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.

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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

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Almond Sheet Cake with Your New Favorite Frosting

If you remember from my last post, my dearest friends came to visit from Ireland this week, after 2 and a half years of keeping in contact and it was so lovely. In case you were wondering, I made THE Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese with Pappardelle (recipe here), when they came over and it was a big hit- I find that no one is ever disappointed to have pasta for dinner, you know? The main purpose of their trip, however, was to celebrate Marese’s 60th birthday, so naturally I HAD to make a birthday cake!

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This cake comes from my favorite place in the world, Food52.com, from the ever talented Posie Harwood, whose recipes are legend on the website. I try to mess around with every recipe that doesn’t come from me and add a spin to it, but this cake is so beautiful that I practically followed the recipe as is word-for-word (you can find the original recipe here). This cake has an usual twist in the frosting, but since I tried it I may never look back. It begins with the boiling of milk, salt, and flour together until thick. Yup, you read that right, FLOUR in your frosting. It might sound odd, but the cooking takes away the raw flour taste, and when it’s added to the whipped butter and sugar, it produces a light fluffy frosting with just a hint of almond that might not even make it onto the cake if you “taste test” too many times. I only iced the top of this cake so that it could keep its homemade look, but I can also envision covering this cake in decorations and piping, it’s so versatile!

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The aftermath after round 1 of cake eating!

Enjoy a slice of this cake with a cup of tea or coffee, or maybe just eat all the frosting out of the bowl, I’m not judging! Let’s bake!!

Makes: 1 9×13″ sheet cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 25-30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (depending on how much you decorate)

Cake Ingredients

2¼ cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
½ vanilla extract
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup almond flour

Steps

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line your baking dish with parchment paper (or grease thoroughly and flour).

2. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside for now.

3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream together your butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy- and actually wait until it looks pale and whipped, it’s not enough to just wait until they’re incorporated. It should be about 5 minutes.

4. Add in your eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg incorporated before proceeding. Add the almond extract and mix to combine.

5. Measure your milk and add vanilla to it. Next, you will be adding your flour mixture and your milk mixture to the butter mixture, alternating between the two and beginning with the flour. In other words, add your flour mixture in 3 parts, and your milk in 2 parts. Take it slow, you don’t want to be wearing more flour than is in the bowl, and make sure each addition is well mixed before continuing.

6. Once your flour and milk has been added, mix in the almond flour, which adds a nice texture to the cake I thought, plus kept it super moist.

7. Pour your batter into your prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is beautifully golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool fully in the pan before frosting.

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Ready for frosting!

Frosting Ingredients

1 cup milk
3 tbs all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract

Steps

1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the flour, milk, and salt until smooth. Bring the mixture up to medium heat, whisking constantly until it gets thick and bubbles as if it’s just about to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for around 10 minutes so that it won’t melt the butter in the frosting.

2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar, almond and vanilla extracts until very light and fluffy, about 6-7 minutes. Scoop the milk mixture into the butter mixture, 1 spoonful at a time, until the frosting is whipped and pillowy. Spread generously on your cake and feel free to eat the leftovers with a spoon.

Enjoy!! xoxoxox

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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