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 🙂

How to Make Cake Layers in Advance

This year I’m trying to blog my answers to the questions you guys ask the most! Some of the questions have pretty elaborate answers, and it’s hard to answer them thoroughly across my different platforms.

I decided to start with the most popular questions I get asked, regarding how far in advance you make make cake layers.

I’m hoping this post will also answer other common questions, like:

  • When do I freeze a cake?
  • How do I freeze cake layers?
  • Should I level my layers before I freeze my cake layers?
  • Do I thaw the layers before I make the cake?
  • How far ahead of time can I make cake layers?
  • How should I store my cake layers?
  • Why should I freeze my cake layers?

Making a cake from scratch takes hours of work, from baking all the layers, to preparing the frosting and decorations. If you try to do it all in one day, it takes forever, and seems like so much more of a chore.

I work full time in corporate finance, and frequently bake after work or on the weekends. I love to bake my layers one night, prep my frosting and cake fillings another, and then enjoy the decorating process over the weekend.

While baking is therapeutic in it’s own way, my favorite part of making cakes is decorating them! It brings me so much joy, and is truly my creative outlet. I find I’m able to enjoy it most when I’m not worrying about how much longer my layers need to bake, or cleaning up the clouds of powdered sugar that seem to coat my kitchen whenever I make frosting.

HOW TO FREEZE CAKE LAYERS IN ADVANCE

I almost always make my cake components in advance! When making my cake layers ahead of time, I take my pans out of the oven, run an offset spatula around the edge of the pan to separate the layers from the pan, and then place the warm pans directly into my freezer.

Sounds crazy, right?? Hot pans right into the freezer?? It drastically accelerates the cooling process, and I love being able to speed up the process a bit. After about 30 minutes, once the pans are cool to the touch, I remove my cake layers from my pans by gently tapping the pans upside-down on my counter, and carefully removing the layers with my hands.

To be completely honest, if I am just freezing my cake layers overnight, I don’t wrap them. I just place them back into the freezer, on cardboard cake rounds to ensure they freeze flat. I’ve found it makes no difference in taste, and makes the whole process simpler.

However, if making my layers more than a day in advance, I either wrap each layer in Saran Wrap, or place them into a large tupperware container (if the layers are small enough). I prefer the Tupperware route since it’s less wasteful, but when freezing cake layers for longer periods of time (more than a few days), I think Saran Wrap works best.

wrapped cake layer on cardboard round

If you plan to make you cake layers more than a few days in advance, I highly recommend doubling up to protect your cake layers from freezer burn. There are a few different ways you can do this:

  • Wrap cake layers in two layers of Saran Wrap
  • First wrap cake layers in Saran Wrap, then wrap in second layer of foil
  • Wrap in Saran Wrap then place in air tight tupperware container
  • Wrap in Saran Wrap, then place into large ziplock freezer bag

My layer cake recipe can be made two weeks in advance, if wrapped properly.  I’ve only made layers two weeks in advance, and I haven’t tested the upper limits. If any of you have frozen my cake layer recipe for longer, please let me know the duration, and how they tasted.

I’ve talked to other bakers, and some like to immediately pop their layer out of their pans, wrap them in plastic wrap while they’re still hot, and then place them in the freezer.

Both methods help keep moisture in the layers! If you think about steam rising from a baked good hot out of the oven, it’s moisture evaporating right out whatever you just baked! By reducing the steam that leaves your cake layers, you’re helping them stay moist and delicious.

HOW TO THAW AND USE FROZEN CAKE LAYERS

So now that you’ve frozen your cake layers, what do you do when it comes time to make the cake?! I like to remove my layer from the freezer about 30 minutes before I want to begin frosting a cake. I unwrap each layer and lay them out on my counter to thaw. Just after doing this (and while they’re still completely frozen), I like to trim the caramelization from the sides of my layers.

I then let the layer thaw for 30 minutes (this can vary depending on the size of your cake layers). At this point they’re still chilled, but also slightly firm. This is when I level my cake layers using a serrated knife. If you try to level the cake before it has thaw, it will be extremely difficult to cut through, making it more likely that the layers break.

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Once the layers are trimmed, leveled, and still slightly chilled, I begin to make the cake. I know sounds strange, but chilled cake layers are so much easier to stack and frost! Chilling the cake layers reduces the amount of crumbing, and helps the buttercream firm up once it’s added to the cake. This minimizes any shifting of your cake layers as you add a crumb coat.

Chilled cake layers are also much easier to carve, if you’re working on a sculpted cake. If my cake layers are at room temperature, and I try to carve them, I find that my layers kind of crumble, and are very difficult to shape. When my layers are chilled, I can cut and shape them into whatever shape I’m after.

