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Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
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Over the years, I’ve made my fair share of chocolate cakes (and cupcakes).  But this one, my friends, is like no other.  And it really should come as no surprise to me that I keep finding recipes that are one better than the next but let’s be honest here: I’ve been sitting on this one for over 4 years.  I should have known it would be an amazingly great and over the top cake – look where I found the recipe.

Kyle, that lucky man…I pull no punches for his annual day of gaining a year.  He asked for a chocolate peanut butter cake this year and he sure as heck got one.  Three layers of fudgy impossibly chocolate stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth cake stacked high, filled and frosted with a light and fluffy peanut butter frosting.  And if that can’t put a smile on the birthday boy’s face, let’s just add a coating of chocolate peanut butter ganache on top.  Just for kicks.  The man deserves a cake like this one: he’s my rock, my world, my dishwasher. ;)

It may look like a difficult cake but you’ll make the cake batter in one bowl, people, one bowl!  No stand mixer required!  As the cakes cool, make the frosting.  A quick scratch coat to prevent crumbs and then a thick coat of the frosting is next.  And finally, as the frosting sets up in the fridge, you’ll make the ganache – which will take you less than 10 minutes.  Pour it over the cake, spread it out, and watch the magic happen as it drips down the sides…and just when you think the ganache is going to make a huge mess, the drips stop themselves.  It’s so fun to watch!

Make this cake.  Trust me.

[In case you want to know more about what Kyle does everyday, check out this post.]

Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Yield: 12-18 servings

This may seem like a daunting recipe, but I promise, it comes together in just a few steps. I strongly advise placing the cooled layers in the freezer right on the cooling racks for 30-40 minutes before assembling the cake - this small step will prevent the soft cake layers from cracking as you assemble. If you're limited for space in your fridge, assemble the cake on a cardboard cake round or large plate so that you can easily transfer it back and forth from counter to fridge in the final couple steps of the recipe - a cake stand plus this enormous cake will fit in few fridges.

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • For the peanut butter frosting:
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • For the chocolate-peanut butter ganache:
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

Instructions

  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease (no flour is needed here) three 8-inch round cake pans with butter or baking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.
  2. In a very large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water - splashing may occur if you add it too quickly (trust me). Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and be sure the batter is well-mixed and no flour bits remain. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans - using a kitchen scale really helps to ensure the layers will be equal in size.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes on the same rack, if possible, without the cake pans touching each other, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the peanut butter and butter. Sift the sugar into the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Starting on low and gradually increasing (to prevent the sugar from covering your kitchen) the speed to medium-high, beat the ingredients until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the heavy whipping cream.
  5. To frost the cake: Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand, cardboard cake round, or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the peanut butter frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with a scant amount of frosting to make a crumb coat to keep the crumbs from popping through the final frosting. You'll need just enough to lightly cover the cake - there's no need to be neat here. Let the cake chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Once the cake is fully frosted, chill the cake again and let it firm up before covering it with the ganache.
  6. To make the ganache: In the in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
  7. To decorate with the ganache: Gently pour the ganache over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set completely. Take the cake out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving - it will be difficult to cut through the ganache if it is too cold.

Source

source: cake and ganache adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes via Smitten Kitchen, frosting is a Smells Like Home original

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Sweet & Salty Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower
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Sweet & Salty Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower

One of my absolute favorite flavor combinations is sweet and salty.  Sit me down with some potato chips and a handful of M&Ms or chocolate-covered popcorn and I’m in trouble!  So you could imagine the level of my excitement when I flipped through Baked: New Frontiers in Baking for the first time and saw my nemesis flavor combo in a cake.  Add some salted caramel to a chocolate cake and I’m pretty much done for.

