#ForknCake

Turning Cake Into Cupcakes

I need to take a moment to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to enjoy my food pictures and blog posts, and for the kind messages I’ve received over the past couple of weeks. I’m doing exactly what I set out to do, which was to take some ownership of an idea I’ve had for a while, accept some accountability for my life and well being, and to connect with friends and family on a different level… and I think it’s working!

An old friend of mine recently reached out to thank me for sharing my story. I think we all need to do more of this… When you share a slice of what’s happening in our lives, we have the ability to profoundly impact someone else’s. We forget that our struggles are (most likely) not very unique to us… as much as we think they are. Many of us struggle with the same issues… Relationships. Careers. Vulnerability. (I’m plugging Brene Brown again… if you haven’t picked up Daring Greatly. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?) Hearing someone else (someone you might know personally) experiencing these same issues can be a game changer… It could be the difference between stagnation and a life-changing event.

So, as I like to preach… Be kind on yourself. Life’s hard. Eat a piece of cake. Maybe if we all shared a little more about our personal struggles we’d all treat each other with a little more empathy. It’s like therapy but a lot less expensive.

Okay, Cake. I also need to mention that I realize many of the cakes I’ve posted are perhaps a little complicated… They take practice… There are often lots of steps… They take some time to create… This shouldn’t scare you away from the kitchen! My new hope is to also share paired down versions of my cakes in cupcake form. Maybe a little more approachable… Maybe an opportunity to learn a new baking technique with less pressure… Here’s the deal – YOU DO YOU!

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When I bake, I pretty much only bake by weight. This gives some flexibility around quantity but also the results I get out of my product tend to be more consistent. I don’t include weights here because it’s maybe a bit more info than you want? Anyway… I decided to kick this idea off using last weeks Root Beer Float Cake re-imagined as a cupcake. Again, moist root beer cake filled with silky root beer caramel, covered in vanilla buttercream, caramel, and a root beer meringue. A little less stress… A few less steps… Same delicious result…

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Root Beer Float Cupcakes

  • 2 cups, cake flour
  • ¾ cup, sugar
  • 12 tbsps, unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs & 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup, root beer
  • 1 and ½ tsps, root beer extract
  • 1 and ½ tsps, baking powder
  • ¼ tsp, salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Place to the side.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy using the paddle attachment.
  4. Add one egg and a time until combined. Then add root beer extract.
  5. Next, add sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until combined.
  6. Lastly, add your root beer and finish combining.
  7. Distribute batter between the cupcake liners and bake for approx. 20-25 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely before frosting! (or taking out of cupcake liners)

For Buttercream (adapted from @CakebyCourtney)

  • 2 sticks, unsalted butter
  • 3 cups, powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp, vanilla
  • 1 tbsp, heavy cream
  1. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat your butter until light and fluffy.  
  2. Turn your mixer to low, and slowly add the powdered sugar.
  3. Finally, add the heavy cream and vanilla extract.
  4. Continue beating until your frosting is light and airy.
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Root Beer Caramel:

  • ½ cup, sugar
  • 2 tbsps, water
  • 1/3 cup, heavy cream
  • 3 tbsps, butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 1 tbsp, root beer extract
  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once you turn the heat on, do not touch!
  2. Once the sugar starts boiling, Slowly swirl the pan to keep the heat distributed evenly. BE CAREFUL! YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET SPLASHED!
  3. When the sugar reaches about 320+ degrees it’ll begin to caramelize. Slowly continue swirling the pan until it evenly turns a light amber color.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Watch out! It’s going to bubble frivolously! Let it do its thing…
  5. Return the pan to heat and add the butter. Whisk until the sauce has come together!
  6. Let cool before using.

Meringue Kisses Recipe Here

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Meringue Kiss

One Meringue, Two Meringue, Three Meringue, Four...

Meringue has always been hit or miss for me… I mean there’s nothing worse than that over beaten egg white mixture sitting on top of a lemon meringue pie at the Thanksgiving table to make you run in the opposite direction… You know what I’m talking about?... It looks and tastes like dried out foam…. Yuck!

