Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jacque Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

In honor of Homemade Cookie Day tomorrow, I'm sharing with you my favorite chocolate chip cookie EVER. It's by "Mr. Chocolate," Jacque Torres. I've made this recipe countless times and get the real deal every time I visit New York. With a slightly crispy edge, chewy center, dark chocolate and hint of salt, they're simply the best. 

The key with making a successful homemade Jacque Torres chocolate chip cookie is using the right ingredients. Make sure to use bread flour and cake flour, as called for. Don't substitute with all-purpose flour. It won't be the same. Also imperative to this recipe is the type of butter you use. Don't use just any butter. You want high quality, like Kerry Gold, which you'll most likely be able to find at your local grocery store. 

And dark chocolate, use dark chocolate! It pairs so well with the salt and storing it in the refrigerator overnight enhances the flavors even more. (My mouth is watering just writing this.) 





Jacque Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cup bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (Kerry Gold)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pound bittersweet (dark) chocolate, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt for garnish

Instructions:
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, about 5-10 seconds.
4. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them.
5. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours. Dough may be used in batches and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
7. Scoop 6 3.5-ounce mound of dough onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, about 18-20 minutes (mine was about 17 minutes). Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough. refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. 





Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Maple Frosting

Fall is officially here and I'm so excited about it, especially now that I live in Utah and can truly enjoy the changing colors of the trees (I'm an implant from California, where we had two seasons - spring and summer). I also love fall because it brings with it so many delightful flavors I get to incorporate into my cakes. 

I have a lineup of seasonal cakes I'll be sharing, starting with this semi-naked pumpkin cake, layered with chocolate ganache and maple cream cheese frosting. The cake itself is slightly adapted from Sweetapolita, who uses it in her Midnight Pumpkin Cake. It's moist and flavorful and a perfect pairing with chocolate and maple.




I'll be serving this cake over the weekend, in celebration of my brother's birthday, so I'll add a picture of a slice of the cake later. In the meantime, test this cake out and let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Maple Frosting

Yield: one 8"-inch, 3-layer cake

Ingredients:

For the Pumpkin Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups pumpkin purée 
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Ganache 
1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi or dark) 
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream 

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup


Instructions:

For the Pumpkin Cake
1. Preheat 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin filling and mix until combined, about another 30 seconds. 
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and with the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add to the pumpkin/egg mixture.
4. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans, smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. Bake until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. (Mine took 23).
5. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, and then invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.

For the Chocolate Ganache
1. Place the chocolate chips and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 30-60 seconds. Stir until glossy.

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about two minutes.
2. Gradually add in confectioners' sugar, while mixer is on low speed.
3. Add vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup and whip until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.


Assembly:
1. Level each of your cake layers. Spread about 1/2 cup ganache on the first layer of cake, then pipe on your maple frosting (piping the frosting in each layer helps to ensure you'll get an even amount of frosting distributed across the cake).
2. Repeat these steps with the second cake layer and then place the third cake layer, bottom -side up, on top and frost with a crumb coat. 
3. Let the cake chill for 30 minutes and then add additional frosting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Banana Cream Cake with Salted Caramel and Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs

This cake was so much fun for me to make! First and foremost, it was a special order for my adorable nephew, Mason, who recently turned 2. He absolutely loves Curious George, so a banana cake was the obvious choice for this birthday boy. As I thought about what kind of banana cake I wanted to make, I knew I didn't want the cake itself to be a banana cake - I just didn't think it would impress a 2-year-old, or me, for that matter. 

I then started daydreaming about Magnolia Bakery's banana cream pie. (Have you had it? O.M.G. It's one of the greatest desserts ever produced on the face of this earth. If you are ever in New York City or Los Angeles (their newest location), you must promise me, you'll order the banana cream pie!) That's what I wanted for this cake.

As I created this cake in my mind, and added all the flavors and textures I came up with, I didn't want to overwhelm it with a coat of buttercream just to hold everything in place. I really wanted it to take on Magnolia's banana cream pie in cake form. So, I garnered inspiration from another New York staple and personal favorite of mine, Momofuku Milk Bar, and built the cake inside a 6" spring form pan with acetate paper around it. It was the perfect execution for what I envisioned.