Now admittedly, I’ve had this cookbook on my shelf for well over a year and I’ve yet to make the cake.   It’s hard to justify making a whole cake for only two people just for the heck of it so the cake has ended up sitting on my list for what seems like forever.  And then came Courtney’s Virtual Baby Shower.  Among the many reasons why Courtney and I are such great friends (real-life friends, not just blogging friends!), I firmly believe that our love for Baked’s cookbooks links us together.  And while I’ve never visited the famous bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Courtney and her awesome husband, Eric, did a few years ago during a trip to NYC and they had a blast.  (For the record, I’m jealous.)  This cake is perfect for Courtney.  She is seriously one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and would go to any length to help a friend, but she’s also got this “salty” side, a sense of sarcasm, dry humor, and frankness that I adore.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend a whole weekend with Courtney this past weekend with Josie and Annie in Richmond when we surprised her with a visit for a real-life baby shower.  It was an insanely fun girls weekend filled with soothing Southern comfort food, a chocolate shop that blew us all away, tons of laughs, and so many memories I have to cherish with some of my best friends.

Sweet & Salty Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower

These sweet and salty cupcakes are truly an outstanding creation.  I used Baked’s sweet chocolate cake recipe (next time I’ll use my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe as I miss the domed cupcakes) and merged it with Sweetopolita’s recommendation of a salted caramel Swiss buttercream.  Need I say anything else?  Rich, sweet, salty, dreamy.  Perfect for my dear friend Courtney as she prepares for baby C’s arrival in the next few weeks.  Courtney, pour yourself a glass of milk, put up your feet, and enjoy!

Josie from Pink Parsley is hosting Courtney’s shower to be sure to head over there (and to Courtney’s blog as well!) to catch up on all of the other amazing treats nearly 15 other fabulous food bloggers have contributed to the shower!

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling
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Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

For the most part, Kyle and I agree on pretty much everything that comes out of our kitchen.  It makes for pretty easy living in this house and loads of fun when I menu plan and decide on what kind of sweets to bake.  The only recent exception to this lovely mutually agreeable relationship is cream cheese frosting.  While I can eat the tangy frosting with a spoon, Kyle can take it or leave it.  And yet I keep making it not because I forget how he feels about it, but because I think I can change his mind with different recipes.  It never works.

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

So when I made red velvet cupcakes last weekend, I ended up with a few extra frosted cupcakes and a moment of panic about what to do with them since I knew Kyle wasn’t about to bring Valentine’s cupcakes to his construction site at work.  It took me all of about .2 seconds to decide what needed to be done: repurpose them!  I scraped off the frosting (did you really just question what happened to it?), cubed up the cupcakes, sliced some fresh strawberries, and pulled together a no-bake cheesecake filling for some Valentine’s Day trifles.  And when I tell you that we both swooned with the first bite, I’m not kidding.  The silky filling has a touch of lemon that blends perfectly with the strawberries and soaks into the cake layers after a day-long refrigeration, resulting in a decadent and brightly-flavored dessert that would make the perfect ending to any sort of Valentine’s Day celebration.  We were hoping to celebrate this year in our new home but after another delay (?!*$), these trifles will be the perfect way to be celebrate how happy we are together, regardless of the situation.

Vanilla Bean Eggnog Bundt Cake
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Vanilla Bean Eggnog Bundt Cake

I won’t lie to you…eggnog exists in our house at Christmastime.  Ever since I found vanilla eggnog a few years ago, we always have a carton on hand from the first week of December when we put up the tree right through New Year’s and into January.  And this particular vanilla eggnog tastes like a vanilla milkshake which probably makes it all that much more addictive.  But frankly, I’m not here to lament about eggnog today.  And I’m also not here with a healthy meal post to kick off the new year.  No apologies from me. :)

Vanilla Bean Eggnog Bundt Cake

I’m here to talk about this vanilla bean eggnog cake that so many of you were excited about when I mentioned it on Facebook last week.  This recipe is a fantastic way to use up that leftover ‘nog.  You’ll only need 1 cup for the cake – don’t we all usually have just a wee bit left in the container right before we toss it?  The cake comes together quickly and the result is a rich pound cake-like Bundt with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon (my adaptations from the original recipe).  The eggnog shines through beautifully, especially on the crunchy bottom of the cake (which is actually the top of the cake in the pan and my favorite part of a Bundt cake), and with some lightly dusted powdered sugar, all you’ll need is a fork and a cup of tea or coffee to round out this delightful dessert.

