Sweet D’s First Birthday Baby Princess Cakes

HELLO ALL!! As you can tell from the title of this recipe, I am very excited to say that it’s Sweet D’s first birthday!!! My goodness how time flies when you get to do what you love! I won’t do some long, sappy post here since I did that ~fairly~ recently with my 50th recipe post, but if you’re feeling it, you can read that here. What I will say is thanks for sticking around a whole year, and here’s to many more years ahead!

Now it’s only fair to have a cake recipe for a birthday, no matter whose it is, and these cakes are so very important. A traditional princess cake is a full-sized cake rather than a set of mini ones, but following this recipe from Molly Yeh, these little babies just bring so much joy. They’re also very customizable, as the jam filling can be anything you feel like, the marzipan can be dyed any color of the rainbow, and your decorations can be as high or low maintenance as you please. Plus they look VERY impressive and almost too pretty to eat- the key word being almost, because not eating these would be a tragedy. Word to the wise, when the directions tell you to put the cakes covered in whipped cream in the freezer to set before covering, actually do it. It makes them soooo much easier and neater to cover with marzipan, and it will save you many a headache and ripped marzipan. Other than that, you’re ready to go!!

But first, here are five things to be happy about today:
ONE. Keeping fresh flowers by your bed, fresh herbs in the kitchen
TWO. The smell of a coffee can opening
THREE. Comfortable, stretchy clothes
FOUR. Large colonial fireplaces
FIVE. The soft splat of snow falling
Let’s get birthday baking!!

Makes: 24 Princess Cakes
Prep/ Decoration Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 18-20 minutes

Almond Cake Ingredients

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond flour
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup buttermilk

Almond Cake Steps

ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the all purpose and almond flours, salt, and baking powder + soda.

TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Alternating between the two, add a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the buttermilk, until all is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool fully in the pan, then cut into 20 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter.

Assembly Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
1 jar store bought raspberry jam (or whatever jam you feel like!)
24 oz. marzipan
Assorted food coloring

Assembly Steps

ONE.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and extracts until stiff peaks form. Spread each cake circle with a layer of jam, then, using a piping bag, pipe a small, uniform mound of whipped cream on top in a swirl. Once all the cake circles are topped with jam and whipped cream, pop the tray in the freezer to set while you prep the marzipan.

TWO. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar, and knead your desired food coloring into the marzipan to change its color. Set aside a small portion to use for decorations, such as rose buds, hearts, or polka dots. Roll the marzipan out into a 1/8″ layer, and cut out circles large enough to cover the cakes entirely without ripping. I ended up using a 3½” cookie cutter here and it worked out perfectly! This may take some trial and error depending on the size of your cakes, but you can always re-roll the marzipan if you make a mistake!

THREE. Cover each cake with a marzipan circle and trim off any excess from the bottom, re-rolling the scraps. For decoration, create small, flat strips and roll them into rosebuds and add petals, or use mini cookie cutters or the tops of piping tips to cut out hearts and circles to affix to the top.

Now bask in how cute these look and throw a tea party somewhere!! xoxoxoxoxoD

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Coconut Paris Brest

Hello and happy Tuesday my blossoms! Today’s recipe sounds super fancy because it IS, but it’s also not super hard to make, which in my book is always a plus. What is a Paris Brest you ask? Aside from something that made all my siblings laugh every time I said it, a Paris Brest is a ring of choux pastry, the kind you would have in an eclair or a cream puff, cut in half and typically filled with praline cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. When I served this to my family the other day, my Grandpa, being the world traveler that he is, wondered if this pastry got its name by being served on the train between the cities of Paris and Brest in France. Turns out he’s not that far off, because when I searched for the origin of this dessert, I found that it was commissioned by Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris. Who knew?

So, recently, I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes for a Raspberry Paris Brest and I was immediately interested. However, I had been using too much raspberry in my baking recently, so I decided that I would take the basic idea for this pastry and try something different. We had a lot of shredded coconut leftover from the holidays so suddenly it hit me: a Coconut pastry cream filled Paris Brest complete with toasted coconut. And wow was I happy I tried this because it is a DREAM. The pastry cream is made with cans of coconut milk rather than whole milk, which provided a delicate coconut flavor amplified by the toasted flakes that I sprinkled on top. While this is best consumed the same day that it’s been assembled, that won’t stop me from eating this until there is not a scrap left. Also a note, the dough recipe below will leave you with a lot leftover if you’re simply piping the three rings for your pate a choux. I got nervous and underestimated how much it would grow while baking, so I added more piped rings until I had used all the batter, and it produced a truly enormous ring. Like bigger than my head, could have maybe used it as a hoola hoop. This was not a problem for me because I have a big family and I love baked goods, but if you fear it will be too much, only pipe the original three rings and save the rest of the dough for some eclairs or even a second Paris Brest with a different flavor combo!

