sweet and salty cake

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I know that by now my birthday was like over a week ago and I should get over it.

Except I can’t, because … this cake.  Guys, this cake.

My god.

I don’t know what came over me because I was already super excited to have not only picked out what cake I was making but I had all the ingredients ready to go… Then, at the last minute, it happened.

It was just a quiet night, like any other night, lounging in my super awesome grown up monkey pajamas, watching Keeping up with the Kardashians some critically-acclaimed drama on TV with some of my best friends a stack of cookbooks by my side,  and I opened the book directly to this.

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It was a sign. From the heavens above. A sign.

I had to make this cake.

You see, when I received this book some Christmases ago, I had never made a “real” cake nor caramel and making both at the same time seemed like an insane task that was doomed for failure.

Now, several years later, I was still pretty sure that I might fail, but there was a chance that I could not only accomplish this goal, but that it would make a fine birthday gift to myself.

The gift of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. And cake.

I like cake.

I especially like cake when it is sandwiched between layers of gooey caramel, and salted-caramel-chocolate frosting and then finished with a light dusting of crunchy fleur de sel.

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I’m not usually the type of person who usually really cares for frosting. I’m usually that weirdo who is always scraping it off of my cake and pushing it to the side while people stare at me in horror “BUT THE FROSTING IS THE BEST PART”

1. If the frosting is the best part of your cake, your cake is awful.

2. If your cake isn’t awful and you still like the frosting best, then you’re awful.

Ok, you’re not awful. In fact we should probably be best friends because then I can eat all of your cake  guilt-free while you eat all of my frosting. It’s better for the environment – no waste!

But this frosting. I would inject it into my veins if I could just to get it inside of me.  It’s so fluffy and creamy and sweet and delicious and amazing and … you get the point. You should make it. Even if you don’t make the cake. Eating a bowl of frosting is a totally acceptable thing to do.

I did learn three things in the process of making this particular cake.

(Yay knowledge!)

First – I HATE chopping chocolate. Like, really hate it. An absurd amount.

Sometimes I will even skip making a recipe JUST because it calls for chopped chocolate. I will instead find a recipe in which I can use cocoa powder instead.

Chopping chocolate is messy and annoying and awful and it takes forever and shoots chocolate particles all over my kitchen.

My million dollar idea? Let’s sell pre-chopped chocolate! You know there are chocolate crumbs in factories somewhere – LET’S BAG THAT SH*T AND SELL IT!!

Second – If you have ever made caramel before, you know when it’s done. Trust yourself.

The book’s recipes call to bring the caramel to 350F degrees. I did not follow my instinct and instead waiting for it to reach the 350F degree mark, and then had to dump it down the drain because burned caramel, as it turns out, is not actually very delicious (trust me, as someone who hates wasting food, I really did try to salvage it and make it work in the recipe).

Lesson learned: Do not burn your caramel. Instead, do it like this:

I took mine off the heat a bit before 350 but the temp kept going up all on its own. When all was said and done I think I still added the cream a tiny bit before the official 350F mark, but just trust your eyes. And your nose. You want an amber color, maybe dark amber… think : color of brown sugar. If you see black or any HINT of black-like color, you’re done for. Just let it go and start over.

Third – I need to buy another 8-inch cake pan.

As for the frosting – Future Husband is NOT a fan of dark chocolate (I will get him to the dark side eventually, but he’s not there yet). Since I didn’t want to eat a whole cake (or two, for that matter) by myself, I used milk chocolate in the frosting recipe. And I loved it. It was amazing. If you’d rather use dark, go for it.

Dark chocolate will be amazing, but I liked the combo of the dark chocolate cake with the caramel layers and milk chocolate frosting. It was a winning combination for sure.

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sweet and salty cake

Yield: One 8-inch cake (3 layers)

Ingredients

    For the cake
  • 3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter,softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmply packed
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the salted caramel
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup sour cream*
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 pound chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Instructions

