocoa (to be added at the end to ½ of the finished buttercream)

Additional decorations:

  • Candy coated chocolate almonds
  • Green gel food coloring
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Begin by making the peanut butter cake layers:

  1. Line two, 10-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds, and place a flower nail upside in the center of each pan (helps the layers bake more evenly and quickly). Grease the sides of the pan and the flower nail with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter and the Jif Peanut Butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until the mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  5. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  6. Bake for 35-37 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Carefully invert the pans, and remove the layers from the pans onto a wire rack, to finish cooling.
  7. Once fully cooled, level one of the cake layers using a serrate knife. Leave the second cake layer with a dome. Set aside.

Next, make the chocolate cake layers:

  1. Line two 6-inch pans and two 4-inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.
  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the hot water, and buttermilk. Pour in the black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.
  5. Next, add 1/2 cup of flour into the butter/egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
  6. Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don’t, you’ll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over your kitchen!
  7. Repeat this process, ending by mixing in the last ½ cup of flour.
  8. Divide the batter between the pans, filling each pan at least 1 inch high with batter.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
  11. Place the pans in the freezer for about 30 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.
  12. Once the layers are fully cooled, use a serrate knife to level the tops of the layers.

As the cake layers cool, prepare the peanut butter and chocolate buttercream.

  1. Beat the butter and peanut butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  3. Once fully mixed, add in the salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  5. Place ½ of the frosting into a separate bowl, and mix in ½ cup of unsweetened baking cocoa and an extra tablespoon of heavy cream to make chocolate peanut butter buttercream for the top tier of the cake. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
  6. Place ½ cup of peanut butter buttercream into a small bowl, and add forest green gel food coloring. Mix until evenly colored, then place in a small piping bag. Snip a small (less than ½ cm) opening at the tip of the bag, and set aside.

Now assemble the cake!

Spread a small dab of buttercream in the center of a 12-inch, grease-proof cake board. Center the leveled, peanut butter cake layer on the cake board, and top with a generous, even layer of peanut butter buttercream. Place the un-trimmed peanut butter cake layer on top of this. Cover the cake layers in a crumb coat, and place in fridge to chill.

frosting PB cake layer

Next, begin to make the chocolate portion of the cake. Using a 6-inch cardboard cake round, stack and frost the chocolate cake layers with the chocolate peanut butter buttercream. Smooth any overhanging frosting, and then use a serrated knife to trim the cake into a cone-like shape. Cover in a thin crumb coat, and place in the fridge to chill.

cutting choco cake layers

Remove the peanut butter cake from the fridge, and add a second, thicker layer of peanut butter frosting. Use an acetate sheet to create rounded sides on the cake, to emulate the shape of a peanut butter cookie. Carefully add granulated sugar onto the peanut butter frosting, to emulate the sugar that peanut butter blossom cookies are rolled in before they are baked.

adding granulated sugar

Trace the shape of a 6-inch circle on top of the cake (using the cake pan or a 6-inch cake round), and scoop out the circle using a spoon (removing about 1 inch from the top of the cake). This will help make it look like the chocolate portion of cake was pressed into the peanut butter layer, just like a peanut butter blossom cookie fresh out of the oven. Set aside.

scooping out PB cake

Remove the chocolate cake from the fridge, and add a second, thicker layer of frosting using the chocolate peanut butter buttercream. Use an acetate sheet to create slightly curved sides around the base of the cake. Once the frosting is smooth, carefully place on top of the peanut butter cake layer, into the carved area on top of the cake.

frosting chocolate cake

Use a small knife to carve some lines into the frosting, to resemble the cracks that peanut butter blossom cookies have when once they’re baked.

adding cracks to PB cake

The finishing touch is to use the green buttercream to pipe a line around the chocolate cake, and place the candy-coated chocolate almonds beneath it, to look like Christmas lights!

adding on lights to cake

The last step is to gather your friends and family around, and slice into this cake! This cake feeds about 25 people.

sliced PB clossom ake