Photography by Brittany Maddux, BrittanyMaddux.com

Another Milk Bar inspired element of this cake is the banana milk soak. Adding a little extra moisture to a naked cake is never a bad idea since these types of cakes don't have a layer of frosting to protest the cake from drying out. And more importantly, this step adds even more flavor to the cake. You can't go wrong with a soak!

Also layered in this cake: fresh bananas, toasted graham cracker crumbs, salted caramel, and fresh whipped cream. Basically heaven in a cake.





Oh, and one little note about serving this beauty - serve it cold, or things will get pretty messy when you're cutting the cake... like it did for me!


Luckily, the plated presentation didn't matter too much to the birthday boy. Mason loved the cake and I loved watching him dive into it with such a big smile!



A cute face like this with a mouthful of cake... there's simply nothing sweeter!


I hope you love this custom creation as much as I did.

And, a big thank you to my sister-in-law, Brittany Maddux, author of BrittanyMaddux.com, for letting me make the birthday boy his cake, and for these fabulous photos! 

Enjoy!


Banana Cream Cake with Salted Caramel and Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs

Yield: one 6"-inch, 3-layer cake

Ingredients:

For the White Cake (adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)
3 cups cake flour, sifted
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Banana Cream Filling
1 box (3 oz.) banana pudding mix
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
3 cups heavy cream

For the Banana Milk Soak (this is going to make a lot, so don't worry that you don't use it all on this one cake)
1 box (3 oz.) banana pudding mix
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups milk

For the Salted Caramel (adapted from Tikkido.com)
1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

For the Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs
18 full crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

For the Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Sliced Bananas


Instructions:

For the White Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 baking sheet pan with butter or baking spray and line it with parchment paper. Butter or spray the parchment paper as well.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and mix until incorporated.
5. Bake for 20 minutes, and then test to see if it's done using a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan. Only a few crumbs should be one the toothpick. May need to cook it for an additional 3-5 minutes, depending on your oven.

For the Banana Cream Pudding
1. Mix the pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and milk in a bowl until well blended, about two minutes. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
2. Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. When the pudding is set,  fold it into the whipped cream in small batches. Carefully fold in all of the pudding until it is completely blended with the cream.
3. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to build the cake. This step can be done a couple days in advance.

For the Banana Milk Soak
1. Combine the pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk and milk in a bowl and blend. Mixture should be thin, like milk. Refrigerate until you're ready to use.

For the Salted Caramel
1. Mix the water, corn syrup and granulated sugar together in a very small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, but do not stir. Cook until the mixture caramelizes into the beautiful golden brown color. It happens quickly once the sugar starts browning, so don't walk away from the stove during this step.
2. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and mix in the cream. If the cream is not room temperature, add it SLOWLY, while mixing. Add a bit more and mix that in. Continue mixing in the cream a little bit at a time at first, and then you can start adding more and more as you go along.
3. Mix in the salt and vinegar. Stir to combine. Set the caramel aside and let it cool completely before using, or store it in an air-tight container until ready to use.

For the Toasted Graham Cracker Crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand.
3. Add the crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Add the melted butter and stir until all the crumbs are wet.
5. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely and set aside.

For the Whipped Cream
1. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream and sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form.

Assembly:
1. Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use a 6" cake ring to stamp 3 circles in the cake (or two circles and two halves). 
2. Place the cleaned cake ring on the center of a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Use one strip of acetate paper to line the inside of the cake ring.
3. Put one layer of the cake (or two halves) inside the ring.
4. Dunk a pastry brush in the banana milk soak and slather it on the cake, giving it a nice milk bath.
5. Spread one-third of the banana cream pudding in an even layer over the cake.
6. Spread sliced bananas evenly over the pudding.
7. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the toasted graham cracker crumbs on top of the bananas, followed by a heavy drizzle of the salted caramel.
8. Carefully spread about 1/2 cup of the whipping cream on top.
9. Gently tuck in another strip of the acetate paper between the cake ring and the top quarter inch of the first acetate strip, high enough to support the height of the finished cake.
10. Set a cake round on top of the whipped cream and repeat steps 4-8.
11. Set the final cake layer onto the whipped cream and cover the top of the cake with the remaining banana cream pudding. Sprinkle it with graham cracker crumbs, drizzle with salted caramel and decorate with whipped cream.
12. Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours. About 4-5 hours before you're ready to serve, remove the cake from the freezer and transfer to the refrigerator to finish thawing.
13. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Pastel Ombré Birthday Cake and a GIVEAWAY!