 

Now that that’s settled, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon waking you up on a Saturday morning.
TWO. Getting an unexpected letter or message from someone you love.
THREE. Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
FOUR. Trying something new at a restaurant and discovering you love it.
FIVE. When winter days start getting longer and the sun stays up past 5pm.

Happy? Good. Let’s bake!

Makes: 1 12-inch choux ring, or 1 8-inch ring with leftover dough
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Bake Time: 50 minutes

Pâte à Choux Ingredients

½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut small
1 Tbs white sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
Egg wash; 1 egg + 1 Tbs water
¼ cup slivered almonds

Pâte à Choux Steps

ONE. To start, set up a large sheet pan with parchment paper, and trace an 8-inch circle on the opposite side of the paper. Flip the paper back over so that you can see the traced circle but no pencil lead will get on the pastry.

TWO. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a rapid simmer (not before!), add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 4-5 minutes.

THREE. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and begin mixing. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough becomes smooth and sticky, and not too stiff so that the mixture can be piped and will rise nicely.

FOUR. Set up a piping bag with a large round tip, then fill the bag with your dough. Pipe an even circle around the outside of the traced circle on your parchment paper, then pipe a second circle inside of the first. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, in the seam between the two. Now, because I had so much dough left, I then added a third ring to the bottom layer, then a second to the middle, and one on the very top, but be warned, this makes a very wide Paris Brest (not that that’s a bad thing AT ALL). If you have a lot of dough left over but don’t want to make an enormous pastry, you could always make some eclairs as well! Just pipe the remaining batter into logs and bake.

FIVE. Paint the ring of choux dough with egg wash, and sprinkle the almonds evenly on top. Bake the dough at 375ºF for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 350ºF ad bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden. Turn the oven off and allow the pastry to cool there for one hour.


Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients

4 cups canned coconut milk (I used Goya)
1 cup white sugar, divided
4 Tbs unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or 1 whole vanilla bean, deseeded
6 Tbs cornstarch
2 eggs
6 egg yolks

Coconut Pastry Cream Steps

ONE. Bring the coconut milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla to a light boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

TWO. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks to this bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.

THREE. Carefully and slowly drizzle some of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs but not cook them. When the eggs are warm to the touch, pour them back into the saucepan with the milk and return to a boil. Stirring constantly, the mixture will get thick pretty quickly, but continue to cook for 2-3 minutes so that the custard will set and won’t separate.

FOUR. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a large bowl to catch any stray cooked egg, then press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool the eggs, then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.


Assembly Extras

½ cup coconut, toasted at 325ºF until golden
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Assembly Steps

ONE. Using a flexible bread knife, slice the pastry ring in half long ways. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe a generous layer of cream inside the bottom ring, then top with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. Repeat with another layer of pastry cream and coconut, then place the top ring back on top. Generously dust with the confectioners sugar and TADA!! Serve in slices and tell everyone you went to culinary school in Paris.

 

 

YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD

Instant Pot Short Rib Lasagna

WELCOME! As you can probably tell by the title of this recipe, I recently came into the possession of an Instant Pot and boy do I have a lot to say about it. First off, I got my Instant Pot for $30 (THIRTY. DOLLARS!!!) because I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas and this seemed like as good a purchase as any, right? Watching it deduct $75 from the list price made me feel like one of those extreme couponers and I finally GET IT. My first adventure was this chicken tortilla soup and after working out some of the kinks it turned out delicious, so I was feeling confident. I then came across this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and thought, I can adapt this to my Instant Pot no problem!!

Well, as I’m sure you can guess, it was in fact a problem. But, the magic of this blog is that I work this out so that you don’t have to! Turns out, Instant Pots do NOT like flour, and if you add even the tiniest bit of flour to your sauce, it will sink to the bottom, burn, and tell you repeatedly that the whole thing is burning four to five times until you take everything out, scrub the inner pot, and the start over. Yeah. So, I did this several times and had several full on tantrums before it worked. I still get mad at myself very easily when cooking things don’t work out the first time I try them, which I know is a bad habit and one I am certainly trying to kick, but this was truly testing me.

