Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Snickerdoodle Cake

As I enjoyed Sunday's snickerdoodles with the kids, I couldn't help but wonder how I could turn the classic cookie into a cake. I immediately I started looking for recipes on Pinterest and my favorite cake blogs, but wasn't 100% excited about any. I didn't just want a vanilla cake with cinnamon sugar frosting. No, I like taking it to the next level... or at least attempting to (doesn't always work out).  


My vision for this cake included buttery cake layers with cinnamon speckled throughout, and different flavors and textures between each layer.

As I looked around, I came across a churro chocolate cake on The Cake Blog that sounded and looked divine. While I wasn't in the market for spiced chocolate ganache, the cake recipe itself was seemingly perfect for what I wanted my cake to be - just needed to add a big spoonful of cinnamon! So I went with their cake recipe and was really pleased with how it turned out. Despite the whopping amount of sugar it calls for, it wasn't overly sweet (which was a good thing since the filling and frosting take care of that quite well).

For the fillings, I decided to use Sweetapolita's cinnamon sugar spread from her Sugar Spice Delight cake. I love the texture it adds to the cake, as well as the added punch of cinnamon sugar. 

Then, the other idea I had was to add white chocolate ganache, thanks to some snickerdoodle white chocolate blondies a friend recently made me (check out Sally's Baking Addition for that recipe. It's delish!). 




After sampling the cake, I actually don't think it needs the white chocolate ganache. In fact, it wasn't really noticeable, and I liked the rest of the cake just fine without it. Next time around, I think I'll skip the white chocolate ganache and just use the cinnamon sugar spread and a thin layer of frosting in between each of the cake layers. If you decide to use the white chocolate ganache, let me know what you think!


Enjoy!

Snickerdoodle Cake

Yield: 6-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Cake (adapted from The Cake Blog)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted twice then measured
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread (recipe by Sweetapolita)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

For the White Chocolate Ganache
1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

For the Brown Sugar Buttercream
3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 cups confectioners' sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Instructions

For the Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8" round pans with butter, parchment and flour.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Stir vanilla into buttermilk. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed using the paddle attachment. Cream until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
5. With the mixer on low, add egg whites one at a time. Mixing well after each egg.
6. Add one third of your dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 
7. Add one half of your buttermilk. Mix. Alternate ingredients again. Dry, wet, dry and mix gently. Do not over mix.
8. Divide batter between the three prepared pans. Bake 30-33 minutes, rotating pans around 20 minutes. Cake is finished when a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Cool 10-20 minutes before inverting cakes from pans. Cool completely before assembling cake or wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using until the next day.

For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until incorporated

For the White Chocolate Ganache
1. In a small sauce pan, heat the cream to a simmer and then pour over the white chocolate chips in a separate bowl. 
2. Let the cream sit on top of the chips for 10 minutes, and then stir until glossy and shiny.

For the Brown Sugar Frosting
1. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together for 3-6 minutes until nice and fluffy.
2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, and then the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. You can add a tablespoon or two of cream if the frosting feels too dense. Beat the frosting again for another few minutes.

Assembly
1. After cakes are cooled and chilled, divide each cake in two, horizontally. Place your first cake layer, face up, on a cake plate or foil wrapped cardboard. Spread the cake with 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar filling. Then spread 1/3 of the cooled white chocolate ganache on top of the cinnamon sugar layer. If the ganache is still  runny, set the cake in the refrigerator to let the chocolate set before continuing.
2. Place your next cake layer on top of the cinnamon sugar and white chocolate. Spread 1/2 - 3/4 cup of the brown sugar frosting evening across the cake layer.
3. Repeat steps one and two, so you have three layers with the cinnamon sugar and white chocolate and two layers of frosting. Crumb coat the cake with the brown sugar frosting and chill for 30 minutes.
4. Frost the cake with the remaining brown sugar buttercream. Can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, overnight but make sure to serve room temperature.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday Snickerdoodles

I love Sundays. For me and my crew, it means sleeping in a little (and my little, I really do mean a little... like 7 am little), going to church, and enjoying an afternoon of laziness, or walking to the park for a game of family basketball, or driving up the canyon, or most often, making something yummy in the kitchen. 

