Monday, December 28, 2015

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

In another quest to find the best of the best, we did a peanut butter cookie sandwich tasting with my entire family. The test included two peanut butter cookie recipes and two filling recipes. One cookie was brown sugar based and used shortening. The other recipe had brown sugar and white sugar, and used rolled oats. For the fillings, one was peanut butter and powdered sugar based, while the other used marshmallow creme and cinnamon. 

We mix and matched the cookies with the fillings and even added raspberry jam to some. In my opinion, there was one clear winner, but the vote was actually quite split between the group. Half the group liked the brown sugar based cookie with the powdered sugar based filling. For me, that was too sweet. 

The other half of the group, myself included, liked the brown sugar, white sugar and oats cookie paired with the marshmallow creme based filling. The oats and the crunchy peanut butter added nice texture, while the cookie itself was still soft in the center. And I am in love the marshmallow creme filling with cinnamon. Like, I could eat the stuff by the spoonful! 


I've also made a couple other peanut butter cookie sandwich recipes in the past and would say this recipe beats those too. 

Let me know what you think! 

The Best Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie

Yield: 2 dozen cookie sandwiches 

Ingredients

For the Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe from Redbook Magazine) 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 light brown sugar, packed 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla 
3/4 cup quick cooking oats 

For the Peanut Cream Filling 
3/4 cup chunky peanut 
3/4 cup marshmallow creme
3 tablespoons milk
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon 
3 tablespoons powdered sugar 


Instructions

For the Peanut Butter Cookies 
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Which together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. 
2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and chunky peanut butter until smooth. Beat in sugars until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. 
3. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in oats. 
4. Spoon level tablespoonsful of into balls and place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using a floured fork, make a crisscross pattern on top by pressing dough into a flat circle about 2.5 inches circle.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Let cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the Filling
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, marshmallow creme, milk, cinnamon. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar. 

Use 1 teaspoon filling for each cookie. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Courtney's Cookies

These cookies are something special, you guys! I've been making them for over 15 years, during which time they became a yearly tradition for the "It's All Over Party" thrown by my best friend's parents. In fact, when I lived with my bestie and her family for a summer, these cookies were my rent (hence, how they became known as "Courtney's Cookies").

Filled with M&M's, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanut butter and oats, these cookies are guaranteed to make your sweet tooth happy. AND, they're SO simple to make. In fact, it's the one recipe I'll share with you that isn't completely from scratch. Yes, you read that right. I actually use pre-made sugar cookie dough for these. I've tried recreating the recipe from scratch and it's NOT the same! You have to use the chilled, rolled Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough. Nothing else. 

               

The key to perfection with these cookies is to slightly under-bake them and then let them cool to room temperature before taking your first bite. (Remember, they continue to cook as they're cooling, so you're not eating raw dough.) If you cook them until they're golden brown, like most cookie recipe require, they'll get hard and crunchy once they're cooled and it's not even the same cookie! So, just remember, bake these cookies according to the recipe and all will be well.


 

 

So while, these may not look like your average Christmas cookie, they are one of my favorite traditions of this season and I know you'll still love them.

In loving memory of Bob


Courtney's Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen, medium-sized cookies

Ingredients
16.5 oz roll of Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough (not the pre-cut dough, the one in the shape of a log)
3/4 cup Skippy smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup plain M&Ms

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the cookie dough and peanut butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the peanut butter is incorporated into the dough.
3. Add remaining ingredients and stir until everything is evenly combined, about one minute.
4. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons in size), scoop the cookie dough and place on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookie is starting to turn golden brown. The top of the cookie should still be light in color. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

NOTE: there is also a larger roll of Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough. If you use the larger size, increase peanut butter and oats to 1 cup each and all the remaining ingredients to 3/4 cup each.









Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Baker's Wish List

I've gotta say, I'm pretty pumped! We still have two weeks until Christmas, and I'm DONE with all my shopping. Now I can sit back, bake a bunch of cakes, and enjoy the holiday season without feeling stressed about shopping. In fact, I think I only got one or two gifts at a store. The majority of my shopping was done online this year, and I loved it! I hate holiday shopping crowds, and it's about a hundred times worse when you have kids in-tow. No thanks! I'll stick to my computer and click away!

