sweets

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Strawberry Milk Buttercream

HERE WE ARE!! Welcome to Sweet D’s 50th recipe post! I simply can’t believe how quickly time flies, can you? It seems like 5 minutes ago that I was just starting out, wondering if I was going to give up after 2 weeks. I find myself getting bored so easily that a small part of me was worried I would be over it pretty soon, but heck no! 50 recipes later and I’m having just as much fun as when I started, more so even, now that I’ve found a rhythm. I have grown as a cook and a baker, challenged myself, and learned so much.

It seems perfect that this milestone comes the week of Thanksgiving, when I’m reminded of everything that I’m thankful for in this life. I know it’s so cheesy to say, but I’m going to anyway. I am so lucky to have the support of my family and my friends, all of whom push me to do my very best, and who are always there to taste test. I am also thankful for this love of food, and for those bloggers and professionals who have continued to inspire me. And last but not least, I am thankful for each and every person that reads Sweet D, because without you I would just be talking nonsense into the internet void, which would still be fun for sure, but not nearly as fulfilling.

It’s only fitting that I celebrate this little life victory with a cake, because is it really a celebration if you don’t eat one? Today’s cake is equal parts lazy and extra, much like myself. It’s lazy in that I baked a chocolate sheet cake and didn’t want to even remove it from the dish- no sides to frost, no trimming, no stacking! But its extra-ness comes from this glorious frosting. I came across this recipe for German Buttercream on Serious Eats, and I had never heard of it before!! I’ve heard of American, Swiss, and Italian buttercreams, but German? I just had to know.

Upon digging deeper, I learned that to make this style of buttercream, you essentially have to make pudding first, chill it, and then whip it with butter and voila!  What’s cool is that you can infuse the milk with other flavors before you make the pudding, which got me thinking…what if the milk wasn’t just regular milk, but strawberry milk?? That beautiful, millennial pink stuff in the Nesquik bottles, reminiscent of childhood, its flavor a perfect compliment to chocolate cake. And so, an idea was hatched, and here we are.  And, because I had to take it just another level higher, I conquered another fear and that fear is buttercream flowers. I’ll tell you that practice makes perfect for these, but some reference videos and a good set of piping tips surely helps as well. This frosting has 5 sticks of butter in it (trust me, it’s not a typo), so if you find the buttercream starting to get too warm as you pipe, throw it in the fridge for 15 minutes and then go from there!

Here is the video I found helpful from Wilton, just keep going, you can always scrape the flowers off and start again!! It turns out to be very calming; I put on some TV, got comfy, and piped away!

And because it wouldn’t be a Sweet D post without some happys, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. The first snow of the year.
TWO. Christmas Tree Farms
THREE. Thanksgiving naps after too much turkey.
FOUR. Watching the parade from under a cozy blanket with a nice cup of tea.
FIVE. Early rising and productive mornings.

Makes: One 9 x 13″ sheet cake, serves 12-15, plus 7 cups buttercream
Prep Time: 1 hour
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 35-40 Minutes

Chocolate Sheet Cake Ingredients

2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup flavorless oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water
½ cup very hot brewed coffee

Chocolate Sheet Cake Steps

ONE. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish and dust with cocoa powder.

TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder + soda, and salt. Once combined, add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes. Lastly, add the boiling water and hot coffee, mixing slowly to combine without splashing (the batter will be very thin). Transfer to your baking dish.

THREE. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick/ cake tester comes out clean. For this recipe, I’m leaving the cake in the dish for serving, but if you’d like to remove it, allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before flipping. Otherwise, allow to cool completely in the baking dish before frosting.

 

Strawberry Milk Buttercream Ingredients

1½ cups strawberry milk (or plain milk with strawberry powder/ syrup)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean)
¾ cup white sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, cold
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 sticks (I KNOW, trust me) unsalted butter, at room temp.

 

Strawberry Milk Buttercream Steps

ONE. Combine the strawberry milk and vanilla bean paste in a heavy bottom saucepan and heat on medium until steaming. Set aside to infuse the vanilla bean flavor for at least 1 hour.

TWO. To make the custard, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Once combined with no cornstarch lumps, whisk in the eggs.

THREE. Return the milk to a simmer. Ladle a rough ½ cup of the heated milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs without cooking them. Repeat with 2 more ladles, then transfer the tempered egg mixture to the pot with the milk.

FOUR. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard becomes thick and lumpy, it should be about 3 minutes. As soon as you see the first bubble in the custard (indicating boiling), set a timer for 2 minutes and continue to whisk constantly. Cooking the custard for these 2 minutes at a steady boil temperature neutralizes a starch-dissolving protein in the egg yolks and ensures a better frosting consistency.

This custard smells SO good, and it has the sweetest rosy pink color!

FIVE. After 2 minutes and off heat, stir in vanilla extract, then pour the custard into a large baking dish to speed up the cooling process. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. *Tip: take out your butter to soften now, so that when the hour is up your butter is also ready!

Your frosting should be this fluffy and light, that’s when you know it’s done!

SIX. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, it should take about five minutes. Meanwhile, begin to “knead” your cooled custard with a rubber spatula. It will be a very thick consistency, and before adding it to the butter it needs to be mixed into a dough-like state. Once it’s properly mixed, add it to the whipped butter a tablespoon at a time, one right after the other, scrape down the bowl, and mix for a few more seconds to fully combine.

SEVEN. At this point, switch to a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until the buttercream is airy and light.*

 

*Troubleshooting tips: if a buttercream is going to go wrong, it’s either because the mixture is too warm or the mixture is too cold. The good news is that neither of these are unfix-able so there’s no need to start over! Find your solutions below:

Problem: If your buttercream is too cold, it won’t whip up properly, it looks heavy and thick, not light and airy.
Solution: Place the entire bowl in a warm water bath until the sides of the bowl are slick with melting buttercream, then pop back in the mixer and whip as normal.