While baking cakes with my kids tends to be a little stressful (there's typically more that can go wrong), baking cookies with them is one of my favorite things to do. Yesterday, we decided to try my mom's new favorite snickerdoodle recipe that she's been raving about (similar to my never-ending search for the best chocolate chip cookies, my mom has been on the hunt for the best snickerdoodle cookie recipe and I think she finally found it.)


This recipe uses vegetable shortening, in addition to butter, which helps give the cookie a nice crinkle look on top. It also uses cream of tartar, which adds to the flavor and lift of the cookie, so don't substitute it with baking powder. And, make sure to not over-bake them so you get a perfectly chewy texture in the middle, with a slight crunch on the outside. 


These cookies are so easy to make. It's really a great recipe to make with your little ones. They will especially love rolling the cookie dough in the cinnamon sugar... and then licking their fingers :)




While eating the cookies last night, I had the idea of warming up some dulce de leche and adding a dollop to my cookie. Sometimes, I have truly brilliant ideas in the kitchen. This was one of those moments! Homemade salted caramel sauce drizzled on top would also be heavenly.



Snickerdoodles

Yield: 22-24 cookies

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups sugar (divided)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 large eggs

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. 
2. Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a bowl of a stand mixing with a paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening and remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-6 minutes.
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
5. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Give dough final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain.
6. Working with 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into balls. Working in batches, roll half the dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, about 2-3 inches apart. (I only put six cookies on each of my sheets.)
7. Bake one sheet at a time, until edges of the cookies are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. (Cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone. That's what you want.)
8. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Autumn Delight Cake

First thing's first: I love sweet potatoes! I probably have one almost every day. (Seriously. Fresh out of the oven with brown sugar and almond butter, diced and roasted with olive oil, salt and a little cinnamon, or in french fry form. Hmmm. So good.) One of my favorite sweet potato dishes is my mom's Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole with toasted marshmallows. I'm sure many of you serve a similar dish at your Thanksgiving Day feast, and if it's your favorite part of the meal, as it is mine, you're going to swoon over this cake.

Sweetapolita created this beauty, and it's one of my absolute favorite cakes of all time. Yup, add it to the list with the chocolate salted caramel and gingerbread latte. To me, it's my mom's sweet potato casserole in cake form: nearly two pounds of mashed sweet potatoes, lots of cinnamon, toasted marshmallows and candied pecans! Oh, and then there's the addition of crystallized ginger and brown sugar buttercream! So many flavors and textures - it's pure heaven. 




I actually made this cake for a wedding, so I couldn't slice into it to show you just how dreamy it looks inside. Check out the original post here for pictures of the cake layers. If you're not already convinced you need to make this cake, Rosie's pictures are sure to convince you.

Enjoy!


Autumn Delight Cake (recipe source: Sweetapolita.com)

Yield: 8-inch, 4-layer cake

Ingredients

For the Sweet Potato Cake
3 large sweet potatoes (about 900 g)
2 cups (400 g) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
2 cups (230 g) cake flour
1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
1 teaspoon (3 g) nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum (optional - I didn't use it, but you could also use a imitation flavor)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (120 g) crystallized ginger, chopped

For the Toasted Marshmallow Filling
16 large white marshmallows
1 cup (125 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup (227 g / 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 jar (about 200 g) marshmallow cream/fluff

For the Brown Sugar Frosting
5 large egg whites (150 g)
1 1/4 cups (250 g) light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (340 g/ 3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
a few pinches of cinnamon, to taste

For the Candied Pecans
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (24 g) brown sugar
1 cup (100g) pecan pieces

Instructions

For the Sweet Potato Cake
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
2. Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave safe plate and pierce them with a fork. Microwave until they are tender (about 7-8 minutes each side). Carefully, remove the skin when cool enough to touch and mash the flesh into a coarse puree.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled sweet potato puree and mix until combined.
4. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and ground ginger) and then add to sweet potato mixture.
5. Mix in brand/dark rum (if using) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
6. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about two inches apart. Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (mine took 45 minutes).
7. Let pans cool on wire rack 10 minutes, invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.

For the Toasted Marshmallow Filling
1. Place marshmallows on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on lower rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, about 30-60 seconds. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the marshmallows over, and broil until they are golden brown. (Be sure to keep an eye on them, they burn quickly).
2. In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and icing sugar on low until blended, about one minute. Add vanilla and mix on medium-high speed for about three minutes.
3. Add marshmallow cream and (cooled) toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about one minute.

