Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake + 5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

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Wilson May didn’t care much for birthdays.  And yet he acquiesced, celebrating with family, [family he didn’t care much to see], at the request of his pushy daughter, year after year, cake after cake.

Why the hell does my daughter need to mark every goddamn birthday? He thought while his phone vibrated in his pocket.  It was her.  [Who else would it be?]  Calling to remind him about his birthday celebration later in the day.

As if Wilson needed a reminder that yet another year had passed.

He silenced the vibrating phone in his pocket [God damn phone.] just as the nurse he dreaded seeing pushed open the door to the long, stark hallway he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to walk down.

Wilson May?  Wilson May?  the nurse said, her squirrel like eyes darting around the waiting room.  [Did her nose wiggle too? Is she sniffing me out?]

Wilson removed his cheap, cockeyed reading glasses placing them in the 3 button placket of his pink polo shirt, adjusted his now wrinkled pants and debated leaving.  In 20 minutes he could be home.  Alone.  A beer in hand and sitting in the sun on a large wooden deck only one rocking chair occupied, where he’d have more time to think about what was next for his tottery body, his tired soul. [If the pain dissipated? Golf everyday. Gone entirely? Travel, fucking, drinking.  Wilson as he imagined himself 25 years ago.]

And yet, Wilson’s inner thoughts never matched his outer life.  For the past sixty-six years he had lived and loved two very different lives.  The life the outside world saw, a life well-lived [to others], consisted of obligations, dependability…sometimes love varied immensely from the impractical, reckless and solitary life Wilson imagined daily.

[At times becoming so engrossed in the romanticized version of his life, Wilson was unreachable. Lost to his castle in the air, his black coffee growing cold in his large, hairy hands, the local paper left unread.  His now ex-wife called them staring spells.  Wilson knew better.]

Wilson May…Wilson…?  He sensed a bit of hostility in the squirrel nurse.  He had aggravated her now and in turn she would likely be less gentle with him.  Tit for tat, like so many relationships he once knew.

Squirrel nurse surveyed the room one last time before giving up on Wilson.  The beige door gradually closed behind her, as if allowing chance to take over.

Wilson stared straight ahead, unmoving.  No decisions would be made today.

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Strawberry Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Cake and frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita

Italian pastry cream recipe adapted from An Italian in My Kitchen

makes 1, 3 layer, 8-inch round cake

Serves 10-12

Ingredients for cake:

4 eggs at room temperature

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 + 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

3 cups cake flour, sifted

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Ingredients for strawberry compote:

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup sugar (a bit more if strawberries are not sweet)

1 tablespoon orange juice

pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for Italian pastry cream:

1 cup + 1/2 cup whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier

2 + 1/2 tablespoons flour

Ingredients for whipped vanilla frosting:

1/4 cup whole milk

3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

good pinch of kosher salt

few drops of food coloring if desired

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Grab 3, 8 inch round cake pans and butter the bottoms and sides of each pan.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust with flour.  Tap out an excess flour.  Set aside

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup of buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Reduce the speed to low and add the cold, cubed butter, one piece at a time, leaving a few second in between each addition.  Continue to mix on low until butter  is well blended and looks like wet sand or cornmeal.

Next add the remaining buttermilk (1 cup) and mix on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.  On low-speed, slowly add the egg mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and fold the batter once or twice.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.  Bake two of the pans until the cake is golden and springs back gently when  touched in the middle or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple of crumbs, about 25-28 minutes.  Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely.   Next, bake the last pan for 25-28 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely.

Directions for strawberry compote:

Combine 1 cup of strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  The compote is ready when it covers  the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Using a handheld masher,  mash the strawberries until juicy.  Add remaining fresh strawberries.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

**The compote can be made up to 3 days ahead of time!**

Directions for Italian pastry cream:

Heat milk in medium sauce pan over low heat.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Using another sauce pan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Next add the vanilla and flour.  Slowly pour in warm milk and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly and stir in the Grand Marnier.  Pour into glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

**Pastry cream can be made several days in advance.  Store in air-tight container with plastic wrap covering the surface of the cream and refrigerate.**

Directions for whipped vanilla frosting

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until very pale and creamy, about 8 minutes.  Add sifted confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, salt and milk.  Mix on low-speed for about a minute.  Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5-6 minutes.  Add food coloring, if desired.  Frosting will be very light and creamy.

