Inspired by my
rabid fangirl love of The Great British Baking Show, I took to the kitchen a few weeks ago to make cupcakes for my oldest sister’s birthday. The cake itself–vanilla, as requested by the birthday girl–was only meh. (I have a better recipe that I will return to. If I can find it. Entirely possible it’s somewhere in the File Pit.) But the frosting, well. That may be my favorite and best frosting to date. Not only did it taste good, but I also whipped out my ancient cake decorating set and gave the cupcakes some flair on top. A little messy, for sure, and I wouldn’t win any bake-offs, that’s for certain. But not bad for a girl who is notoriously bad at frosting cakes, eh?
Inspired by my
csb october: yes, I do actually still bake, or, surprisingly there were no surprises, except when there were21 Oct
October is the last month for we Cake Slice Bakers are baking from Vintage Cakes, a book, frankly, I will be glad to be done with.
Okay, that’s a little harsh. The cakes I have actually made (admittedly few) (What? We bought a condo, I moved, I have to live with cats now, and I’m lucky I can find my underwear some days. Life has been a little hectic. Don’t hassle the Hoff.), have been terrific, particularly the red velvet with mascarpone cream cheese frosting. And the banana cake was damn tasty, too. As was the cake I made this month, which was a Blogger’s Choice, if you will, meaning that we could pick whatever cake we wanted to, and bake the crap out of it.
And in all honesty, my issue with this book stems from the fact that I’m still angry about the frosting debacle from the last cake I made which was just ridiculous. A candy thermometer? To make buttercream? WTF? Can we all just agree that making frosting does not have to be that hard?
FROSTING ACTUAL CAKES, however.
Well, that’s a different story.
(But for you, dear Interwebers, I pledge that in this next year of baking I will become the Master!—the MASTER!*—of Frosting Cakes!)
Where was I?
So, this month, I chose to make the cake I was supposed to make for January. Which, obviously, if you read this blog at all, I did not do in January. But now I have! So there you go! Cross it off the list and call it a day! Put your feet up and fire up a cigar! We’re going to celebrate that I Actually Got Something Crossed Off My To Do List.
It was a banner day.
It was a “classic” cake—vanilla, not quite yellow, not full-on white—and it was delicious. Right before you dump it into the pan (or in my case, cupcake foils, see above mentioned and well-documented issues with me frosting cakes), you fold in whipped cream, which gives it a really great light texture.
So light and fluffy, however, that you should not, should definitely not, overfill the muffin foils, otherwise the cupcakes puff up and over and stick to your pan, and then when you try to take them out of the pan they start to tear and then the next thing you know you’ve torn three cupcakes which obviously can’t be frosted because they’re broken and since one of your pet peeves is wasting food it’s probably just best if you just eat the broken cupcakes and save everyone the anguish of knowing that you got a little heavy handed with the cupcake foil filling and thus broke three cupcakes and then maybe start typing this sentence on a sugar high from which you may never come down.
No, it’s much better to fill them a sane amount, and avoid all of that above-mentioned rigmarole.
There were no surprises in making this cake, and the outcome—like a couple cakes I’ve experienced with this book—was quite delectable, with the sticky, chewy, baked rims around the cupcakes where they may have cooked slightly faster than the rest of the cake.
The only surprise that happened into the kitchen was in the making of the frosting—a blessedly simple recipe by comparison to the others in this book—when I discovered, SURPRISE! I only had 12 ounces of chocolate chips in my pantry, instead of a pound. But SURPRISE! I did have cinnamon chips, and after a brief debate in my head, threw them in the bowl with the heavy cream and brown sugar. And then, SURPRISE! I threw in some melting chocolate discs I found (I am constantly surprised by what I find in my cabinets sometimes. Did you know I have a whole bag of flaxseed? You did? Because I sure as shit did not.) And NOT SURPRISE!, the cinnamon-chocolate frosting concoction was amazing. Predominantly chocolate, with just a hint of cinnamon. Simply terrific. Unless, of course, you don’t like cinnamon, in which case this entire paragraph has probably made you vomit a little in your mouth.