For the Brown Sugar Frosting
1. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with a paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. With the whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). Don't begin to add the butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, not warm at all.
3. Switch over to the paddle attachment and, with the mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if it curdles, keep mixing and it will come back.) If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for 15-30 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Add cinnamon to taste and blend.

For the Candied Pecans
1. Melt the butter in small pan. Mix in brown sugar, and add the pecans. Toss to coat.
2. Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to watch carefully so they don't burn.
3. Turn out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and let cool for five minutes, break apart into smaller pieces if using halves.

Assembly
1. Slice both cake layers in half horizontally, so you have four cake layers. 
2. Place the first layer on a place, pedestal or cake board cut side up (s0 bottom of the cake layer is touching the plate), and spread about 3/4 cup of the toasted marshmallow filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge. Sprinkle with a handful of candied pecan pieces.
3. Repeat previous steps until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face cake down and chill cake for 30-40 minutes.
4. Frost cake with buttercream and top with a generous handful of candied pecans and crystallized ginger.
5. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to eight hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but always serve at room temperature (Swiss Buttercream should never be served cold, as it goes back to a cold butter texture).





Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Gingerbread Latte Cake

There's a restaurant in Santa Monica I used to go to with my mom on our "girls' days" called Cafe Montana. The food was always delicious and memorable, but the one thing I looked forward to more than anything was the molasses cookie. It was heavenly. The flavor of the ginger and the molasses was perfectly balanced, both strong but both clearly noticeable in their own right. The cookie itself was rolled in sugar and had a chewy center texture with an ever-so-slightly crispy edge. It was perfect. The best molasses cookie I've ever tasted (and I've had my fair share). It's one of my favorite cookies, only second to the Jacque Torres chocolate chip cookie, of course. 

So with all that said, you can imagine the pure joy in my soul when I took the first bite of this gingerbread cake and it tasted exactly like that molasses cookie from Cafe Montana (just in cake form). I didn't even have to taste the frosting to determine that this cake was going in my top five list. But then I did taste the frosting with the cake, and the toffee bits, and the salted caramel... and I about fell to the floor in sheer happiness and contentment, because that's what a great cake does to me. I forget about everything else in life, even the need to stand, and just want to think about -and eat- the incredible cake.



This cake comes from The Cake Blog contributor, Tessa Huff. I have made several of her cakes now and I've never been disappointed. In fact, the entire blog is one to write down and return to over and over again. Definitely a trusted source!

I followed the cake recipe exactly, but did change the frosting and added the salted caramel. Tessa's frosting is a meringue buttercream, and can be found here. Since I'm not a huge fan of meringue buttercream, I altered the frosting to be a regular buttercream. I also didn't have espresso powder on hand, so I used instant coffee granules and had to increase the amount to get a rich "latte" flavor. If you don't want to use espresso powder or coffee granules, you can also use imitation coffee flavoring. If you absolutely hate the taste of coffee, this cake would also pair great with a salted caramel frosting.

Next time I think I'll put even more salted caramel on top. You can never really have enough of caramel, right?

Also, I found the cookie sticks and caramel waffle cookies at Trader Joes, and this beautiful serving platter from Target. Score!



Hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!


Gingerbread Latte Cake (recipe source: Tessa Huff, The Cake Blog, 2013)

Yield: one 6-inch, 3-layer cake

Ingredients:

For the Gingerbread Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/4 cups milk

For the Latte Frosting
2 cups unsalted butter
2 tbsp. instant coffee granules* 
1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups confectioners' sugar
Generous pinch of salt

For the Salted Caramel
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Garnish
Hershey's Toffee Bits


Instructions:

For the Gingerbread Cake
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 6-inch pans and set aside. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add in the brown sugar and cream together on medium speed.
4. On medium-low, gradually add in the eggs and molasses until incorporated.
5. Add in the grated ginger.
6. Alternating between dry and wet, add in the flour mixture and the milk in three additions on low speed.
7. Once mixed, place the batter into the prepared pans.
8. Bake 35-40 minutes, checking around 30 minutes. (Alternately, you could also use three 8-inch pans and cook for 25-30 minutes.)
9. Cool on a wire rack before de-panning.

