I haven’t made a layer cake in a while, but for some reason I was feeling it. My lemon tree is dropping lemons like grenades every four seconds right now as it’s time for the ol’ tree to shed all of it’s lemons, so after making what seemed like endless pitchers of lemonade, I decided a lemon cake was in order. This cake is super fun to make because of the speckled decorating part. It’s a bit of an ambitious cake, so by all means make parts of it ahead; such as the filling and the cake a day before if you like. Just make sure to wrap the cakes well in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. I even brushed the cakes with the syrup the day before and wrapped the cakes each separately in plastic wrap and chilled in the fridge. If you’re not feeling that ambitious you can of course buy a store bought cake mix such as vanilla- and use that (I won’t judge)- but by all means make the buttercream yourself as you’ll want that amazing vanilla flavor that you can’t get from store bought.
For pure white looking layers- use a sharp knife to cut off the browned areas of the cakes from top, bottom and sides.
Speckled Easter Egg Cake: Lemon-Vanilla Cake
yield: 4 layer 6 inch cake or 2 layer 9 inch cake
Lemon Vanilla Cake
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp (227 g)
1 1/2 C sugar (300 g)
finely grated lemon zest of 2 lemons
6 large egg whites, room temp
3 1/4 C sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 1/3 C whole milk (320 ml), room temp
Optional for finished garnish: toasted coconut and Cadbury mini chocolate Easter eggs
Prepare four 6 inch cake pans with baking spray; bottom and sides (that contains flour) or grease and flour pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. You can use 2 nine inch cake pans also if you don’t want to make a six inch tall cake.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer place the sugar and lemon zest and rub the sugar and lemon zest together with fingers to release natural oils in lemon zest. Add in the softened butter and using paddle attachment cream on medium speed until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add in the egg whites one at a time and mixing until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
Add in flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with milk; beginning and ending with flour mixture. Note: I like to fold in the flour mixture and milk with a spatula by hand first then gently turn on the mixer and beat gently- This ensures a lighter cake and avoids over beating the batter and helps that the crumb stays light and soft. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
Bake the pans in a preheat 350° F oven for 27-29 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently with a finger. The cakes will just start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Do NOT overbake. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely.
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
4 one inch strips of fresh lemon peel (careful to make sure no white pith remains)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a glass measuring cup place the sugar, water, and lemon peel and microwave on high until sugar dissolves. Let lemon peel steep for 15 minutes, then remove. Stir in lemon juice. You can do this a day or two before to save time.
Note: any leftover syrup you can strain to remove any cake crumbs , keep chilled in the fridge and use in iced tea.
Lemon Cream Filling
3 oz. cream cheese, room temp
9 Tbsp. heavy cream, cold
1 1/2 tsp. nonfat dried milk powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup purchased Lemon Curd (I like Dickinsons brand)
Beat the heavy cream and dried milk powder on high speed using an electric hand mixer to stiff peaks. Move the whipped cream to a separate bowl and chill while proceeding. and using the same mixer bowl (no need to wash), beat cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in vanilla. Add in the lemon curd and beat until well incorporated and smooth. Fold in the cold whipped cream by hand until mostly blended (don’t overmix), and cover and chill while making buttercream. Note: you can make a day or two ahead if desired and keep covered and chilled.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla, or seeds of one vanilla bean + 1 tsp. vanilla
Sky blue gel food coloring
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth.
Note: Reserve about a cup of the buttercream (before coloring blue) to pipe a dam of buttercream on 3 of the layers to “hold” in the lemon cream layer.
To color the buttercream: Beat in one drop at a time of gel color until desired color is achieved. [I ended up using about 6 drops, but go SLOW and add a tiny bit at a time]. Note: the color of the buttercream will deepen in color about 1-2 shades as it sits.
Cocoa Speckle for decorating
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
small clean brush for decorating (I used a never used clean toothbrush)
In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa and vanilla. To “speckle” lay down wax paper underneath your work area and dip your brush into the mixture and then dab the brush onto the wax paper to remove any excess. You don’t want it too thick- if too thick you’ll end up with huge spots or unattractive drips. Practice first a few times on the wax paper-you’ll want to use your index finger to quickly flick the bristles of the brush about an inch away from the cake. It’s also best to whisk your cocoa mixture from time to time to prevent it from becoming too thick-you may need to add a few TINY drops of water occasionally if needed. If you end up with a real bad boo boo just chill the cake then use a small offset spatula to lift off any spots you don’t want. Note: you WON’T taste any cocoa flavor in the finished product.