But trust me. It was delicious.
And there you have it, Interwebers. The last cake with the CSB for this year’s book, Vintage Cakes. Next month I’ll be back with the first recipe out of the new book. I can’t tell you what those are (it’s a secret!), and I haven’t made next month’s cake yet, but I can tell you this: From the looks of it, it’s entirely possible it is Fall in a cake pan. And better yet, no frosting is involved.
*Mistress, anyway. I shall have a torrid affair with frosting cakes. Under the cover of darkness and etc, etc, while wearing velvet dresses. Because I feel like if you’re going to have an affair with something, it should involve a velvet dress. It just makes sense in my head.
1) Let’s talk about how much butter is used in this recipe. It is this much:
And the majority of this much butter went into the frosting.
2) No one will be surprised to learn that I did not make a three-layer cake as suggested—I made cupcakes instead. I’m sorry, but my frosting skills need Too. Much. Work. to justify practicing them on such a cake as this. Note: If you, like me, favor cupcakes over layers, be very gentle when taking the cakes out of their little pots. They’re a bit fragile.
3) Raspberry and chocolate is a favorite combination of mine, and I feel like it’s one that you just don’t find to often. Why is this? Why does everyone always go chocolate and strawberries? Viva la raspberry!
4) Though dear Christ, pushing the raspberries through a strainer is a bitch, and I do not recommend it. At any one time in the straining process, I used the back of a wooden spoon, the top of an old-school meat tenderizer, and my bare hands to push the damn berries through. After awhile I just gave up and figured whatever I’d managed to push through would have to be enough. It’s tedious work and honestly it looked as if I’d slaughtered a berry patch. Which, contrary to popular belief, is not a good look.
5) I’ve noticed that the recipes in this cake book often call for fine sea salt. I do not have fine sea salt, nor am I going to purchase it any time soon. So, sorry baking gods, but Kosher’s just going to have to suffice.
6) This recipe specifies using full-fat sour cream in the cake, and I respect that like you wouldn’t believe. None of that namby-pamby light sour cream slop. And why aren’t more goods baked with sour cream? I’m going to start a campaign. Viva la sour cream!
7) Going back to the frosting, despite all the butter (or possibly because of it) I do not care for this book’s buttercream recipe at all, and will use a different recipe if I encounter a cake recipe that calls for it again. The raspberry addition was truly its only saving grace; without it, the frosting tasted about as good as the buttercream from Cake Love, which is to say, it didn’t taste good at all and has about as much flavor as buttered paper. Also, does anyone else remember when Cake Love was actually a thing? And Warren Brown was the lobbyist-turned-baker, and it was a novelty of sorts? Is it still a thing? Ah, memories. Still doesn’t change the fact that I found his product to be dry and tasteless, but good on him for kickstarting a baking bonanza.
8) A big part of my consternation with the frosting is that for whatever reason it involves cooking the egg whites. The who in the what? And on top of that, you’re supposed to use a candy thermometer to check for the right (“really hot”) temperature.
9) Note to Self: If ever renege on my earlier statement and make this buttercream again, buy a candy thermometer.
10) Note to Self, Part II: A meat thermometer is not a good substitution.
11) Typically when I make cupcakes, I taste one once cooled, pre-frosting. QA purposes, of course. But for whatever reason, I didn’t with this recipe. People seemed to love them just fine, though, so it all worked out in the end, my faulty memory aside. However, I did taste the batter, which was reminiscent of a creamy, melted fudgesicle. So keep in mind: If your batter doesn’t taste good, your cake won’t taste good. (In a similar vein of “don’t cook with crappy wine,” you know.) But if it tastes like melted fudgesicles, then it will be delicious.
12) Unless you’re making a vanilla or other non-chocolate flavored cupcake, in which case something has gone terribly awry.
