Y’all… I built my first forkn’ tiered cake. WHOA! I’ve gotta say that internet is an amazing resource. The number of ridiculous “how to” videos including how to build a tiered cake, how to decorate cakes, and even how to cut a wedding cake is outrageous. I mean video after tutorial after cake disaster… Everyone’s looking for their fifteen minutes of fame and I am RIGHT there with them…. I’m joking… I’m joking… sort of… But really, I think it’s pretty amazing how the internet has become a primarily tool in connecting people with similar passions and interests. We seriously have no excuse to not challenge ourselves to try something new when information is right at our fingertips.
I was listening to NPR on my way to work the other way (if you know me, you know I’m a little obsessed with podcasts and talk radio… @throwingshade and @myfavmurder anyone?!)… Anyway, my favorite local morning talk show host, Joy Cardin, was chatting with a scientist regarding his research on the connection between playing an instrument and our senses. Basically people who play instruments are all around brighter individuals... Okay, that’s not REALLY the theory but this PhD’s research is more or less supporting the idea that it’s important to exercise our brains in different ways to stay mentally agile as we grow.
I’m super fond of any activity that helps me exercise my brain. I think it’s just as important as getting out and biking or walking… Baking, though, is one of the ways I like to exercise my brain. And it’s fun… When I bake I get to use math, I get to think about how flavors interact, I get to use science (science is the reason we have to precise when measuring ingredients… It’s the difference between soup and a cooked cake!)… and that’s just a few examples of what baking does to help me mentally exercise.
What do you do to exercise your brain?
As I promised, I will not make you attempt a tiered cake… Unless you want to, then hit me up and I’ll share some ideas! This week I took the bottom tier of this massive cake and turned it into a much more approachable, bite-sized piece of heaven. Think vanilla/coconut-y cake (literally the lightest piece of euphoria), filled with blackberry compote, covered in vanilla buttercream, toasted coconut and a fresh blackberry… It’s heaven in a bite and perfect for a sunny afternoon. Check out the recipe below.
Keep and eye out, we’re going to have our first Forkn’ Poll coming up soon! I hope you’ll participate. Until next time….
(adapted from Tess Huff's AMAZING book Layered)
- 1 cup, cake flour
- 1 stick, unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup, virgin coconut oil (solid but pliable)
- 1 cup, sugar
- 2 egg whites from large eggs
- 1 cup, buttermilk (room temperature)
- 1 tbsp, vanilla extract
- ½ tsp, almond extract
- 1 tsp, baking powder
- ½ tsp, baking soda
- ½ tsp, salt
- Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 325F.
- Sift together your cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put aside.
- Start by combining your butter, coconut oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is incorporated well.
- Add one egg white at a time until just combined.
- Next, add the vanilla and almond extracts to the bowl and just briefly mix until combined.
- Continue by adding 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the buttermilk until just combined. (I do this by hand to prevent myself from over mixing…) Continue until all of the flour and buttermilk has been added.
- Finish with one final mix until everything is just combined and then distribute between your muffin tins.
- Bake for about 18-22 minutes.
- 1 cup, blackberries
- ¼ cup, sugar
- squeeze of lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp, cornstarch
- Start by mixing your cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Mix well to prevent any clumping.
- Combine blackberries, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and cornstarch mixture into a saucepan. Mix to combine.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture comes to a slight boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approx. 10-15 minutes.
- You’ll want to cool your mixture before using.
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup, sugar
- 3 sticks, unsalted butter (cut into small chunks – cool by malleable)
- 2 teaspoons, vanilla extra or paste
- Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl and whisk until combined.
- Heat the mixture on medium-high over a double boiler (this is easy… just add about 2 inches of water to a heavy saucepan and place your heatproof bowl on top!) and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 160F.
- Transfer your bowl to your mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high. You’ll want to whisk until the bowl no longer feels hot… It may be slightly warm, but not warm enough that your butter will melt when it’s added to the bowl. Your egg whites should reach medium-stiff peaks when this process is completed. It usually takes me about 5-8 minutes.
- Change the attachment to the paddle attachment and, with the mixer on medium speed, slowly add one chunk of butter at a time.
- Once you’ve added all the butter, add your vanilla to the mixture and beat on high until your buttercream is light, fluffy, and smooth. Sometimes you’ll notice that the mixture looks curdled or separated… continue to mix on high and it should come back together smoothly!
Assembling your Cupcakes:
- Cut a chunk of cake out of the center of each cupcake and fill with the berry compote.
- Add your buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a pastry tip of your choosing.
- Pipe your buttercream on top of your cupcakes making sure to cover the compote.
- Finish by added a decorative blackberry and toasted coconut!