To make some of your shopping a little easier too, I put together a little baker's wish list - some items that I think you can't live without when baking cakes.




1. Jade Cake Stand - you simply have to have something beautiful to display your work of art on
2. Wilton Cake Lifter - this will make your life SO much easier when you're moving around your cake layers
3. Parchment Rounds - love the pre-cut parchment paper rounds - they're a total time saver!
4. Wilton Cake Leveler - for me, this is the easiest and most accurate method of getting completely level cake layers
5. Pioneer Woman Measuring Cup Set - because these are darling!
6. Decorating Tips - get a small set of tips and start experimenting with designs and styles you like
7. Fiesta 5-Piece Bamboo Utensil Set - for a little color in your kitchen, I think these are great displayed in a clear canister on your counter or hanging from your wall
8. Offset Spatula - an offset spatula helps to draw in the frosting edges on the top of your cake to help achieve a perfect edge
9. Sweetapolita Bakebook - you literally cannot go wrong baking anything from this cookbook. Sweetapolita is the queen of cakes, in my opinion, and I have no doubt you'll love everything you bake. (She's the reason I started making cakes!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Triple Chocolate Cake for the Birthday Boy

Just got done building Legos and competing in the most epic Nerf battle with my not-so-little, little man. (He won, but my aim is getting better!) Westin turned seven today. I kept looking at him throughout the day in disbelief that he could be so grown up. I swear it was just yesterday that he was running around as Superman, with his long, curly blonde hair. Now he's sporting a mohawk (his idea) and building Star Wars Lego sets meant for 9 to 11 year-olds. Time is flying by and I'm grateful for days like today when I can set work aside and enjoy Nerf battles and Legos with him. 

This year was a non-friends party year for us, so we enjoyed a weekend full of family fun and this triple chocolate cake, specifically requested by the birthday boy.


This six-layer dark chocolate cake is filled with chocolate whipped filling and frosting with a chocolate buttercream. It's a chocolate lover's dream come true. I opted for a lighter filling than the frosting because I didn't want the buttercream to be overwhelming and I didn't want to fill it with a ganache because the cake itself is rich enough. I think the balance of chocolate in this one is perfection. Let me know what you think.

A few photos before blowing out the candles and digging in...
"W" for Westin
When mom makes you take a dozen photos and you're not getting a chance to pose the way you want to. 



With the six, thinner cake layers, this cake didn't cut very pretty. Next time I might try keeping it three layers and seeing how it looks. It still tasted amazing!!! (Obvi)


Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Cake

Yields: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake 

Ingredients:

For the Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Frosting
2 cup unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
10 oz. good quality milk chocolate, chopped melted and cooled
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

For the Whipped Chocolate Filling
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold, divided
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin 
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


Instructions:

For the Chocolate Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8” round cake pans (butter or spray, line bottom with parchment paper, butter or spray paper and dust with flour).
2. In a bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and lightly beat with a fork.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. Scrape sides and mix for another 30 seconds. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans (I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed).
5. Bake for 25-27 minutes (you may need more time depending on your oven), until toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool on wire racks for 10-15 minutes, then gently invert onto racks until cooled completely.
6. When cakes are completely cooled, I like to wrap each cake layer individually with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator or freezer until I’m ready to frost. The cake will be easier to work with if it’s cooled a bit. If I’m making the cake a day or two before I actually need to frost it, I put it in the freezer to ensure freshness. If I’m frosting same-day, I’ll just put it in the refrigerator to chill until needed.

For the Whipped Chocolate Filling
1. To make the chocolate ganache, pour 1/2 cup of the heavy cream over the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and then stir until the mixture is smooth and silky. Will be a bit thick. Let cool to room temperature but not to the point that it sets.
2. In a small bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup heavy cream to a simmer and then stir in the gelatin mixture. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 5-7 minutes.
3. In a chilled stainless steel bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing sugar, vanilla and salt until it thickens and soft peaks begin to form, about one minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form. 
4. Gradually fold in the cooled chocolate ganache. 
5. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.