    For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans with butter and parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until combined; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until well smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the sugars to the butter mixture, beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Scrape down the sides again and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for another 30 seconds.
  6. With the mixer on low, carefully add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is well-mixed.
  7. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely.
  8. *These cakes are VERY delicate. Since I made mine a week in advance, I very carefully wrapped my cooled cakes and kept them in the freezer until I was ready to use them. Be gentle.
  9. For the salted caramel:
  10. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de sel. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved. (I hate dirtying extra pans, so I cheated and warmed mine in the microwave for just under a minute, stirring to ensure the salt dissolved).
  11. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan.
  12. Cook sugar mixture over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F*(see note above), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute.
  13. Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.
  14. *You can make the caramel up to two days in advance.
  15. For the frosting:
  16. Put the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
  17. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat (again, you can cheat with the microwave if you like. You don't want to BOIL the cream, only heat it to a gentle simmer).
  18. Meanwhile, MAKE ANOTHER BATCH OF CARAMEL. Don't worry, you just did this at least once (or twice, if you're me) so you've got some practice in...
  19. In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F*(unless yours is done before it reaches 350F), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the caramel cool for 1 minute.
  20. Add the cream to the caramel and stir to combine. Stir slowly for 2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chocolate.
  21. Let the caramel and chocolate sit for 1 minute, then, starting in the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and caramel mixture in a circle until the chocolate is completely melted.
  22. Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  23. Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch (This took about 8 minutes and I started to worry about my poor mixer but he pulled through).
  24. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is fluffy. Transfer to a container until ready to use.
  25. *You can prepare the frosting up to two days in advance. Bring to room temperature before using.
  26. To assemble the cake:
  27. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup of the caramel over the top and let the caramel soak into the cake.
  28. Spread 3/4 cup of the ganache frosting over the caramel and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel over the frosting.
  29. Top this with the second cake layer and repeat with caramel, frosting, and fleur de sel.
  30. Top this with the third cake layer and spread with caramel. Crumb coat the cake and place cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the frosting.
  31. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. This frosting is amazing. I would say it spreads "like butter" but it spreads SO MUCH BETTER than butter. It spreads like a soft, buttery, cloud.
  32. Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Notes

* You may notice that my cake is only two layers while the recipe makes three layers. I realized (a bit too late) that I only had two cake pans of each size, so I opted for a 2-layer cake, and got about 12 cupcakes in addition to my two cake layers. This worked out in my favor as now I have a bunch of frozen cupcakes to enjoy at my leisure.

* This cake can seem overwhelming. Help yourself out by breaking it into steps. Day one: Make caramel. Day two: Make frosting. Day three: Make cake. Day four: ASSEMBLE ALL THE THINGS .

* This cake can be stored in a cake saver at room temperature (cool and humidity free) for up to 3 days. If your room is not cool, place the cake in a cake saver and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

http://wee-eats.com/2014/03/25/the-baked-bakerysweet-and-salty-cake/

[ Recipe from: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking ]

sweet & salty cake | wee-eats.com

apple cake tatin

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Now, I’ve never been a huge ‘pie’ girl.  All the rolling and cutting and par-baking and fussing… I just don’t have that kind of energy (generally speaking).  As ashamed as I am to admit it… when I do bake a pie, it’s often with the aid of a store-bought crust.   I know, I should probably just go kill myself now.  Especially when we have such dedicated bakers who make such marvelous pies and poor Ms. Natalie can’t be bothered to run her food processor for 30 seconds and wait for the dough to chill after rolling it out.

I should just throw myself off of a cliff.

So when apple pie season rolls in and you’re not a huge pie person but you still want to serve a delightfully autumnal dessert, what’s a girl like me to do?

Cake!

apple cake

FYI: I find that in much of life’s dilemmas, the answer is usually cake.

I spotted this cake ages ago on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, and it’s been sitting in the back of my brain ever since.  Just gnawing at my willpower.  Whispering from my subconscious to my brain, “make me…”  So, I did!

It basically ends up like a caramel apple upside-down cake, which isn’t as fancy as Ina’s title of “apple cake tatin”, but let’s be realistic here.  This is a caramel apple cake.  I’d bet it’s best served warm with a scoop of melty vanilla ice cream, but a cold slice for breakfast is enjoyable as well.

I mean, it’s healthy… “apple a day” or something like that.

Apple Cake Tatin

Ingredients

  • *6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • *1 1/4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • *1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • *2 large eggs, room temperature
  • *1/3 cup sour cream
  • *1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • *1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • *1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • *1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • *1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • *Confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish (I used a cake pan lined with parchment) and arrange the apples in the dish, cut side down.
  3. Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, and registers about 360 F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don't stir. Pour evenly over the apple slices. Stare in awe while it bubbles.
  4. In a large bowl, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
  6. Pour the cake batter evenly over the apple slices and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If an apple slice sticks, ease it out and replace it in the design on top of the cake. Serve warm with ice cream, or at room temperature.
http://wee-eats.com/2013/10/14/apple-cake-tatin/

[ Adapted from Barefoot Contessa ]

reeses cup bundt cake

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By the time you read this, I should be on my way to California… on VACATIONNNNN!!!