To Assemble: Brush each layer of cake with the lemon syrup. Pipe a ring of “dam” of vanilla buttercream on 3 of the layers to hold in the lemon cream filling. Spread the lemon cream inside the dam of buttercream and continue stacking until you reach the top layer. Apply a crumb coat of buttercream and chill the cake for about 30 minutes. Continue frosting the top and sides of the cake.
Make the cocoa speckle mixture and speckle the top and sides of the cake as noted above. (Note- I find it helpful to lay down a few sheets of wax paper as you will get speckles of brown on your work area).
Garnish the top of the cake by toasting small amount of sweetened coconut in the oven at 350° F for about 6 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Top off with a few of mini candy coated Easter eggs.
I just finished reading a really moving book that tells the true story of Sasha Martin, called Life From Scratch. The book is sad, inspiring, raw, and sensitive. Along the way you feel the mood and emotion of her childhood as she moves into adulthood. Each chapter is a blessing of recipe(s) from her life’s journey. One of the recipes is a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream which I’ve adapted into cupcakes and added a bit of extra chocolate fudge frosting as a bonus. I’ve seen cake recipes before that use Guinness so I was especially excited to try this, and it was fabulous. Pick up her book if you haven’t read it- it’s a great read.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
Chocolate & Guinness Stout Cupcakes
recipe adapted from the book Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
yield: 16 cupcakes
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer (take the beer out ahead of time and let sit on the counter unopened so that it is not cold)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan heat the butter until just melted, then whisk together with the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. While the Guinness mixture is cooling, line cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, and then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour it into the wells of the cupcake tins filling 2/3 full; exactly 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for ~ 15-20 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. (baking time in a regular oven is around 19-20 minutes. I used my convection oven at 325° F and baked mine for exactly 15 minutes). Cool completely.
Prepare a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or your choice of tip) and fill each side of the bag with chocolate fudge frosting and Baileys frosting-it’s handy to use a “two tone” piping bag if you can find one.
Dark Chocolate Fudgy Frosting
recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/3 Cup (40 g) extra dark unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s extra dark)
1/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) melted and cooled
In a food processor place all but the melted chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Chill frosting is not using right away.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
recipe from Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Whip the soft butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar on low speed, then increase to medium high, and drizzle in enough Baileys to get the buttercream loose and fluffy. To achieve a whiter frosting whip it 5-10 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Happy Valentines Day. Do you know where your sweet tooth is? That’s right- it’s still in the same place you left it, no-not at the dentist’s office-but right in the back of your mouth. Your mouth is calling for something red and sweet. It’s okay, you are allowed to indulge today-no need to feel guilty. Your welcome.
Red Velvet Brownies
brownie recipe: from thatskinnychickcanbake
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. liquid red food coloring (such as McCormick)
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 C sugar
2 lg. eggs
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Line both sides of an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with tinfoil and spray lightly with non stick spray. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, red food coloring and 1 tsp. of the vanilla to form a smooth paste, set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape bowl. Add the remaining one tsp. of vanilla to combine. Add in the cocoa powder paste mixture and beat gently to combine. Stir in the flour and salt to combine. Smooth batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let brownies cool completely before icing.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled (I use Ghiradelli white chocolate) (do NOT use white chocolate chips)
Chop the white chocolate very fine and microwave on 50 % power to melt chocolate-stopping frequently to stir. Allow to cool. Beat the cream cheese and butter in bowl of stand mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Add in the sugar a little at a time and beat until smooth. Add in the cooled white chocolate and beat until smooth. Spread the icing over the cooled brownies (decorate with heart sprinkles if desired) and chill entire pan until icing becomes firm-this makes cutting the brownies easier.
Run a thin knife or offset spatula around the perimeter of the brownies. lift the entire slab of brownies out of the pan and cut into desired shapes.