Vanilla Bean Eggnog Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 12-16 servings

This vanilla bean eggnog Bundt cake is a stellar way to use up leftover eggnog from the holiday season. A rum or bourbon glaze drizzled on top would be a great alternative to the traditional dusting of powdered sugar.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup eggnog (vanilla, if you can find it)
  • ¼ tsp eggnog flavor OR 1 tsp pure vanilla extract and 1 tsp rum extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  3. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, stir together the eggnog and eggnog flavor (or vanilla extract and rum extract). With the mixer on low speed, alternately stir in the dry ingredients and eggnog mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Be sure to mix in each only until they are just incorporated, about 10 seconds each – do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and level off the top with a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a long toothpick or sharp knife reveals just a few crumbs stuck to it upon testing for doneness. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack then invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely before serving. Well-wrapped, the cake will last for 3-4 days at room temperature.

Source

adapted from The Naptime Chef

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Top 9 Favorites of 2011
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Here’s to a fabulous 2011 and even better 2012!  Thank you all of your love and support this year – it’s been a great one for me and as Kyle and I transition into our new home in the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing all kinds of great recipes that I’ve been holding out on until I have more space to work with.  Until then, enjoy a few of your favorites from this year…the Top 9 most popular posts, to be exact!

1. Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Frosting

2. DIY: Ranch Dressing

3. Baked Fontina

4. DIY: Taco Seasoning

5. Chunky Hubby Cupcakes

6. Take Out Fake Out: Orange Chicken

7. NY-Style Crumb Cake

8. Pizza Bites

9. Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake
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Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

For years I’ve been dreaming about finding a dense yellow cake recipe that could hold up to being stacked in layers as well as a thick layer of velvety frosting.  So many recipes I came across just didn’t fit the bill; either they were too fluffy negating the ability to even hold up to being frosted or they were flavorless and blah.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

So when I saw this cake posted way back in June, I filed it away in the back of my mind as a possibility for this year’s birthday cake.  The thing is, I couldn’t shake this cake.  Every time I thought about my upcoming birthday this whole summer, visions of this cake floated into the forefront of my mind.  Pink.  Sprinkles.  Vanilla beans.  It was practically the most basic cake that I wanted so desperately – nothing fancy, no swirls or drizzles or compounding flavors.  And I insisted on waiting until my birthday to make it.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Believe me, there were many times where I almost threw in the towel…where this cake almost got made.  But I held strong and waited until last week.  And honestly?  I’m so glad I waited.  I made this cake, step-by-step, and feeling like it was a hot and stuffy August night in 1986 again, I had all the anticipation and excitement of the 8 year old me waiting for my candle-lit birthday cake to be brought in through the darkened room with drones of the [maybe not-so-purposefully] out of tune birthday song in the background.  Seriously, I was dancing with excitement to show Kyle this cake when he got home from work and had he OK’d eating cake before dinner (thank God for being an adult!), I think I may have burst.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

And it was everything I wished for.  Dense, moist, tangy from the buttermilk, speckled with vanilla beans, with a smooth buttercream frosting that lent just the right amount of sweetness to the cake layers.  It was most definitely the prettiest cake I had ever made and I couldn’t be happier with how the towering three layers and frosting held up to being cut into such perfect slices.  Needless to say, I’ve found the yellow cake recipe I’ve been searching for all these years and I can see many birthdays in the future (mine and/or others) being brightened with this vanilla bean cake.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 12-15 servings

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Bean Cake:
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter approx 20 minutes)
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 9 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the buttercream frosting:
  • 3 ½ sticks (1 ¾ cups) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Ateco or Wilton color gel for dying

Instructions

  1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter the rounds, and dust the pans and rounds with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add in the salt. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes. Stir in the color gel to achieve your desired color.
  8. Frost and decorate the cake as desired.