So, since this will be the last post for awhile, and the last March (cake) Madness post, it is only fitting that I would combine two of my favorite things: chocolate and peanut butter.  And Reese’s cups, to make it more redundant.  And more delicious.

This cake was arguably the first “recipe” I ever made.  Once upon a time ago, when I was a little girl baking with my momma, we needed to make a dessert for our neighborhood block party (remember those?).  Mom asked what we should bring and of course my brain immediately went to my then (and still) favorite candy, Reese’s Cups.  In cake form.

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Of course back then it was just a box cake mix and a bajillion chopped up Reese’s cups.  Mixed into the cake, adorning the top, dumped into the hole in the middle… I even halved them and made a little Reese’s border along the outside of the cake.

I didn’t have enough mini Reese’s to do that this time.

reeses cake 1-1

I didn’t really miss them.  (Ok, maybe I missed them a little bit)

This cake was so good, as soon as I took a bite I was immediately upset, because I knew that it was suddenly a choice between cake and dinner… No one should ever need to make that choice.

Especially when ganache and Reese’s are involved.

It was even better the next day, in case yours lasts that long.

 

Reese’s Cup Bundt Cake

Makes 1 bundt cake

Printable Recipe

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • ⅓ cup dutch processed cocoa powder

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (unless your peanut butter is really salty)

  • ⅓  cup creamy peanut butter (I always use Jif)

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

  • 2 large room temperature eggs, lightly beaten

  • ½ cup sour cream; room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 10 reeses cups, roughly chopped (usually easier to chop if they’re chilled)

  • Mini reeses, for decorating (optional)

For the chocolate glaze:

  • ½ cup chocolate chips (or 4 ounces chopped chocolate)

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1.  Heat butter, peanut butter, and water over medium heat in a small saucepan until butter and peanut butter are just melted.  Stir in cocoa powder and set aside to cool to room temperature.  To ensure my impatience didn’t get in my way, I decided to wait to preheat the oven until this point and didn’t let myself mix anything until the oven beeped.

2.  Preheat oven to 350˚F and prep a bundt pan with butter and flour or with Pam for Baking

3.  In a large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda until well mixed.

4.  Slowly whisk or beat in the melted butter mixture until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add eggs and vanilla and whisk to incorporate.  Stir in sour cream until combined.

5.  Option 1: Pour half of batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups, and pour remaining half of batter over the Reese’s.

 Option 2:  Stir peanut butter cups  into batter and pour into prepared pan.

6.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes until done.  Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack and remove pan to finish cooling completely.

7.  Once your cake is cooled, make your ganache by heating your cream just until it starts to bubble.  I usually do that by heating it in a 2-cup measuring cup in the microwave, but you can use a saucepan on the stove if you like.

Add chocolate and corn syrup and whisk to combine (if you used a pan for your cream, pour the cream over the chocolate instead).  At first it will look like it’s going well, then it will look like it’s going very poorly, then if you just keep whisking you’ll be relieved when it all comes back together again.

 

Oreo Overload Cupcakes

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This weekend was filled to the top with Oreos.  I made these Oreo cheesecake cupcakes for the BF’s co-workers, and then I made these cupcakes for the BF.   Well, in his honor, at least.

You see, he sent me the original inspiration for this recipe.  Oreos, in my opinion, are pretty much the most perfect cookie in existence.  The quintessential cookie.  Crisp cookie, creamy filling, and once dunked in milk it will lead your tastebuds to immediate bliss.

Immediate.

The only way to make Oreos better?  Mix them with more chocolate, more cream, and even more Oreos, for maximum Oreo consumpion.  These cupcakes have an Oreo cookie base, then chopped Oreo cookies mixed into the cake batter, Oreo crumb frosting, and the tiniest cutest little Oreo right on top.

That’s right, we have four layers of Oreo here, people.  Four!

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The only problem I had was the frosting.  This is probably the only frosting I have ever made that I would recommend chilling just a bit before using (although my kitchen tends to be a bit warmer than the average kitchen anyway).  I had much better success using a spatula to spread the frosting than I did attempting to pipe it.  This may be partly because I hand-crushed the Oreos for the frosting instead of using a food processor, so they weren’t uniformly-sized and therefor didn’t come out of my piping bag evenly.  So, using a food processor to make your crumbs may help, but the easiest fix for me was just to spread the frosting with a spatula instead.

