Category Archives: Tutorials

Easter Basket Cake

I can’t believe it’s almost Easter! I’ve always wanted to make an Easter basket cake, and this year I finally got around to making one. Not only was this my first time using a basket weave technique, it also was my first time making a cake without butter!! I wanted to try a butter alternative, to ensure that my frosting was as white as possible. I used unsalted Country Crock Sticks, and was pretty amazed that they worked right out of the fridge with no softening required!! I used my go to vanilla layer cake recipe and American buttercream recipe, but swapped out butter for baking sticks (1:1 ratio). The recipes used can be found below.

Be sure to check out the workshop that I hosted with Thefeedfeed and thanks for supporting the brands that support my work, Country Crock!

Coconut Cake Ingredients:

  • 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
  • 2 sticks unsalted Country Crock Buttery Sticks
  • 1 Tbsp (13 grams) coconut extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

Coconut Frosting Ingredients: 

  • 6 sticks unsalted Country Crock Buttery Sticks
  • 12 cups  powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp coconut extract
  • pink, purple, and yellow gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line two 7” and two 8″ round pans. Begin by making the coconut cake layers. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of the unsalted Country Crock Buttery sticks 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 coconut extract 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. Using a spatula, carefully fold in sprinkles.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. 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 on a rack to finish cooling, or in the freezer to accelerate the process. Once chilled, level the layers using a serrated knife.

While the layers bake and cool, make coconut frosting. Beat the unsalted Country Crock Buttery Sticks on 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 coconut extract 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 cup of frosting into a bowl and color a pastel shade of yellow using a few drops of gel food coloring. Set aside, and repeat with pink and purple gel food coloring.

Stack and frost layers on a cardboard cake round. Frost an even layer of colorful between each cake layer, using the yellow, pink, and purple frosting. Once the layers are stacked, trim in a tapered shape, to resemble a basket.

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Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, place remaining white frosting into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 47 tip.

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Carefully pipe a basket weave pattern onto the cake. Begin by making the vertical lines, then carefully pipe the horizontal stitches. 

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Chill again for 5 minutes, then carefully invert the cake using an an addition cardboard cake round.

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Use a spoon to remove about 1 cm from the center of the top of the cake, to make it easier to fill with easter treats.

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Frost the exposed area, and pipe a border around the perimeter of the top of the cake. Fill the inside of the basket with you favorite Easter goodies. I added peeps, candy eggs, a chocolate bunny, and some buttercream flowers.

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Use a bit of wire to shape the handle of the basket, and wrap with fondant. Leave at least 1 inch of uncovered wire, to allow you to securing anchor the handle into the top of the cake.

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Then it’s time to cut in and celebrate Easter in style 🙂 The full tutorial is also included below:

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Wedding Dress-Inspired Cake with Edible Lace

While our wedding isn’t until June 2019, I couldn’t wait any longer to start looking for me wedding dress! I decided to look at Bridal Garden NYC, which is an amazing non-profit organization who use their proceeds to help disadvantaged children here in NYC. I wanted something a little different, and really loved the idea of a short dress, since we’re getting married in central park in the summer. In my YouTube video I share some of the dresses I tried on, but am keeping the dress I picked a surprise for the big day!! I had a wonderful experience there, and am in love with my dress (I welled-up when I saw myself in it). It has every aspect I was looking for, and is so beautiful and unique.

Being the cake-maker that I am, I thought this would be a great excuse to make a test wedding cake! I made a 3-tiered cake, incorporating our favorite flavors; dark chocolate, cookie butter, and salted caramel. Lucky, I always have home-made caramel and chocolate ganache in my fridge, ready to be warmed up and used! I decorated the cake with the two elements I wanted in my wedding dress; lace and floral accents. The recipe and full tutorial are included below:

Recipes:

I began by dividing the cake batter evenly to make 3-8 inch layers, 3 6-inch layers, and 3 4-inch layers.  A great way to ensure your layers will be the same height is to weigh them, so that there’s the same amount of batter in each size of pan. Once baked, allow the layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the sides of the pan, for easy removal. Flip the layers onto a wire rack and let cool.

Once the layers have fully cooled, I like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

While the layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting! This frosting will be the base for the three different frostings made for each tier.

To make the dark chocolate frosting for the 8 inch tier, place 3 cups of frosting into bowl. Melt 6 oz of dark chocolate in the microwave (heat in 30 second intervals at half powers, or over a double boiler), and slowly mix into the frosting. Also add in 1/4 cup black cocoa, and an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the frosting (to prevent crusting), and set aside.