The Meringue Girls, however, are doing their part to change our attitude... and it’s working. Find them on instagram @meringuegirls or meringuegirls.co.uk. You’ve got to check out these beauties! Little drops of fluffy goodness in every color and flavor you can imagine… and I can't eat just one. In fact, I think I've eaten basically an entire batch this week by myself.

These cookies are perfect to eat on their own, to top a cake with, or you can even make bigger versions (known as pavlovas) that you can spoon fruits and cream over….

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I’ve been wanting to test out some recipes to add to my cannon for a while and since they’re a fairly easy concoction I finally took a couple of stabs at it this week. They can be a little finicky, but with the right attention and process you can whip some up in just a few minutes.

The recipe is pretty simple… one parts egg white to two parts sugar…. Some #Kitchentips to watch out for:

  • You’ve got to start with a clean bowl. I’ve mentioned this in my previous post, but whenever you’re looking to whip egg whites you cannot have ANY grease residue on the bowl or the mixer… this includes egg yolk. Your egg whites just simply won’t grow to full volume. Worst case scenario, you’ll be whipping a soupy mess with no result.
  • Don’t over mix your egg whites. As soon as they reach stiff peaks… chill out!
  • I use a silpat sheet on a sheet pan to bakes these cookies. I get a better result with less of a chance of browning on the bottom of the cookie.
  • After you’re done baking them, I let them cool right in the oven. If you take them out too quickly they can distort in a funky way that leaves them looking rippled and not as smooth.

Meringue Kisses

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup, sugar
  • 1 tsp, vanilla
  • food coloring (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 200F.
  2. Start by combining your egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Place the bowl over a double boiler on medium-low heat (just a pot of simmering water on the stove) and begin whisking by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is just slightly warmed.
  4. Move the bowl to your mixer and begin beating on low for a few seconds until suds start to form around the edge. Gradually increase the speed until you’ve reached medium-high.
  5. Beat on medium-high until stiff peaks have formed. Then, TURN OFF YOUR MIXER!
  6. Add your vanilla and beat for just a few seconds more to incorporate.
  7. Transfer your mixture to a piping bag and cut the end about an inch or so from the tip. You can choose the size kisses you’d like!  If you’d like to add stripes of color, you’ll need to paint a couple of lines of food coloring up the side of the piping bag before transferring your meringue to the bag.
  8. Pipe your kisses about an inch apart on a silpat sheet placed on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake your meringues at 200F for about an hour-an hour and a half.
  10. Turn the oven off and let the meringues cool before removing.
  11. You’ll want to store these babes in an airtight container so they don’t get stale too quick.

I’ll be daydreaming about these ones for a while. Stick around to see what I do with meringue next…

Funfetti Cake

The past week was a bit of a whirlwind. Committed to enjoying the beautiful summer weather while we have it, I went to a baseball game, a volleyball game, some more biking and running, and unfortunately a whole lot of work. Sometimes I wonder why I jam-pack my schedule?! I’m one of those people who teeters on the edge of both extroverted and introverted, so I require some decent time with myself to recharge…

I decided that I would dedicate Saturday to "me-time." I think we all need to carve out that time for ourselves… you’re mental and physical health are worth it! Obviously, that meant baking. I’ve been seeing these cakes floating around social media that imitate an ice cream cone melting down the side of a cake and I’ve been wanting to take a stab at one for some time. However, I wanted to up the stakes… So instead of one ice cream cone, I decided to add two… I would have added another but I didn’t want to over do it…

The cake I created for this recipe would be categorized as a pretty standard birthday cake recipe. White cake… vanilla buttercream… pretty classic. The wow factor here? Not just the dripping ice cream cones on top… but the fact that the center of the cake is speckled with funfetti, or sprinkles, in layman's terms. I’m going to be honest… the colorful exterior mixed with the rainbow sprinkles are not necessarily my taste, but it’s perfect for a kid's birthday.... or something of the sort. (a doggy birthday maybe?)

The thing I like about this recipe is that these are standard flavors and a pretty standard procedure. When you work to master these basic recipes you can start to play with flavors, etc… This recipe does have a decent amount of steps but it’s a great masterclass in standard cake baking and assembling. 

