Easy Buttercream Reindeer Cupcakes

Christmas is a time for snow, reindeer, and PB&J cupcakes?! Yes, that’s right. When I was trying to think of the right flavor for these reindeer cupcakes, peanut butter was the front runner…and whenever I use peanut butter, jam usually follows suit. These cupcakes taste just as delicious as they look, and are sure to be a big hit at whatever holiday party you’re baking them for!! The recipe can be found below:

Peanut Butter Cupcake Batter (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction):

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup your favorite peanut butter (chunk or smooth)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

Filling: A jar of your favorite jam

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Additional Decorations:

  • 12 tootsie rolls (antlers)
  • 12 pairs of eyes (can be eye sprinkles or homemade from fondant!)
  • brown and red M&Ms
  • brown sprinkles (mouth)
  • leave frosting tip
  • piping bags
  • brown gel food coloring

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Decorations: 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake holders.

Begin by making the peanut butter cupcake batter. Cream together the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar at a medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add in vanilla. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Mix in half the flour mixture, then add in the buttermilk.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, until just combined. Be careful not to overmix!! The batter should be pretty thick.

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Use a cookie scoop to divide batter evenly between 12 cupcake tins. Bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Place the muffin tins into the freezer for 20 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process, and lock in the moisture of the cupcakes.

While the cupcakes cool, make the peanut butter buttercream! Beat the butter and peanut butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until combined. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. 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 cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Place 1/3 of the frosting into a piping bag, and cut a 1.5 cm opening. Add a few drops of brown gel food coloring to the remaining frosting, and place into a piping bag, cutting a 1 inch opening.

Next, prepare the antlers! To make each pair of antlers, heat 2 unwrapped tootsie tolls in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, until they just being to melt. They should be warm to the touch and easy to mold. If they are to hot to handle. Let them cool for 30 seconds – 1 minutes, then try to handle them again. Shape the tootsie rolls into two logs, about 1.5 inches long. use a small knife to cut into the logs, to shape the spikes of the antlers. Set aside on parchment paper to cool.  Be sure the antlers are fully hardened before inserting into the cupcakes.

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Once the cupcakes are full cooled, remove the centers with a knife and fill with your favorite jam. Place the top of each cutout on top of the jam, then pipe a swirl of brown peanut butter frosting onto each cupcake.

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Using the lighter peanut butter frosting, pipe a small circle on one side of the cupcakes to be the reindeer’s snout. Use an offset spatula to smooth the buttercream.

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Place a red or brown M&M on top of the snout, and a brown sprinkle to be the mouth. Add on the eyes just above the snout, and then insert the antlers into the top of the cupcakes.

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Use some of the remaining brown frosting and a leaf tip to pipe small ears. Freeze the ears, then quickly place them on the sides of the antlers. Then the cupcakes are ready to enjoy! While these cupcakes may be cute, they’re even more fun to eat 🙂

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Holiday Feast Cakes

People with holiday birthdays frequently find that the festive season can take priority over their special day!! In a national survey conducted by Chase Freedom, a third (32%) of those surveyed with holiday birthdays felt that they were celebrated less. In fact, the survey found that one-fifth of Americans admitted to forgetting, ignoring or deliberately downplaying someone’s birthday because it falls on or near a holiday.

I’ve recently partnered with Chase to shine a spotlight on holiday birthdays. If you didn’t know, I actually got my start by baking birthday cakes for friends, so this is a particular passion of mine. There is nothing quite like the look on someone’s face when they see the cake you’ve made just for them!

Last week, I helped host a birthday celebration at a local New York City Chase branch by creating a traditional holiday feast with a twist – they were made entirely of birthday cake, complete with sprinkles, funfetti and rainbow swirls inside! As you can imagine, guests were surprised to see cakes in the shape of a ham, a skillet of Brussels sprouts and even a cherry pie.