Now, another note about Instant Pots is that while yes, they definitely cut down the cooking time on things like stews and short ribs that would otherwise take several hours, you have to factor in the time that the pot takes to come to its set temperature and pressure, which, according to the manual, can take anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes depending on the volume and starting temperature of the food inside it. So, if your ribs need to cook for an hour and 10 minutes total, remember to add in an average 30 minutes or so because the hour and 10 minutes doesn’t start until it’s come to full pressure. After several false starts, my short ribs had almost come to a full, high pressure cooking situation several times, and as a result, I ended up lowering my overall cooking time to take that into account. However, according to the chart that came with my pot, beef ribs should be cooked for about 20-25 minutes per pound, so you can use that factor accordingly.

This is what it should look like, if you don’t burn yours several times before starting like I did!

In the end, this worked out and the lasagna was to DIE for, but I for sure gave myself a baptism by fire here. I feel as though my Instant Pot and I are destined to be enemies, but like ones that have some playful banter going, you know? I look forward to getting to know the ins and outs of this thing, and seeing how many day-long recipes I can turn into quicker projects. This recipe can also be started on a stovetop instead of the Instant Pot, and I’ve included those directions at the bottom as well.

Anyways, enough ranting, here are 5 things to be happy about today before we get to cooking:
ONE. When it’s been a week since New Year’s and you’re still following some resolutions.

TWO. An afternoon iced coffee to give you that energy kick you need.

THREE. Waking up to rain on a Saturday morning with nothing to do but stay in bed and catch up on TV.

FOUR. When you hear your grandparents talk about things they used to do growing up.

FIVE. Aquariums.

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil
4 oz. diced pancetta
3½-4 lbs. bone-in short ribs
Kosher salt, to taste
2 medium onions
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups beef broth
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2½ cups jarred pasta sauce (or your own if you feel like it!)
2 boxes no-boil lasagna noodles (12-15 noodles total)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups parmesan cheese

Steps (stovetop directions at bottom)

ONE. Turn your Instant Pot to Sauté, then add the olive oil. When the olive oil is heated, add the pancetta and cook until crisp and rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. In the pot with the rendered fat and olive oil, sear your short ribs for roughly 4 minutes, meat side down, turning if necessary so all sides are cooked. Do this in batches if you need to! Transfer cooked ribs to a bowl and set aside.

TWO. Add all chopped vegetables to the pan and allow to sweat, scraping the brown bits from the bottom as you go. I learned this the hard way, the scraping of the Instant Pot is NECESSARY, otherwise you will continue to get an annoying “burn” message. Add kosher salt here (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and cook until the veggies are translucent and soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

THREE. Add the red wine, crushed tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste, then add the seared short ribs and pancetta, layering so that no tomato paste will burn to the bottom of the pot. Make sure that the meat is entirely covered by the liquid, but that the liquid is not going over the 2/3 limit of your pot! Tie together the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves with twine and toss in on top.

Processed with VSCO with al1 preset

FOUR. Securely close the top of your Instant Pot and set to the “Meat/Stew” setting, on Normal, and adjust the cooking time based on the amount of meat you’re cooking with. According to the Instant Pot cooking chart, it should be about 20-25 minutes per pound of beef ribs, so mine cooked overall for 1 hour and 10 minutes (if you count how many times it came up to temperature and then claimed it was burning lol).

FIVE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Once the meat is finished cooking, remove bones and herb bundle and shred the meat, placing it in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of the tomato cooking liquid to the meat and mix. Feel free to save the remaining sauce for pasta, however I would let it chill and then skim some of the fat off once it hardens. To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of jarred tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Add a layer of 4 to 5 lasagna noodles, breaking them and arranging them as necessary to fit. Spread half the meat mixture over the first layer of noodles, then top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and ½ cup of parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the meat, and then another cup of mozzarella plus ½ cup parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles, 2 cups of jarred tomato sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella, and the rest of the parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving.

*For the stovetop, simply complete steps one through three in a dutch oven or other large pot, then cook for 3 hours, uncovered for the last hour, before continuing with step 5.