Assembly Time!!!

Place first cake layer on cake stand, face up.  Using a pastry bag, filled with the Italian pastry cream, pipe a two-inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  This will keep the compote from leaking out.  Add a few spoonfuls of the strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Add your next cake layer, pressing gently in place.  Again, pipe a two inch circle around the perimeter of the cake layer.  Add the remaining strawberry compote to the center of the cake layer.  Spread the compote just to the pastry cream.  Next, add the final cake layer, pressing gently into place.  Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cake is chilled add the whipped vanilla frosting  to the entire cake, decorating however you wish.   Flowers, sprinkles anything goes!  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

**Cake can be made 2 days in advance.  Be sure to keep it refrigerated.**   

5 Unique Birthday Cake Links

Looking for a special gluten-free cake for the chocolate lover in your life?  Head to the Tartelette blog for Helene’s flourless chocolate cake with salted butter caramel sauce.

Take advantage of fresh summer berries and make Camille Styles’ summer berry ice cream cake.

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies so I may need to make him Pastry Affair’s cookie dough cake for his next birthday.  Check it out!

Key lime pie in birthday cake form?  Yes it exists.  Head to Bakerella for the recipe.

My birthday was last week.  I’m thinking I’ll take some me time and celebrate a new year alone with a fork and this angel food cake.

Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie + 5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

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She drove home from the hospital in silence, headlights of passing cars illuminating her briefly before disappearing into the night.  If she hadn’t been alone, one might have noticed the smeared mascara underneath her tired, blue eyes.  Or maybe they would have noticed her wrinkled blue scrubs, a bit of blood splatter on the right leg from a man, or rather, a boy she attempted to save just hours before.

[“Please don’t let me die!” He pleaded while grabbing her shirt, yanking her stethoscope.  She, now, a metaphysical lifeline to a boy nearly gone.  When his grip on her softened, she removed his hand from her shirtsleeve and placed it across his heart.  Stupid kid, she thought.  Look what you have done.  No, she wasn’t cold, but removed.  After all, how could one carry the pain of so many? Damn near impossible.  She had tried.]

The headlights of her station wagon grazed the moonlit snow as pulled into the driveway of her picturesque, yet, modest colonial standing dark and peaceful at midnight.

[Tonight the kids would be asleep.  And her husband?  Passed out in their loveless bed, entangled in the sheets, snoring, farting, reeking of beer.  At least he was in bed.  A welcome change, really, to the nights when he chose to pass out on the living room floor among the toys that were never picked up and the dog hair that blew around the matted carpet like tumbleweeds.]

She sat in her car inside their cluttered garage (bikes, broken toys, Costco bags of toilet paper and paper towels, trash cans permeating the bitter night air) and thought briefly about not going inside.  Is that really an option?  Of course not.

The house-keys slid easily into the lock, reminding her she was home.  She placed her jacket on the overcrowded coat hat rack, someday I’ll organize this, and walked into the kitchen.  Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, dried ketchup smears decorated their kitchen island, beer cans acted as cairns, marking where his latest, desperate internal battle took place. 

[She sighed.  12:15 AM .  Instead of tackling the mess in the kitchen and the one sleeping in her bed, she would have a drink, ring in the new year with a cold glass of Baileys. ]

The family dog slept curled up against the over-stuffed, milk stained Lazy Boy chair.  She lowered herself into the chair, careful not to wake the dog or spill her drink.  [Did it matter?]  She muted the TV , watched the lovers and strangers in Times Square kiss, desirous for an imagined fresh start.  She understood that craving.

The blue glow from the TV lit her scrubs just enough for the blood splatter to reappear. She rubbed a single finger across it.  The blood soaked in and dry now.  [For a moment she thought of licking  her finger.  A single lick of his blood: water, salt, red and white blood cells, microscopic bits of him dissolving on her tongue and living for as long as she lived.]  She held the glass to her mouth, let the ice cubes hit her lips and took a long sip of the creamy, sweet Baileys.  This year she would save the only life she could save: her own.