Source

sources: cake adapted from Sweetapolita | frosting adapted from Sweetapolita via Annie’s Eats

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Peach Filled Cake with Dulce de Leche Buttercream Recipe
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IMG_0446

It seems that I’m not at a loss for peach recipes this summer and since this week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe also involves peaches, I certainly couldn’t pass it up.  It’s a fortuitous 3 layer cake with fresh summer peaches baked into the layers and diced up peaches stuffed between them.  And what may be the best part about the whole cake?  I made my own dulce de leche for the frosting!

Overall, the cake was delightful…one that I could see being made again to celebrate each new peach season.  The peaches were able to stand on their own even after being baked into the cake and the peach filling, mixed with some apricot preserves, drips down the cake after each slice, making for a sweet hit of fresh flavor with each bite.  I don’t think this cake would have been complete without a super-sweet frosting…and the addition of a full cup of dulce de leche to the frosting took this cake from great to oh.my.gah.  On its own, the buttercream seemed as if it would completely overpower the delicate cake but once I slathered it on, the cake, filling, and frosting were definitely M.F.E.O. (10 points for the movie reference!).  A perfect summer cake with ripe summer peaches…life is good.

IMG_0440

Peach Filled Cake with Dulce de Leche Buttercream Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

This recipe includes a quick and basic buttercream frosting where the dulce de leche can be swapped out for almost anything: lemon curd, fresh lemon zest, a couple tablespoons of cocoa, chopped strawberries, some peanut butter…you get the idea.

Ingredients

    For the peach cake:
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches
  • For the dulce de leche buttercream frosting:
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup peach preserves or jam (either store-bought or homemade)

Instructions

  1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until incorporated. On low speed, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold the peaches gently into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth out the tops with an offset spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cakes are light brown on top and firm to the touch. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes then invert the cakes on the racks and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  5. To make the buttercream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes, until fluffy.
  6. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes.
  7. Spoon in the dulce de leche and beat for an additional 2 minutes, until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
  8. To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula, spread the preserves or jam over the frosting. Place the second layer on top of the preserves. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting. The cake will keep covered at room temperature for 2 to 3 days if your kitchen temperature allows; if it is too hot, the frosting won't keep well so the cake can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator.

Source

source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather via Confections of a Foodie Bride

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Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake
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Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

This is the cake of family secrets.  It’s the cake that will make all of the old bitties at the church fair nudge each other out of the way with oversized handbags in order to buy the sole one remaining from the cakes and pies table.  It’s the cake I can picture being baked up in a tiny southern Georgia kitchen when the thermometer is crossing 90 degrees at 8am so that it’s ready for tea at 4pm.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Maybe it’s the buttermilk that induces these visions…the buttermilk that tends to be that secret ingredient that no one can put their finger on.  But needless to say, I’ve found the perfect white cake that I’ve been searching for.  It’s a tender (thanks to the cake flour and buttermilk) and delightful cake that when made into a layer cake (as it should have been for the original recipe) would be a complete show-stopper.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Beth of The Powdered Plum chose the original recipe (a 3-layer with Jack Daniels’ buttercream cake) for Project Pastry Queen but I changed it substantially recipe because I honestly couldn’t bear the thought of having to resist a buttercream encased layer cake sitting on my counter this week.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • A heavy/slightly rounded 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried (enough to almost cover the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Place one of the oven racks to the center position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking or baking spray, place a circle of parchment paper over the bottom of the pan (on the spray), then lightly spray the parchment paper with more cooking or baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together; set aside. Stir the lemon zest into the buttermilk, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Add about half of the buttermilk and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients alternately, scraping the bowl down and beating until incorporated after each addition. End with the dry ingredients; the batter should be thick and glossy.
  4. Spread the blueberries out in the bottom of the pan. Spoon the batter evenly over the blueberries and using an offset spatula, smooth the batter out to the sides of the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out mostly clean with just a few crumbs on the toothpick and the top is flat and lightly browned.
  5. Set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and allow to cool completely before transferring it to a cake plate, dusting with powdered sugar, and serving.