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This ended up being much longer than I intended, so here’s a little recap of the main takeaways of making cake layers in advance:

  • Cake layers can be made several weeks in advance if properly wrapped as described above (doubled wrapped!)
  • Layers should be thawed for about 30 minutes before leveling and building the cake
  • Making a cake with chilled cake layers (thawed out of the freezer for 30 minutes) reduces crumbing
  • Chilled cake layers are easier to stack and carve

Please let me know if you use any different methods for making cake layers in advance, I’d love to hear about them!!

Strawberry Pop-Tart Cake

I contribute footage of a few cakes each month to the Food Network, to share across their social channels. This strawberry Pop-Tart-inspired cake was definitely my favorite one this month, and it was so fun I wanted to share the recipe.

The best part of this cake? The adorable mini strawberry Pop-Tarts used to decorate the base of the cake. The good news is that they’re just as simple to make as they are cute.

They’re made using store bought pie crusts, strawberry jam, an egg wash, and some colorful buttercream and sprinkles. If you wanted to fully make them from scratch, you totally can! But since cakes are already such a labor of love, I like to not get too crazy with the decorations.

poptart supplies

This cake is made with my tried and true layer cake and buttercream recipe, plus some strawberry jam and pink gel food coloring, for good measure. The recipes used include:

  • 1 batch of my layer cake recipe (used to bake 4, 7-inch cake layers) + pink gel food coloring to create swirled layers
  • 1.5 batches of my american buttercream
  • 1 jar of your favorite strawberry jam (for both the mini Pop-Tarts filling and cake filling)
  • 1 package of ready-made pie crust + 1 egg (to create mini Pop-Tarts)

Begin by making the cake layers and buttercream, as directed in the above recipes. The layers will take a bit of time to bake and cool, so I recommend making them first (or even a day in advance).

Next, begin to prepare the mini Pop-Tarts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out one of the pie crusts. use a ruler and knife to score the dough to create rectangles that are 1 inch by 1.25 inches.

adding lines to pastry dough

Put about 1/2 a cup of strawberry jam into a piping bag, and cut a small opening (less than 1 cm). Carefully pipe a thin line of filling into the center of each rectangle.

While you may be tempted to add a ton of filling to each little Pop-Tart, do be warned that it will make the crimping process much more challenging, and that the extra filling will likely ooze out the sides of the Pop-Tarts as they bake. A few of mine were overfilled, and they definitely weren’t a pretty picture coming out of the oven (don’t say I didn’t warn you :P)

piping on filling

Next, unroll the second pie crust, and place on top of the jam lined pie crust. Carefully use your ruler to remark the rectangles (you can see the jam through the pie crust, and use it as a guide). Use a pastry cutter and ruler to cut out the rectangles.

cutting mini poptarts

Carefully lift each Pop-Tart (the pieces will slide a bit due to the filling), and crimp the sides using a fork. Also poke a few holes on top of each one, to help them rise and allow air to escape as they bake.

I had a mini fork on hand (long story, but it’s from making little mermaid cupcakes ages ago…), which worked perfectly for this! if you don’t have one, use the smallest fork you have.

crimped all poptarts

Transfer the Pop-Tarts onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Beat together one egg and 1 tbsp of milk, and use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of egg wash onto each Pop-Tart. Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.

I was convinced these would bake up much fast, but it took some time for them to become golden brown, and baked through. Slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack, and allow the Pop-Tarts to cool (at least 30 minutes).

baked poptarts

Once they fully cooled, pipe buttercream onto each Pop-Tart, and top with sprinkles of your choice.

I colored a tiny but of my buttercream light and hot pink, and piped the different colors onto my Pop-Tarts. I also chose to use hot pink sanding sugar as my sprinkles.

poptart frosting

Once the Pop-tarts are ready, it’s time to assemble the cake. Smooth a thin layer of buttercream on top of each layer. Pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream around the edge of the layer to create a frosting dam, then spread a layer of strawberry jam inside the vanilla frosting.

adding jam between cake layers

Repeat this process with all remaining cake layers. Cover the cake in a thin layer of vanilla frosting (crumb coat) to trap any run-away crumbs. Chill the cake in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes, until the buttercream is firm to the touch.

Next, add a thicker, second layer of vanilla buttercream. Use a bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the top of the cake.