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Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie

pudding recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen

chocolate wafer crust adapted from Williams Sonoma

Serves 6

Ingredients for Pudding:

5 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups of milk (not fat-free)

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Crème

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream for topping (optional)

chocolate shavings or crushed chocolate wafer cookies for topping (optional)

Directions:

Grab a medium bowl and whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch until well combined.  Set aside.

Add the brown sugar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan placing the pan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes thick and dark, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the milk and heavy cream.  (Be careful! It will bubble.)  Whisk until all butterscotch bits at the bottom of the pan dissolve.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Do not step away, the mixture could boil over!  Once it reaches a rapid boil, decrease the heat and slowly pour half of the butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking well to combine.  Now add the custard to the remaining half of the butterscotch mixture.

Whisk over medium heat until the custards just begins to gently boil and coats the back of your spoon, about 3 minutes. ( The custard is ready when it coats the back of spoon.  To be sure, draw your finger across the back of the spoon.  Your finger should leave a mark through the custard and not run back together.)  Remove from the heat.  Add butter, Baileys and vanilla.  Stir until butter is completely melted and the custard is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Pour custard into a bowl and chill, uncovered, until very cold and pudding like, about 4 hours.   I chilled it overnight.  Transfer to air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The pudding can be made two days ahead.

Chocolate Wafer Crust

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cups crushed chocolate wafers

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Place chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin until they resemble crumbs.

Stir together cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl until the crumbs are moist.  Pat mixture firmly and evenly into a 9 inch pie pan.  Be sure to cover both the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

Crust will last, unfilled, for several days well covered and at room temperature.

Assembly!

Add pudding to pie crust, filling it to the top.  (You will have leftover pudding.)  Top with fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate and/or cookie crumbs.  Chill until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**Add the pudding to the crust no more than a day before serving it.  The crust will start to get soggy after a couple of days**

5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

Looking for a unexpected spice in your life?  Head to A Cozy Kitchen and make green chili chocolate pudding pie.  Sounds weird but I bet it is delicious.  Embrace the weird.

Vegans rejoice! Ambitious Kitchen has a recipe for vegan chocolate avocado pie that sounds amazing!

A fudgey layer of chocolate pudding covers a sweet chocolate cookie crust and is topped with a light and airy vanilla pudding.  Intrigued? Want the recipe?  Head to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for the recipe.

Butterscotch pudding meets cheesecake and makes this amazing pie by Bake or Break. Check it out!

Dreaming of peach season in January?  Check out my peach ricotta pudding cream pie recipe.  Swap out the fresh peaches for frozen and you’ll have a bit of summer in January.

White Wine Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream + 5 Cupcake Links for Mom

“Most was said in our first moment, when we were so quiet.  He swam through the air to me and there was nothing.  No spaces.  I suppose it was the first moment I was thoroughly alive because I fell too far in it to ever describe it.  There was nothing to look at because I was too busy seeing, and I got to be a beginner too.  Will always be now, as every moment with your child will never repeat itself with something lovely after it, like a sunset or a passage in a book.  Real time with them, I think, is the only actual.  Everything left over is just a weather report.” Mary-Louise Parker, Dear Mr. You

[My words, lost for now, adrift in a dense, gunmetal fog will come back.  Thank, whomever, whoever or whatever for Mary-Louise Parker’s insight.  Happy Mother’s Day. xo]

White Wine Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

A lightly sweet cupcake with a tight crumb topped with a super silky chocolate buttercream

Recipe adapted from Silver Palette Cookbook and Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup dry white wine ( I used Pinot Grigio)

2 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

Grab a medium bowl and sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Reduce speed to low and add oil, wine, dry ingredients and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared muffin pans.  Place 1 pan on the middle rack and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.  (Be sure to check at 20 minutes.)  Once baked, remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Proceed with baking the next pan of cupcakes.

Once cool, frost the cupcakes generously with chocolate buttercream.  Enjoy!