To make the cookie butter frosting for the 6 inch tier, place 1 1/2 cups of frosting into bowl. Add 2/3 cup of cookie butter, and 2 tbsp of additional heavy cream into the frosting. Stir until the ingredients are fully mixed in. Place saran wrap directly on top of the frosting (to prevent crusting), and set aside.

To make the caramel frosting for the 4 inch tier, place 2/3 of a cup of frosting into bowl. Add 1/4 cup of caramel into the frosting. Stir until the caramel is fully incorporated. Place saran wrap directly on top of the frosting (to prevent crusting), and set aside.

Place the remaining vanilla buttercream into large piping bags.

Begin to assemble each tier. Build the 8 inch tier on a thick, 10 inch cake drum. Carve a hole in the center of the drum, to place a thick dowel through the center of the cake. This keeps the cake stable, and helps ensure that the tiers are properly centered. Cut holes into the center of a 6 inch and  4 inch cake round, large enough to easily allow the central dowel to pass through them.  Build the 6 inch tier on the 6 inch cake round, and the 4 inch tier on a 4 inch cake round. You can see a full tutorial on to make a a tiered cake here.

Pipe a ring of buttercream around the perimeter of each cake layer, and fill the center with the flavored buttercream. On top of the flavored frosting, I drizzle what it was made with (i.e. dark chocolate ganache, warmed cookie butter, and caramel). Be sure that each tier is taller than the height of the lace! If you add a generous amount of buttercream between each layer, each tier should be just high enough.

 

Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat with any remaining chocolate frosting, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second layer of vanilla frosting. 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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Once the layers are made, prepare the edible lace.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Use 100 g of this powder mixed with 80 g of room temperature water.  Whisk the mixture with the whisk attachment, until it has a thick, almost meringue-like texture. Then spread it evenly over a silicone lace mold.

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Use a bench scrapper to get the lace mixture into every nook and cranny of the mold, and to remove any excess mixture from the sides. Bake for about 16 minutes, then allow the lace to cool for 2 hours. Carefully lift the corners of the lace, and gently peel out of the silicone mold.

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Measure the circumference of each tier using tape measure, and trim the lace to be exactly the length of each tier’s circumference. Pipe a very thin ring of buttercream around the middle of each tier, and carefully press the lace onto each tier.

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It’s important that this is done shortly after the lace has cooled, or else the lace will become brittle, and break as you try to wrap it around the tiers. Next, stack the tiers.  Begin by placing 4 thinner dowels or bubble tea straws cut to the same height as the bottom tier. Place them so that they’re evenly spaced (in the shape of a square), and about 2.5 inches from the central, thicker dowel.

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Carefully place the second tiered onto the central dowel, and slowly slide it down until it’s resting on top of the bottom tier. Repeat with the top tier.

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Pipe a boarder around the base of the middle and top tier, to cover the exposed cake rounds. I also added on some edible, organic white flowers, by wrapping the stems with floral tape, and securing them to the cake using some additional dabs of buttercream.

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Then I cut into each tier to taste test it, and celebrate finding my dress! I do think that these are the flavors we will have in our actual wedding cake! I’m so looking forward to making it 🙂

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Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cake

Want to know something crazy?? The first time I had a cannoli was only a few years ago!! I think cannoli are definitely an East Coast treat, but man am I happy I finally tried them! My favorite type is the chocolate covered kind, so I incorporated quite a bit of chocolate into this cake. The recipe and tutorial can be found below:

Chocolate Chip Layer 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 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp of flour (helps them from sinking to the bottom of the pan)
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

Cannoli Filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups (12 oz) ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

American Buttercream (to make both the vanilla and chocolate frosting):

  • 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
  • 6 oz (about 1 cup) melted dark chocolate chips

Additional Decorations:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8″ 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.

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. Gently fold the chocolate chips into the batter.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 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 like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate and vanilla buttercream. 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.

Place about 1/3 of the frosting into a separate bowl. Melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals at a low power, until fully melted (mine took about a minute). Pour into frosting slowly, and stir until fully incorporated. Place into a piping bag, and cut the end to have a opening that is about 3/4 of an inch.

Next, prepare the cannoli filling! Add ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract in a mixer bowl, and beat on a low speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon, until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge.

Stack and frost layers on a 10 inch, grease-proof, cardboard cake round. Frost a ring of chocolate buttercream around the perimeter of the layer, and add a generous scoop of the cannoli filling onto the center of the layer.

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Spread the cannoli filling around the cake layer until it’s even, being sure it stays within the frosting boarder.