Source

source: heavily adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

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New York-Style Crumb Cake
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NY-Style Crumb Cake

I am always on the hunt for a great crumb cake recipe and since crumb cake is a pretty big thing to this [former] New York girl, finding just the right recipe is really important to me.  See, I watched many a crumb cake pass through the hands of family and friends while I grew up.  It was the dessert of choice to bring to someone’s house when you were going for coffee and usually it was an Entemann’s cake.  When Entemann’s came out with their “Ultimate Crumb Cake” years ago, it was the best thing since sliced bread –  loads of big crumbs with a fresh and soft yellow cake underneath is what has driven people crazy for years and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve found a recipe that meets my high expectations.

Cook’s Illustrated has pulled together a super easy and fantastic recipe for this beloved cake and I’m so excited to share it with you today!  The use of cake flour instead of all-purpose flour yields a beautifully soft cake that puffs up underneath the always sought-after cinnamon crumb topping.  And about those all-important crumbs…I’ve made plenty of crumb cakes where I’ve needed to increase the amount of topping the recipe calls for (as I’m making the recipe which is so frustrating!) because well, shouldn’t the topping fully cover the batter? With this recipe, there are plenty of crumbs to go around for everyone and the recipe perfectly balances the amount of crumbs with the amount of cake underneath.  It’s these types of things that make finding a great crumb cake recipe so critical and when you found the right one, you know it. This one is definitely worthy of a pot of coffee.

New York-Style Crumb Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Make sure you use cake flour for this recipe - all-purpose flour will yield a dry and tough cake. A few people have commented that their crumbs have sunken into the cake - the key to keeping the crumbs on top is to gently lay them out on top of the batter - do not push them down. This recipe yields an 8x8-inch crumb cake but you can easily double the recipe using a 9x13-inch pan.

Ingredients

    For the crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. To make the topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. To make the cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325° F. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces between your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Source

source: Cook's Illustrated May 2007

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Toffee Bar Brownie Torte
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There are some things in life not worth sacrificing. Like this cake, for instance.  It was the recipe of the week for Project Pastry Queen last week and I passed on it because I had already made cupcakes, rice pudding, and cookie bars during the week.  And I regretted every bite of all of those things once I saw this cake posted by some of my fellow PPQers. So given the opportunity for a reprise with a Wildcard Week, I jumped at the chance to indulge.

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With a decadent espresso filling sandwiched between 3 layers of brownie, wrapped in a fluffy espresso whipped cream, and studded with Heath Bar bits, I’m sure I’ll have no problem passing on all other sweets this week so that this cake can take center stage.  The brownie layers aren’t as sweet as you would expect due to the [16oz!!] bittersweet chocolate in the recipe and they balance just perfectly with the sweet espresso-mascarpone filling.  As you could imagine, the cake as a whole is incredibly rich but it’s worth every single calorie each slice contains and small slices alongside a glass of ice cold milk are highly recommended.  And even though this is a gigundo cake, if you’ve got anyone around with a hollow leg and a sweet tooth (read: Kyle), I’m sure this cake won’t be around for long.

Sarah’s got the full recipe posted at 20something cupcakes and a few others made the cake last week so be sure to check out Project Pastry Queen for their links.  Next week we’re going Italian!

Devil’s Food Cake
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I have been in a great little book club for 4 years now and like most book clubs, we have our own way of meeting.  Every 6-8 weeks, one person hosts at their own house and makes dinner for the members.  Before the book is chosen, the host throws out a few titles to the group and we rank order our choices; the book with the most #1 ranks is our next book.  Probably not so coincidentally, we usually all rank the same book as #1.  This time around, it was my turn to host and the group chose Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, by Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine and food critic for the New York Times.  Even before the book gets chosen, I usually have a plan laid out for what I’m going to cook that night and this time was no different.  I was dying to make something from Pam Anderson’s One-Dish Dinners but my plan was foiled because 10 pages into the book, recipes started showing up.  I couldn’t possibly host book club for this book without cooking from the book!