Seriously, you guys. This is what makes this world great—hit songs about Velvet Elvises. And if you think I haven’t karaoked the crap out of this song, you are so, so wrong.
Anyway, this is all to say that February’s Cake Slice Bakers selection was red velvet with mascarpone cream cheese frosting from the Vintage Cakes cookbook.
(See what I did there? Black velvet? Red velvet? Eh? Eh? No? Oh well. I like it.)
I have to confess something, you guys. I have always been a little intimidated to try baking a red velvet cake, so I never made the attempt. My intimidation has a little to do with the ready availability of Red! Velvet! Everywhere!, in bakeries and grocery stores, and hell, even the gas station, and a lot to do with people being Very. Particular. about their red velvet taste preferences. Frankly, I didn’t want to offend or disappoint anyone with any red velvet I might offer.
But this recipe?
Worry no more, my friends. Worry. No. More.
After biting into one of these beauties, Swede and I both proclaimed that this red velvet cupcake? This batch right here? This might be the best thing I’ve ever baked. Ever. Or at least in a really, really long time.
The cake was spongy, and had the perfect amount of light chocolate flavor to it. The frosting was creamy and dreamy and I don’t know why I don’t add mascarpone cheese to….everything. It might be my new ranch dressing, re: it makes everything better.
Yes, it’s a bit odd to add a tablespoon of red dye to your cake batter because that’s a solid dose of chemicals I’m dumping into the bowl and eschewing the organic free range cake route, but whatever. I figure that dye is just going to party on with all the other food chemicals I’ve consumed over the years and hence why I will be perfectly preserved until I’m well into my 90s. Sister #2 and I will have a grand old time being little old ladies together, as she has decided to preserve her person by pickling herself from the inside out via a selection of red and white wines.
In other news, mayhaps the other reason I was so nervous baking this cake (or in my case, cupcakes) was because I was doing so while watching the Superbowl. And the Ravens—for whom I never thought I would root, for myriad reasons—were playing, and damn if I didn’t find myself in a tizzy hoping they would come out on top. (I don’t really have anything against the ‘Niners, but I hold a special place in my heart for anyone who beats the Patriots because OMG I DESPISE THE PATRIOTS WITH THE FIERY PASSION OF 1,000 BURNING SUNS. And the Ravens beat the Patsies to make the Superbowl, hence the Ravens earned my love for the evening.) It was touch and go there for a while (thank you, Superdome blackout), but in the end the Ravens were victorious, and Swede and I had delicious cake. Win-win all around if you ask me.
So, my dear Interwebers, the moral of this blog post is this: Don’t fear the red velvet. And stress baking during the Superbowl is completely fine if not highly encouraged. Also, I’m really hoping 2013 is the year of an Alannah Myles comeback. I’m thinking a cooking show, maybe titled “Red Velvet, If You Please.”
Contrary to popular belief, I do still enjoy baking. So much so that when the call went out last fall that the Cake Slice Bakers would be starting a new baking book, I enthusiastically threw my sugar-covered hat into the ring and was all, “LET’S BAKE SOME THINGS, YO!” I hurriedly ordered the book—Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson—and thumbed through it excitedly upon receipt.
And then, THEN!, the first recipe was voted on for November, and I got all pumped to make it, because it sounded tasty. A shoo-fly cake! Amirite? Delicious.
It was a disaster. A tasteless, dry, disaster that got pitched in the garbage. It’s entirely possible that it’s all because I didn’t have ginger. Yeah, that’s it. It was a disaster cake because I didn’t have the ginger. Ginger is my new vanilla. Kind of. Maybe.
You know what? I don’t want to even talk about the November cake, which I didn’t even make until December anyway. And then there was the December cake, which was supposed to be some sort of Mississippi Mud concoction with homemade marshmallow fluff or some stuff and nonsense. I shall spare you the suspense: I didn’t make the cake. I didn’t even attempt to make it.
There. I said it.
And I don’t regret it.
(Lie. I totally do. I’ll have to make it latertimes. I hear it’s full of deliciousness.)