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Add a generous drizzle of ganache, and a handful of mini chocolate chips. Repeat with remaining cake layers.

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Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat with any remaining chocolate frosting, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second layer of vanilla frosting. 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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Gently press mini chocolate chips around the base of the cake, then chill it for another 5 minutes. Once the frosting is chilled, add on the chocolate ganache drips.  Always be sure to do a test drip, to ensure that your ganache is at the right temperature.

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Place remaining vanilla and chocolate frosting into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip, and pipe large swirls on top of the cake. Cut the mini cannoli in half, and carefully place on top of each swirl.

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I alternated chocolate and classic cannoli, and also added some more chocolate chips on top of the cake. And that’s it! Then it’s time to cut and enjoy!!

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Upside Down Caramel Corn Drip Cake

I’ve wanted to make a caramel corn cake for the longest time (I’ve always been so enamored with Tessa’s caramel corn cake!!), so I decided to make it for this week’s Food Network Livestream! I opted to make the caramel from scratch, but ended up using a bag of caramel corn from the store!! I’ve included a link to a great caramel corn recipe though, if you have the time and are feeling adventurous 🙂 The recipe for this cake can be found below:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7” (for taller layers) or 8″ round pans.

Begin by making the vanilla cake layers. 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 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. Using a spatula, carefully fold in sprinkles.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. 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 on a rack to finish cooling, or in the freezer to accelerate the process. Once chilled, level the layers using a serrated knife.

While the layers bake and cool, make the caramel! Turn stove onto medium heat, and place a  pot over element. Pour in sugar. Using a heat proof stirring utensil (I use an old-fashioned wooden spoon), stir until sugar begins to melt into a clear liquid. Continue to stir, until clumps of sugar begin to form. Slowly the color of the sugar clump will deepen from white to amber. Keep stirring until all the clump of sugar have dissolved, and then turn off the heat. Mix in butter slowly, then stir in cream and salt. Place in fridge to cool for 20 minutes, then pour into desired container. I put mine in a squirt bottle, to make it easier to drizzle. Set aside.

Next, prepare the 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 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 in a separate bowl, and add in 3/4 cup of caramel. Mix until fully incorporated.

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Stack and frost layers on a cardboard cake round, topped with an acetate sheet (optional, but it makes it way easier to flip to make the upside down drip). Frost an even layer of caramel buttercream between each cake layer, and add a generous drizzle of caramel. If desired, you can also sprinkle in some chopped caramel corn. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat with any remaining caramel frosting, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second layer of vanilla frosting. 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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To make the upside down caramel drip, chill the cake for 30 minutes in the freezer (the cake needs to be VERY cold for the drips to stay in place). Use a second cardboard round, and carefully invert the cake. Gently peel off the acetate sheet, then add on the caramel drip. Always be sure to do a test drip, to ensure that your caramel is at the right temperature. Place the cake back in the freezer for another 30 minutes, to ensure the drips chill to keep them in place.

Remove from the freezer, then flip back right side up. Use the remaining frosting to create a cone of frosting on top of the cake.

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Carefully press caramel corn into the frosting, using extra caramel to help secure the pieces of popcorn in place.

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Add a final drizzle of caramel over the top of the popcorn, and a bit of extra caramel around the base of the popcorn pile.

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Then it’s time to cut into the cake, and enjoy all of that caramel!

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

Peanut butter plays a big part in my life. I eat it every single day. This proves two things;  I’m an extreme creature of habit, and that I love peanut butter (I put it in my oatmeal every morning!!). When I realized National Peanut Butter Day was just around the corner (January 24th), I knew it deserved a cake. I grew up on PB&J sandwiches, and have wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly cake for quite a while. The stars seemed to align, and I finally had the perfect opportunity to relive my childhood through cake!! The recipe and instructions are included below.

Vanilla Cake Ingredients:

  • 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 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

American Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 6 sticks (3 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of peanut butter + 2 Tbsp heavy cream (to be added once made)

Additional Ingredients and Decorations: 

  • 1 jar of your favorite jam or jelly (I used strawberry jam)
  • 1 bag freeze dried strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped, salted peanuts
  • Additional peanut butter (to drizzle and spread on the sides of the cake)
  • 8 medium sized strawberries

Instructions:

Begin by making the vanilla cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7” 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.

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.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake 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, 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. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.

While the layers bake and cool, prepare the vanilla and peanut butter 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. 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).

NOTE: When 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!