It's a week of birthday cake baking around here, and first on the list was this pastel ombré birthday cake for a sweet little 7-year-old. My client requested that pink, purple and teal be used in the cake and the rest was left up to me. It's always fun to have a little creative leeway and try new ideas. Each of the three cake layers is tinted a different color to match the frosting.

The cake itself is a vanilla cake with a strawberry filling and a vanilla buttercream. The same cake I did for Avery's 2nd birthday last month. You can find the full recipe here.






CAKE STAND GIVEAWAY

I'm also giving away one of these 10" white cake stands from Target. 

To enter:

1.) Follow me on instagram: @cakebycourtney
2.) Like this post on instagram and tag a friend, or two, or three, in the comments
3.) For an extra entry, leave a comment on here too!

Giveaway ends Friday, September 18th at 10pm EST. Winner will be announced on instagram Sunday night. (Open to U.S. residents only).

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Cake

So excited to finally get this cake on the blog! I wasn't able to bake as much this week because I was out in Chicago and Philadelphia for most of it, working. (Not cake work, unfortunately. Oh, how I wish that was the case! This was for my other job, which is in media research - I moderate focus groups for television shows.) Anyway, I got back Thursday, stocked up on some ingredients and started baking.

This cake had obvious appeal to me because my other dessert love is a good chocolate chip cookie. I was also really intrigued by the milk frosting, which is made by boiling milk and flour over the stove, turning it into a custard-like consistency, and then adding it to whipped butter and caster sugar. 

I wish I could say I loved the frosting, but in all honesty, I only liked it. I think part of my review might be tainted by the fact that I burnt TWO batches of the flour and milk because I made the mistake of trying to bake while both my kids were around - one of which is a 2-year-old, who thinks she can do anything and everything by herself. (Usually I bake while my son is at school and my daughter is napping, or after they're both in bed.) So, almost immediately into making the frosting, I wasn't a fan - simply because it was taking way longer than I had planned for. Luckily, on my third try, I finally got the flour and milk consistency right and started heading in a more positive direction.

The cake itself is really light and fluffy in texture and the taste resembles that of a white cake box mix. Make sure to use cake flour, and to sift it well. This step, along with eight egg whites and more than a cup of buttermilk, really helps to give you that perfect white cake texture (as long as you don't over bake it!). 



This guy is my baking buddy and has started being a real help in the kitchen!



This is what your flour and milk mixture should look like after it's cooled - resembles custard.





The boiled milk frosting definitely gives you the flavor of milk, and because it's so light and fluffy, it complements the richer cookie dough filling nicely. It's not a frosting I would use on just any cake, but it certainly is the perfect addition to this one.

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Cake (by Sprinkle Bakes, sprinklesbakes.com)

Yield: one, 3-layer, 9" round cake (I used 8" pans and cooked it for 35 minutes)

Ingredients:

Cake Layers
6 cups cake flour, sifted
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
12 ounces mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Boiled Milk Frosting and Chips Decor
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups castor sugar*
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 cup regular sized semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

For the cake layers
1.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat three 9" baking pans with vegetable shortening or flour based baking spray and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. I like to spray the parchment paper and sprinkle with a dusting of flour too.
2.) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3.) Beat the butter, oil and granulated sugar together in a separate large bowl until light and fluffy (I used my stand mixer). Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour and buttermilk alternately with the mixer on low speed; beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips.
4.) Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes (mine was 35), or until the cakes spring back when pressed in the centers. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. Level the tops of the cooled and chilled cakes.

For the filling
1.) Beat the brown sugar and butter together in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.
2.) Add the flour and salt and mix until combined. Add the cream a little at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency (you may not use all of the cream). Fold in the chocolate chips.
3.) Place a cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Cover the layer with half of the cookie dough filling and top with a second cake layer. Cover the second cake layer with the remaining frosting. Place the last cake layer on top.

