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Meet the cake and cupcakes from my second ever paid gig! My mom’s high school class recently celebrated their 30th reunion. They were looking for a special dessert, my mom recommended me for the job, and a cupcake tower was born! I wish I had pictures of the whole tower for you, but I haven’t even seen them yet, as they are on my m0m’s camera.

 

The whole projected ended up being a 4-tier cupcake tower with 100 cupcakes and a 6″ round cake for the top. The cupcakes are a mixture of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes and the topper is chocolate cake with raspberry filling. The CPHS colors are red, black, and white and we thought the polka dot wrapper and red and white frosting would be a fun way to incorporate them. The cupcakes are dusted with a little white sparkling sugar.

 

Aesthetically, I was quite pleased with the way everything turned out. Taste-wise… I could have been happier. My parents reported that the flavor got rave reviews, but I wasn’t 100% pleased. The chocolate were good–I used my go-to Hershey’s recipe, but I used a vanilla recipe from Martha Stewart that was just kind of bland and uninteresting. I will definitely go back to the Smitten Kitchen recipe I used for my graduation cakes next time.

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed these photos. Happy 30th reunion!

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Is there ever such thing as too much chocolate? Is it overkill to make a dense chocolate cake with rich chocolate frosting, creamy chocolate filling, and sweet chocolate covered crunchies on the outside? Personally, I don’t think so.

I have had a chocolate obsession since the womb. Every birthday for the first eighteen years of my life, I made myself a double chocolate cake with a variety of toppings. I have been known to devour truffles, inhale fudge, and eat molten ganache straight up. Nothing to me–and I mean nothing–can achieve that dreaded rumored level of “too much chocolate” that my mother is always going on about. However, I do concede that, were such a horrible myth indeed a truth, that these two cakes might just be examples of chocolate overload–proceed with caution!

 

Cake 1: Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cake
(Pictured above)

This heavenly creature is, essentially, Ferraro Rocher candy in cake form. I made the Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cake for my Dad, a fellow chocolate junkie, for his birthday last month.

To make this cake, first bake two layers of your favorite chocolate cake and let them cool. If you want a really elegant cake, you can go ahead and torte them (a fancy word for cutting the layers in half horizontally). For this cake, I used the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder–but I used the dark cocoa powder so it was nearly excessively chocolatey, which is just the way I like it and, from a practical standpoint, contrasts a little better with the frosting. I filled the cake with a jar of Nutella, but I’d recommend using two next time, or at least getting the larger jar, because it only made thin layers. I then covered the cake in a milk chocolate ganache (see here for more info on ganache-making–it’s easier than it looks!), reserving the extra for last-minute touch-ups, and packed chopped hazelnuts around the sides. I would highly recommend toasting the hazelnuts, which I didn’t do, and then grinding them in your food processor to a slightly finer texture, though if you don’t have the equipment for such an endeavor or don’t have the time, raw and coarse are fine too.

 

Brownie Cake with Homemade Chocolate-Covered English Toffee

 

 

This cake was, as are many good cakes, simply a “just because” cake. My boyfriend and I had a chicken parmigiana dinner a few weeks ago, something I promised after we salavated over the fancy chicken parm offerings on the finale of MasterChef earlier in the week. I wanted to make something nice for dessert, and I knew that if anyone could appreciate this chocolate monstrosity with me, it would be Steve.

I got the idea for this cake from blogger Annie’s Eats, who made her version with an espresso marscarpone filling and an espresso whipped cream. I love espresso as much as the next girl, but that still didn’t seem like enough chocolate for me. So I decided to frost the dense, chewy-yet-fudgy brownie layers with chocolate fudge frosting. And then cover it in homemade dark chocolate covered toffee. You are perfectly welcome to buy store-bought Heath or Skor bits, but both contain almonds and I wanted to explore a nut-free toffee option, which, ultimately, meant making it myself. Steve’s mom described the cake as “sinful,” which I suppose is quite a natural reaction to have when eating it if, unlike me, your brain isn’t exploding and shouting, “FINALLY! This is getting close to too much chocolate!”