Once the vanilla frosting is made, place 1/4 of the frosting in a separate bowl. Add 1 cup of your favorite peanut butter, and 2 additional Tbsp of heavy cream. Mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Fill one large piping bag with vanilla frosting (to create a frosting dam, to contain the jam that will be added between each layer).

Then it’s time for the best part, the assembly of the cake! Stack cake layers, and pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream around the edge of the layer.Spread a layer of peanut butter buttercream inside the vanilla frosting, then add a drizzle of warm peanut butter (I heated a small jar in the microwave for about 20 seconds).

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Chill the cake in the freezer for about 2 minutes to allow the peanut butter to firm up, then spread jam on top, ensure it’s contained by the ring of vanilla frosting.

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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, then add on dabs of peanut butter. Smooth again using a bench scraper, to create a watercolor effect with the peanut butter. 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.

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Add crushed freeze-dried strawberries and chopped peanuts around the base of the cake. Spread peanut butter on the sides of a piping bag fitted with aWilton 1M frosting tip, then fill with vanilla buttercream.  Pipe 8 larger swirls on top of the cake, and place a strawberry on top of each swirl. Sprinkle additional freeze-dried strawberries between the swirls.

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This cake serves about 16 people, so be sure you have lots of friends around to help you enjoy it!! It is every peanut butter lovers’ dream, and is an epic way to celebrate one of my favorite national food holidays. While the outside of the cake is pretty, the inside is really the star of the show! Just look at jam!!

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Marbled Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies

I rarely step outside of the realm of cakes, but my office was hosting a cookie challenge and I couldn’t resist whipping something up! There is no baking blog I trust more than Sally’s Baking Addiction (every recipe she shares is MAGIC!), so I used her sugar cookie recipe as the base for these. Just like always, the recipe delivered! The cookies were soft, chewy, and most importantly they kept their shape! They didn’t spread at all, and had nice clean edges. I swapped out some of the vanilla and almond extract with maple extract to mix things up, but other than that I followed Sally’s recipe to a T.

The icing was a whole different story. I’ve never made royal icing before, so this was definitely a learn-as-you-go experience. I didn’t want to deal with a double boiler and fresh egg whites, so I decided to try a recipe by Wilton, and added some maple extract into the frosting. Making the base frosting isn’t too difficult. The hard part is getting this base to flooding consistency so you can dip the cookies into it. I found that the figure 8 test is the best way to ensure you have the right consistency (thank you Serious Eats for the tip!!!). If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze (more details below!).

And then there’s the design! I’d seen marbled sugar cookies on Instagram, and when I saw these beauties by Sana Sodawala (@sugarbase_) pop up on my explore page, I was totally inspired!! Below are all the recipes I used, the things I learned along the way, and a step-by-step tutorial.

Sugar Cookie Dough (adapated from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Royal Icing (adapted from Wilton)

  • 3 tbsp meringue powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 5-6 Tbsp water, room temp
  • 2 tsp. maple extract
  • additional water to bring to flooding consistency (I believe I used around 4 1/2 Tbsp – but this can vary!)

Instructions:

Begin by making the sugar cookie dough. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy (at least 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and maple extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the baking powder and salt. On a low speed, add about half of the flour, beating just until combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until the dough has just barely come together. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Lightly flour the parchment paper and your rolling pin, then roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with parchment paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Chilling is what allows the cookies to keep their shape, so this step is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (silicone baking mats work best!). The number of batches you bake will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough sheets from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes.

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Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Chill the cut out shapes for another 10 minutes, then pop the trays into the oven.

Bake for 8-10 minutes (varies based on size and thickness of cookie), until the edges just begin to lightly brown. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through bake time, to ensure they’re evenly cooked. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing (at least 1 hour).

While the cookies cool, make the royal icing. Place confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and combine with short, slow pulses. Add in the water and maple extract, and mix on a medium speed until stiff peaks form (takes about 5 minutes). Next, add in water 1 Tbsp at a time until flooding consistency is reached. I had to add about 4 1/2 Tbsp of water, but I also think I was a bit heavy handed adding in the powdered sugar.

To test the consistency, use the Figure 8 test!! Lift up your spoon or spatula, and create a figure 8 with the run off frosting. If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze. If it melts away faster, thicken by adding a spoonful of powdered sugar. If it takes longer than 8 seconds to disappear, thin by adding a few drops of cream. Repeat this test, making adjustments as you go, until the figure 8 takes exactly 8 seconds to disappear.To prevent crusting, place saran wrap directly on top of the royal icing. This is very important!! If you leave the frosting exposed to air for too long, it will crust and form a chunky top layer! Be sure keep frosting covered until right before you plan to use it.