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Of the two recipes I made, it’s a tough choice for the top spot.  Reichl described this cake as one that would make the boys happy.  It was one that, as a teenager with absent parents, she would whip up in the middle of the night while her friends partied in her house.  This autobiography of the early part of her life is almost unimaginable because of the experiences she had at such a young age but this cake is very real.  And very good.  And the 7 minute frosting is to die for!  The impossibly chocolaty cake with a generous amount of fluffy and dreamy frosting is all anyone could ask for in a dessert. It was the perfect way, along with a cold glass of milk, to wrap up a great evening of food, chit-chat, and literature with friends.

Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
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As my expectation of [an annually made] pumpkin pie arriving at my house for Thanksgiving dessert was dashed, thanks to someone who usually brings the pie but never offered this year (bitter much?), I quickly had to come up a new plan for a second dessert.  And it needed to involve only ingredients that I had in my house because I refused to venture into the madness of a grocery store last Wednesday afternoon.  I dug deep into Dorie Greenpan’s Baking book and came up with her Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake.  It’s one I’d seen Annie make a while back and always admired for its gorgeous presentation, and I decided on the spot that it was time to make it.

As it turns out, this cake was way easier to make than I expected it to be (even in such a pinch on the night before Thanksgiving) and I’m definitely starting to feel more comfortable making caramel. I love watching all the bubbles while the sugar boils away!  Dorie, of course, couldn’t make the process any easier with her precise and perfectly detailed instructions.  The caramel-peanut topping is to.die.for and while I think I slightly overbaked the brownie cake, the combination was a delightful one…as expected.  Personally, I think the cake could have been a little sweeter so I think I’ll use a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate should I make it again in place of the bittersweet chocolate. But the caramel topping was just as ooey-gooey as I had hoped it would be so how could I possibly complain about anything else?  Nobody missed the pumpkin pie this year when I had a dessert table set with Tall and Creamy Cheesecake, Cappuccino Biscotti, and this outrageous Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake!

7th Heaven Chocolate Truffle Cake
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I’ll come right out and say that this is the most difficult post I’ve ever tried to write.  There’s an ice-breaker for you… In writing this post, my first official entry for Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog, I’ve been mulling over what to write for over 3 weeks.  And though it is the evening before the final day for submissions of the first challenge, one could say that I was procrastinating.

But it’s more than that.

It’s about finding the right words.  I’ve started and restarted writing this very post 3 times.  It just never seemed right.  Until today. But before I get to today, let me take you back in time to how I got my start as a food blogger.

Shortly after I got married almost 4 years ago, I found a home amongst newlywed foodies on a message board housed within a now well-known website called The Nest.  We talked about food and life all the time.  It was a blissful community.  Influenced by the likes of Smitten Kitchen and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (who was and still is a contributor to the message board), we each started our own food blogs and in April 2007, Smells Like Home was born (under the original name, The Cooking Fiend). Start-up was a slow process but having the support of my newlywed foodie community was the sole driving factor for learning and growing as a food blogger.

First Food Photo May 2007 (Frittata)

Smells Like Home soon starting taking on a different feel for me.  It became more of a way to connect with others through food experiences and less about cataloging my own cooking and baking successes and failures.  As time went on and food blogging became more popular, it became apparent that another community was forming before my eyes: food bloggers.

As food blogging grew, groups like Daring Bakers emerged; new communities themselves within the food blogging community. These groups intrigued me.  I joined Tuesdays with Dorie in its earliest days and soon found that I loved being part of a group blogging towards a common goal.  In May 2008, I decided to branch out and form my own group, a community of food bloggers called the Barefoot Bloggers, with the goal of cooking and baking through Ina Garten’s (FoodNetwork’s Barefoot Contessa) cookbooks.  Running a group like this hasn’t been easy but I have met some outstanding and inspirational bloggers through this group, like Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake, who stepped up with an offer to help me keep the group running smoothly.  Who does that?  She barely knew me.

