Monday, February 25, 2013

Maple Layer Cake

Maple Layer Cake
Cupcake Ranking: 1 Maybe (and that is generous)
This is one of those recipes where you think, "Hmmm.  Maybe." And then you really hope that it is good because it would be fun to have a great cake made primarily of maple syrup.  Admittedly, after the cake baked, the whole house smelt like pancakes and syrup taste.  Hmm, Maybe...Alas, no.  Not only no, but not.  ever. again.  We each had a piece and threw the rest of the cake away.  Gasp. 
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted Butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 3/4 C all-purpose Flour, sifted, plus more for pans
2 C pure Maple syrup, preferably grade A dark amber
3 large Eggs
1 Tbs Baking powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Ginger
1 C Milk
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Maple Buttercream Frosting
6 Large Egg Yolks
2 C Maple Syrup
1 lb (4 sticks) Butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour. Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the maple syrup, and beat until combined. Add the eggs, and beat until combined.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat to combine. Beat in the milk and vanilla extract until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.
Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes; rotate the cake pans halfway through baking time to ensure even baking. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour maple syrup into a medium saucepan. Place pan over medium-high heat; bring syrup to a boil. Cook syrup until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees (just above soft-ball stage), about 15 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. While the electric mixer is running, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg-yolk mixture (it is essential that the syrup touches the side of the bowl as you pour it in so the sugar will be very evenly incorporated and not splatter onto the sides of the bowl) until the syrup has been completely incorporated, about 1 1/2 minutes. Beat until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add butter, one piece at a time, until all of it has been completely incorporated and the frosting is fluffy, about 4 minutes more. (I would refrigerate it first.  At least until it was frosting consistency.  Mine was runny and was sliding off of the cake.) Use immediately.
Turn out cakes, and place one, top-side up, on a cake stand or platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups maple buttercream frosting evenly over the top. Place the second cake layer on top, and spread the remaining 2 1/2 cups frosting around the sides and over the top.
Rach's Tips
This cake was a major disappointment.  The cake was super dense (and tasteless) and then the frosting tasted like maple flavored butter.  The frosting would have been great on a fried scone, but on a cake, in my daughter's words, "was not my fav-a-rite."  The cake just did not taste good and the texture was hard to swallow.  I will never make it again.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Carmelized-Apple Spice Cake

Carmelized-Apple Spice Cake

Cupcake Ranking: 2-3 Cupcakes

This cake sounds like one thing and tastes like another.  The apple spice part I got, but there really isn't a caramel taste.  At. All.  The recipe calls for two 8 inch cake pans.  I used my 9 inch because that is what I have, and woe Nelly am I glad.  I had two huge layers plus four muffins.  Which brings me to the major revelation about this cake.  As a muffin, they are delicious, dense and super breakfasty.  Not so delicious as a cake.  The recipe also called for a brown sugar meringue.  I have done that before and it tastes like whipped butter.  Umm, I love butter as much as the next fan, but not spread on a cake.  Anyway, I used a cream cheese frosting and the cake was good, but I don't think I will make it again (as a cake). 

*On a side note, after I posted this I gave the cake to a group of people and they raved about it.  So, apparently other people really loved this.  Take it as you will.


2 1/2 sticks (20 Tbs) unsalted Butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 Vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 C (about 4-5 apples)Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/2 C Apple cider
2 1/2 C Granulated sugar
3 3/4 C all-purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 tsp Baking powder
2 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 Cup packed Dark-brown sugar
4 large Eggs, room temperature
1/2 C Sour cream
1 1/4 C Pecan halves (5 ounces), toasted dark and finely ground in a food processor (optional)

Put 1/2 stick butter into a large nonstick skillet. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into skillet, and toss in pod. Cook over medium heat until butter is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in apples, cider, and 1 cup granulated sugar. Raise heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and cook until apples are golden and translucent and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Discard vanilla pod. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour, and tap out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Reserve 1/4 cup flour mixture.
Beat remaining 2 sticks butter, remaining 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and the brown sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low. Beat in flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the sour cream and scraping bowl as needed. Add remaining 1/4 cup flour mixture to apple mixture, and toss. Fold in apple mixture and pecans (if using).

Divide batter between prepared pans (because of the amount of batter I filled two 9 inch pans plus 4 muffins). Bake until tops are dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 45 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen. Unmold cakes, and let cool, right side up, on rack. (Cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Place 1 cake, cut side up, on a cake stand. Spread 1 1/2 cups icing over top. Place remaining cake on top. Spread icing over entire cake. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.