Oreo Overload Cupcakes

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 24 Oreo cookies, whole (I used birthday cake Oreos)
  • 12 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I used regular)
  • 1 recipe your favorite chocolate cake - I used this one (halved), but even a box mix will do
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temp
  • 1 (4-ounce) stick unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed*
  • 24 mini Oreos

Instructions

    Make your cake
  1. Preheat oven and line 24 cupcake wells with liners. Place 1 whole Oreo in the bottom of each cupcake liner.
  2. Make your cake according to directions, stirring chopped Oreos in at the end. Fill each well 2/3 full with batter and bake until done. My cake recipe took 24 minutes to bake as cupcakes. Once baked, remove from cupcake tins and cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Make your frosting
  4. Whip butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and add vanilla extract, beating again to incorporate.
  5. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating carefully after each addition to avoid exploding powdered sugar all over your kitchen. After the last bit is mixed in, scrape down the sides and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the Oreo crumbs, beat again until well mixed. Allow to chill just slightly so it is easier to handle and spread on cupcakes, topping with a tiny Oreo cookie, if desired.

Notes

Using a food processor for your frosting crumbs will help to ensure you end up with a smoother, more uniform frosting. I ended up spreading my frosting with an offset spatula, glopping some on top of each cupcake and then letting it set for a bit and then came back to actually spread the frosting a later. Of course I didn't find this out until the last couple of cupcakes (that had been sitting with glopped frosting on top)...

http://wee-eats.com/2013/03/24/oreo-overload-cupcakes/

Brownie Swirl Cake

brownie swirl cake 8362

I’m going to tell you all that I had high hopes for March.  I know that Spring is right around the corner and I was all excited to share some “healthy” (well, more healthy than usual) recipes with you so that you didn’t have to swear off the website while you readied yourself for Spring Break or whatever it is that you have looming around the corner that may require you to wear some less-skin-covering clothing items.

Much to absolutely no one’s surprise, that ended quickly.  I promise that I’ve been making juices and salads for you, but in between all of those green and healthful things there is cake.  So.  Much.  Cake.

Well, since March is my birthday month and I’m always in search of the perfect cake for my birthday anyway, I decided to embrace my cake madness and MAKE ALL THE CAKE!  Followed by eating all the cake, and posting all the cake.

all the cake

Last year I made pretty much the best cake ever – a three layer rich chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and finished off with a dark chocolate ganache.  It was heavenly.  It’s going to be really hard to top.

But not everyone has hours to dedicate to cake-making.

brownie cake 8354

So, what if you have a birthday say, tomorrow, and you want to do something a little more special than just a box cake mix and you don’t know what to do because you have a job and a life and not enough hours in the day?

That’s where this comes in.

You get the ease of a box mix but with super fancy sprinkles and swirls that make it look like you worked really hard.  And the weirdest part?  Somehow you use brownie mix and a cake mix and it magically turns into this fun and pretty marbled sensation.

Not too shabby, huh?

So in honor of March, I’m going to say IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH AND I CAN EAT CAKE EVERY FRICKIN’ DAY IF I WANT TO AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME.  And if you feel the need to celebrate March (officially renamed “Cake Month”) with me, then more power to you!  We’ll save all that healthy stuff for next month or something (or I’m sure I can sneak a recipe or two in between the cake).

For now, I’ll take another piece of cake please.

Brownie Swirl Cake

Yield: One 9- by 13-inch cake

Ingredients

  • *1 (15.25 oz) box cake mix
  • *1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • *1 egg
  • *1/2 cup milk
  • *1 "Family Size" box Brownie mix
  • *1 recipe frosting (or just a large can of frosting, I won't tell)
  • *Sprinkles, if desired

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°F and spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray or line with foil/parchment.
  2. 2. In a medium mixing bowl combine cake mix, oil, egg and milk. Beat together for about 1 minute, until ingredients are incorporated.
  3. 3. Spread batter in the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be thick). I find the easiest way to do this is to wet my hands with water and use them to press and spread the mix until it covers the bottom of the pan.
  4. 4. Make your brownie batter according to the directions on the box. Pour the brownie batter on top of the cake layer.
  5. 5. Bake approx 25-30 minutes until center is set, err on the side of slightly underbaking than overbaking. What I ended up with was delicious brownie outsides (I like the dry brownie outside) and a nice, cakey inside. Surprisingly tasty.
  6. 6. Frost and top with sprinkles, if desired.
http://wee-eats.com/2013/03/03/brownie-swirl-cake/

 

[ Adapted from Cookies N Cups ]