• Birthday Cake Year 3

    I know. It’s been a month again, I KNOW. Here’s the thing. I tried to justify using our hard-won groceries for this blog, but at the end of the day, my fear of using all the eggs for something that didn’t work out kept me from cooking for fun during much of this quarantine. Also, to be frank, my sister and I were eating several variations of white beans for most dinners, and while delicious, they are not very photogenic. I know I usually keep these posts before the recipes on the short side, but what the hell, I have nothing else to do and I know you don’t either, so let’s chat! After returning to my parents’ house and spending a little over a week in ~light~ quarantine, I was finally allowed back in the kitchen last week, and I cannot emphasize enough how much it helped my mood. I put on my headphones, set up my laptop to play movies, and got to work doing what I love most- feeding people.

    I know that I am incredibly lucky to have a job while in quarantine, a roof over my head, and sweet and wonderful parents to take care of me even though I turned 25 last week. These are frightening times, and it’s okay to be scared! The most important thing to remember is that this situation, while it doesn’t necessarily feel like it, is temporary. That’s what I keep reminding myself, and as long as we all do our part and STAY INSIDE, we’ll be okay. So while it’s weird to not be able to run to the grocery store every time I want to cook something random, we’ll make do, learn to love beans, and sometimes have cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s quarantine, who cares!

    This brings me to the point of this post, which is this cake. I’m sure you’ve caught on by now that I like to make my own birthday cake. Every year they become more of a project – see years one and two– and this year was no exception. In a perfect world, I was going to take off from work, spend the day at the Met, and then come home and bake a cake, but alas. Now, I had to pour all my birthday energy into this one cake, and boy did I. Because I’m a nutcase and I love to plan things, I had a vision board of sorts where I’d save pictures of cakes over the course of the year as inspiration for my cake, and the one I kept going back to was a sweet pink one topped with maraschino cherries. It felt old fashioned and a little bit like a child’s birthday cake, so uh, the perfect way to ring in year 25. The almond cake is filled with apricot jam, because if it doesn’t taste like a petit four, what’s the use? And, because I’m an adult, I also made my sisters participate in a tea party lunch. Not bad for a quarantine birthday!

    It isn’t a proper birthday without birthday tea!

    Now, because we could all use a few things to be happy about today, here are not five, but TEN things:
    ONE. Those moments where you laugh so much that no sound comes out.
    TWO. Feeling a breeze through the open window.
    THREE. The first sunny day after days of rain.
    FOUR. Texting someone in the middle of the night to find out that they’re still awake too.
    FIVE. Lying in your bed in the dark and hearing the rain tap on the windows.
    SIX. Filling pages of a notebook with thoughts that only you will read.
    SEVEN. Stacks of cookbooks for every occasion.
    EIGHT. Reading a book so good that you finish it in one sitting.
    NINE. Going for a walk to be alone in nature.
    TEN. Driving around with no real destination, listening to music with the windows down.

    Without further ado, let’s bake!!

    Almond Sponge Cake Ingredients
    (from Molly Yeh’s Valentine’s Day Almond Cake)

    ½ cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    8 oz. (1 package) almond paste
    6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
    1 tsp vanilla
    ½ tsp almond extract
    Pinch of kosher salt
    ½ cup white sugar

    American Buttercream Ingredients

    7 cups confectioner’s sugar
    2 sticks butter, softened
    4-6 Tbsp whole milk
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    Food coloring, for decorating
    Apricot Jam, for filling
    Maraschino cherries (with stems), for decorating


    Steps

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment paper.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

    Using a stand mixer, beat together the almond paste (torn into pieces) and egg yolks until the mixture is thickened and uniform. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and set aside.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Then, add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, making sure not to deflate the eggs too much. Sprinkle the flour over top and finish by folding into the batter.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and loosen the sides of the cake away from the pans, but allow the cakes to cool almost completely in the pans before turning out. They may sink a little in the middles but it’s okay! That’s what frosting is for!

    While the cake cools, make the buttercream by beating together the softened butter and powdered sugar until combined. Add the vanilla, and the milk a few tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached, then the food coloring in whatever colors you feel like!

