• 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

  • Sourdough Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

    Hello my loves! I’m back this week with a fun and fancy new cake recipe, because it’s never not the time for cake. This weekend, we hosted my sister’s birthday party in our apartment, and to be honest it felt like an Olympic Sport to me. 25 people in our little apartment? Bring it on. Food and cake and drinks to fill all these people? I’ve got this. After a very successful trip to Trader Joe’s, my biggest concern was making a cake that would provide a slice for everyone. A Sweet D cake was promised in the Facebook invite, so the pressure was on!! Then, earlier in the week I came across a cake recipe that clicked PERFECTLY. Specifically, this cake, which has a surprise visit from my sourdough starter!

    To keep you all updated, last week, I suddenly got very motivated to make my own sourdough starter, despite knowing how much of an undertaking it is. If you’re interested in taking the plunge yourself, I found that this article from King Arthur Flour to be very informative. To give you a brief summary, sourdough starter is made by combining parts of flour and water and allowing it to sit, with daily feedings of more flour and water, so that the natural yeast develops to produce a tangy, flavorful loaf of bread. But sparing you all the intricacies of sourdough making, part of the feeding process is that every day, all but 4 ounces of the starter is discarded before more flour and water is added. It requires a relatively consistent feeding schedule, which is how I ended up getting up at 6:20 every morning to feed my starter before work, like it was a small dog. Good times.

    Now, yes, starter is just flour and water, but throwing out large portions of flour can feel wasteful, so that’s where this cake comes in. Originally a recipe from one of my favorite food writers Posie Harwood, this deeply chocolate cake is both decadent and simple somehow. Now before you get worried that this is more bread than cake, rest assured. The sourdough starter only creates the most moist, intensely flavored cake you’ll ever have. As my sister said, “This is the platonic ideal of a birthday cake”. The original author recommends eating the cake on its own, no need for frosting. I’m sure she’s correct, but since this was a birthday cake, frosting isn’t just wanted, its required.

    I call this shot the “I forgot to take pictures until the cake was almost gone” shot.

    You may remember a few weeks ago when I took a cake decorating class with Claire Saffitz of the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. If you weren’t here for that, YES that happened and it was glorious. Among the bits and pieces that I took home from that experience was a recipe for Claire’s chocolate cream cheese frosting. I feel silly for saying that I never thought about making a cream cheese frosting that’s anything but vanilla, and now I feel silly because this is DELICIOUS. Together with the cake and this frosting, it’s an unstoppable creation that had multiple guests going back for seconds. Have I tempted you enough yet?

    Before we start obviously, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Discounted Halloween candy on November 1st.
    TWO. A crystal punch bowl set with glasses and a ladle.
    THREE. A well organized cheese plate.
    FOUR. Vintage bar carts.
    FIVE. Pre-sliced carrot and celery sticks with little cups of ranch and hummus.

    Let’s bake!!

    Sourdough Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

    A moist, intensely chocolate cake slathered in maybe the best frosting known to man, you will want to keep sourdough starter at all times for this recipe alone!!
    Prep Time 3 hrs
    Cook Time 40 mins
    Total Time 3 hrs 40 mins
    Course Dessert
    Servings 24 people (max)

    Ingredients
      

    Sourdough Chocolate Cake

    • 1 cup discard sourdough starter
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • cup white sugar
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
    • 1 tsp salt
    • tsp baking soda
    • ¾ cup Non-Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
    • 2 eggs

    Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

    • 6 oz. cream cheese; at room temperature
    • 2 cups confectioners sugar
    • ¼ cup cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
    • pinch salt

    Instructions
     

    Sourdough Cake

    • In a large mixing bowl (not your stand mixer bowl), combine the milk, sourdough starter, and flour. Stir until all the flour has been moistened, but don't worry about getting out every single lump. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dishtowel and allow to sit for 2 hours.
    • After the 2 hours is up, preheat your oven to 350°F and generously grease a 9 x 13" baking sheet, then line the bottom with parchment paper for easy release.
    • In your stand mixer or another large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
    • Add the sourdough mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until it's totally combined into the batter. It's very sticky, so it does help to stop the mixer and scrape everything down a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
    • Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is very shiny, and only slightly bounces back when pushed with your finger. Run a knife or spatula around the sides and allow to cool completely in the pan before frosting or removing from the pan.

    Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

    • In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and confectioners sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    • Add in the cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt, and whip until smooth and evenly combined.
    • Frost the cake as desired- you could leave the cake in the pan and just frost the top, or your could flip the cake out onto a sheet tray and frost all sides. Top with sprinkles, candles, or whatever you want! Now eat up!! YUM!
    Keyword cake, chocolate, cream cheese, frosting, sourdough, sprinkles

    Want more cake? Look here, here, here, and here!

  • Valentine’s Day Cookies Year II

    Hello and welcome to my second ever Valentine’s Day post!! Inspired as I always am by Molly Yeh, I have been making variations on these cookies ever since I came across the original recipe. They are versatile and greatly exceed any other sugar cookie you will ever make with the addition of lemon zest and almond extract, and that’s not even the HALF of it. These babies aren’t complete without a mirror-shiny glaze and a bit of buttercream on top, and the best part is you can do as little or as much as you want!

    So because I have too much time on my hands and I’ve been trying to improve my piping skills, I set out to cover these cookies in some good old fashioned buttercream roses. I wore my comfiest clothes, put on my headphones and got to work. And, 2 hours later, I couldn’t flex my right hand out of piping position, but I ended up with some GOOD rose cookies and I was very satisfied. They were almost too pretty to eat….almost.

    I’ll be honest, Valentine’s Day is not really my ~thing~, and although I can always count on a mini box of chocolates from my mom (LOVE YOU MOM!!), it’s easy to feel sad or simply indifferent on a day focused so much on love and relationships. My solution? Bake it out! Whether or not you have a Valentine to share the day with (@Harry Styles, call me), why not make the day that much cuter! (P.S. you can see last year’s version here, slightly different, just as cute!)

    Before we bake, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. A rainbow of ribbons.
    TWO. Chocolate covered cherries.
    THREE. White on the evergreens.
    FOUR.
    Breaking out of an old routine.
    FIVE. Bacon frying in cast iron skillets.

     

    Let’s bake!

    MAKES: About 3 dozen cookies
    PREP TIME: 1 hour + decorating to your heart’s desire
    BAKE TIME: 10 minutes

    SUGAR COOKIE INGREDIENTS

    4 cups all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    ¾ tsp salt
    1 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
    zest from ½ a lemon
    2 eggs
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp almond extract

    SUGAR COOKIE STEPS

    ONE. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the sugars until the butter is pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and mix to combine, then the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix between each. Finally, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

    TWO. Turn the mixture out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and form a disc of dough. Tightly wrap the disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before proceeding. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    THREE. Cut the disc of dough in half (it’s easier to work with a smaller batch at a time), and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about a quarter to a half inch thick. Cut out your desired shapes and lay them on your prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.

    FOUR. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they’re just turning brown, and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Processed with VSCO with al1 preset


    GLAZE INGREDIENTS

    4 cups confectioners sugar
    ¼ cup corn syrup
    5 Tbsp whole milk
    ½ tsp vanilla extract
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    pinch of salt
    1 tsp maraschino cherry liquid or food coloring (optional)

    GLAZE STEPS

    ONE. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk at a time, if it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.

    TWO, Once the cookies are cooled, carefully dip each cookie face down in the glaze, making sure the whole surface is coated, and then allow the excess to drip back into the bowl before placing the cookie back on a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper (this will catch the drips and make cleanup soooo much easier). If you’re continuing with buttercream on top, let the cookies dry slightly, but if you’re just adding sprinkles, add them now before the glaze dries and you’re all set!

     

    BUTTERCREAM INGREDIENTS

    3¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
    ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
    3-4 Tbsp whole milk
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Food coloring

    BUTTERCREAM STEPS

    ONE. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and confectioners sugar together until incorporated- you may want to drape a dish towel over the bowl at the beginning, the mixer tends to throw a lot of loose sugar.

    TWO. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time until the desired spreadable consistency is reached, keeping in mind that a slightly softer frosting will be easier to pipe with. Add the vanilla and food coloring (if using) and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

    THREE. Fill a piping bag fitted with a coupler and decorating tip (the coupler allows you to switch tips without using multiple piping bags) and decorate away!! (Read here for some buttercream rose tips!)

    Happy Valentine’s Day!! xoxoxoxoD