• Cinnamon Birthday Cake (with Marzipan Succulents!)

    Hello! It’s been a bit since I last posted, I’ve been all over the place but I’m back now, never fear. Today’s recipe is brought to you once again by my love of cinnamon, in case you haven’t sensed the theme here. I turned 23 on Monday, and because I know who I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own birthday cake. It works because I can experiment and pick my favorite flavors, but no one complains because it’s a cake for me anyway! (As if anyone could complain about eating cake though.)

    So to start, I use a classic birthday cake recipe from a Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook that I’ve had for years now, and it’s simplicity is its greatest asset. But because I can never leave anything alone, I added a few tweaks here and there in the form of some cinnamon, almond extract, and a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, and boy it went well. As my mo remarked, the cake smelled like snickerdoodles as it was baking, and was moist and amazing when iced and sliced. To complete the cinnamon masterpiece I covered this cake in a cinnamon-y buttercream and free-handed a few marzipan succulents for decoration. I, of course, know that they could be cleaner if I used cookie cutters or stencils, but I simply didn’t have any so I made do!

    This whole recipe is great because without my flavor additions, they serve as basic templates for cake and buttercream that can be changed as you see fit. I’m including stars next to the ingredients that I added so that the following recipe can be two in one! Let’s get baking!!

    Makes: 1 2-layer 9″ round cake or 1 9×13″ sheet cake
    Prep Time: 1 hour+ (depending on how into decorating you get!)
    Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
    Total Time: 1.5-2 hours

    Cinnamon Cake Ingredients
    adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Cake

    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp kosher salt
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon*
    ½ cup whole milk
    ½ vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
    ½ tsp almond extract*
    1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1½ cups granulated sugar
    4 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten

    Cake Steps

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your desired cake pans, or grease and line your pans with parchment paper (which is my preferred method, to keep the consistency correct and to prevent sticking mishaps).

    2. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

    3. If you’re using a vanilla bean, add the milk, almond extract, and scraped vanilla bean seeds + pod to a saucepan and heat over low heat (do not boil the milk!), until the vanilla has infused with the milk. Remove and discard the pod. If you’re using vanilla extract instead, add both extracts to your milk at room temperature.

    4. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large bowl + hand mixer), cream your butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

    5. Drizzle your eggs into the bowl of the mixer on low speed, a little at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate before adding more.

    6. Next you’re going to be adding your flour mixture and your milk mixtures alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Add your flour in 3 batches, your milk in 2. Mix until just combined.

    7. Pour the batter into your pans and spread evenly. Before baking, tap your pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    8. Allow the cakes to cool almost entirely in their pans, trying to move cakes around when they’re still warm makes them way more likely to crack or break! While they’re cooling, you can make your frosting.

    Cinnamon Buttercream
    adapted from Domino Confectioners Sugar
    *you may have to do this in 2 batches if you have a smaller mixer like me! If so, just divide these amounts in half*

    7 cups (2 boxes) confectioners sugar
    1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
    ¼-1/3 cup whole milk
    ½ vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
    ½ tsp almond extract*
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon*

    Buttercream Steps

    1. Cream together your butter and sugar. Slowly add in the milk, little by little until your frosting has reached the desired spreadable consistency.

    2. Add the extracts (or extract and vanilla bean seeds), and cinnamon, and mix to combine.

    3. Once your cakes have cooled, generously frost the top of your first cake and stack the second cake on top, so that both domed tops are in the center and the top and bottom of your cake is flat.

    4. “Crumb coat” the cake with a thin layer all over and chill for 15 minutes. Finish with a second, thicker coating of frosting. Dip your spatula in warm water and run it along the sides and the top to smooth.


    Decorations

    Almond paste (marzipan)
    Food Coloring
    Cocoa powder
    Chocolate Shavings

    or any sprinkles/ extra frosting you want!

    Steps

    1. To color your marzipan, break off a large chunk and make a well in the center, adding in a few drops of the color you want. Knead it around in your hands until the color is evenly distributed. Warning, you WILL dye your hands this way, I looked like Elphaba from Wicked for quite a while.

    2. To make a succulent, I cut out star shapes in gradually smaller sizes, starting with the largest and then 3-4 more, getting smaller each time. I layered them on top of each other one at a time and pressed the center in until the pieces were stuck together.

    3. Brush the edges with a little cocoa powder and arrange them on the top of the cake. Cover the area with chocolate shavings if you feel like it, I thought the cake needed to look a little more like a garden you know?

    Then, take at least 600 pictures to brag to your friends about your masterpiece, and enjoy!!!

    xoxoxoxoxoD

  • Triple Berry (Accidental Cherry) Pie

    Does anyone else remember that CW show Pushing Daisies? No? Just me? For those of you that don’t think about it every day as I do, it was the BEST show about a pie maker who could also wake dead people and help solve mysteries, plus it had Lee Pace and Kristen Chenoweth need I say more?? It sounds insane to type but I promise it’s so good, and so beautifully filmed and ALSO free to everyone on the CW website so 10/10 would recommend watching. Tragically, it was cancelled after two seasons, but that won’t stop me from repeatedly watching those two seasons and dreaming of passionfruit upside down pie or pear pie with gruyere baked into the crust- a strange combo but I am INTERESTED.