*Cupcakes are best the day they are made.  However, they still taste great the next day.  Be sure to store them in an air-tight container, at room temperature.*

Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

6 eggs, whites only, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature

pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Cut the butter into tablespoon chunks and set aside.  Melt your chocolate either in the microwave or stove top and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, place egg whites in bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  While the egg whites are beating, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Cook on high until it reaches 238F or the softball stage.  Immediately, with the mixer on medium speed, add the hot sugar in slow but steady stream.  Beat until the whites have cooled.

Reduce the speed to low and the add the butter, one chunk at a time, until it is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to high and beat until glossy and light.  Turn the mixer off.  Grab a rubber spatula and fold in the melted chocolate until smooth.  Mix in a pinch of salt.  Frost your cupcakes generously!

**If your buttercream breaks or looks curdled when mixing, hold a cloth ice pack or ice against the bottom of the bowl and continue to beat on medium speed.  The buttercream will eventually come back together.  Be patient!  This happened to me and the cloth ice pack trick worked!**

5 Cupcakes Just for Mom

Rhubarb is showing up the in market just in time for Mother’s Day so why not make mom cupcakes studded with fresh rhubarb?  Head to Kitchen Konfidence for the the recipe.

Looking for a quick and easy cupcake recipe mom is sure to love?  Head to i am Baker for Amanda’s coconut angel food cupcakes.

Eat your bananas and make Local Milk’s buttermilk and roasted banana cupcakes with Lindt truffle filling and marshmallow frosting.  This sounds like a bite of heaven to me!

David Lebovitz’s chocolate, peanut butter and pretzel cupcakes will make any mom forgot a horrible, no good, very bad day.

Keep it simple and make my chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream + 5 Classic Cupcake Links

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When I overthink things I get myself into trouble.  I overthought these chocolate cupcakes. I agonized over thoughts of various fillings, my mind racing with options: raspberry curd, mocha whipped cream, chocolate ganache, Dulce de Leche.  [No, next.]  So, I focused on frosting choices: Swiss meringue buttercream, sea salt caramel frosting, dark chocolate ganache, a simple fruit icing.  [No, no. Tasty, but not what I’m looking for…today.]

“Keep it simple, Kel.” She tells me, one hand on the steering wheel as she applies a thick coat of lipstick without looking, once, in the mirror.  [Light blue Ford Taurus station wagon that smells like sour milk and old coffee.  She doesn’t care.  She gave up on caring about incidentals a long time ago.  I get that…now.]  

I stare, memorized by her confidence, memory recall, her lips as they transform from a pale, wrinkled pink to a smooth, as, buttercream mauve.  How does she do that?  A mystery to me in so many ways.  

Her beautiful bright blue eyes dart over me, examine my face.  “What’s with you today?”  I turn my face into the light coming through the passenger’s window, a rural landscape runs alongside.

“Nothing.”  My go to answer for many decades to come.  Poor Mom, tormented and relieved by the unknowns.  Juxtaposition at its best.

“Keep it simple.”  These words coming from a woman who has never kept anything simple in her life.  A woman who counted on plan b and plan c .  If the levy should break.  

She doesn’t know I will take her words, carry them with me, and sing them like a psalm.   

So, I  pushed options to the side.  Tucked them safely in a place, a corner of my brain, where they sit patiently and wait.   Wait for a day when I need them.  After all, I am my mother’s daughter.

So I kept it bald, bare, naked and made a rich, moist chocolate cupcake paired with a sweet and light white chocolate buttercream.  Nothing fancy, in fact, quite simple, but altogether delicious.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Cupcake recipe from Not Without Salt

Buttercream recipe adapted from What To Bake & How To Bake It, Jane Hornby

Makes 24 cupcakes ( You may get more. I got 36!)

Ingredients for cupcakes:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 + 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs

1 + 1/2 cups milk ( I used 1%)

3/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 + 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.

Grab a large bowl and sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Using the a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla on medium speed.  Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar and dry ingredients.  Mix on a low speed for a couple of minutes, then increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter is smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  (You should not see lumps.  If you do, keep mixing.)  Slowly, add 1 cup of boiling water and mix on the lowest speed until completely smooth.  (Alternatively, mix the water into the batter with a wooden spoon until smooth.)  The batter will be quite thin.  Let the batter rest for about 15-30 minutes.  I let it sit for closer to an hour.  When ready to bake, gently stir the batter.

