Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall is Here and so is Everything Autumn Bundt Cake!

Fall is likely my favorite season.  I say likely because like a good Michigander I can appreciate building a snowman in the middle of a blizzard followed by snuggling under a quilt next to a blazing fire with a good book and large mug of tea.  I also marvel at the first daffodils and hyacinths of Spring.  And a sunset over the lake after a stroll on the St. Joseph bluff with an ice cream cone is pretty convincing argument for Summer being the loveliest of seasons.  But autumn... the changing of the colors, going out of your way to crunch a few leaves under your feet, trips to the apple orchard, warm sunshine during the day which cools to jeans and sweatshirt temperatures at night.  I love this season.

This cake melds every flavor of fall: pumpkin, carrots, cranberry, candied ginger, and of course chocolate chips topped with cream cheese and fresh nutmeg frosting.  Thanks to Joy the Baker for so conveniently placing a pumpkin Bundt cake recipe next to a carrot Bundt cake in her cookbook which inspired this delightfully moist cake.  The measurements of the additional mix-ins are all estimates, add more or less depending on what you like more.  Pecans or walnuts would also be a welcome addition.

Everything Autumn Bunt Cake (inspired by JTB)
serves 10-12

Cake Batter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup grated carrots
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup lightly chopped fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
splash of vanilla
splash of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla together.
Add eggs one at a time.
Mix in pumpkin and carrots.
The dry ingredients through nutmeg can be added next.
Mix in the flour just until well blended.
Fold in the extra mix-ins.
Pour into a Bundt pan prepared with Crisco and flour.
Bake for 45-55 minutes.
Let cool in pan for half an hour.
Carefully turn out onto serving plate and let cool completely.
Frost with cream cheese frosting and grate fresh nutmeg on top. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes

So I have these friends at school. They love chocolate and peanut butter. I don't mean that they just kind of like the combination, I mean they are pretty obsessed. I asked them for ideas for cupcakes (I feel like I haven't been baking much lately), and the flavor combo they kept coming back to was chocolate and peanut butter, so I told them I would make them some buckeye cupcakes.

Well, as you can tell by the title, these are not buckeye cupcakes. Much to my surprise, we were almost out of peanut butter. And let me tell you, I was already in my PJs so I was not about to drive to buy some. I love my friends, but not that much :)

So what is a girl to do when she has promised to make delicious cupcakes that she apparently can't deliver on? Make even more delicious cupcakes. Or at least try.

I came up with these guys. After some whining to EW about how we didn't have any heavy whipping cream so I couldn't make caramel, I googled making caramel with whole milk and fortunately found a very instructional step-by-step recipe.

Salted Caramel Filling and Drizzle: From Bright Eyed Baker

This recipe is wonderful and I recommend just clicking the link and following her precise instructions. Don't forget to add the salt!

Mocha Cupcakes:

1 box of super chocolatey cake mix
1 packet of instant coffee

Make the cupcakes by following the instructions on the back of the box with the addition of the instant coffee. (I know this seems like cheating, but when I am making a pretty involved cupcake (i.e. making my own caramel sauce) I am okay with this shortcut. And, most people can't tell the difference.

After the cupcakes have cooled, use a paring knife to cut a small up-side-down cone out of the top of the cupcake. Make it just large enough to pour in ~1/2 Tbs of caramel. Pour in some caramel. I warmed my caramel up so it could pour more easily, but then the cupcake started to absorb it. I went back and poured some extra into the cupcakes. I also sprinkled a very small amount of sea salt on top of the caramel.

Be sure to save some of the caramel to drizzle on top of the frosted cupcakes.

Coffee Frosting: Adapted from Wilton (My go-to buttercream base)

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 packet of instant coffee
4 cups powdered sugar
2ish tablespoons of milk (or coffee, or coffee liquor, or other tasty liquid)

Beat together the butter and shortening. Add in the vanilla and half of the powdered sugar. Add the instant coffee. Finish by adding the rest of the sugar and add enough milk/liquid to make the frosting a good consistency.

I frosted the cupcakes using a 1M tip (pretty much the only one I ever use...). Finish them off by drizzling the extra caramel over the top.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kristi's Banana Birthday Cake

There was a very special date on the calendar last week.  Kristi's birthday!  It was a big one... she's finally able to rent a car without paying extra fees.  As usual we chose a cake from our "I need to make this but don't have an occasion special enough to justify it" list.  And once again we were disappointed in ourselves for having waited so long to bake our selection.  This is three layers richly dense banana cake separated by a light chocolate whipped cream, topped with decadent dark chocolate ganache and toasted coconut.