    This is also my segue into today’s recipe for this beautiful pie- I got my baking start in pie actually, my first real responsibility for family holidays was to bake the apple pies, and as the years went by, I got the hang of it more and more and they’ve become my favorite thing to make. Today’s pie was supposed to be triple berry (blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry), but here’s the thing. I have been searching like a crazy person for sour cherries for as long as I can remember, and have never been successful. Given that I live in New York, it’s not surprising, but it’s a real bummer every year when I see cherry pie recipes and my only option is that gloopy cherry pie filling from a can. Granted, sometimes that hits the spot, but other times when I’m not trying to put chemicals in by body I would love to make one from scratch. But, I digress. Last week I was at the ~fancy~ supermarket to buy polenta for my last post (read here), and I stumbled across JARS of pitted sour cherries in juice and I almost cried. It’s not as good as the fresh ones, but you can believe that I bought some and ate most of the cherries straight from said jar with a spoon. In an effort to control myself and to stop doing that, I made my berry filling and added in the rest of the pitted cherries to the mix, and I was definitely not mad about it (if you don’t have access to sour cherries you can just leave them out, or replace them with sweet cherries since they’re more common).

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    I use a pie crust recipe from the queen herself, Ina Garten a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, which uses a very important mix of butter AND shortening. The mix is also made in a food processor, which cuts down on how much your hands come in contact with it, which in turn keeps the butter and shortening cold before it bakes. This means that when it hits the heat of the oven, it creates steam that gives you an extra crispy (and never soggy) crust. The result is golden and buttery (from the butter, obv), but also perfectly crisp and flaky (thanks to the shortening), and I will never use another pie crust recipe. The fruit filling thickens while baking and becomes almost jammy in texture and I can’t stop thinking about it honestly. I know it’s probably irrational to bake a berry pie in the winter, but I’m dreaming of warmer weather and this is my way of coping OKAY.

    Let’s bake!!

    Makes: 1 double crust pie
    Prep Time: about 1 hour
    Bake Time: 60-70 minutes
    Total: 2.5 hours

    Crust Ingredients

    12 tbs (1.5 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
    1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
    3 cups all purpose flour
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tbs sugar
    ½ cup ice water

    Steps

    1. Before beginning, dice your butter and shortening on a cutting board, and put back in the fridge until its needed, to make sure that it stays cold.

    2. In the bowl of the food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar, and pulse several times to combine. If you don’t have a food processor available to you, you can mix in a regular bowl and use a pastry blender or your hands, but the result may not be as flaky- it’ll still taste great though!!

    3. Add in the butter and shortening and pulse the processor 10-12 times until the mixture is well combined.

    4. Next, turn the processor on high and stream in the ice water gradually, continuing to mix until a single ball of dough is formed. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten into a disk shape. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

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    Filling Ingredients

    6-7 cups mixed berries (and cherries!!) of your choice, I used raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
    2 tsp lemon juice, for brightness
    ½ cup granulated sugar (test your berries for sweetness levels and adjust accordingly, some batches are sweeter than others!)
    1/3 cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ½ tsp cinnamon (it works really well with blueberries!)
    1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs water (for egg wash)
    demerara sugar (for sprinkling)

    Steps

    1. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Before making your filling, remove pie crust from the fridge and cut in half. Roll half the dough into a circle wide enough to fit your pie tin with excess over the sides for folding, making sure that it’s an even thickness. If you’re worried about the bottom being too soggy, sprinkle some crust dust* before adding in the filling.

    2. Toss your berries with the lemon juice, sugar, flour, vanilla, and cinnamon until well-incorporated. Add on top of the bottom crust quickly so that it doesn’t sit and get too wet.

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    3. Roll out your top crust next, and here you can use your creative license a little. I went with a lattice top since I haven’t done one of those in a while, but you could also go with a regular full top crust, or play around with cookie cutters and shapes, it’s up to you! For my lattice, I rolled my crust into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick, and cut wide strips using a ruffled pastry wheel cutter.

    4. To make a lattice, start by laying out all your vertical strips- for some reason I had 5 vertical strips and 3 horizontal, don’t ask me why I didn’t just do 4 and 4 because I’m still mad about it. Anywho, starting from the top, lay your horizontal strips in the following way: over the first vertical strip, under the second vertical strip, back over the third, and continue until it’s fully across. For the second strip, start with the reverse so that it goes under the first vertical strip, then over the second, and so on, until it’s fully across. Continue with the rest of your strips, making sure that each consecutive horizontal strip starts the opposite way the one before it did. I find myself out loud saying “Over, under” and “under, over” when I do this just to help myself keep track. Trim the edges and fold the excess over, crimping with your fingers or a fork to seal the filling inside.