Some treats evoke a sense of cozy. Marshmallows are cozy. Fluffy, soft, sweet- what’s not to like. This is the season of joyful and cozy eating and indulging. Just go with it. Forget the diet for now. Just once in your life you need to make homemade marshmallows. I think Christmas time is the perfect time. Imagine Christmas morning as you set up a hot chocolate bar and include these as part of your cozy plan. Make your hot chocolate and have it sitting warm on the stove as your little gremlins open their presents.
I have made mallows several times and I find my favorite recipe is one with a little egg white in the mix. They come out softer and less rubbery. The Husband proclaimed he doesn’t even like marshmallows but he likes these. A lot. This recipe makes a nice thick square when cut and quite a few so you can wrap them in cellophane bags and give as gifts-perhaps with a sleeve of mocha, hot chocolate mix or peppermint mocha mix. Plan to make them early in the day or the night before so they can set up. It’s a gift to yourself curled up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and tucked into your favorite fuzzy blanket.
yield: one 9×13 inch pan (36-40 marshmallows)
3/4 Cup cold water
3 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
3 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup light corn syrup
3/4 Cup hot water
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure peppermint extract
3 Tbsp. finely crushed peppermint candy canes (about 3 mini candy-canes)
red food coloring
confectioners sugar and cornstarch for tossing marshmallows
Line a 9×13 inch pan with baking parchment, allowing excess to hang over both sides. Sprinkle liberally with confectioners sugar
Place the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl with set up of mixer with whisk attachment.
In a small bowl place cold water. Sprinkle gelatin over water a teaspoon at a time allowing to soak in as your sprinkle. Let stand to bloom.
In a heavy saucepan (3-4 quart) combine sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt. Cook over medium heat stirring until sugar dissolves. Once sugar dissolves, stop stirring insert a candy thermometer and continue to cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 F on a candy thermometer). Once mixture reaches 200 F start to beat egg whites on medium high-speed until stiff; BE CAREFUL TO NOT LET WHITES GET OVERBEATEN AND DRY. IF OVERBEATEN, THEY WILL APPEAR CURDLED. Turn mixer speed down to low if whites appear to be ready before sugar mixture reaches 240 F. Once mixture reaches 240° F turn off heat and add the bloomed gelatin, and whisk with hand whisk to combine. Carefully pour the sugar/gelatin mixture to the stiff egg whites down the side of mixer bowl in a steady stream being careful not to let sugar touch whisk. Add in vanilla, peppermint and crushed candy cane and beat until stiff and glossy; about 8-10 minutes. Pour half of marshmallow mixture into prepared pan spread to distribute evenly, then drop about 6-8 drops of red food coloring, moving quickly swirl color into mallow. Pour the remaining mallow into pan, spread evenly and again drop more random food color and swirl with knife or bamboo skewer. Dust entire surface with confectioners sugar and cover with plastic wrap.
refrigerate marshmallows overnight to allow to set. Remove entire slab of marshmallow using the parchment paper and cut into squares using sharp scissors.
Whisk together 1 Cup confectioners sugar along with 1/2 Cup confectioners sugar and toss cut marshmallows. Shake off excess sugar mixture and store in an airtight container.
Happy Independence Day
Raspberry Lemonade Bars
yield: (about 30-32 bars-depending on the size cut)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Cups flour
pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour and salt together, then add to butter/sugar and beat until combined. Prepare a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper with a 2 inch overhang. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack while you make the filling.
2 1/2 Cups sugar
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup seedless raspberry puree (press fresh or thawed frozen raspberries through a fine sieve).
6 large eggs
1 Cup flour
red and/or burgundy gel paste food color (optional)
Confectioners sugar for serving
1. In a food processor pulse the sugar and lemon zest together several times; about 8-10. Add the lemon juice, raspberry puree, and eggs and combine until smooth. Add in the flour and pulse to combine. The filling is not quite the color that I liked- so I added a few drops of red and burgundy gel paste food coloring.
2. Pour the filling onto the crust and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 30 minutes until set; when you jiggle the pan the center should not look loose. Let pan cool over a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan of bars until well chilled before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.