Pipe a bit of buttercream onto the back of each Pop-tart, then gently press it against the base of the cake. Repeat this process, alternating the colored Pop-Tarts, until the entire base is covered.

adding poptarts to base of cake

Color the remaining buttercream pink using gel food coloring, and pipe a boarder around the top of the cake using your favorite frosting tip (I used a Wilton 1M).

piping on boarded

If desired, add a pink sprinkle blend to the top of the cake, around the boarder. I love using Neon Yolk sprinkle blends! They make the cutest blends, and use them on my cakes whenever I can.

finished cake from the top

Then it’s time to cut into the cake and try it! I am a sucker for anything with strawberry jam, so I loved this cake. I also could not stop eating the leftover Pop-Tarts! They were addicting.

finished cake v4

This cake feeds between 16-20 people, so be sure you have lots of family or friends over (or in my case, coworkers!) to help eat it 🙂

sliced cake v2 copy

Mint Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

Each month I pull together a list of cake ideas and flavors, and then pick out my favorites to make! I’m always asking you guys what cake I should make next, and I love your suggestions. A recurring suggestion I’ve received is for a mint chocolate cake.

When I think of mint and chocolate, all I think of is mint chocolate chip ice cream. I’m not sure if that’s where everyone else’s mind goes, but it is the inspiration for this cake! As I came up with the concept, I knew I wanted to include mini chocolate chips, and definitely some chopped up chocolate in the decoration!

I went back and forth quite a bit trying to decided whether the cake should be made with chocolate  or mint cake layers. I decided to pick mint cake layers, so that the mini chocolate chips I added to the batter would be visible. Since I went with mint cake layers, it made sense to fill this cake a milk chocolate ganache.

Despite filling the cake with ganache, I really wanted to cake to be green on the outside. That’s where the mint chocolate chip buttercream came into play. And boy was I happy it did. When I took a step from the finished cake, it was exactly how I hoped it would turn out. Minty, chocolaty, and chippy 😛

This cake is made using the below recipes:

  • 1 batch of my layer cake recipe + 2 tsp mint extract + 2 drops of green gel food coloring+ 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips
  • 1.5 batches of my milk chocolate ganache
  • 1 batch of my american buttercream + 2 tsp mint extract, and 2 drops of green gel food coloring + 1/2 cup of finely chopped chocolate
  • 1 cup chopped up chocolate, for decoration

Begin by making the ganache filling. It needs a few hours to set, so I highly recommend making it first, or even the day before!

To make it, place both the milk chocolate (1125 grams – about 3 bags of chocolate chips) and heavy cream (375 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.

chocolate ganache

Next, prepare the the cake layers and buttercream, as directed in the above recipes, and adding  the mint extract, green gel food coloring, and chocolate at the end of the process. Make 4, 8-inch cake layers.

I also trimmed away the caramelization once they layers had fully cooled, using a serrated knife! This is totally optional, but I feel like it helps the pastel green shade of the cake really stand out!

Once the layers are fully cooled, begin to stack them, spreading an even layer of ganache over each layer.

spreading ganache onto layers

Use some of  the left over ganache to cover the cake in a thin crumb coat. Place the remaining ganache into a piping bag, fitted with your favorite french tip (I used an Ateco 869, which is a HUGE french tip). Smooth using a bench scraper, and chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes (or until the ganache is firm to the touch)

ganache crumb coat

Next, cover the cake in a thick layer of the mint chip buttercream. It’s important that you use enough buttercream, so that the chocolate ganache doesn’t show through the frosting.

Smooth using an offset spatula and bench scraper. Be very careful as you smooth, as the chocolate bits in the buttercream can drag and ruin your perfectly smooth sides!

As you smooth, try to hold the bench scrapper at a more parallel than perpendicular angle to the cake, to allow the chocolate pieces to be gently pressed into the frosting, rather than dragged along the sides. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

mint chocolate chip frosting smoothing

Pipe a ganache boarder around the top of the cake, using the remaining ganache. Once piped, add the chopped chocolate bits onto the top of the cake. Use the back of a spoon to gently press then onto the frosting, to help them stay in place.

piping on ganache boarder

If desired, you can also add mini chocolate chips to the base of the cake! Use a small offset spatula to gently press them in to the frosting.

overhead of mint chocolate chip cake

Then you just need a color-coordinated knife to cut into this cake!! 😛 Totally kidding, but I really do love when one of my knives matches the color theme of a cake. I’ve been really into this iridescent knife, and figured it was perfect for this cake.

I was so happy with how mint-centric (is that a thing??) this cake turned out, and loved the way it tasted 🙂

best sliced chocolate mint cake

Variety Sheet Cake

Sometimes you just can’t decide what flavor of cake to make!

A few months ago, I saw this viral video made by So Yummy  and was obsessed! I loved the concept, and decided to test it out with some of my favorite flavors.

I had the hardest time narrowing down my flavors, but ended making the sections chocolate covered cherry, funfetti cookie dough, PB&J, Nutella, and rose water! The Nutella section ended up being my favorite.