But when January rolled around, I girded my loins and declared that BY GEORGE* I AM GOING TO MAKE THIS MONTH’S CAKE.
And you guys.
I totally did.
And I don’t regret it.
(Totally not a lie.)
But of course I had to do it my way. See, the original recipe, Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream, called for two round layers.
Can I be honest with you?…Yes? Thanks, much appreciated. A big cake like that, where you slice it off piece by piece, while lovely and wonderful, is not really my bag. Big cakes like that, in my world, tend to sit around for a week or more, I assume because people are way too lazy to take out a knife and a plate and slice off a hunk.
And by people I mean me.
And by assume I mean I’m correct. I am lazy.
So big cakes like that? Go stale in my world.
Which is why cupcakes, in all their over-exposed glory, are still wonderful. People are more apt to grab a cupcake to snarfle down and not think twice.
And by people, I yes, again, mean me.
Though I did share the deliciousness with my coworkers. (You’re welcome, Corporate America! Who loves ya, baby!)
Second, as mentioned, this recipe called for a banana cake (yum) with a coffee walnut buttercream (ew). Not being a coffee drinker, and for the love of all that is holy I don’t even like tiramisu all that much because of the espresso, I did what any good banana-lover would do and paired the cupcakes with chocolate buttercream instead. And instead of frosting the cupcakes like one normally would, I went instead with my more favored stuffedcake technique.
It’s how I do.
The result was terrific, simply terrific, and I, who am a salty-potato-chip-loving freak, had to stop myself from eating more than two of these sweet treats in one go. The flavor wasn’t overly banana-y, and the cake itself was soft and a little spongy, with just that hint of…stickiness? Is that the word I’m looking for? Sure, let’s go with stickiness. You know what I’m talking about—where the cake gets almost a little caramelized around the edges. It’s my favorite part. And the chocolate buttercream was a wise decision, if I do say so myself. And I do.
It’s good to be back on the baking train, good to not have a disaster in the kitchen. (Though there was almost a powdered sugar incident when making the frosting, but whatever you do, guys, DON’T FREAK OUT. EVERYTHING IS OKAY. THE FROSTING IS OKAY. IT IS UNHARMED.) (Also? Almost a cupcake liner incident.) (I don’t want to talk about it.)
Bake on, people.
*Can someone explain me: WHO THE F IS GEORGE? I don’t know anyone named George, nor do I generally do things by him. But maybe I should?
Hi! How are you? I am fine.
Recently I made cupcakes for my secret interwebs baking club. Well, I was supposed to make a layer cake, but last month I fucked it up! Ha ha! So this month I decided that I would modify the recipe and make it into cupcakes instead. I really like cupcakes! And I make pretty good ones, too!
I set about making this month’s selection, white chocolate layer cake with white chocolate frosting, and everything went swimmingly. Kind of. Until it didn’t. Because that, apparently, is how I roll when it comes to these things.
There I was, Interwebs, in the kitchen – I even had my apron on, that is how dedicated I am to my craft, I wear an apron – banging around and trying not to elbow myself in pancreas because yes, my kitchen is that small. I melted the white chocolate in my makeshift double-boiler, which, let’s face it, is kind of ghetto, but totally works, and let me be the first to tell you that I’m not the hugest fan of white chocolate. And let me tell you something you already probably know, which is that white chocolate isn’t really chocolate at all. Don’t ask me what it is, because I would just have to tell you, “sugar and sparkles and unicorn poop” as it’s been awhile since I’ve had to write ingredients articles for the snack food magazine. Ah, those were the days, when I had a plethora of useless knowledge about the snack and bakery industry. And had 12 Eli’s cheesecakes delivered to my office.
ANYWAY, Interwebs, can I tell you a secret? I’m telling you this because you are my dear, dear friend, and I know you won’t judge me. Or you might, but I don’t really care because I can’t see your face. (And what would the face of the Interwebs look like? Huh.) I don’t often have very good timing. When it comes to cooking processes and whatnot, that is. There I was, melting away the white chocolate chips, and when it was melted I realized that the boiling water I was supposed to add was no longer boiling and I had to heat it up again and while it was heating up, oh, hey! The white chocolate chips that were all silky and melted were then clumpy and, um, not mixable.