The recipes and tools needed are included below. If you want to try cooking up these festive cakes, please share using #ChaseFreedom:

Holiday Ham Cake

  • 5 batches of my vanilla layer cake recipe, colored light pink
  • 5 batches of my buttercream, +2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 container sprinkles
  • pink fondant
  • brown fondant
  • brown and pink gel food coloring
  • kitchen torch

 

To make the Holiday Ham Cake, bake two 8 inch layers, two 7 inch layers, two 6 inch layers, and one 4 inch layer. Once baked and cooled, use a 4 inch circle cutter to remove the centers from one of the 8 inch layers, and two of the 7 inch layers. Prepare the buttercream, then stack and frost the layers from largest to smallest, along the side of cake. Once the layers without centers are stacked, apply a thing crumb coat the cut out areas, and fill with sprinkles.

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Top with remaining cake layers. Stacking them off center will make it easier to lay the cake on its side once it’s carved. Insert a wooden dowel through the cake to secure the layers, then use a serrated knife to carve the layers, to resemble the shape of a ham.

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Trim the side of the cake closest to the dowel, to make a flat surface to lay the cake on. Carefully flip the cake onto its side, then apply a thin crumb coat of frosting. Place an 8 inch, pink fondant circle on the front of the cake. Lay brown fondant over the side of the cake, and trim excess. Score lines around the sides of the ham using a fondant tool. Add a white fondant tail bone over the exposed dowel on the back of the cake. Cut out 1 inch of pink fondant using a circle cutter. Place a white fondant ring into the cutout, to be the other end of the bone.

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Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the brown fondant, to give the ham a “fresh out of the oven” look. Next, paint the brown fondant with a mixture of vodka and brown gel food coloring.

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In a small container, mix together a drop of red gel food coloring with a 1 Tbsp of vodka, and lightly dab onto the pink fondant to make the ham look juicy. The last step is to pipe some dark green buttercream around the ham cake as the leafy garnish.

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Brussels Sprout Cake

  • 1 batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe, + 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
  • 1 batch of my black buttercream
  • green fondant
  • black fondant
  • green food coloring mixed with 1 Tbsp vodka
  • 1 paint brush
  • 1 bag white chocolate, melted over a double boiler
  • kitchen torch

To make the Brussels sprouts cake, make two 10 inch funfetti cake layers. Prepare the black buttercream, and stack and frost the two funfetti cake layers. Trim the sides of the cake to taper in slightly towards the base. Scoop out about 1/2 inch from the center of the top layer, leaving a 1 cm rim.

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Coat in a thin crumb coat, and chill the cake in the fridge or freezer until the frosting is firm to the touch. Add a second, thicker layer of black buttercream, and smooth using a piece of acetate sheet.

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Next, prepare the Brussels sprouts! Make cake balls using trimmed cake bits and extra white frosting from the ham cake. Form twelve 1 inch balls, and freeze. Use a silicon mold to make 12 half spheres. Coat in a layer of white chocolate (you want them to have the texture of real Brussels sprouts, so they don’t need to be perfectly smooth!), and set aside to dry. Once firm to the touch, cover in a thin layer of white fondant. Create lines along the top of the cake balls to look like Brussels sprout leaves.

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Paint a couple layers of bright green food coloring mixed with vodka. Then paint an additional layer of forest green food coloring to give the Brussels sprouts more dimension. Set aside to dry.

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Once the food coloring has dried, arrange on top of the skillet cake. Start with the largest Brussels sprouts in the center of the cake, and work towards the edge of the cake. Fit as many as possible in the base layer, then add half of the Brussels sprouts into any remaining space, and on top of the first layer.

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Carefully use a blow torch to caramelize the Brussels sprouts and avoid touching the frosting with the flame!

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Cherry Pie Cake

  • 1 batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe, divided into 6 parts and colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple
  • 1 batch of my buttercream+ 2 squirts ivory gel food coloring
  • cherry pie filling
  • tan fondant
  • ivory food coloring + 1 Tbsp vodka
  • sterile paint brush

To make the cherry pie cake, bake two 10 inch cake layers, by swirling together rainbow colored batter. You can watch a full tutorial on how I make my swirled cake layers here. Prepare the tan colored buttercream, and stack and frost the two colorful cake layers. Trim the sides of the cake layers to taper.