Problem: The butter was too warm and now the buttercream is soupy and/ or runny.
Solution: Pop the whole bowl in the fridge and chill for 15 to 20 minutes to firm everything up slightly, then try try again!

Love you love you, xoxoxoxoD.

 

sweets

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

sweets

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

sweets, Uncategorized

Classic Cream Puffs

On this week’s episode of “My Adventures with Pâte à Choux”,  I conquered an old childhood favorite. I have vivid memories of Friday night pizza dinners where my dad, who drove to New Jersey every day for work, would bring home pizza from the special pizza place with the triangle windows, and a box of cream puffs for dessert. While I was perusing the unofficial baking bible, Erin McDowell’s The Fearless Baker, I came across this recipe and the memories flooded back, and suddenly eating a dozen cream puffs single-handedly was all I could think about. These can be done in so many ways, changing the glaze on top and the filling inside are definitely encouraged (TFB ones are topped with a beautiful berry glaze), but for today I went with a classic vanilla cream filling and a chocolate top.

IMG_0723

This recipe is broken down into a few parts, the pastry, the filling, and the glaze. Pâte à Choux, a light french pastry dough, can be a little tricky, so I would recommend reading the directions all the way through (something I’m notoriously guilty of not doing), and set out all your ingredients in the correct forms, since once it gets going, there isn’t much downtime. These puffs are filled with vanilla diplomat cream, which sounds fancy, because it IS. But it’s also really just a mix of pastry cream and whipped cream together and wow is it good. At several times during the process I found myself standing over the bowl of it, “taste-testing” by the spoonful, we all know how that goes, right? ANYWAY, without further ado, happy baking!

Pastry Dough

½ cup water
½ cup milk
4 tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1½ cups bread flour
5 large eggs, beaten (plus 1 or 2 extra if needed)
1 large egg, beaten + 1 tbs water (for egg wash)

Steps:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, add water, milk, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil on medium-low heat. Add flour all at once, and immediately begin to stir. Reduce heat to low and stir constantly, until the mixture becomes sticky and forms a ball when moved around with the spoon. There should be a film of starch on the bottom of the pan.

2. Transfer this mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or to a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Mix briefly on low so that the mixture is slightly cooled before you add in the eggs.

3. Drizzle in beaten eggs in a steady stream with the mixer on medium, and mix until it is fully incorporated into the batter. It should be about 5 minutes.

4. To test the consistency of the batter, dip the paddle (or whisk) into the batter, and lift. The batter should form a V shape that slowly separates from the batter remaining in the bowl. If this doesn’t happen or it breaks away too quickly, it means that the dough is too stiff, in which case, repeat step 3 with another beaten egg and test again. Add a final egg if necessary to reach the right consistency. At this point, add the batter to a piping bag or ziploc bag, fitted with a large circular tip or cut to about a ¾ inch opening.

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5. Pipe small circular mounds of batter onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, like above. If the tops are too pointy, dip your finger in water and gently flatten the tops so that they bake evenly. Let the piped puffs rest for 20 to 30 minutes until the batter forms a “skin” on the outside.

6. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and position your oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Brush each puff with the egg wash and bake until they are golden brown and crisp, about 24-26 minutes. If you’re unsure of their done-ness, tap the puff with your fingertip, it should sound hollow. Allow them to cool completely.

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Sometimes the puffs will bake into some funky shapes, but I promise they will taste just as great.

Diplomat Cream:

3 cups whole milk
¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Steps:

1. Combine milk, salt, and ¼ cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the milk mixture. If you’re using vanilla extract instead, do NOT add now because it will just boil off. Save the extract for the end, don’t worry, I’ll remind you!

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This was my first time EVER baking with real vanilla beans, look how professional the little specks look!!

2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cornstarch in a medium bowl and set aside. When the milk has reached a simmer, remove the vanilla bean pod and turn the heat down to medium-low.

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One of the yolks broke but lets pretend it didn’t, they look so perfect otherwise!

3. Whisk the egg yolks into the cornstarch mixture, and then carefully (and slowly!!) drizzle in one third of the hot milk mixture, whisking the whole time to keep the eggs from scrambling. This process is called tempering, and it helps raise the overall temperature of the egg mixture so that it doesn’t immediately cook when added to the hot milk.

4. Add this tempered mixture back to the rest of the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot as you go. Cook this mixture for three to four minutes, until it becomes very thick. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract if you’re using it.

5. Push this mixture through a sieve (just in case there are lumps or accidental pieces of egg) into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap by pressing it directly to the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until completely cooled.

6. Right before filling the cream puffs, fold in the whipped cream to the chilled pastry cream gently until combined.

7. To fill the cream puffs, you can go one of two ways: 1) slice each puff completely in half and fill the bottom half of each puff with cream before replacing the top, OR 2) using a pairing knife, cut an x into the bottom of each puff. Using a piping bag, fill each puff from the bottom until they feel full- I like to overstuff mine but it’s totally your preference.

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One of these guys didn’t get the memo about the picture.

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces bittersweet (or dark) chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
Drizzle of light corn syrup (optional)

Steps:

1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil in a separate pot.

2. Once boiled, add the heavy cream to the chocolate and let stand for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. If you want the glaze to stay shinier, add a drizzle of light corn syrup and whisk until smooth.

3. If you cut your cream puffs in half, spoon the chocolate glaze over the tops, the more chocolate the better! If you filled them from the bottom, dip the tops of the puffs into the bowl of chocolate and let the excess drip off.

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Look at these beautiful bbs ready for eating!!

At this point, do what I do, which is try not to eat all of them before anyone else in your family even makes it to the kitchen. I hope you enjoy!! xoxoD