Fill the cupcake liners, about three-quarters the way full.  Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched or when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 20 minutes.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cupcakes cool, make your buttercream frosting.

Ingredients for white chocolate buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

a good pinch of kosher salt

2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

Grab a small saucepan and heat the cream until the edges just begin to bubble.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Once melted, stir until smooth.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt, scrape down the sides and continue to beat.  Slowly, add the confectioners’ sugar.  Continue to beat until fluffy and pale.  Pour in the cool chocolate and whip on high for 5 minutes.  Add more sugar if it seems too thin.  ( I didn’t need to add more sugar.)  Frost cupcakes with an offset spatula or fill a pastry bag and add your favorite piping tip.  Cupcakes are best the day they are made.  However, they taste just fine if made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Eggs

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

piping or Ziploc bag

parchment paper

Directions:

Using a pencil, lightly draw desired shapes on parchment paper: eggs, flowers, butterfly etc.

Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate in an oven proof glass bowl either using the microwave or nestled on top of a small saucepan with simmering water. * If using the microwave, watch carefully, as it will burn easily.  If using the stove top, be sure the bowl does not touch the simmer watering.*  Stir until the chocolate is smooth and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.  Pour melted chocolate into a Ziploc bag and trim just a bit of the corner with scissors.  Trace your drawings using the melted chocolate.  Allow to dry until completely hard, about 30 minutes.  Remove the chocolate from parchment paper with a spatula and carefully add decorations to cupcakes.

 5 Classic Cupcake Links!

My favorite cake and frosting match up is yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Sally’s Baking Addiction has a recipe that is making me drool: moist yellow cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting.

Red velvet will never go out of foodie style.  Averie Cooks has a recipe for red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting that looks divine!

Looking for a mouth watering all chocolate cupcake?  Head to Sweetapolita for Rosie’s dark and dreamy double fudge cupcakes.  

Kids and adults will go crazy for My Baking Addiction’s vanilla bean cupcakes.

I love all lemon desserts, but Cooking Classy’s lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting is really pulling on my heartstrings today!

Chocolate-Rye Crumb Cake + 5 Chocolate Desserts to Get You Through Winter!

 

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I flagged this recipe from Bon Appétit a couple of months ago, placed the magazine on top of a collection of sloppily organized cookbooks and walked away.

I’ll make it next week…

Weeks passed, more snow fell, kids got sick, training runs got longer and more depleting, I avoided my cookbooks and magazines.  I made easy comfort food and desserts.  My cooking self hibernated, hunkered down, got through…winter.  It wasn’t until last week I felt motivated to make something new.  Maybe the sudden sound of songbirds in the early morning, or the longer days woke me up.  I can’t say.  Maybe spilling the red bowl of Kosher salt that sits next to stove near the cookbooks was the catalyst for cooking something new.  The spill did force me to clear the entire counter, wipe it down and then sort of organize my cookbooks and magazines.  So forget the songbirds or the longer days.  My clumsy self set off a series of events that forced my withdrawn self to wake up.  Or least make this long forgotten recipe: chocolate-rye crumb cake.

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I have never baked with rye flour.  As I folded the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, the dough became quite sticky and dense.  I thought about throwing it out, but I carried on, spread the batter into my prepared pan and sprinkled the top with the cacao nib crumble.  55 minutes later the cake was ready.  I let it cool and went about my day.  (This is not normal behavior, I know.  Fresh chocolate cake sitting on the counter begs for a knife and fork, and a plate is optional.)  I guess I assumed the cake would taste like cardboard, despite containing plenty of butter and sugar.

I should never assume anything again.  One bite and I was hooked.  Moist and tender with a mellow rye flavor, this chocolate crumb cake is one I will make for years to come.  The chocolate flavor is robust and overpowers the rye flour, but that doesn’t bother me.  The crumble, similar to chocolate cookie crunches, but not nearly as processed, is the highlight of the cake.  The cacao nibs add a pure chocolate element to the cocoa powder.  Then all of that antioxidant wholesomeness pairs perfectly with butter and sugar.  Can it get any better?  I doubt it.  Enjoy!