For the Chocolate Frosting
1. In a bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the confectioner's sugar and butter. Beat on low speed for 1 minute.
2. Add vanilla and salt and beat until combined.
3. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Slowly add whipping cream, with mixer on low speed, then increase speed to med-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
4. Frost cake right away, or, if you cover and use later, make sure to mix with a rubber spatula right before applying to the cake to get rid of air bubbles.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

It's been a crazy week since Thanksgiving, filling cake orders and planning a huge Christmas dinner for the women at my church, so I apologize for not having a new recipe up until now! However, I think you'll agree that it was worth the wait for this one. And when you make this cake, I insist that you run to the store and get that pink peppermint ice cream to serve with it because the two were made for each other!



Using my favorite chocolate cake recipe, I made a few small tweaks and added peppermint extract. Nothing too complicated there. Same goes for the frosting, it's my go-to whipped vanilla frosting with peppermint extract. And then I added some crushed peppermint bark in between the layers and gave the top a generous slather of chocolate ganache. You could also crush candy canes or any other kind of peppermint candy to layer in this cake and use for garnish.




Enjoy!

Chocolate Peppermint Cake 

Yields: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Peppermint Cake
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder (or similar premium brand - can even use Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract

For the Peppermint Frosting
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons peppermint extract
Pinch of salt
Red or pink food coloring

For the Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

For the Chocolate Peppermint Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8” round cake pans (butter or spray, line bottom with parchment paper, butter or spray paper and dust with flour).
2. In a bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla and peppermint in a measuring cup and lightly beat with a fork.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. Scrape sides and mix for another 30 seconds. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans (I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed).
5. Bake for 25-27 minutes (you may need more time depending on your oven), until toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool on wire racks for 10-15 minutes, then gently invert onto racks until cooled completely.
6. When cakes are completely cooled, I like to wrap each cake layer individually with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator or freezer until I’m ready to frost. The cake will be easier to work with if it’s cooled a bit. If I’m making the cake a day or two before I actually need to frost it, I put it in the freezer to ensure freshness. If I’m frosting same-day, I’ll just put it in the refrigerator to chill until needed.

For the Peppermint Frosting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about two minutes.
2. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and mix until combined.
3. Add the whipping cream, salt and peppermint extract and beat on medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy.
4. Add the food coloring and mix for another minute.
5. If your frosting has air pockets, take a spatula and fold the frosting until it's smooth.

For the Chocolate Ganache
1. Combine the chocolate chips and whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and then stir the chocolate and cream until it becomes a smooth, silky ganache. Mixture will be thick. Let it cool to room temperature before spreading it on the cake.

Assembly
1. After leveling each cake layer, set the first cake layer, right-side up, on a cake plate or board. Spread about 2/3 cup of the frosting evenly over the cake. Sprinkle crushed candy canes or peppermint bark on top and pat down with your hand. 
2. Repeat step one for the second cake layer.
3. Place the third cake layer, bottom-side up, on top of the second layer of frosting. Give the cake an even crumb coat, filling in an areas that seem uneven with frosting. Let the cake chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes or in the freezer for 10 minutes.
4. When the crumb coat is set, finish frosting the cake with the peppermint frosting. Let it chill again before spread the ganache on top. Garnish with candy canes or peppermint bark.

Helpful tip for spreading the ganache: pour 2/3 of the ganache on top of the cake in the middle. Using an offset spatula, start pushing the ganache to the edges of the cake in a circular motion. I like to use a turntable while doing this. I think it helps to push the ganache around evenly. You can spread the ganache as far over the edge as you like.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Momofuku Milk Bar Pie Cakes

This is the first holiday in ten and a half years of marriage that Ryan and I won't be with one of our families. Now that we're in Utah, making the trip home to Southern California for the short Thanksgiving weekend doesn't quite make sense, especially when we'll be driving down in a few weeks for Christmas.