Now bask in the praise of your dinner guests! YUM! xoxoxoxoxoxoD

 

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup with The Works

Welcome to my first savory recipe in some time huh? I knew we’d meet again. Now, anyone who has ever stayed at my house knows that this is my “company meal” (back me up here guys). Like, you know when you want to show off to your guests so you really pull out all the stops and make something extra impressive? That’s what this soup is all about. I literally love soup so much and this one is the most perfect combination of spicy, warming, filling, and just about the most satisfying lunch/ dinner/ maybe breakfast (idk I don’t judge) in the whole wide world. This masterpiece comes adapted from The Pioneer Woman, and because I am always doing more work than I need to, the thing that makes this soup really special is the addition of homemade tortilla chips and all the toppings you could ever imagine. It’s so important to my family in fact, that when I mentioned to my mom that this was what I was writing about for today, she couldn’t BELIEVE I hadn’t posted this yet. I figure now with the chill of winter in the air it’s the perfect time.

This dish is a labor of love and although there’s a lot of prep work and moving parts, it will be well worth it. Plus, you can feel no guilt in putting your guests to work as sous chefs because the soup is its own reward!

I’m going to keep things here short because we all know what the star of this post is, but quick! Here are 5 things to be happy about today:

ONE. Freshly fried restaurant tortilla chips and pico de gallo (can you tell I’m in a mood?).

TWO. Nights where you have no plans so you take a long shower, do a face mask, and really treat yourself.

THREE. Peppermint hot chocolate.

FOUR. Embroidered flowers.

FIVE. Blue Planet (I & II) and their accompanying soundtracks.

Let’s get souping! Yes, I did make soup a verb, someone call the dictionary ASAP.
Serves: 8-12 people
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

3 tsp ground cumin
2½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onion (about 3-4 onions)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 10-ounce cans Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
8 cups chicken broth
6 Tbsp tomato paste
8 cups hot water
4 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons cornmeal
Corn Tortillas
Diced avocado
Chopped cilantro
Diced red onion
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Steps

ONE. Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Lay chicken breasts on a baking sheet and drizzle each one with olive oil. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the spice mixture over each piece of chicken, then reserve the rest. Bake the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes, then allow to cool completely before shredding.

TWO. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and cook the onions, peppers, and garlic. Add remaining spice mixture and cook until the vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.

THREE. Add the shredded chicken, the cans of Rotel with their juice, the chicken broth, the tomato paste, and hot water. Stir to combine, then cover and bring to a boil.

FOUR. Reduce heat to low and add the beans. In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal with 1 cup of water, and add to the soup. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

FIVE. While the soup is simmering, brush a stack of corn tortillas with olive oil, slice into uniform strips (or wedges), lay out on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and crisp. You could also fry them in a skillet of oil on the stovetop, but this just makes more chips in one go. Take 5 extra corn tortillas (unbaked) and slice them into uniform strips and add to the soup.

SIX. To serve, ladle a generous portion of soup into each bowl, then promptly lose your mind adding as much of the toppings as you can fit.

Welcome to the rest of your life where the only thing you’ll want to eat is this soup. XoxoxoxoxD

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread with TWO Glazes

Hello hello hello! Welcome to life after Thanksgiving, I hope you have all finally gotten your appetites back because I am now in FULL ON Christmas mode!! Up first? Gingerbread. But not the hard, dry gingerbread cookies with rock solid royal icing that make me sad, this is the real deal, from one of my mom’s old cookbooks that has been a holiday staple in our house for as long as I can remember. The recipe produces nine plush squares of richly spiced cake, and it’s a perfect complement to any topping you could possible want. Whipped cream? Check. Caramel? Check. Chocolate Sauce? Check!

EVEN lemon sauce, which is how this cake was designed to be served. However, because I love ~options~, I created a second sauce as well. I look forward to the Starbucks Holiday coffees all year round, and when I thought about the gingerbread latte, it hit me! Coffee glaze, too! It also reminded me of a classic bundt cake that my grandma used to make, which featured one half citrus glaze and one half coffee. The best slice was always the one that had some of each glaze!

Finally got all my siblings together for the first time in MONTHS! A Thanksgiving miracle.

Before you get started, here are some Holiday themed happys for you!!
ONE. The debate on what goes best with a piping mug of Hot Chocolate- marshmallows or whipped cream.
TWO. Getting all your present shopping done early.
THREE. Driving past a car with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof.
FOUR. Houses that really commit to their outdoor light display.
FIVE. Recovering from post-Thanksgiving meal depression when you realize you get to do it all over again in a MONTH!!

Okay now that’s that, let’s GO!

Makes: 9 squares, with approx. 2 cups of glaze
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients
adapted from McCall’s Superb Dessert Book

1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 egg
1 cup molasses
½ cup melted butter
½ cup hot water
2 cups powdered sugar, separated
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp brewed (cooled) coffee
½ tsp vanilla

 

Steps

ONE. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease an 8×8″ square baking pan.