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Flip the cake over so that the widest part is facing up. Scoop out about 1/2 inch from the center of the top layer, leaving a 1 cm rim. Coat in a thin crumb coat, and chill the cake in the fridge or freezer until the frosting is firm to the touch. Add a second layer of buttercream, and smooth using a piece of acetate sheet. Cover the sides in tan fondant, and lightly score using a fondant tool. Add the cherry pie filling onto the top of the cake, leaving a 1 inch boarder around the perimeter.

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Interlace 1 inch strips of fondant to create the pie crust top, and trim to fit a 10 inch circle using a cake board.

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Place a ruffled fondant pie crust boarded around the perimeter of the cake, then carefully place the latticed strips on top of the cherry pie filling. Secure the strips over the crust by gently pressing them together. Paint the top of the pie with 1 drop of ivory food coloring mixed with 1 Tbsp vodka, to give the cake a golden brown hue.

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Then it’s time to present the feast of cakes and cut in to reveal the birthday surprise centers!!!

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Striped Christmas Cake

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we can finally begin baking for Christmas!!!! While I do love baking for Halloween, Christmas is definitely my favorite time of the year to bake! I decided to kick off this season of holiday baking with a very festive striped Christmas cake. The inside of this cake is just as fun (if not more fun) than the outside of the cake!

I am by no means a piping expert, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the only way to get better at something is to practice 🙂 The recipe and tutorial are included below:

1 batch my favorite vanilla layer cake (4, 7″ cake rounds) – divided into three parts, one colored red, one colored green, and one part left uncolored

1.5 batches my classic American buttercream

Additional Supplies:

  • Christmas sprinkles
  • red and green gel food coloring
  • Wilton 1M tip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and prepare cake batter. Line and grease 4 7 inch pans. Spoon batter into the center of each cake pan, layering each color on top of the previous batter. If your layers get off center, simply tilt the pans to recenter the pattern.

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Bake 4, 7 inch layers for about 38 minutes. Once removed from the oven, carefully run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan, to separate the layers. Let these cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pans and place in the freezer for about 45 minutes (accelerates the cooling process). Once cool to the touch, trim the browned edges from the sides of the cake using a serrated knife. If desired, you can also trim the tops of the cake! The layers bake relatively flat, but some people find it easier to stack and frost layers when they’re perfectly level.

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While the layers bake and cool, prepare the buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the heavy cream half way through. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). To watch a full tutorial on how I make my frosting, you can click here.

Stack and frost layers. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes.

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Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second, thicker layer of frosting. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here. Color the remaining frosting green and red, and place into piping bags with various tips. These tips are (from left to right) a Wilton 12, a Wilton 5, an Ateco 4, an Ateco 48.

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Use a bench scraper to make slight vertical indents along the sides of the cake. Use these lines as a guide and pipe stripes up the side of the cake. Begin by adding stripes around the entire cake with one frosting tip, then fill in with the other tips and frosting color.

MVI_1560_Moment (2) Carefully level the tops of the stripes using a sharp knife. Place remaining frosting into a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip, and pipe swirls around the top of the cake. Add sprinkles (these are from Neon Yolk Shop) around the base of the cake and inside the buttercream swirls.

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Like I promised earlier, the inside of the cake is just as fun as the outside!

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Banana Monster Smash Cake

I’ve made some smash cakes in the past, but wanted to make a slightly larger smash cake this time! This cake is made with 7 inch cake rounds, and really would be great for a child’s birthday at any age! Or for any adults who enjoy monsters 😛 This cake is make with a moist banana cake layer, and frosted with a cream cheese buttercream.