 

To say that I love chocolate would be an understatement. My feelings towards chocolate are beyond admiration, appreciation, or even adoration–they approach full-out obsession, but not in a sad, “I’d rather die than give up chocolate!” sort of way. My chocolate obsession is much more of an elitist sort of thing–it’s the kind of obsession that points out the flaws of all sweets non-chocolate and exposes them for being overly sweet, lacking in complexity, and, well, vanilla

Thus, it is rare I find a baked good that has enough chocolate to satisfy my chocolate needs–especially when it comes to cookies. Attempts to make flat yet substantial, chewy but not puffy chocolate cookies all ended in disappointment. It helped–and I all but danced a happy chocolate jig–when I discovered Hershey’s had started making dark cocoa powder, but I still lacked the right recipe to make the crisp-yet-fudgy, deep, dark chocolate cookies I salived over in my dreams. Well, I recently found that perfect recipe–and, as often happens, I have Ina Garten to thank for that. 

These double chocolate cookies are incredible. They almost taste like a complex Oreo with a soft fudge-like middle and crispy, crunchy edges. The white chocolate chips pop, both in flavor and color, against the deep, barely sweet chocolate cookie. The original recipe calls for almond extract, which I omitted, but I’m sure it’s fantastic when produced as written as well. Almond addition or not, these cookies will become a staple in your repertoire (and your cookie jar) in no time at all. 

 

The recipe for these wonderful cookies can be found here. Happy baking!

 

And  birthday month continues! In the interest of full disclosure, it’s actually over–I’m just a little backlogged. There is still one more cake installment coming for sure, and it’s chocolately and delicious. But to matters at hand: ice cream cake! I usually start planning the cakes for birthday month around the time school gets out. It’s not so much an organizational thing as one part excitement and one part fear I’ll only be able to come up with something lame and generic and fail as a birthday cake maker. When I make a cake for someone, I really try my hardest to capture their essence in sugar form. I’m highly disappointed when I can’t. 

This cake definitely screamed Chandler. Both my sisters work at a local ice cream shop over the summer, but whereas Chelsea kind of stumbled into the job, working at this particular shop was Chandler’s life goal from about age five. Needless to say, she’s enthusiastic about ice cream. What makes this cake so Chandler, however, are the flavors: cookie dough and Oreo. And, regardless, it’s just a fun combination, excellent for indulging your inner child. The decorations are piped buttercream. It’s a little hard to get things to stick, as they freeze instantly, yet seem to repel the actual cake (see uneven boarder piping!), but it all came out in the end. With a little work (very little, actually, if you opt to use softened store-bought ice cream in place of your own)you can have your own ice cream cake that kicks Carvel and Friendly’s or any other chain’s ice cream cake’s butts. I promise it is worth it. 

 

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

  1. In your ice cream maker, make the first flavor ice cream you wish to use in your cake (this will be the bottom layer). When ice cream is finished, pour into 10″ springform pan and cover with crushed Oreo cookies or prefered “crunch” layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze
  2. Re-freeze bowl of ice cream maker and make your second flavor. Pour on top of first layer, replace plastic wrap, and return to freezer for at least two hours, or until both layers are rock solid.
  3. Carefully remove sides of springform pan, running a little hot water along the edge if cake threatens to crack or otherwise has trouble separating from the metal. Decorate quickly using whipped cream, buttercream, sprinkles, or any other decorations of your choice. Freeze until serving time.

I recently made my first sheet cake–very exciting! The cake was for a joint birthday party for my high school friend Alyssa and her boyfriend Tom. The concept was to have one side represent Alyssa and one side represent Tom, but to have the two sides come together as one cake. I think you can figure out for yourselves whose was whose. I had never made a sheet cake before. It wasn’t much harder than a small cake, but, boy, was that thing huge. I think I had to multiply the recipe times six. It was a LOT of cake.

Speaking of cake, you might want to know what was in this thing, huh? The cake was red velvet. It was filled with chocolate ganache and frosted in buttercream with fondant accents. I was pretty happy with the way it came out (as, I hope, were they!) and it was an overall good experience.

Cinnamon buns, cinnamon rolls (whatever you call them): just when you thought they couldn’t get any better, you find a recipe like this. I got the idea to add fruit to cinnamon buns for a roasted banana cinnamon bun recipe I found around Father’s Day and made for our Father’s Day breakfast. The filling was out of this world, but the recipe suggested one use canned Pillsbury french bread dough, a suggestion I took even though I knew I should have known better. Lesson learned.