Chocolate-Rye Crumb Cake

serves 8

barely adapted from Bon Appétit January 2015

Ingredients:

For the crumble:

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 rye flour

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For Cake:

Non-stick spray

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 cup rye flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

heaping 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

Directions:

Make your crumble.  Whisk together sugar, flours, cacao nibs, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined.  Using your fingers work the cold butter into the dry ingredients until large clumps form.  The crumble should resemble wet sand and there should be no dry spots.  Keep chilled until ready to use.  (Crumble can be made 2 days in advance.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Spray a 8×2 inch round cake pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat butter, sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy or about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowls and add your eggs  and vanilla.  Mix for another 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk.  Mix well.  Add other half of dry ingredients followed by the yogurt.  The batter will seem stiff and sticky. That’s ok!

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread crumble over.  Bake for 55-60 minutes.  The middle should spring back when touched lightly.  Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack before removing.  Serve at room temperature alone or with whipped cream or ice cream.  (Cake can be made a couple of days ahead. Store well wrapped at room temperature.)

5 Chocolate Desserts To Get You Through Winter

St. Patty’s Day is next week so why not celebrate with stout cupcakes with chocolate covered pretzels or triple chocolate Guinness cookies.  Beer and chocolate almost always taste good together!

I have a tub of mascarpone sitting in my fridge and now I have a plan: chocolate mascarpone cake with berries.

Raspberry season is coming.  If you see some raspberries at the grocery store, buy them and make double chocolate raspberry brownies. Go ahead, treat yourself!

My brownie pie will help soothe your winter blues, I promise.

Cherry Galette

We are moving in less than 10 days. It is hard to believe. We brought both of our babies home to this house. It is a place full of good and bad memories, struggles and triumphs. I am sad to leave it. Three months ago we decided to put our condo on the market and it sold in 6 days. We were shocked. For years we have complained about the busy street and the lack of a yard for the kids and our dog, Alice. We are frantically looking for a house to buy but nothing we see feels like a good fit. So we will rent for a while. We will be in a state of transition with no end date in site. I like to feel settled so this feels especially hard. I am surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap and incredibly stressed out but we need to eat and dessert is a must in our house.

I spotted cherries at the market the other day and I couldn’t resist buying a bunch. They are a favorite in our household. Typically we eat them straight out of the bag or I throw them into a salad. I saw a recipe for Rhubarb Galette on Top with Cinnamon  http://www.topwithcinnamon.com/and decided to make a cherry version.

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I attempted to make an oat flour dough but I was impatient. I worked the dough too hard. I didn’t let it rest. The butter was too warm. It was a mess. I am preoccupied with the move. I feel out of sorts. I need to be gentle with myself. Luckily, I had a Trader Joe’s pie crust in the fridge. I let it thaw, mixed the cherries with a little sugar, cornstarch and juice and piled on top of the dough. I brushed the crust with milk and sprinkled it with raw sugar. I will make the oat flour crust at some point but for now things need to be easy.

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It baked for 20 minutes at 400 and another 20 minutes at 350.

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I served it with vanilla ice cream. Both Bubba and kids loved it.

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Cherry Galette

Inspired by Top with Cinnamon’s Rhubarb Galette and Dinner A Love Story’s Apple Galette

For the Crust:

1 Frozen Trader Joe’s or Pillsbury pie dough thawed or a homemade dough

For the Filling:

1 lb pound cherries, stems removed and pitted and sliced in half

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp of juice (Any kind of juice will work here. I used orange but fresh lemon or lime juice also works well.)

2 tsp cornstarch

milk or buttermilk for brushing the crust (I used mil.k)

raw sugar for sprinkling on the crust

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

Pit and slice cherries in half. Mix cherries with sugar, cornstarch and juice. Toss to coat and set aside to macerate.

Cut a piece of parchment paper so it fits a large cookie sheet. Place the parchment paper on your work surface and dust with flour. Unwrap thawed but still cold pastry dough, dust with flour, and roll out into a large circle about 12 inches.

Pile the cherry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving the juice behind. Leave about a 2 inch border.

Fold pastry dough in, pressing gently. Brush the pastry with milk or buttermilk and sprinkle the dough with raw sugar. Dot with butter and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or plain.