I'm both a little sad and a lot excited for this Thanksgiving. Sad we won't be with family (and in the warm weather), but excited for us to start a few of our own family traditions; one of which will be going out to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. With just the four of us, two of which are super picky eaters (errr!), it doesn't seem worth the effort to spend hours in the kitchen for my kids to say they'd rather have a quesadilla. Instead, we made reservations to go out to dinner at Sundance. I love it there and I think it was the perfect decision for us. 

I love the ambiance and the food at Sundance (it's also where Ryan proposed to me) and know it will be a feast to remember. However, I just couldn't let this holiday pass without personally making at least one dessert!  And since you all know my aversion to pie, and my mission to make all the Milk Bar cakes, I decided to make the Pumpkin Pie Cake by Christina Tosi.


This beauty has layers of pumpkin cake, brown butter graham cheesecake, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ganache, and pie dough crumbs! Did you get all that? I know, pretty incredible, right? Ms. Tosi is extremely talented and inventive with her desserts, and I've never been disappointed.

This cake does takes some work but it's certainly not hard and it's totally worth your time. Allow about 3 hours to get it all done if you're trying to do it all in one day. Each part of the cake can be made ahead of time too. Most importantly, you want to leave time to refrigerate it before serving, preferably overnight. 





If you're not a fan of pumpkin, don't fret! Milk Bar also has an apple pie cake that is just as awesome. I made it just a little while ago for my blog post with Maggie Sottero about fall-inspired wedding cakes. I actually took this cake into their office for a taste test and it was a huge hit. People couldn't believe how much it tasted like an apple pie but in cake form.




The one component that blew me away and proved Christina Tosi's sheer baking genius in my mind was the pie crumb frosting. She blends pie crumbs and milk in a blender and then adds it to the frosting. You guys! It literally tastes like pie crust and makes the entire cake! In fact, I love this element of the cake so much, I kinda wish it was in the pumpkin pie cake too. But don't worry, the pumpkin pie cake is incredible in its own right. 




In the apple pie cake, you get a brown butter cake, apple cider soak, liquid cheesecake, pie crumbs, apple pie filling, and pie crumb frosting. Again, pretty mouth-watering, right?


Because these recipes are extremely long, and Milk Bar provides all the instructions on their site, I'm going to send you over to their site for the recipes: Milk Bar Recipes and How To's 

I hope you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday, and if you make one of these cakes (which I hope you do), let me know what you think!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Vanilla Cranberry White Chocolate Cake

I can't believe we're just a few days away from Thanksgiving! The holidays are surely upon us and I absolutely love it! (I've had Christmas music on in my car since the day after Halloween. I know I'm not alone on that one, am I right?) 

One of the many reasons I love the holidays is all the seasonal baking I get to do: pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, gingerbread, hazelnut, cranberry. There's just so much to choose from! I've already shared a couple of these flavors with you (make sure to check my archives for the sweet potato cake, the gingerbread cake and the pumpkin cake. I love them all!). For my next holiday-inspired cake, I wanted to incorporate cranberries. Last year I made a gingerbread cranberry white chocolate cake, but since I just recently did the gingerbread latte cake, I decided to go for a vanilla cake, and knew it would pair perfectly with the cranberry compote and white chocolate frosting. 


I had actually come across a cranberry white chocolate cake recipe on Pinterest a while ago, so I went back to that one and decided to give the vanilla cake recipe a try to see how it compared with some of the vanilla cakes I've already made.