On a recent day off, I treated myself to a nice morning of sleeping in and preparing a tasty breakfast (brunch, really) spread of sweet blueberry cinnamon buns and crispy, salty homefries. This time, I made my own dough. I’ve done this before with varying degrees of success. Yeast doesn’t like me all that much, you see, and often decides not to work–despite being newly purchased, stored in a warm place, and married with liquids of a proper temperature–just to spite me. Usually my cinnamon roll dough doesn’t rise. It still tastes good, it’s just kind of thin and more pastry than bread. But this one rose, yay! All joking aside, dough-making is very temperamental and if you want to use the Pillsbury dough instead I will not mock you–I will only suggest that you use two tubes of the stuff.

And as for the homefries–what can I say? I like my homefries crispy, salty, full of onion flavor, and just barely tasting of potato, so I find these perfect. They are not quite as good as my dad’s–he makes the BEST homefry style potatoes–but they are pretty darn close. An overall excellent breakfast (and life) choice.

Blueberry Cinnamon Buns

(adapted from one of my foremost food gurus, Alton Brown’s, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls recipe)

  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces milk, heated to 120 degrees
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 C fresh blueberries, washed and dried

MAKING THE DOUGH:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine 2 C of flour, salt, sugar, and yeast, mixing well. In a small saucepan (or glass measuring cup and the microwave), heat milk until it reaches the temperature recommended on the back of the yeast packed, usually 110-130 degrees F. Add milk and melted butter to dry mixture and beat on low to combine. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated.
  2. Remove whisk attachment from mixer and attach dough hook. Add all but 3/4 C of the remaining flour and knead on low for 5 minutes, or until dough is no longer sticky. Add more flour if necessary.
  3. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead by hand for 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl and store dough in bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, until dough has doubled in volume, 2-2 1/2 hours.

FILLING AND BAKING THE ROLLS:

  1. While dough is rising, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Once dough has risen, remove from bowl and roll into an 18″x12″ rectangle (the long side should be facing you). Brush dough with melted butter, leaving about a half an inch of space along the top seam. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving about a 3/4″ boarder at the top. Sprinkle blueberries over filling and press lightly into dough and sugar mixture, mashing gently with a fork if desired.
  3. Roll the dough into a tight cylander, beginning with the side closest to you and rolling upward. Pinch the seam and roll the cylander so that the seam is facing down. Squeeze gently to create a constent thickness throughout. Using a serrated or very sharp knife, cut cylander into 12 pieces. Arrange in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When rolls have risen, uncover and bake 25 minutes, or until golden but slightly gooey inside. Let cool and cover with icing, which can be made by combining 2 C of confectioner’s sugar with milk or water, which should be added a few drops at a time until a thick glaze is achieved (think the consistency of the icing that comes with the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls).

Best Homefries

  • 1 large or 2 medium russet potato
  • 1 very small yellow onion, diced
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  1. Cook potato(es) in microwave or oven until just the slightest bit underdone. Let cool, remove skin, and large dice.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sautee with a pinch of salt until translucent.
  3. Raise heat to medium high and add potatoes, sprinkling with chili powder and 1 tsp. salt. Allow potatoes to cook (without touching!) for at least five minutes, or until they have developed a very crisp bottom layer. Flip and repeat on opposite side. Flip again or add more oil if a crunchier texture is desired.
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle liberally with additional salt before serving.

 

August is birthday month around here. My sisters and I are all August babies (yeah Leos!), so our house is pretty cake-filled during the last month of summer. Needless to say, you’re going to see a bunch of cake pictures up here this month. This cupcake, the first, was for my middle sister’s birthday. She’s more than a little obsessed with animal prints and initially requested a hot pink carrot cake with zebra print. Then we downgraded to cupcakes. Then we got a big mess of fresh blueberries and decided she would have blueberry birthday cupcakes.

I used this recipe here, which I found on Food Gawker, one of my favorite recipe sources. The recipe was pretty darn good. The cupcakes were moist and extremely flavorful. My only complaints were that I found the texture a little dense for a cupcake and that the flavor–though it was absoultely delicious–was a little too reminiscent of a blueberry muffin. That being said, I’d definitely make them again, maybe using cake flour or something this time.

The only change I made to the recipe was adding another 1/4 cup or so of the puree. My cupcakes didn’t achieve that dark purple color–they were more lavender, but that was ok. I topped them with my favorite cream cheese frosting, which I will share another time. The bows are fondant with painted stripes and I tinted the sanding sugar with an excellent technique I learned from reading the ever sage wisdom of Bake at 350. I also made homemade cake batter ice cream, which turned out AMAZINGLY, but I am also too lazy to type out that recipe and will post it at a later date. In the meantime, you can start on the cupcakes.