For the frosting
1.) In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Set over medium-high heat and let cool for 3 minutes or until slightly hot. Whisk in remaining milk and salt. Whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of unset pudding (this can take up to 10 minutes). Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a shallow dish. Place in the refrigerator until cool.
2.) When cool, the mixture will be thick like custard. In a large bowl (or a bowl of a stand mixer) beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Beat in cooled flour mixture one tablespoon at a time on medium-high speed. When all the flour mixture is added, beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.
3.) Rub a little frosting between your fingers. If the sugar granules remain, beat for 4 more minutes, or until granules cannot be detected with fingers.

*If you can't find caster sugar, you can make a close substitute at home by placing regular granulated sugar in a food processor and blending until fine. This finer sugar is recommended for boiled frosting because it dissolves easily.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've got another yummy take on a chocolate chip cookie. This version has oatmeal and peanut butter in it, making it a bit thicker and chewier than a typical chocolate chip cookie. Come to think of it, this cookie has the perfect texture and consistency for an ice cream sandwich... make that a Talenti Gelato sandwich! (Have you tried that stuff? It's amazing. I especially love the Sea Salt Caramel and Dark Chocolate). Now my mouth is watering and I need to run to the store for gelato. While I do that, whip up a batch of these beauties and let me know what you think!





Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 3 dozen medium-size cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups chocolate chips (I like bittersweet or dark)

Instructions:
1.) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.) In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, peanut butter, vanilla and water and mix until incorporated. Add the flour, baking soda and oats and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3.) Bake for 8-10 minutes and let cool 5 minutes on the pan before digging in!



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How to Avoid a Cake Fail

I love baking cakes, but even more than baking them, I love admiring the finished product (and eating them, obvi). It makes me so happy when a cake turns out just the way I hoped it would. It makes me equally unhappy (we're talking outrage and tears) when I have a cake fail. My most memorable cake fail was my 30th birthday cake. Bear with me as I take you down memory lane for a moment...

My friends and I had planned a huge picnic at the park for our families, and naturally, I offered to make the cake. I chose to do Sweetapolita's Campfire Delight Cake (a cake I had made several of times and had only great success with, so I knew it wouldn't let me down). It's a incredibly delicious dark chocolate cake with marshmallow filling and malted chocolate frosting. She's actually made a few tweaks to the recipe in her new cookbook, so I'm dying to get my hands on it and give it a test run. 

Anyway, back to my birthday cake. The day of the picnic, I made the marshmallow filling and the malted chocolate frosting. When both of those were complete, I pulled out my chilled chocolate cakes and started my assembly. Instantly, I knew something was off, but I kept stacking and filling. I could tell the marshmallow filling wasn't holding up like it had in the past, and the cake itself was about to give up on me. I quickly got it in the freezer to set but it was too late. I checked in on it after 15 minutes and it looks like this:     


You guys! My own birthday cake was a complete fail and there was absolutely no way of salvaging it, and certainly no time to start over. After my initial meltdown, I did what any rational human being would do and grabbed a fork and started digging in. I started crying harder. It tasted SO good and now no one was going to enjoy it but me. That's not how I like to enjoy my cakes. 

Luckily, before I finished eating the entire cake myself, my sweet friends convinced me to pack my cake mess in some tupperware and serve it just how I had eaten it, as a trifle. By the end of the night, there wasn't a lick left. It was a mostly happy ending.

So, this little story leads me to the real purpose of the post: how to avoid your own cake fails. With my 30th birthday cake and a few other cake debacles, I've learned a few things about how to make a good cake and I'd be doing you a dishonor if I didn't share them.