Once you’re ready to frost the cooled cookies, color 1/2 cup of the royal icing bright green, and place into a piping bag. Color another 1/2 of frosting a deep green, and place in a separate piping bag.

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Cut the tips of both piping bags to create a small opening (1/4 of an inch). Drizzle both green frosting over the uncolored icing. Use a toothpick to drag lines through the colors to create a swirled pattern. Then dunk cookies in to the glaze, one at a time. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the cookie.

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Allow some of the frosting to run off before carefully flipping the cookie frosting side up, and placing onto a wire rack to dry. This part can get a bit messy, so be sure to have paper towels or a hand towel nearby. After each cookie, drizzle and swirl a bit more of the green icing, to ensure every cookie is nice and colorful.

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Allow the cookies to dry for at least 3 hours. The frosting should be firm to the touch, but I was still too scared to stack them on top of each other!! I placed them in a large, flat box, to bring into work.

I used a variety of cookie cutters (I have a ton of cookie cutters I’ve never used, and I wanted to break them in :P), and also made some cacti, a couple cats, and mini gingerbread shaped men.

 

Holiday Tree Stump Cake

For this week’s live stream, I made my take on a Yule Log cake! It really is more a festive tree stump than a classic Buche de Noel, but I think it gets the holiday spirit across. It uses the techniques of a Swiss roll cake,  but then kicks things up a notch by frosting the roll cake vertically!!

This cake is made with chocolate sponge cake layers, filled with a peanut butter buttercream, and covered in chocolate ganache.  The recipe and instructions can be found below:

Chocolate Cake Batter: (recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup black cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 ounces milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

  • 3 sticks or 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 bag mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Additional Decorations:

  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • Round, red sprinkles
  • marzipan
  • sliced almonds

Instructions:

Make the milk chocolate ganache first, as it needs at least a few hours to cool and set. To make, simply place both the chocolate and heavy cream in a heat proof bowl, and heat it 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 at room temperature. Before adding the room temperature ganache to a cake, I give it a slow stir with a spatula.

Next, prepare the chocolate cake layers. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter two half sheet pans; line bottom with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar until combined. Mix in vanilla and espresso powder.

Heat the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave for 2, 30 second intervals, stirring between. Let the mixture sit for one minute, then stir until all chocolate pieces are melted. If any chocolate bits remain, heat for another 30 seconds.

Slowly pout into the egg mixture while mixer is at a low speed, and scrape down the sides as needed with a spatula. Pour dry ingredients over top into the bowl in two installments, and fold together large rubber spatula. Spread evenly between the two prepared pans, offset spatula to ensure even distribution.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the a toothpick inserted into the center of the layer comes out clean. Remove from oven, and allow the layers to cool for 1 minutes. turn out the cake upside down onto a piece of parchment paper sprinkled lightly with cocoa. You can also use a clean dish towel, but I found that parchment paper works much better!!

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Peel away parchment paper from bottom of cake, then gently roll each cake layer and place on a cooling rack. Set the rolled-up cake seam-side down, and let cool until just slightly warm to the touch, about 25 minutes.

While the layers cool prepare the peanut butter buttercream. Beat the butter and peanut 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.

When the layers have cooled for about 25 minutes, carefully unroll them. Don’t worry if there are a few cracks in your layers, the buttercream will fill them and once you rolls the layer back up, they wont be visible! Gently spread a thick layer of frosting over layer. Line them up so the the short sides are touching, and begin to re-roll the layers.

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Continue until you get to the end of the first roll, and then carefully align the second layer, and continue rolling until both layers have been combined into one large log. This part will be messy!! Place seam side down on a cooling rack, and place in the freezer to help the cake cool into its rolled shape.

Let the cake chill for about 1 hour, then remove from the freezer. Use a sharp knife to trim about 1 inch away from both sides of the cake roll, to make them flat. Spread a large dab of buttercream into the center of the cake round, and carefully place the log vertically, securing it in the buttercream.

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Frost the top of the cake with leftover peanut butter buttercream, and use a fork to create lines in the frosting to resemble tree rings.

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Cover the sides of the cake in chocolate ganache, adding a bit more around the base in certain areas to resemble the roots of a tree stump. Use an offset spatula to drag ganache up the cake, to give the bark some texture. Use marzipan to make mushrooms, and add red round sprinkles to look like small berries.

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Sprinkle chopped pistachios around the base, and a little bit onto the top of the stump to look like moss. The cut into the cake, and see the vertical layers created by rolling the cake layers!