    To decorate, I didn’t trim the tops of my cakes but you can if you’d like, then place the flat side of one cake down. Fill the middle with your choice of jam and/ or buttercream, then place the second cake on top upside down, so that the flat bottom is the top surface. This will ensure that you have a neat, flat cake!

    If you’d like, lightly cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting to “crumb coat”, and chill for at least an hour, to overnight. Finish with a thicker layer of frosting, then decorate however you’d like! I went a little crazy on the piping, which I’m still trying to get better at, and topped it with cherries. Enjoy, and stay safe!!

    xoxoxoxD

  • Norwegian Gold Cake

    On the heels of a very family-filled weekend, it seems only fitting to share with you a family recipe that has been passed down and sideways since before I was born. Called “Norwegian Gold Cake”, I am actually unsure of where it even got its name, but the recipe comes from the grandmother of my mom’s cousins (what that makes her to me, I couldn’t even begin to guess). The cake is luxuriously rich and golden in color thanks to the 5 eggs in the batter, but is also perfectly offset by the lemon-orange buttercream that tops it. Its got the zest and juice of both fruits and is the freshest, brightest tasting frosting you’ll ever have. When I was little, you knew dessert would be good if you showed up to my grandparents house and this cake was sitting on its cake plate on the dining room table. My grandma even put her own spin on it, preparing the cake with half citrus frosting and half coffee frosting. This may sound like a strange combo, but both frostings pair so well with a dense cake like this one separately, however the real best way to eat it is to have one slice with some coffee frosting and some citrus frosting. Traditionally in this family, this cake is baked in a tube pan, but it could also be done in a 9 x 13″ as a sheet cake instead, although a shorter baking time will probably be required.

    A piece of advice, read this recipe through all the way before starting, since some of the process is different than most cake batters. This recipe uses the reverse creaming method, which involves beating together the flour and butter instead of the sugar and butter. This way, gluten doesn’t start forming until the flour comes into contact with a liquid, and when the flour is coated in butter, it slows down this production. As a result, the cake should be more tender and velvety, as well as bake with less of a domed top. That last bit doesn’t matter so much for this recipe since you aren’t stacking the cake, but when making layer cakes, reverse creaming is a good idea since each cake bakes up flatter and less trimming is required. There’s your baking education for the week!

    This weekend we watched my only brother graduate from Notre Dame and it was so special. We spent Friday in Chicago, where we saw the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, and had some crazy good food to warm us up on a particularly drizzly day (I’m talking chicken and waffles for brunch AND Russian food for dinner), then drove to Indiana for the remainder of the weekend. I am immensely proud of everything my brother has done, it’s been awesome to watch him grow over the past four years and he deserves every good thing coming to him. He’ll be starting a job at Google in August and ooooooh we’re so proud! Go Aidan!


    Before we get started, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Sun showers that produce rainbows.
    TWO. Going out for tea.
    THREE. Putting your hair up.
    FOUR. Having your coffee in the park.
    FIVE. Pinch bowls.

    Norwegian Gold Cake

    This may be the most coveted family recipe that I've got; a moist, rich cake with the most perfect citrus buttercream, this cake is perfect for birthdays, dinner parties, or when you just feel like treating yourself!
    Prep Time 45 mins
    Cook Time 40 mins
    Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
    Course Dessert

    Ingredients
      

    Norwegian Gold Cake Ingredients

    • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
    • 1⅓ cups all purpose flour
    • 5 eggs
    • cups sugar
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste

    Citrus Buttercream Ingredients

    • 1 lb confectioner's sugar
    • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
    • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
    • 1 Tbsp fresh orange juice + zest

    Instructions
     

    Norwegian Gold Cake Steps

    • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a tube pan or 9×13" cake pan with butter and flour, then set aside.
    • Cream together the flour and butter on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
    • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and baking powder, then add this to the flour mixture. Mix in the vanilla.
    • Pour the batter into your prepared pan and tap on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the cake tester comes out clean. If you're using a 9×13" pan, start checking earlier, between 25 and 30 minutes instead. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

    Citrus Buttercream Steps

    • Cream the butter and confectioners sugar together on low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the vanilla.
    • Add the lemon juice and zest, plus the orange juice and zest, and mix until incorporated. At this point, you can adjust the proportions by adding more confectioners sugar for a thicker frosting, or more juice for a thinner one.
    • When the cake is completely cooled, frost and decorate however you'd like! If you're feeling ~fancy~, you could even try to candy some fruit peels, instructions found here!
    Keyword buttercream, cake, citrus