For the first go-around, I tried the recipe exactly as it was printed (as I always do), and ran into a few issues. My first concern was that it said it was a "one bowl" cake - that means you're basically throwing everything into your mixer at once and giving it a whirl. From all the reading and research I've done on cakes over the years, that seemed like a red flag to me, but I went with it. Unfortunately, it didn't work out to my liking. The original recipe said to add the butter and other wet ingredients to the already mixed dry ingredients and mix until smooth. However, my batter never became smooth (even though my butter was at room temperature). I decided to bake the cake anyway to see what would happen. Here's a look:


Because of the clumps of butter in the batter, it crinkled and was kind of oily on top. To my surprise, however, when I leveled it and tried some scraps, I didn't hate it. I decided it had some good components as far as flavor and texture go, but it needed a few tweaks. First and foremost, the instructions needed to be reworked. For round two, I creamed by butter and sugar first, then added my eggs (one at a time), then greek yogurt (one of the changes I made), and then I alternated adding the sifted dry ingredients with milk, ending with the dry ingredients. The other changes I made include: decreasing the flour a little, sifting the flour, adding vanilla bean, using whole milk instead of lowfat and using plain yogurt instead of sour cream.

I'm really happy with the flavor, but even my revised version is a little dense in texture, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I've had many people tell me they like a denser cake over a lighter, fluffy cake. If that's you, I think you'll really like this cake. And I think the cake pairs really nicely with the light, whipped white chocolate frosting. 

Cranberry compote filling 

Vanilla beans straight from Switzerland (they're so cheap there, I had to stock up and even had my sister's boyfriend get me more when he visited a few months ago)
Can you see those flecks of vanilla bean? Aren't they gorgeous!


The 6" cake from my first round

These cakes were for a holiday photoshoot, so when I dropped them off, I snapped a couple pictures but they don't do justice to the beautiful spread being put together. I can't wait to get the professional shots back. I'll be sure to share!

And the 8" cake from round two





Vanilla Cranberry White Chocolate Cake

Yield: one 8-inch, 3-layer cake 

Ingredients:

For the Sparking Cranberries
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water

For the Cranberry Compote
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

For the Vanilla Bean Cake (recipe adapted from Life, Love and Sugar)
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, (split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds)
1 cup plain greek yogurt (can substitute sour cream or creme fraiche)
1 cup whole milk

For the White Chocolate Frosting
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Instructions:
For the Sparking Cranberries
1. Bring the 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour the simple syrup into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cranberries and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate cranberries during the day or overnight, stirring occasionally to coat with syrup.
5. Remove cranberries from syrup and roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. You'll need to roll them a few times to get a couple of layers of sugar on them.
6. Set cranberries aside to dry for an hour or so.

For the Cranberry Compote
1. In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar and water over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then cover to allow the cranberries to cook and soften.
2. When the cranberries have softened and begin to pop, slowly add the sifted corn starch and stir until it is incorporated. (If you don't sift the cornstarch, you'll likely get white clumps in the compote that are hard to dissolve.)
3. Allow the cranberries to simmer for another 5-10 minutes. The mixture will become thick and somewhat jelly-like. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Vanilla Bean Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with spray, parchment paper and a flour dusting. Set aside.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for one minute. 
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the greek yogurt and mix until incorporated.
6. Alternately, add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour. Combine until incorporated.
7. Stir in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean and mix for 30 seconds.
8. Evenly distribute the batter among the three cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in your refrigerator overnight or freezer for longer.

For the White Chocolate Frosting
1. Pour the white chocolate pieces or chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir and, if needed, microwave for another 30 seconds. Set aside and let cool. 
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed for about two minutes.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sifted powdered sugar until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix for another minute.
4. Slowly add the cooled white chocolate while mixing on medium speed. 
5. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Once the cream is incorporated, add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting for five minutes. It should get lighter in texture and color.

Assembly:
1. Level cake layers if needed. Place the first cake layer, right-side up, on a cake board or plate. Using a pastry bag or a strong plastic zip-loc bag, pipe a barrier around the edge of the cake. This is done to ensure the cranberry compote won't ooze out the side of your cake as your stack.
2. Spread half of your cranberry compote around the open space.
3. Place second cake layer on top of the compote and create another frosting barrier around the edge, filling it with the remaining compote.
4. Place third cake layer, bottom-side up, on top and give the cake an even crumb coat. Chill it in the refrigerator or freezer for 15 minutes and then continue frosting. (While cake is chilling, I like to cover my frosting with plastic wrap so it doesn't have a chance to dry out).
5. Top with sugared cranberries.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Classic Yellow Cake

Is there anything more classic than a yellow cake with chocolate frosting? I continue to hear that it's a favorite for so many people, especially the box mix. And while I said goodbye to box mixes years ago, I'll admit, there's something pretty alluring about the flavor and texture of a yellow cake mix: rich butter and vanilla extracts in a moist and fluffy cake... you just can't go wrong (except for the fact that it's not homemade).