    5. Brush your crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with the demerara sugar. Place your pie on a cookie sheet (to catch any bubbling filling), and bake at 425º for the first 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the top isn’t browning too fast. After 20 minutes, turn your oven down to 350ºF and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden brown. I like to turn it down to 350º because it stops the crust from burning while allowing the filling to fully cook, but if you’re still worried about browning, check every now and then, and be prepared to cover the edges of your pie with tin foil or silicone pie crust protectors.

    6. Once you’ve achieved peak golden crust, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. I like to let it cool fully before reheating to eat, just to give the filling a chance to thicken and keep it together, but if you simply can’t wait, I get that too. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some homemade whipped cream and watch some Pushing Daisies!!!

    *crust dust: equal parts all purpose flour and granulated sugar, mixed together and sprinkled on the bottom pie crust before filling is added, to absorb extra juices.

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    Happy Friday and enjoy! xoxoxo

     

     

     

  • Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

    Hello everyone, Happy Friday! Congratulations on powering through another work week, I’m so proud of you! I don’t know what it was about this week that made it feel so long, even with the holiday Monday, what is that about? But now that we’re approaching the sweet, sweet weekend, why not reward yourself with a slice of this incredible double layer cake, with just the right balance of richness from the dark chocolate and brightness from the blood orange. It might seem like a weird combination, chocolate and citrus, but I PROMISE I’m not leading you astray here.

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    Cakes have always been a weak spot for me, I can never seem to get the shape of them right, and stacking is always a huge challenge. I grew up making sheet cakes for birthdays, and only after I really started baking seriously did I dive into layer cakes, and I realized that I didn’t really like them. It always seemed like so much effort for a piece of cake. BUT, then I started to do some research, and I learned a few things. Number one, don’t level or cut your cakes until they’re completely cooled, and chilling them makes it easier. Number two, different cake batters yield different crumb texture, and different crumbs cut better than others. I had always thought that my go-to sheet cake recipe would work for layered cakes, but with a much looser crumb structure, I found that it would just fall apart when I tried to cut it, resulting in crumbly, uneven cake layers.

    This recipe produces a much tighter cake batter (does that make sense? Can a cake batter be tight? I don’t know let’s just move on), and the combination of dark chocolate cocoa powder with some instant coffee granules (a secret ingredient used to make chocolate baked goods really pop) creates probably your new favorite cake ever. And, while I discovered that blood oranges don’t taste much different from regular oranges, I have been searching for them forEVER, and the beautiful natural pink color that they give the frosting just can’t be beaten.

    Anywho, let’s bake!

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    Makes: 1 double-layer cake
    Prep Time: 45 minutes
    Bake Time: 50-55 minutes
    Total Time: ~2 hours

    Dark Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

    2¾ cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1½ tsp baking soda
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp instant espresso powder
    1 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (unsweetened)
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2½ cups sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    4 eggs, at room temperature

    Steps:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line two 9 inch circular cake tins with parchment paper (or generously butter and flour them.

    2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, making sure everything is evenly incorporated.

    3. In a heat safe bowl, mix 2 cups of boiling water with the cocoa powder and espresso powder, whisking until completely smooth. Let cool.

    4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and mix. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

    5. This next step will be done in parts, with the flour mixture being added in 3 parts, and the warm cocoa mixture being added in two. Start with the flour, add a third of the mixture slowly to avoid the flour flying out of the bowl. Mix until the batter is just incorporated, don’t over-mix!

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    6. Bake the cakes (I bake them on a cookie sheet in case of spills), for 50-55 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure even cooking. Test with a wire cake tester or toothpick before removing.

    7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack, loosen the edges with a spatula and let the cakes cool completely in the pans.

    8. To level your cakes, use a thin serrated knife (like a bread knife) to cut evenly around the top of the cake to trim off the top dome and give your cakes an even surface for stacking. If it’s helpful, mark the line with toothpicks to keep your knife level. Remember, you can always trim a little more if you need to, but you can’t put it back if you’ve cut too much! Now on to the frosting…

    Blood Orange Buttercream Ingredients:
    adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog, recipe here.

    3 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
    zest of one blood orange
    ¼ cup blood orange juice
    2 tsp vanilla
    ¼ tsp salt
    4 cups powdered sugar
    A few tbs milk, if needed

    Steps:

    1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter until it becomes creamy. Slowly add in powdered sugar, cup by cup, beating until fully combined.

    2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the zest and juice of the blood orange, vanilla, and salt. Mix until combined, then increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat for about 5 minutes until fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk or so until you get the right consistency.

    3. To ice the cake, place the first cake on your cake stand and add a dollop of frosting to the top, spreading evenly. Place the second cake on top and “crumb coat” your cake lightly, then chill for 30 minutes to an hour. This keeps all the dark crumbs in the first layer of frosting and not on the outside to ruin the presentation of your cake.

    4. Use the remaining frosting to generously ice the cake, and top with any decoration that your heart desires- I went with blood orange slices, but you could use sprinkles, rosemary sprigs for color, the possibilities are endless!!

    Yay now cut yourself a generous slice and put your feet up because you DESERVE IT! All the love xoxoxoD