Banana Cake Batter

1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (240ml) mashed bananas (3 medium sized bananas)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 sticks or 3 cups (650 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz cream cheese frosting (230g), room temperature
  • 16 cups (1814 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp (36 grams) salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 2 tsp (8 grams) vanilla
  • Blue and orange colored gel food coloring

Additional Decorations:

  • black and white fondant
  • grass tip (I used a wilton 233)
  • 2 pieces of dried spaghetti or 2 tooth pics (to secure the monster horns)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line and grease 3 7 inch pans, and 1 6 inch pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar on medium high speed for 2 minutes, until the butter becomes lighter in color and is fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time, then add the oil, vanilla  and buttermilk. Add in the mashed bananas and on a low speed, until just incorporated. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add into the wet ingredients in 3 phases. Divide batter evenly between two bowls, and color one blue with gel food coloring. Alternate spoons of white and blue batter into the pans, then swirl the colors together using an offset spatula or butter knife. You can see a full tutorial on how to make swirled cake layers here.

Bake layers for about 26 minutes. Once removed from the oven, carefully run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan, to separate the layers. Let these cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pans and place in the freezer for about 45 minutes (accelerates the cooling process).

While the layers bake and cool, prepare the buttercream frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese 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 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 cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).To watch a full tutorial on how I make my frosting, you can click here.

Color 1/2 the frosting a deep shade of blue, color 1/4 a light shade of blue, and 1/4  orange. Place into piping bags with a 1.5 cm opening (I simply cut the tips of the bags).

Stack and frost layers. Pipe rings on top of each cake layer, starting at the perimeter of the cake layer, working your way into the center. Be sure to follow the same color pattern (blue, light blue, orange), but alternate which color you start frosting with each layer.

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Place the 6 inch cake layer on top of the 7 in layers. Use a serrated knife to trim the edges of the 6 inch layer, to created a dome shaped top. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Place remaining blue and orange frosting into two piping bags with a grass tip.

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While the crumb coat chills, make the fondant facial features. You can get creative here and make however many eyes you want (I went with two, but have done one and three in the past). Make a mouth and horns, and insert either toothpicks or dry pieces of spaghetti into the horns. Set aside on parchment paper.

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Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, pipe on the second layer of frosting to look like fur! I added orange fur spots first, then the fondant facial features. I filled in the remaining open space with blue frosting fur.

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Wrap the frosting bags with paper towels or a thin towel to help limit the amount of heat your hands transfer to the frosting. Once all the fur is on, add the horns. Then cut in to see the swirled layers and fun striped frosting patter!

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I really enjoyed making this little monster! If you want to use natural food coloring, you can try using India Tree food coloring (you can buy online or at whole foods). It’s not as vibrant as the Americolor gel food coloring I used here, but it does add color in a natural way.

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The Best Cream Cheese Frosting

I get asked a lot about my cream cheese frosting recipe, and I’m finally sharing it! A lot of cream cheese frosting recipes taste great, but don’t hold their shape.  This can be super frustrating when you’re trying to get super smooth sides on a cake, or pipe some fun designs onto a cupcake!! That’s what makes this frosting recipe so fantastic; it has the tang of a cream cheese frosting, but is sturdy like my classic american buttercream! It’s great for piping on cupcakes, and smoothing on cakes. The recipe and tutorial are included below:

When using this recipe to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 3 sticks or 1.5 cups (325 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese frosting (115g), room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp (4 grams) vanilla

Instructions:

Beat the butter and cream cheese 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 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 cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

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NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

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Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Around the holidays I’m always inspired by all the beautiful pies I see on social media! While I am by no means a pie expert, these cupcakes help satisfy my pumpkin pie aspirations, through a different medium. They’re made with a pumpkin cupcake batter, filled with a no-bake pumpkin pie filling, and frosted with a buttercream “crust.” The recipe and a quick tutorial are included below:

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ⅓ tsp. pumpkin spice
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs

Pumpkin Pie Filling: 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla
  • yellow and brown food coloring

Bake time: 17 minutes

Yield: 12-14 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Place the flour, sugar, dark brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice into a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Add in the oil and pumpkin, and stir until incorporated. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add a squirt of orange gel food coloring, and stir until the batter is evenly colored.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and bake for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool. To speed up the cooling process, you can also place the cupcakes in the freezer for 15 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake, prepare the pumpkin pie filling. Pour one cup of cold heavy cream into a medium sized bowl, and whisk in 1 package of vanilla pudding mix. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then add in 1 cup of pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Mix until fully incorporated. Add a small squirt of orange gel food coloring if desired, to achieve a more vibrant shade of orange. Chill in the fridge.