Tuesdays with Dorie - Pecan Honey Sticky Buns (May 2008)

Barefoot Bloggers - Brownie Pudding (March 2010)

But that’s what food bloggers do.  It’s what strong communities do.  I have been an active member of this amazing food blogging community and have been a community-builder and these roles are what define me as a food blogger.  My first real-life experience with food bloggers was at the intimate Big Summer Potluck workshop in August.  BSP was originally designed as a food blogging event for East Coasters but grew to 40 incredibly talented food bloggers, cookbook authors, and food stylists from all over the country…and it was the first time I truly felt the impact of the food blogging community.

The second time I was struck by this feeling was just today when I attended Cupcake Camp New Haven after hustling around my tiny kitchen the past 2 days baking up 6 dozen cupcakes to bring as an amateur baker. 2000 cupcakes and a delicious afternoon with a community of cupcake bakers; many pro, some home bakers, and probably a few bloggers like me though so many people attended that it was difficult to visit every baker. Though this event wasn’t food blog-driven, it got me to seriously think how a group of people, both online and in real life, can come together with a common goal and instantaneously connect on a level that most new acquaintances aren’t able to connect on.  And while there was a contest for prettiest and best cupcakes, this event, very much like Big Summer Potluck, wasn’t about the competition.  It was about the community. It was about meeting new people, networking, connecting, supporting.  This concept is paramount in the food blogging world.

So as I write this post, I also bring you the chance to check out another recipe from Project Pastry Queen, a new community of food bloggers and non-food bloggers sharing the love of The Pastry Queen cookbook.  This 7th Heaven Chocolate Truffle Cake kicked my butt.  It was, however, one of the the best cakes I’ve ever made.  All 462 cubic inches of it.  This was a massive cake that challenged my ability and confidence as a baker like no other cake has.  And the result was 12 layers of decadent chocolate cake and truffle filling that knocked the socks off of everyone who tried it.  If it weren’t for being a part of the the PPQ community and having the support that goes along with a blogging group such as this one, I never would have attempted to push the limit of my skills. Be sure to check out the PPQ blog for links to results on the other members’ blogs and head over to Sarah’s 20something cupcakes blog for the recipe.

In the 3+ years that I’ve been food blogging, I’ve grown as a cook, a baker, a blogger, a person, and a community member.  And it’s the community that makes me the food blogger that I am today.  To that end, I have what it takes to be the next food blog star.  I blog to share recipes. To share stories about successes, failures, and experiences.  But what sets my blog apart from other food blogs is that Smells Like Home isn’t about the glory or the thrill of competition. It’s about the ability to connect with others and help build this ever-growing and inspirational community.

*Voting for this challenge opens on Monday September 20th at 12pm ET.*

Fuji Apple Spice Cake
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As a new reader of Bon Appétit, I must confess my love.  There wasn’t any particular reason why I had never picked up a copy before July but I’m so glad I did!  I’m not and haven’t really ever been a subscriber to any magazine (other than old-school Seventeen and Cosmo as well as the New England-based magazine that has the same name as my favorite baseball team that continues to send me bi-monthly issues even though I canceled my subscription over a year ago…not that I’m complaining or anything…) but Bon Appétit has changed my mind.  I’ve made and enjoyed a few recipes from the past couple of issues but this one is hands down the best yet. And ironically, it comes from Dorie Greenspan, one of my favorite baking gurus  (although it isn’t found in Baking: From My Home to Yours).  This apple cake was chocked full of all the spices associated with fall baking and seriously knocked the socks off of me and all of my co-workers.  It was perfectly moist and provided you use firm apples (like Fuji or Gala as the recipe suggests) they will retain their shape during baking. And don’t even get me started on the frosting. Best.creamcheesefrosting.EVER.  The only changes I made to the recipe was to omit the nuts in order to swap in cinnamon chips (which kind of got lost in the final product and thus wouldn’t use again here) and make it a Bundt cake rather than a layer cake; my changes are below and the original recipe is linked as well.

Needless to say, I’m now a subscriber.

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Love apples like I do? Check out a few more of my favorite recipes…

Apple Crostata

Apple Crisp

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