In no particular order:
1. Butter or spray your pans, line them with parchment paper, butter or spray them again and then flour them. 
2. Use a scale to weigh your cake pans with the batter in them to make sure your layers are even.
3. Let your cakes cool to room temperature before covering and chilling them.
4. Always level your chilled cakes to equal heights.
5. Get eye level with your cake to make sure the frosting is on evenly as well.
6. Chill your cake after the crumb coating - I like to freeze mine for 30 minutes to get it really firm and easier to manage during frosting.
7. Make sure your fillings are strong enough to hold your cake layers. If you're using a curd or jam filling, make sure to pipe a wall around the edge of the cake layer to hold the filling in.
8. Try to avoid baking and frosting your cake in a hot kitchen (I think this was a major reason my birthday cake fell apart - my house was just too warm inside).
9. Don't overbake your cake! Typically, cakes are almost done when you can smell them in the kitchen. Keep an eye on them at this point. When a toothpick comes out clean, or almost clean, they're done.
10. Don't disturb your cakes before 20 minutes.
11. Use middle racks, unless otherwise instructed.
12. Use ingredients at room temperature.
13. Once you've added the dry ingredients, mix on low until just incorporated.
14. Weighing the ingredients on a digital scale is the most accurate method of baking.
15. If you use measuring spoons, scoop your dry ingredients into the measuring cup with a spoon and then level off with a knife.
16. Read your recipe well before you actually start baking to make sure you have all the right ingredients. I usually don't start substituting ingredients until I've made the cake at least once and know what it's supposed to taste and look like.
17. Use unsalted butter, unless otherwise instructed.
18. Give yourself plenty of time to bake, assemble and decorate so you're not rushed and forget one of these helpful tips ;)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

For those of you who read my post about the Peanut Butter S'mores Cake, you already know my deep love of peanut butter. Love, love, love it! One of my favorite ways to enjoy peanut butter is in a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich: smooth peanut butter, strawberry jam and white bread. Hmmm. (I'm having flashbacks to my childhood just thinking about it). I can never get tired of a PB&J sandwich, so turning it into a cake was the obvious next move for me.

I've tried a couple peanut butter cake recipes, but haven't been impressed. Both recipes I tried were too dry and didn't have enough peanut butter flavor, for my taste. In a more recent search for a peanut butter cake, I came across this Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake from The Cake Blog (a new favorite cake stop - make sure to check it out!). I decided to give their peanut butter cake a try, and I'm so happy I did! Their recipe is a winner. It's moist and has a great peanut butter flavor combined with the slightest hint of cinnamon. It's delish. 

I decided not to use their peanut butter frosting, and instead, went with one I already knew I loved from Annie's Eats. Annie's peanut butter frosting has whipped cream folded into it, so it has a lighter, fluffier texture to it (a theme you'll see I love in my frosting). 



I did run into crumbly edges on my cakes when I took them out of the cake pans. If that happens to you, just make sure to cool it completely, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it chill before you level the top. When it's chilled, level it, and fill in any crevices when you do the crumb coat (that way, your cake will be smooth and even when it's time for the real coat of frosting).



I did plenty of sampling with cake top shavings and I'm so pleased with all the flavors. If you love peanut butter, you're going to go nuts for this cake!


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

Yield: one 6" inch, 3-layer cake (I added a half recipe and made 8" inch cakes)

Ingredients:

For the Peanut Butter Cake (by Tessa Huff, The Cake Blog)
2 1/4 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Frosting (by Annies Eats)
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, divided
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Seedless strawberry jam
Lightly salted peanuts


Instructions:

For the Peanut Butter Cake
1. Preheat oven to 35o0 degrees F. Grease and flour three 6-inch pans. 
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and peanut butter until creamy. Add in the sugar and mix on medium for about 3 minutes. 
4. Decrease the speed to low and add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
5. With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture, then stream in the milk and mix until incorporated. Add in the remaining flour and mix until combined. 
6. Evenly divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for about 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting
1. Combine the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of the confectioners' sugar in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and stiff peaks form, being careful not to over mix.
2. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl. In the now empty bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds.
3. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar to the bowl and mix in, slowly at first until incorporated, then increasing the mixer speed to high. Blend in the vanilla extract and salt, and continue to whip on high speed until very fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
4. Use a large spatula to gently fold about a third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter frosting. Once the first additional has been evenly incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no streaks remain.

Assembly:
1. While cakes are still a bit chilled, level all of your layers to make three equal cakes.
2. Place your first layer on the cake plate or turn table and pipe a border of the peanut butter frosting around the edge to create a wall for the jam. Fill the center with about 1/2 cup strawberry jam and carefully spread it around.
3. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first layer and repeat step two.
4. Place the third layer of cake, bottom side up, on the second layer and create a crumb coat around the entire cake. Refrigerate or freeze to set.
5. When cake is set, place a second coat of frosting on the cake, pipe stars around the top and fill the middle with remaining jam. Use peanuts for garnish.

Sources: The Cake Blog and Annie's Eats