For the Latte Frosting
1. Dissolve the instant coffee granules in the water. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter on medium-high for 3-5 minutes. Gradually add in the coffee or coffee flavoring and the vanilla and beat for another two minutes.
3. On low speed, add the confectioners' sugar and salt. Once the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

*I use the decaf instant coffee in individual packets.  You can also use imitation coffee flavoring, and omit the water.

For the Salted Caramel
1. Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan.
2. Bring the water and sugar mixture to boil over medium heat, but DO NOT STIR. (Stirring encourages crystallization). Let the mixture cook until it caramelizes into a golden brown color. It happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
3. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and slowly mix in the cream. Pour in just a tiny bit at a time, especially at the beginning, and mix to combine. You can start adding more and more as you go along.
4. Mix in salt, lemon juice or vinegar and vanilla. Stir to combine.
5. Let cool completely before pouring on top of the cake.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Now that we've been making cakes together for a couple months, I think it's time I share a little secret with you. I don't like carrot cake. Not. At. All. The carrots I can handle, but nuts and raisins in a cake? No thanks! Why would someone want to ruin a perfectly good spice cake with nuts and raisins. Sorry, that's just not my jam. Yet, every year around Easter, I try a bite of carrot cake, hoping I'll like it. I never do. 

You're probably now asking yourself why I'm posting about carrot cake if I dislike it so much. Well, let me tell you because there's a good reason I'm posting about this particular carrot cake. It's actually amazing. 

A couple years ago I was asked to make a carrot cake for a family event, and because I don't bake cakes that I wouldn't eat, I was adamant about finding a carrot cake recipe that was not only nut and raisin free but also unique and different from what everyone else makes year after year. 

I checked a couple of my go-to cake blogs and quickly found the perfect carrot cake recipe (in my opinion). The recipe originates from the Ontario-based magazine, LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, but I found it on Sweetapolita.com. Rosie raved about the flavors and textures and I knew if it had her stamp of approval, it was going to be a hit.

Aside from the fact that this cake doesn't have nuts and raisins in it (which, that alone, makes it a winner for me), one of my favorite things about this cake is the zingy chunks of crystallized ginger. When you take a bite of this cake and start chewing on pieces of candied ginger, it will change the way you think about carrot cake. I promise. This cake also uses a white chocolate frosting instead of a cream cheese frosting - another reason I love it so much.

Lots of carrot, lots of ginger, lots of texture and flavor!




So even if you're not a huge fan of carrot cake, I urge you to try this one and see if it changes your mind, like it did for me. And I would love to know if it does!

Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing (recipe source: Sweetapolita/LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, Spring 2011) 

Yield: one 9-inch layered cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake
5 cups ( 1.25 L) grated carrots
1/2 cups (125 ml) finely chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger in syrup
1 orange
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla
2/3 cup (150 ml) milk

For the Icing
1 cup (250 ml) butter, at room temperature
6 squares (6 oz/175 g) white chocolate
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
3/4 tsp (4 ml) almond extract
Generous pinch of salt
3 cups (750 ml) sifted confectioners' sugar

Garnish
Chopped crystallized ginger

Instructions:

For the Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or lightly oil two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Grate carrots using a food processor. Measure out 5 cups. Finely chop ginger. Grate peel from orange. Set each aside separately. Place flour in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger. Stir until blended. Sprinkle in orange peel while stirring.
3. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat on medium for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, then vanilla. Don't worry if it seems curdled. Beating on low, gradually add about a third of the flour mixture. Beat until just mixed, followed by half the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour. Sprinkle chopped ginger and stir to distribute. Stir in carrots.
4. Divide batter between pans. Spread as evenly as possible to side of pans. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centers seem set when lightly tapped, 30-35 minutes. Place on a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and cool completely on racks. It's best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.

For the Icing
1. Beat butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until very creamy. Place chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir, then microwave on medium for another minute. Stir until smooth. Gradually beat into butter. Add vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Beat for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Pink Ombré Birthday Cake

Just got some pictures back of the pink ombré birthday cake I did last week and wanted to share them with you. My friend Ashley does such a great job putting all the details together and is an excellent photographer. I just love her work. 

This is the same white cake and whipped vanilla frosting I did for Avery's birthday in August. You can find the recipe here

Also, one quick tip about coloring your cake batter or frosting - use the gel icing colors, like THESE from Wilton, not the liquid ones. The gels give you more color for less dye, and they won't affect the consistency of your batter or frosting. 






Happy Monday!