    YUM! xoxoxoxoxoD

  • Wildflower Coconut Cake

    Hello!! How convenient that my birthday falls on the same day of my Sweet D posts. As a result, I bring you my birthday cake 2019, because yes, I do bake my own birthday cakes! It’s great because I can do whatever flavors or designs I want, and no one can tell me not to! This year I chose a crowd pleaser though, who doesn’t love coconut cake?? This particular recipe comes from Queen Ina Garten herself, because I was looking for the classic flavors of the coconut cake from the bakery by my house: vanilla, almond, coconut, and the sweet tang of luscious cream cheese frosting. And, to pull out all the stops, I tried my hand again at some buttercream flowers, and I get better every time!

    Before baking this year’s cake, I took a trip to Michaels and got some supplies, including some cake boards, baking strips, a wire cake trimmer, a flower nail, and some fancy gel food coloring. The cake board goes on your cake stand or plate, and allows for easy transfer from one surface to another. The baking strips are something I should’ve gotten a LONG time ago- you soak them for 5 minutes before baking, and then wrap them around the sides of the cake pans. This keeps the sides of the pan cooler, and results in a cake that bakes more evenly and flat. The cake trimmer lets me take the uneven top off in one motion, because I am notoriously bad at cutting my cakes evenly. The flower nail and gel food colors are for the buttercream flowers and wow does the flower nail make a difference! It lets you get every side of the flower in one motion, and results in much more even flowers.

    I’m excited about what my 24th year on this earth holds, hopefully many more cakes and a pie or two (or seven). Until then, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Zippy limes.
    TWO. Bike baskets.
    THREE. The glow you get from being outdoors.
    FOUR. Pitchers on the porch.
    FIVE. Strawberry Rhubarb jam.

    Let’s bake!!

    MAKE: 1 2-layer cake
    PREP TIME: 2-3 hours (depending on flowers and decorating)
    BAKE TIME: 45-55 minutes.

     

    COCONUT CAKE INGREDIENTS

    ¾ lb. (3 sticks)  unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    5 eggs, at room temp
    1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
    1½ tsp almond extract
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 cup milk
    4 oz. shredded sweetened coconut

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS

    1 lb. cream cheese, softened
    ½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    ¾ tsp vanilla bean paste
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    Shredded sweetened coconut (for decoration)

    BUTTERCREAM FLOWER INGREDIENTS

    1 stick butter, softened
    1 lb. powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3-4 Tbsp whole milk

    CAKE STEPS

    ONE. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If you’re using baking strips on the outside, start soaking them now.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bow one or two times during this process to make sure it’s all being evenly mixed. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, then add them one at a time to the butter mixture. Once all the eggs are incorporated, add in the vanilla and almond, and mix to combine.

    THREE. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl. You’ll be adding the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture in 5 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold the shredded coconut into the batter.

    FOUR. Divide the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for 30 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and almond extract on low speed until combined, but do not whipped.

    TWO. Carefully spoon in the powdered sugar a few at a time until it’s all smooth and incorporated. Repeat for a second batch.


    BUTTERCREAM STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until combined. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached the desired consistency, but make sure it’s not too wet because it will be harder for flowers to hold their shape. Repeat as necessary for more flower colors.

    CAKE ASSEMBLY

    ONE. Place one cake flat side down on your cake stand or plate. Add a cup or so of frosting to the top and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top so that the flat bottom of this cake is the top. Crumb coat this cake with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting, and chill for 20-30 minutes.

    TWO. Coat the cake with a second, thicker layer of cream cheese frosting and smooth out. Gently press the shredded coconut around the sides of the cake evenly. Top the cake with the chilled buttercream flowers and fill in any gaps with extra buttercream. Now cut yourself a generous slice and enjoy!!

    *Pro Tip #1: for buttercream flower tips, see here.

    *Pro Tip #2: when storing leftover cake (assuming there is any!), press two pieces of sliced sandwich bread over the cut sides. This will prevent the cake from drying out and keep it nice and soft.

    YAY! XoxoxoxoxD