So I had to start over.
And the next time I used a fork to whisk the white chocolate in with the boiling (erm…or just really, really hot) water.
And all was well.
Except then I realized, while mixing the dry ingredients together, oh, hey! I don’t have any baking soda! Huh. Well, it only called for a teensy-tiny amount, so it won’t make that much of a difference, right? RIGHT? (Actually, right. I mean, I guess they would have been a little fluffier, had I had the baking soda. But they certainly weren’t bad.) And onward cupcake soldiers marched. Though if you think I didn’t consider ripping open the Arm & Hammer odor thinger that hangs in my fridge to keep my camembert from stinking up my eggs and using THAT in the cupcakes, You Are Wrong.
All in all, the recipe is pretty straightforward.
Oh, except for that part where they want you to whip egg whites until they are stiff and frothy and fold it into the batter.
(FYI, hence why not having the baking soda didn’t make too much of a difference, from what I can tell, because the egg whites were there to keep the fluff.) (I’m not sure if that’s actually true, but it’s what I’m going with. AND I’M THE BAKING BLOGGER, OKAY?)
So, Interwebs, merrily we rolled along in this Christmas season with the white chocolate cupcakes and whatnot, and from what I could tell when I pulled them out of the oven, they tasted pretty damn good too. And may have actually tasted pretty good when unbaked as well. (RESEARCH.) And Interwebs, I hadn’t even frosted them yet.
Which, oh, hey! I was out of vanilla to add to the frosting like the directions instructed! Oh well. Did I not look in my cabinets before I started baking? Apparently this is the recipe to just throw shit in a bowl, give or take, and see what the hell happens. Turns out, what happens is pretty good. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting was definitely more heaving on the cream cheese flavor than on the white chocolate flavor, but Interwebs, I want to tell you something. If I tell you, will you promise to still write me back? I hope you will, because I don’t know what I’d do without you.
Okay. Here goes.
Cream cheese is one of my favorite food groups.
It totally is a food group! It’s totally one of the six food groups! Bread, cheese, pop, fried foods, salt, and cream cheese. All creating the world’s most perfect food pyramid.
And when it all came together, and for the fact that I didn’t have to actually, ya know, FROST a CAKE or something like that, all in all it turned out quite lovely. They cupcakes tasted good, and Interwebs, do you want to know another secret? [lowers voice] If you want to get out of even icing cupcakes, just cut a hole in the top and stick the frosting in there…no one really gives a hoot how it looks when you just stuff it in with the cake.
My gift to you. Merry Happy Christmas.
That’s all that’s new around here, Interwebs! I hope you’re doing well out there in…erm…Interwebs-land. Have you gotten a lot of snow? What are you doing for Christmas? How is your family…of…ermm…tubes…that connect you to….huh….my computer? What? Oh hell. Whatevs.
Write back soon!
P.S. If I find the recipe, I will send it!
P.P.S. But I’m not going to type the whole thing out from my print out!
P.P.P.S. So the P.S. is actually pretty unlikely!
P.P.P.P.S. How come it’s always P’s and not multiple Ss?
Sister #1 has decided that she would like vanilla bean stuffedcakes with vanilla bean buttercream frosting* for an upcoming party. This is my first experiment with such a food item, which turned out pretty well. The frosting was great – tastes just like melted vanilla ice cream – but I think the cake needs some work. It was good, but it could be better. Lighter. Fluffier. Cupcakier.
Back to the kitchen I go.
*Note – thanks to my friend Ashley, I discovered my new favorite place to get spices on the cheap: World Market. Under $3, most of them! Whole vanilla beans, too! Sister #2 also swears by the Spanish grocery market near her, but alas, there isn’t one close to me. (That I know of.)