TWO. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour with baking soda, salt, and all the spices. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg with molasses, melted butter, and hot water until well combined.

THREE. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until smooth.

FOUR. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently tap for bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into nine squares.

FIVE. Divide the powdered sugar into two small bowls. Add the lemon juice to one bowl and coffee + vanilla to the other, starting a tablespoon at a time until you have reached the desirable pouring consistency. Serve each slice warm with a generous drizzle of one glaze or BOTH get crazy!!

xoxoxoxoD

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.

 

Honeycrisp Apple Fritters

Okay everyone, full disclosure, I made these apple fritters WEEKS ago, and for some reason never got around to writing this down. My bad. Never fear however because it’s always the right time for apple fritters, specifically these ones. I’ll be honest, I’m only recently allowed to fry things in my house, apparently it was thought that I would somehow manage to burn the house down (love you mom!), but I fought for it and here we are, house still standing, fritters warming. This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, and what interested me about these originally is that they’re fried in a cast iron skillet. I’ve shied away from other frying projects mainly when they include a huge dutch oven’s worth of oil, it feels wasteful and a little gross if I’m honest. But these beauties fry in only a half an inch of oil, meaning fewer burns for me and less ruined oil, without compromising the flavor and crunch of the fritters themselves.

I haven’t made many adjustments on the original recipe, however I had such a surplus of Honeycrisp apples and I was so in love with their flavor (I still can’t get over how they ACTUALLY taste like honey), and thought that the flavor would fry up nicely. As a result, I cut back some of the sugar, since the original uses Granny Smith apples which are much more tart. Still delicious though, and definitely something I’ll try next time. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of nutmeg, I find the flavor to be overpowering and I think a little goes a long way, so I cut that amount in half, but if nutmeg is your thing, feel free to use a full ½ tsp.

Okay, logistics out of the way, let’s talk about what is approaching. Next week, I’ll somehow be reaching my 50th Sweet D recipe post and I can hardly believe it. How fitting that it comes the week of Thanksgiving, my second favorite holiday! I certainly am thankful for this blog, thankful for anyone who has read since the beginning, for those who have provided me with the inspiration, and for FOOD because without a love of food none of us would be here would we. Anyway, I love everyone and everything and here’s to 50 more Sweet D posts times a hundred.

As is tradition, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
ONE. The Radio City Rockettes.
TWO. Ugly Christmas sweater parties.
THREE. Maple-flavored coffee drinks.
FOUR. Coming home to a package you weren’t expecting.
FIVE. Having exact change.

OKAY it’s fry time!!

Makes: 10-12 fritters
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Fry Time: 30 minutes (total)

Ingredients

2 Honeycrisp Apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp nutmeg + a pinch (for glaze)
1 cup apple cider
2 eggs
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Steps

ONE. Place your oven rack to its middle position and preheat your oven to 200ºF. As you finish frying the fritters, you’ll be transferring them to a cooling rack-lined sheet pan in the oven to drain excess oil and keep them warm. Spread your diced apples out in one layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and thoroughly pat them dry.

TWO. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. In another bowl, mix ¾ cup of the apple cider (the remaining ¼ cup is for glaze), eggs, and melted butter until smooth. At this point, add the apples to the flour and toss until all apples are coated in flour. Pour the apple cider mixture into the flour and apple mixture and mix until all is incorporated.

THREE. Place a wire cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet and line with paper towels. In a cast iron skillet or other pan suitable for frying, add the oil until it’s about ½ inch deep in the pan, and heat on medium until it reaches 325ºF. It’s pretty crucial to use some kind of candy thermometer here, as the oil temperature fluctuates as you fry and you’ll need to keep track to adjust as necessary.

FOUR. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop and drop the batter in rounds into the oil, frying around 4 at a time depending on how large your skillet is. Flatten slightly with your spatula or a spoon and fry for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remember, you can always cook for longer but can never take back cooking time, so start with three minutes on each side and then add more time if needed. Transfer finished fritters to the paper-towel lined sheet in the oven and repeat batches until all the batter is used.

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FIVE. In a separate bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, remaining ¼ cup of cider, remaining ½ tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg until smooth. Drizzle about a tablespoon of the glaze over each fritter, and allow to set for 5 minutes (if you can bear it) before eating.

ENJOY!! xoxoxoxox