For this cake, I decided to use an Italian buttercream recipe. This type of buttercream can be a little challenging to make but so worth it. I’ll go into deeper detail of the process in a future blog post. Italian buttercream uses a process of heating sugar to “soft ball” stage and adding the cooked sugar to egg whites while whipping (most easily in an electric mixer).

Don't stress. Just practice. #Kitchentip - You’re going to want to make sure you have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go before you begin... Often times when baking, your steps need to happen in a sequential and timely manor. Taking the time to prep will make all the difference (and it’s WAY less stressful!)

Hope you enjoy how fun this cake is... both to look at and eat! Now for some more me-time that doesn't enjoy baking...

What did you do this weekend to recharge? What passions do you have and use to treat yourself?

Funfetti Cake:

  • 3 cups, flour
  • 2 sticks, unsalted butter (room temperature) cut into cubes
  • 1 and 3/4ths cups, sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup, whole milk
  • 3 tsps, baking powder
  • ½ tsp, salt
  • 2 tsps, vanilla
  • ½ cup, rainbow sprinkles
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, butter/flour/line 3, 9” cake pans.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix low for a couple of seconds to combine ingredients.
  3. Add the butter to the mixer and beat on low just to begin breaking down the butter (be careful, you’re dry ingredients are going to want to fly out of the bowl!)
  4. Turn up your mixture to medium high and beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the milk and combine for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is combined
  6. With your mixer on low, add one egg at a time until just incorporated (no need to over mix at this point…)
  7. Just before it’s all mixed, I take it off the stand mixer and finish by hand… adding the sprinkles at the end and just slightly incorporating.
  8. Divide the batter into your three pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tops have a nice golden look to them and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you have a kitchen scale, you can anticipate distributing about 285g per pan)
  9. Once your cakes are completely cooled, I recommend wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing them prior to using. The soft crumb on this cake will be much easier to frost with a cool cake. Just remove your cakes an hour or two before you you’re ready to frost them. 

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 2 cups, sugar (divided evenly)
  • 2/3 cup, water
  • 4 sticks, butter in small chunks (not cold, but not quite room-temperature)
  • cream of tartar, just a pinch
  • 2 tsps, vanilla
  1. Start by combining 1 cup of sugar and the water in a small pot on the stove. In order to get the best results, you’ll want to use a candy thermometer (I prefer a digital thermometer). Don’t turn the heat on yet!
  2. Add your egg whites to a VERY clean bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment. If you have ANY grease residue in your bowl, your egg whites will not whip up properly!
  3. Turn your mixer on low. When your egg whites start to foam, add 1 cup of sugar to the bowl as your egg whites are whipping.
  4. Turn your stove on and begin heating your sugar to 235F. At the same time, increase the speed of you electric mixer to medium-high. You want to heat the sugar at the same time you whip your egg whites with the goal of reaching stiff peaks at the same time you reach 235F. If you reach stiff peaks early, turn the mixer on very low until your sugar is ready.
  5. When your sugar reaches 235F, turn your mixer on high and in a slow, steady stream pour the sugar down the side of the bowl. BE CAREFUL. You do not want hot sugar to hit you… it won’t be pleasant.
  6. Keep whipping until the bowl feels just barely warm.
  7. At this time, you want to switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer. With the mixer on medium-high, start adding chunks of your cool, but malleable butter.
  8. Once all of the butter is incorporated, beat your frosting on high until fully incorporated. Your frosting will most likely look curdled but if you keep beating on high, it’ll all come back together and leave you with a perfectly smooth frosting perfect for any cake.
  9. At this time, feel free to incorporate flavor and color. If you’d like, you can switch back to the whisk attachment for this step and whip for a minute to incorporate.