I've tried a couple yellow cake recipes in the past but was never impressed enough to save them or send myself on a mission to find the best yellow cake recipe - until now, that is. This new mission started  when I offered to make my friend, Brooke from FemaleFoodie.com, a cake for her review. I told her she could pick any cake she wanted, and without hesitation she said a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. 

Of course, I immediately threw out every yellow cake recipe I had, knowing they weren't nearly good enough, and started my research from scratch. I scoured Pinterest, cookbooks and my go-to cake blogs, selected a handful of recipes and started comparing ingredients. I wanted something that screamed flavorful and moist, so when I saw Grandbaby Cakes recipe with a full cup of sour cream, seven whole eggs and butter extract, I knew I had to give it a try. (Taste of the South Magazine also loved this cake.)

The first yellow cake attempt, using a recipe from Grandbaby Cakes


I had high hopes that it would meet my expectations for flavor and texture, but I have to admit, I was slightly let down. It's a good cake but it was a little too dense for my taste and didn't resemble any of the flavor from a box mix that I was looking for. 

I was about to try a completely new recipe, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this recipe could be a keeper... with a few tweaks. Since I was going from a slightly artificial flavor, I decided to substitute clear vanilla extract from the pure vanilla extract. I also liked Sweetapolita's idea of using egg yolks in addition to the whole eggs, so instead of seven whole eggs, I used five whole eggs and two yolks the second time around, hoping to get a slightly more yellow color and richer flavor. (The color didn't change but I was happy with the flavor.) The other change I made was adding more baking powder to get the cakes to raise a little more and feel a bit more fluffy.



After making my revisions, I gave the first slice to my toughest critic. I literally sat next to him as he ate, staring at his face for a glimpse of his first, initial, most honest reaction. Luckily, it was a good one. (Phew!)

Second yellow cake attempt, with my revisions


As for the frosting, I first tried the recipe Grandbaby Cakes provided with her yellow cake, but I found it hard to spread and didn't love the dense texture, so I've included my favorite chocolate frosting recipe below.

The real test will be tomorrow night (11/17) when Brooke and I get together for a live Periscope broadcast about this cake, some tips and tricks, and her taste test. Brooke will also be showing us how to make one of my favorite desserts: peanut butter ice cream. I'm so excited! I hope you'll join us. Check my Instagram for reminders about when we'll broadcast. 

Hope you enjoy this cake! Let me know what you think!


Classic Yellow Cake and Chocolate Frosting

Yield: 8" inch, 3 layer cake

Ingredients

For the Cake (adapted from Grandbaby Cakes)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 whole eggs, room temperature
2 eggs yolks, room temperature
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon butter extract

For the Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Sweetapolita)
2 cups unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
10 oz. good quality milk chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

For the Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8" round cake pans with butter or non-stick spray, parchment and flour dusting. Set aside.
2. In a medium size bowl, sift the cake flour and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, canola oil, salt and sugar on high until fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time to the bowl and beat on medium until well incorporated.
5. Turn the mixer on low and add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture until fully incorporated. Then add half of the sour cream and blend well, and lastly, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
6. Add the clear vanilla extract and butter extract and beat on low until incorporated. SCrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on low for another 30 seconds.
7. Evenly distribute the cake batter among the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Make sure not to overbake.
8. Remove cakes from the oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.
9. Once completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer or refrigerator to chill before frosting.

For the Frosting
1. In a bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the confectioners' sugar and butter. Beat on low speed for one minute.
2. Add vanilla and salt and beat until combined.
3. Add the melted, cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth, about two minutes.
4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the whipping cream. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.