Enough about cake, we talk about that all the time here.  Let's celebrate the birthday girl with 25 things I love about her.
1. Her skills in the kitchen (I had to!)
2. Kristi-rules for board games.
3. We can have an entire conversation without saying a single word.  This used to get us in trouble at the dinner table all the time.
4. She's my twin born two and a half years late.
5. Style. My wardrobe is much improved when I can raid her closet.
6. Passion about science and her research.
7. Eggs and bacon for breakfast. Every. Morning.
8. She puts up with my version of the day of her birth.
9. She bought a chest freezer so we could buy half a cow's worth of local beef.
10. Photography skillz.
11. Landscaping skillz. (read: she mows the lawn)
12. Lack of hairstyling skillz.
13. She measured our heights on the kitchen wall every day until her line surpassed mine.
14. Dinner is waiting for me in the fridge when I get home late from work.
15. We have a MRSA stuffed creature hanging from a lamp in our living room.
16. Every wall in our house would be painted purple if she had her way.
17. Descriptions of foods she doesn't like are quite vivid.
18. She has just about as many pairs of socks as me.
19. She wants to do the photo quizzes from my medical journals together.
20. Princess Bride. JAG. NCIS.
21. She's the biggest copy cat I know.
22. Her cat calls me auntie.
23. She's converted me into a coffee drinker.
24. That some people think we look the same.
25. She'll always be my favorite little sister. And never a day older than a high school freshman.

Chocolate Banana Cake (adapted from A Spicy Perspective)
Serves 10-12

Banana Cake
3 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon homemade vanilla2 large ripe bananas, smashed
3 cups cake flour (replace 6 tablespoons of flour with cornstarch)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (add a splash of white vinegar to whole milk and let it sit for a bit)

Chocolate Ganache
10 oz. dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon corn syrup

Chocolate Whipped Cream
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons homemade vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add egg whites, vanilla, and bananas.
Combine dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a separate bowl.
Sift flour mixture together several times.
Add 1/3 of flour to wet ingredients.
Mix in half of the butter milk.
Alternate wet and dry ingredients, ending with dry. Scrape bowl as necessary.
Divide evenly into 3 greased and floured 9-inch rounds.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden.
Cool on wire rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 4 hours.

Finely chop dark chocolate.
Microwave heavy cream in microwave until it just starts to bubble.
Remove and stir in chocolate until it completely melts.
Stir in corn syrup.
Let cool until just barely pourable.

Beat all frosting ingredients together until stiff peaks form.

To assemble cake, remove layers from freezer and unwrap.
Place first layer on cake plate and top with one quarter of the whipped cream. repeat with layer two.
Gently place third layer on top of the other two and top with remaining whipped cream.
Press toasted coconut along the bottom half of the cake.
Pour ganache over the top so it flows onto plate.

Eat a piece for dinner and another for dessert (which may or may not have been what I did!)

                                                                                         A sneaky kitty ^^

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fig-Almond Cast Ion Skillet Cake

Todays blog post will begin with a fun little factoid I learned from our local zoo's website about figs and my current university's mascot:
"A bearcat eats a fig, travels a ways, then passes the seeds out the other end, helping fig trees grow in new places."
So, if you enjoy this blog post and/or this cake, thank your friendly neighborhood bearcat for his contribution. :)

I had never had a fresh fig before making this cake, but they have started popping up in recipes across the blogosphere/pinterest. I was at our local Meijer, saw these beauties on sale, and decided to give them a try. 
Fresh figs are surprisingly mild, juicy, and sweet, but they still have that distinctive fig flavor that everyone can recognize from their childhood Fig Newtons! 

Fig-Almond Cast Iron Skillet Cake (Adapted from JoytheBaker)
Serves 8-10
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon homemade(!) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup finely chopped, dried figs
10-12 fresh figs (depending on the size), sliced in half
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 375.
Gently whisk together all of the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and set aside.
In mixer, beat eggs, buttermilk, and butter.
Add sugar to blender and beat until fluffy.
Blend in vanilla and almond extract.
While mixing, pour in dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.
Fold in dried figs.
Prepare your cast iron skillet with butter and flour.  Pour batter into skillet.
Arrange sliced figs and almonds on top of the cake.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until just golden brown.