Assembling the Cake:

  1. If you froze your cakes, you’ll want to remove them from the freezer for about and hour or two prior to frosting them.
  2. When you’re ready, level your cakes with a serrated knife and save the cake crumbs for your ice cream cone topping.
  3. Start frosting by placing one of your cakes on a revolving cake stand and add a scoop of frosting to the center. Spread your frosting using an offset spatula.
  4. Continue the process of adding a layer of cake and a layer of frosting. When I frost my cakes, I tend to frost around the seams around the cakes as I go. This just means that you’re working on your crumb coat as you move up the cake.
  5. Once you’ve added your final cake, and you look level, go ahead and continue working to complete your crumb coat. Your crumb coat should be a very thin layer of frosting that covers the entire cake to seal in all of the crumbs of your cake before your final layer of frosting. (Save 2 tbsps of frosting for your ice cream cone topper…)
  6. Throw your cake in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15-20 minutes to seal all of your crumbs in.
  7. Once your crumb coat is sealed, go ahead and frost the entire cake. I use a straight edge of a cake tool like this Ateco Decorating Comb to smooth over my cakes (Ateco 1447 Decorating Comb) . It’s pretty FANTASTIC.
  8. Once your cakes are frosted, I’d throw it back in the refrigerator to cool it while you work on your ganache topping.

Honestly, you could stop right here... You've already got yourself a great cake. Want to up your game?! Continue on....

Ganache Drizzle and Ice Cream Cone

  • Ice cream cone of your choice
  • 2 tbsps, frosting
  • Cake crumbs
  • Lollipop stick, or tiny dowel (about 4”)
  • 1/3 cup, heavy cream
  • 6oz, white chocolate
  • Food coloring of your choice
  • Sprinkles
  1. Heat the heavy cream on the stove until simmering. Don’t scorch it!
  2. In a bowl, pour the heated cream over your white chocolate and let sit for a minute or two.
  3. Whisk the cream and chocolate together until smooth.
  4. At this time, add any food coloring you’d like.
  5. Using a spoon, carefully pour the chocolate over the edge of your cake to form the drizzle down the side of your cake. Once you’ve worked all the way around the cake, finish covering the top of your cake using a small offset spatula to smooth.
  6. To make the ice cream cone, mix 2 tbsps of frosting with your left over cake crumbs and shape into cylinder that represents a scoop of ice cream.
  7. Take your cone and slightly press into the “scoop of ice cream.”
  8. Cover the "scoop of ice cream" with the ganache. You’ll probably need a couple of coats of ganache before your ice cream isn't opaque anymore…
  9. Stick half of the lollipop stick into the ice cream cone and then into the cake wherever you’d like for placement.
  10. Finish by adding extra ganache wherever you need to touch up and use a spoon to add sprinkles in whatever fashioned you’d like to decorate the top or side of your cake!

Ombre Tiramisu Cake

Let's Get This Party Started!

Can we discuss for a moment just how beautiful the summers in Madison are?! I know I’ve mentioned, but the bike paths blow my mind! The beautiful trails permeate the landscape of the city making it easy to get anywhere without too much traffic or trouble. Anyway, this past weekend was my friend Mike’s Birthday so we planned a nice day of biking and eating our way around town…. And it didn’t disappoint. I mean, there’s nothing better…. Madison's food scene makes it incredibly easy to gain a pound or two on any given day. Shout out to @eldoradogrillmadison for the perfect Breakfast Margarita (it's a standard margarita... just a little cheaper...) and to Lao Laan Xang for the best crab rangoon and pork egg rolls in the city....

Okay, okay... to the cake. My first response to a Birthday is usually, “What dessert can I make you?” So I asked Mike's partner Eric for his favorite flavors... (because it's way more fun to surprise someone with sweets!) Eric responds with, “Oh… we’re not really sweets people...” My reaction? “Oh really? Well, you could have fooled me since the two of you ate 3/4ths of the cherry tart I brought to dinner the other night…. What’s Mike’s favorite dessert?”

