champagne birthday cake

One of my best friends turned 20 yesterday, so we had to celebrate—dinner at our favorite local restaurant and birthday cake after. I was in charge of the cake (i.e. I took charge) and the birthday girl requested a champagne cake with raspberries. I found the cake recipe on Pinterest (of course) on a food blog, Feast & Fable, that is fantastic all around, take a look! And this cake is so good. Like SO good. It strikes the balance of fluffy and moist, not too dense but not too airy. The champagne flavor is subtle but noticeable and complements beautifully with fresh raspberries. I topped each layer with my vanilla buttercream and lots of raspberries, then finished with a more naked look and fresh flowers from the local florist and my front yard. (Despite many jokes from my brother and sincere questions from my friends, no the flowers are not edible.) The cake got a little lopsided in assembly, but the flowers provided a wow-factor that distracted from my inability to keep things straight. My family was disappointed that they didn’t get to try any of the cake, so I’m making it again already and maybe I’ll get it perfect the second time around.

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Cake recipe from Feast & Fable:

  • 1¾ cups flour (or cake flour)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup champagne

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 6″ or two 8″ cake pans, then line bottoms with parchment paper to keep cakes from sticking.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.

Add the vanilla, oil, and yogurt and beat until just combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat. Finally, add the champagne.

Once combined into a smooth batter, fill each cake pan with equal amounts and place in center rack of oven. Check the cakes for doneness with a toothpick around 20 minutes, but they will likely need 3-5 minutes more, depending on oven, location, etc. The tops should be slightly golden with edges coming away from the pan.

When cakes are done, let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 3½ powdered sugar (plus or minus more as needed)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Place 2 cups of powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat until fully combined, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary. Add more powdered sugar until frosting is fluffy and somewhat stiff. Use more milk if frosting becomes too thick, until you reach your desired level. A stiffer frosting is better for holding cakes together and for piping decorations.

Once cakes are completely cool, place one layer on a plate or cake stand and cover with a thin layer of frosting. Place washed raspberries on top, making some fun concentric circles. Pipe more frosting in between raspberries to make it even, then place the next layer on top. Repeat for second layer if it’s three layer cake.

When layers are assembled, use remaining frosting (should not be a lot) to thinly cover the cake for a naked finish. Top with fresh flowers, more raspberries, or whatever else you would like.

Share with all of your friends and family because they will love you forever and ever. Enjoy!

vanilla-almond rum cake

I made this cake after some significant nudges from my mother who found the recipe in Food & Wine magazine, and the recipe is a keeper. I’ve already been asked to make it again. The cake is soft and a bit nutty from the almond flour, soaked in a rum simple syrup to keep it moist and a little boozy, and topped with a vanilla bean glaze. It’s perfect for spring/summer. The recipe is slightly more involved, inspired by a bakery in Brookline, MA, but the ingredients are classic and easy to find (with the exception of vanilla bean paste). It was nice for me to get back in the kitchen though, and I liked putting the extra time into this cake. My friend assisted (i.e. photographed) the baking process, so my mishap with this cake is fully documented—you can’t tell from the final product, but the cake would not come out of the pan. Even with a generous amount of butter and flour in the pan, a chunk stayed stuck and had to be patched in. The glaze covered the mistake so it was all perfectly fine. It’s how it tastes that counts after all, right? And this cake was delicious and gone in a day.

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Vanilla-Almond Rum Cake:

Ingredients:

cake:

  • 1¾ cups almond flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Myers’s Original Dark Rum

rum simple syrup:

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Myers’s Original Dark Rum

vanilla bean glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar

 

For directions, go to above link at foodandwine.com.

carrot cake

Happy Easter! As it is the only appropriate way to celebrate any holiday, I had to bake. This was long awaited, too, because I gave up sweets for Lent and needed something extra good. I went all out with a four-layer carrot cake with flower decorations. The cake is my great-grandmother’s recipe (which I forgot to write down for this post; email me if you want it!) topped with a lot of cream cheese frosting. It’s super moist and erases any misconceptions that carrot cake is healthy. It’s also an easy, fail-safe recipe; just make sure it’s baked through. All the flower decorations are piped by hand, which was fun but also frustrating. I only recommend if you feel a certain amount of dedication to your cake and even more patience. I say go for it, because the end result is gorgeous and sure to impress.

For the colored frosting, I used totally amateur food coloring from Dec-a-Cake. The roses are piped with a large star tip. The blue/purple flowers are piped with a slanted tip on to parchment paper on top of a metal spinner that is included in most piping tip sets that you can buy. For the leaves, I used a basic leaf tip and two tones of green frosting. If you want more information on piping flowers, I highly recommend Pinterest or Wilton.com, because there are a lot of straightforward tutorials for lots of different designs. Or you can contact me, though I’m a complete amateur.

I baked the cake in two layers, then sliced each in half to create four. There was a slight sinking problem in the cake though, which I suspect is from opening the oven too early in the baking process to see how much longer the cakes needed. But it’s nothing a little frosting can’t hide, as you can see from the photo of the inside, below.

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christmas sugar cookies

Since I’ll be doing some more holiday baking this weekend, I’m going back to Christmas. One of the best things about Christmas (and there are so many good things) is making sugar cookies. Mixing the dough, rolling out and cutting shapes, snagging a few bites here and there, covering yourself in flour, decorating with frosting and sprinkles — all a part of Christmas since I was little.

Usually my family likes a thicker, softer cookie with plenty of icing, but I wanted to try a thinner one with more delicate decorations. Though they tasted good and looked pretty, my brothers held out for our traditional sugar cookies, so I made a second batch topped with buttercream and colored sprinkles. But it was worth the two batches; I loved piping the tiny lace-like patterns while catching up with hometown friends, and getting excessive with the sprinkles while watching a Christmas movie with my family.

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Both cookie recipes are family recipes that we’ve been using for years. The icing and buttercream I make up as I go, combining milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla (and butter for buttercream, obviously) until I’ve gotten the right texture, thickness, and taste.

 

For thinner sugar cookies:

1 cup butter (salted), room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture. When the dough is mixed, wrap in plastic and chill for about two hours. Roll out to ~1/4 inch thick before cutting. Cook in desired shapes at 375°F for 5-8 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. Let cool completely before decorating. I used a thick icing (no butter), Williams Sonoma glitter flakes, and edible pearls.

For thicker sugar cookies (my grandmother’s recipe):

1 cup butter (salted), room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 cup sour cream

3 eggs

5 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla (be generous)

Cream butter and sugar. Mix sour cream and eggs in a separate bowl, then add to butter and sugar. Add flour one cup at a time, with the other dry ingredients at the same time as the first cup. Add vanilla once all the flour is incorporated. Wrap in plastic and chill, overnight if possible (if not, 3-4 hours will work). Roll out to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. *Tip: less detailed cut-outs work best for this dough, like trees or candy canes, since the dough really puffs up while baking. Bake at 375°F for 7-10 minutes, until the edges start to color.  Cool completely before decorating. I used vanilla buttercream and Christmas-themed sprinkles.