Rach's Tips

As I said before this cake was okay but better as muffins.  It was interesting because the cake had a kind of raisin-ey taste.  No raisins.  This is an old fashioned taste that really brought back memories from cakes my Grandma made when I was a kid.  The cake was moist and very flavorful but as a piece of cake the taste was too much.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Cupcake Ranking: 4 Cupcakes
This cake was delicious.  I think.  Why am I unsure?   Because I didn't follow the recipe very carefully.  He he.  The recipe calls for Valrhona Cocoa powder.  Which is an extremely decadent chocolate.  I am all about searching for fun/rare ingredients.  However, I a)Didn't have time this week to look for anything but the bare neccesities, b) am a firm believer in using what you have and making the best of it and last but not least c)was not willing to pay $19.00 a pound.  Smile. That being said, the cake turned out yummy and everything a cake should be.  I will put what I used in italicts and do what ya would like to.
1 C Valrhona cocoa, plus more for dusting (8oz Baking Chocolate Bar, roughly cut up and melted)
3/4 C strong Coffee, boiling (We don't drink coffee, so I used Stephens Hot chocolate)
1 C Milk, room temperature
2 3/4 C cake Flour (not self-rising)
1 tsp Baking soda (When you use a bar instead of cocoa, you need to add 1/8 tsp of baking soda per ounce of bar used...So I used a total of 2 tsp Baking Soda)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 C (3 sticks) unsalted Butter, room temperature, plus more for pan (For every ounce of bar used you decrease the amount of fat by 1 Tbs.  So I used 2 sticks or 1 C of Butter total)
2 1/2 C Sugar
1 Tbs pure Vanilla extract
4 large Eggs, room temperature
Icing (Next time I would double the frosting amount)
3 1/2 C Confectioners' sugar
1 C Valrhona cocoa powder
12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted Butter, room temperature
1/2 C Milk, room temperature
2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Place rack in middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans (I used two 9-by-2-inch pans and the cake even overflowed these.  DO NOT use an 8x2). Line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment, and dust with cocoa powder; tap out excess. Sift cocoa; whisk in boiling coffee (or Hot chocolate) and milk. Let cool. Sift together cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using a rubber spatula, mix the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pour in the cooled cocoa mixture. Mix until fully incorporated (I used my Bosch.  Rubber spatula. Shrug.)

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans (about 4 cups in each pan). Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.
Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Carefully run a small offset spatula around the edge of the cakes to loosen them from the pan. Remove cakes from pans, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.
To assemble, using a serrated knife, level the top surface of each cake layer.  To prepare the icing, In a small bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder. Add butter, milk, and vanilla; stir until smooth and free of lumps. Spread with 3/4 cup of frosting (I'd say 1 1/2 cups is better but then again I REALLY enjoy icing) . Top with the remaining layer, bottom side up. Using a swirling motion, cover the outside of cake with the remaining frosting.
Rach's Tips
I'm sure the nicer the chocolate...the better the cake.  However, I used a very medocre chocolate and this cake was DELICIOUS.  It was moist, chocolatey, and really great.  I would make it again for any chocolate cake occasion.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hummingbird Cake!

Hummingbird Cake
Cupcake Rank:  3 Cupcakes

I have heard of this cake, and was curious.  Looking at the ingredients it was really similar to banana bread.  I made the cake into cupcakes for a party.  They were yummy.  They really reminded me of banana muffins.  I don't know if I would make them as a cake, but as a new muffin recipe they would be great.

3 C Self-rising Flour*(See note)
2 C Granulated sugar
3/4 C Vegetable oil
1/2 C finely chopped Pecans (optional)
2 very ripe large Bananas, mashed
1 (8-ounce) can crushed Pineapple, with juice
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
4 large Eggs, beaten
For the frosting
1 pound (1 box) Confectioners' sugar
8 oz Cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1 Tbs Milk, or more if needed
1/2 Cup finely chopped Pecans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.(I used cupcake pans and papers)
Prepare the cake; in a large bowl, stir to combine self-rising flour, sugar, oil, bananas, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 26 to 28 minutes. (This recipe made 24 cupcakes.  It also took about 15-18 minutes to bake.)
Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up. (If you are doing cupcakes, there isn't a need to invert them or anything.)
Prepare the frosting; in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk on medium speed until frosting is smooth. If needed, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to achieve the proper spreading consistency.
Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1/4 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1/4 of the frosting. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. (Again, if doing cupcakes this step is unneccesary)/  Spread entire cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with pecans. Remove parchment paper strips; refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Note: I don't know about you, but I don't keep self rising flour on hand.  No problem!  For one cup of self-rising flour, take 1 1/2 tsp of Baking Powder and put it in a 1 Cup measuring cup.  Add 1/2 tsp of salt.  Fill up the remaining room in the cup with all purpose flour.  Whalla!  Self rising flour!
Rach's Review:
This cake was nothing special.  The texture was definetely muffiney.  I think it would be great for muffins for a brunch or just breakfast muffins.  But as a cake, I didn't think it was amazing.  The cream cheese frosting didn't really add anything and the taste of the cake wasn't extra-ordinary.  Kinda a shrug moment, but glad I made it.