We decided to go with a take on tiramisu... I mean cake... soft and creamy mascarpone cheese... oh and coffee! I don’t know about you, but it is necessary to get my daily party started with a cup of strong coffee…. So why not kick off Mike’s Birthday and “My First Recipe Sharing” party with this coffee-infused Ombre Tiramisu Cake

Layers of coffee and mascarpone frosting sandwiched between vanilla, chocolate, and espresso cake?!  YES. PLEASE! Not to mention the beautiful ombre effect both inside and out… This cake is much easier than it appears… One simple batter, divided up, makes your three cake flavors… and one quick bowl of frosting, divided up makes, your three frosting flavors. Check out the recipe below (and a couple of #kitchenhacks and #kitchentips) and start your next party with this stunning cake.

Tiramisu Ombre Cake:

(Adapted from Sasha’s recipe over at http://www.eatloveeats.com/)

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1 cup, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup, sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups, flour,
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • ¼ cup of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (or ½ vanilla bean)
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Coffee Syrup:

  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • ½ cup, sugar
  • ½ cup, water

Mascarpone Frosting:

  • 26oz, mascarpone cheese (cool)
  • 2/3 cup, powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (or ½ vanilla bean)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1oz, dark chocolate
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon, milk

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven, 350F. Butter, flour, and line 4, 6” cake pans. (if you only have 2, no worries! You’ll just need to bake your cake in two batches.)
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time until just slightly mixed. At this time, I turn to good old man power and begin using a whisk by hand to add the milk and vanilla until just incorporated.
  • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Using a spatula, add your dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and fold gently until all combined.
  • Now you’re going to want to divide the batter up into 4 bowls. (Approximately 1 cup each). Into one bowl, add cocoa powder. Into two bowls, add ½ a tablespoon of espresso powder each.
  • Transfer batters to your prepped baking pans and bake for approx. 20 minutes (or until you can insert a skewer into the center of the cake and it comes out clean).
  • Let cool before removing cakes from pans.

Coffee Syrup:

  • Combine sugar, water, and espresso powered into pan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and then cool before using.

Frosting:

  • Combine mascarpone and powdered sugar. (I recommend doing this by hand in a cool kitchen… Using an electric mixture will easily separate the mixture leaving you with curdled looking frosting… No fun. See below for a solution, should this happen.)
  • If frosting is too thick, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of milk to loosen the mixture.
  • Divide the frosting into 3 bowls (split in half, then separate one half for two quarters.)
  • In a heat-proof bowl, melt the dark chocolate and cool for a minute or two. Add chocolate to 1 of the smaller quarter bowls.
  • Add espresso into the other smaller quarter bowl.

Assembling the Cake:

  • Level your cakes using a serrated knife. Get those layers as flat as possible!
  • Place the chocolate layer on top of a cake turntable. Cover layer with the coffee syrup and then spread a thin layer of vanilla frosting on top. Repeat with both espresso layers, and top with the vanilla layer.
  • Using the vanilla frosting, spread a thin crumb coat to the entire cake then place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before finishing the frosting process.
  • To create the ombre effect, start by spreading a layer of chocolate frosting across the bottom of your cake. Don’t worry about being too precise… just get a nice layer across the bottom of the cake. Next add a thick layer of the espresso frosting across the middle of the cake and finish with a layer of vanilla frosting across the top.
  • Once you’ve got a nice thick, messy layer, take an offset spatula or straight edge and start using your turn table to smooth out the frosting. You’ll quickly see your frosting combine and form the kick ass ombre effect.
  • ENJOY your masterpiece and caffeine-fix!

#KitchenTips & #KitchenHacks:

  • You're going to want to work in a cool kitchen when creating and working with the mascarpone frosting. If the room is too warm or you use an electric mixture and over beat, you're going to end up with a concoction that looks curdled! BOO!

    • Quick Fix: Place your broken frosting in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of slowly simmering water and beat until it pulls back together. You can see the result below. Don't let it get too warm or it'll just melt.... Whisk whisk whisk and it'll come back together very quickly. I would then let it firm up in the refridge for a moment before using....

  • That leads me to another #kitchentip... Be cautious when using an electric mixer vs. your own hands... Sometimes your own hands are more powerful than the mixer... It's incredibly easy to accidentally over beat your mixture. Using your hand provides much more control.

Until next time, take some time to start your day with a relaxing cup of coffee.... and a slice of cake... (or better yet, just go ahead and combine the two.)