Next, make the “pie crust” 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 and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.  Add in a tiny bit of brown and yellow food coloring, to achieve a tan shade that resembles a pie crust. If the frosting is too thick, add in 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 the cupcakes are baked and fully cooled, use a small knife to remove the centers of the cupcakes. I cut out a large portion of the cupcake, so that I could fit in a lot of the pumpkin pie filling, but this is a matter of preference.

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Fill the centers with the chilled pumpkin pie mixture, the smooth the tops using an offset spatula. Place half of the frosting in a piping bag with a wilton 103 tip, and the rest into a bag with a small round opening.

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Pipe a variety of lattice designs and crusts onto the cupcakes. Below are the designs I made!

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You can pipe your favorite pie decorations, and also can modify this recipe to make different pie flavored cupcakes 🙂

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Thanksgiving Turkey Cake

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!!!! Since I am a pie novice, of course I wanted to make a cake to celebrate T-Day. I was inspired by the turkey cake Baked by Dan made on one of his Food Network livestreams. This cute little turkey cake is made with colorful swirled pumpkin cake layers, and is covered in milk chocolate ganache. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “pumpkin, and chocolate??” Trust me on this one, it’s a surprisingly delicious combination. The recipe and tutorial can be found below:

Pumpkin Cake Batter:

  • 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (183 grams) – about 5 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin for this)
  • yellow, orange, and red food coloring

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 23 oz. (652 grams) milk chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp (230 grams) heavy cream

Additional Decorations:

  • red, orange and yellow fondant (I use the Satin Ice brand – I think it tastes best of all the premade fondant!)
  • 1 set of jumbo eye sprinkles, or eyes made with black and white fondant
  • piping bag
  • kitchen scale (for ganache)

Instructions:

The milk chocolate ganache needs a few hours to firm up before you can you cover the cake, so I like to make it in advance (usually the night before)! Note that if you want to use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you will need to use more cream (weight ratio of dark chocolate to heavy cream is 2:1, milk chocolate is 3:1)

To make the ganache,  place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a separate bowl, heat heavy cream at a medium heat until it just begins to bubble (watch very carefully, heavy cream can bubble over in the blink of an eye!!). Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without touching it, then stir until fully incorporated. If there are still lumps of chocolate, heat the bowl for 15 seconds and then stir again; continue until no lumps remain. Once the mixture is nice and smooth, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight.

The fondant accents also need to be made in advance, so they can dry. Roll out colored fondant to be 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut out feather shaped pieces (mine looked like giant tear drops) that are about 4 inches long. Use circle cutters to make cartoon fondant eyes, and shape a beak, two turkey feet, and a gobble. Set aside to dry.

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Next, prepare the pumpkin cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7″ round pans.

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.

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 pumpkin puree, and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Divide batter between three bowls, coloring them yellow, orange, and red with gel food coloring. Add spoonfuls of batter into the pans, then tap them on the counter to flatten the batter. Swirl together using a butter knife (full tutorial on how to make swirled layers here).

Bake for 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 on a rack to finish cooling.

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To assemble the cake, cover cake layers with a generous layer of ganache, and stack vertically. Add a thick, even layer of ganache around the cake using an offset spatula. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

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Place remaining ganache into a piping back, and pipe wings half way up the sides of the cake. Next, add on the facial features to the front of the cake. Secure the feathers to the back of the cake, using additional tabs of ganache. Once the entire back fan of feathers is in place, trim remaining feathers and gently insert into the top of the cake neat the other feathers. I found the cutting a slit into the top of the cake with a small knife made this process much easier.

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As fun as this cake is to build, it’s even more fun to cut into!! The swirled layers contrast beautifully against the chocolate ganache, and the pumpkin / chocolate flavor combo is a real crowd pleaser. It’s perfect for kids, and the adults don’t seem to mind it either 🙂

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A little bit Chelsey, a whole lot of sweet!

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