To create these flavors/fillings, I used the below items from my pantry! Most of these ingredients I already had, but you can alter your flavors for whatever you have on hand (my pantry is literally all baking supplies and sweets). The beauty of this idea is that you can customize it to whatever flavors you want!

Fillings / toppings:

  • Cherries
  • Cherry preserves
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate spinkles
  • Edible cookie dough balls
  • Rainbow spinkles
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Creamy Peanut Butter
  • Strawberries
  • Nutella
  • Chopped hazelnuts
  • Ferrero Rocher
  • Rose water

I also used a variety of tools, including:

  • 1 inch circle cutter
  • 1 cm punch cutter or chopstick
  • biodegradable or reusable straw
  • heart circle cutter
  • piping bags
  • wilton 1M tip
  • flower nail
  • Wilton 104 tip
  • Wilton 352 leaf tip
  • small offset spatula

I used a half batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe to make a 9×13 inch sheet cake, and 1 batch of my American buttercream to make this cake. All of the different frostings  on this cake are made using my american buttercream as a base.

First, measure the sheet cake with a ruler,  and lightly score it with a knife, to  divide it into 5 equal section.

Begin by making the chocolate cherry section. Use a small punch cutter to cut out small holes in the top section of the cake. Fill with cherry preserves. Place 3/4 of a cup of buttercream into a bowl, and mix with 1/4 cup of cherry preserves. Spoon onto the top section, and smooth using a small offset spatula place 6 chocolate covered cherries on top of the frosting, and add a generous sprinkle of chocolate jimmies

Next, make the funfetti cookie dough section! Use a 1.5 inch circle cutter to remove 4 circles of cake. Fill with edible cookie dough balls. Place 3/4 of a cup of buttercream into a bowl, and mix with 1/2 cup of non-pariel sprinkles.

Spoon onto the top section, and smooth using a small offset spatula to create horizontal lines. Top with small bits of edible cookie dough and more rainbow sprinkles.

To make the PB&J section of this layer cake, use a biodegradable straw (or a chopstick) to poke holes throughout the third section of the cake. Heat about 1/3 of cup of strawberry jam in the microwave for about 15 seconds, then spread across this section of the cake. Allow the jam to run into the holes, to have the same effect as a poke cake!

Place 3/4 of a cup of buttercream into a bowl, and mix with 1/2 cup of peanut butter (or to taste). Place into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip, and pipe ruffles horizontally across this section. Top with 3 fanned strawberries.

For the Nutella-inspired 4th section, use a 1 inch cutter of your choice (I used a heart shaped cutter, since I LOVE Nutella :P) to cut 4 equally spaced holes across this section. Fill with Nutella.

Place 3/4 of a cup of buttercream into a bowl, and mix with 1/3 cup of Nutella (or to taste). Spoon onto the top section, and smooth using a small offset spatula. Tap the tip of the offset spatula around the frosting, to create a textured pattern . Top with halved Ferrero Rocher, and a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts.

In the final section, cut out four holes using a 1 inch cutter. Mix about 3/4 of a cup of buttercream with a teaspoon of rose water, and drop of pink gel food coloring. Place pink rosewater buttercream into a piing bag fitted with a wilton 104 tip (or whatever petal tip you have on hand).  Fill each cut out with this buttercream.

Top with plain vanilla buttercream, and smooth flat. Pipe 5 buttercream roses using a flower nail, and place across the bottom section using a pair of small scissors. If desired, color 1/3 of a cup of frosting green and pipe some leaves around the roses using a Wilton 352 tip.

Slice each section into equal sized pieces, and see which flavor your party likes best! I brought this cake into my office, and despite me loving the Nutella section, the fan favorite was the PB&J section.

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

This recipe is a half batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe! It's perfect for making smaller cakes, and I usually use it to make 3, 6-inch cake layers.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword 6 inch cake recipe, small layer cake recipe, vanilla layer cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 1 six inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (208 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder (7 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (113 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (5 grams)
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (122 grams)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temp (180 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (13 grams)

Instructions

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

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

  3. 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.

  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. 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.

  6. 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.

Recipe Notes

If baking a sheet cake using this recipe (one batch makes two 9x13 layers of sheet cake), be sure to place one of two flower nails upside down toward the center of the plan, to help the layer bake more quickly and evenly. Layer cakes take 38-40 minutes to bake, but can vary based on the size of sheet pan you're using.

Vanilla American Buttercream Recipe

Keyword americal buttercream, vanilla buttercream, Vanilla frosting
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 seven inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 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)
  • gel food coloring, if desired

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 


  3. 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).

  4. If you plan to color the buttercream, add in the gel food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reach the desired colored

Recipe Notes

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!