Chocolate and Vanilla Checkerboard Cake

Image

Greetings! It has been quite awhile since my last post. This last semester was quite rough, and ain’t nobody got time for baking…or sleeping for that matter. But now, I have officially finished my undergraduate studies, and it’s time to tackle bigger and tougher projects! For this post, I tried making a chocolate and vanilla checkerboard cake. The first time I saw this kind of cake was at Lady M Confections in New York City. It was absolutely incredible. Naturally, I wanted to try making it–challenge accepted, if you will (HIMYM fans?). 

 

Image

Checkerboard cake from Lady M Confections

The construction of such checkerboard cake is no walk in the park. If you ask my mother (happy mothers’ day to all moms out there. May your day be filled with joy), I probably spent 20 minutes trying to dissect the cake, but of course, without any success. However, thanks to the internet, I had a plan! I was going to make 2 separate 9-inch cakes–one chocolate, and the other vanilla. I would then use some circular cutters to cut the various rings of the cake to remove and alternate the flavors of the cake and give it the checkerboard look.

Even with this “foolproof” plan in mind, the task at hand was far more difficult than previously imagined. The making of the 2 cakes was an operation that took up the entire kitchen and our dining table.

After the cakes cooled, I took them out of the pan and put them onto parchment paper to start to cut and re-construct the cakes. The issue was that I didn’t have any of the fancy cake/cookie cutters that would form a perfect circle. Instead, I ended up using a lid for a pot, a cup, and…a shot glass to measure the circles. After outlining the print, I used a knife to cut through the rest of the cake. Little did I know, I made the cakes too fluffy! I wonder if it would be better to make a thicker cake so that it isn’t as crumbly when you cut into it and so it will stay together.

DSC_0874
There was quite a lot of “reconstructive surgery” to ensure the cake didn’t completely fall apart, but the frosting definitely stitched up the cake. After putting together the first layer, I put a layer of homemade chocolate buttercream, and then proceeded on the second layer. Most checkerboard cakes have 3 layers, but I decided on 2 tiers for the first try. I was also a bit grossed out by the amount of butter used in the entire cake, but that must be why it’s so delicious, if I do say so myself.

After constructing the 2 layers of the cake, I started to frost it with the buttercream. It definitely was a fun but also super messy experience trying to frost a crumbly cake. But again, the frosting served as a nice glue.

DSC_0881
Overall, the process took nearly 3 hours. It definitely is not the prettiest cake in the world, but it still is quite tasty and a good first attempt. If you are going to make a checkerboard cake/for future attempts, here are a few tips:

– Ensure that you fully spray the cake pan with vegetable oil so that the cakes don’t stick
– The cake should be more of a brownie consistency and not super fluffy. I was having trouble picking up the rings of the cake to assemble them into a pattern. I am still questioning how Lady M has so many checkers.
– It would probably be preferable to find cake/cookie cutting rings so that your rings actually are even. Time to take a trip to Sur La Table?
– I used chocolate frosting throughout the cake, but it might be nice to glue the inner layers of the cake using white or another color frosting to give the cake the “pop” and crisp looking lines. The brown chocolate blended with the cake, so it’s not as clean.

If you have additional tips, feel free to share them!

Happy baking!
-JJC

DSC_0892

Apple Cupcake with Maple Peanut Butter Frosting

DSC_0448

This week it finally begins to feel like autumn. I think it was the first time I actually felt cold this October. But what better thing is there to do other than stay inside bake some goodies and drink hot apple cider? I contend, again, that autumn is the most delicious season of all–and it finally feels like it.

This week I wasn’t exactly sure what type of cupcakes to make and started to troll Pinterest (where else?) and found a nice recipe for apple maple cupcakes. The cake was a delicious and easy to make. After the pumpkin cupcake incident, I was wary of putting too much apple in. However, by using two medium sized Macintosh apples from Trader Joe’s, the apple provided a nice moisture to the overall cake. I liked this cake because it wasn’t too sweet, as the maple (with peanut butter) frosting was a bit on the sweeter side.

Honestly, I had a bit of trouble with the maple frosting. When you make a buttercream, you add confectioner’s sugar to thicken the frosting. But when you add maple syrup on top of the normal amount of sugar, you may end up having to schedule a visit to the dentist’s office. While I knew that, I still put too much maple syrup in the frosting, making the butter a strange sticky concoction. It looked as if the frosting would fall off, but the maple syrup acted like glue. To thicken it without putting too much sugar, I dropped in a glob of peanut butter. The peanut butter immediately thickened the mixture and added a slight savory flavor to the sweet frosting.

Ultimately, the cake and the frosting were really delicious and basically have been getting me through midterm season. If you are not currently considering moving your bed to a library, then I’m sure that these are best enjoyed along some simmering mulled wine or spiced apple cider while relaxing on comfy couches.

Enjoy!
JJC

DSC_0438

Recipe
Cake, yield 16
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups shredded apples (I used Macintosh apples)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in the apples.
7. Fill 16 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

DSC_0432

Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_0450

German Chocolate Cupcakes

DSC_0348

For breakfast this morning, I offered my roommate a German chocolate cupcake. When she initially declined, I told her that it covers all food groups–you have your carbs, proteins, and even nuts! It’s like a Cliff bar but even tastier. Who knew cupcakes could be such a hearty breakfast food?

Until yesterday, I never made or had even tasted what German chocolate cakes/cupcakes were and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. I decided to try making German chocolate cupcakes after a friend suggested that I make them (speaking of which, if you have any suggestions or requests, send them my way!). I thought it would be a relaxing idea to make them on a Friday night after a long week and then snap chat the process to him. But then I forgot that it was Yom Kippur…

Anyway, onto the actual cupcake. I loved the recipe that I adapted from FoodNetwork. The chocolate cake with the sour cream made the cake so moist and fluffy. Then the large amount of cocoa powder and coffee made the cake more of a dark chocolate cake, which complemented the frosting very nicely.

The frosting itself was so great. While making it, I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t hold together, since it was so liquid-y and looked a bit curdled when it was simmering on the stove. I ended up keeping the mixture on the stove for about twenty minutes. You cannot cut down this process, otherwise the mixture will not hold! I was also worried that I didn’t have the proper ingredients. Whole Foods is a great supermarket for organic, non-GMO (things-that-don’t-involve-fine-print-etc.-etc.-type-of-foods) ingredients, but sometimes you just want normal shredded sweetened coconut. I ended getting unsweetened organic coconut flakes, which, I might add, taste disgusting if you eat them plain. I chopped them up before adding them to the mixture, and I even added about one cup of confectioner’s sugar to make (a): make a healthy product unhealthy, but more importantly (b): to make the mixture sticky.

Overall, I really enjoyed this recipe. The smooth chocolate cake complemented the crunchy frosting nicely. As I did have a bit extra frosting near the end, I added a surprise in the middle of the cakes. Hint: the surprise is more frosting! I highly recommend German chocolate cupcake recipe!

Xo,
JJC

DSC_0339_2

Recipe

Cake, Yield 24

DSC_0329

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla extract, and coffee.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fill 24 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
DSC_0324

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
4 extra-large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat
2. Whisk in the evaporated milk, brown sugar, and egg yolks
3. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk
–> Do not let your eggs yolks cook or let your mixture begin to look curdled
4. Take off the heat, and fold in the vanilla extract, almond extract, coconut, pecans, salt, and confectioner’s sugar.
5. Allow the mixture to cool, frost the cupcakes using a spoon or knife then enjoy!DSC_0335

Raspberry and Lemon Cupcakes

DSC_0326

It has been quite awhile since my last blog post! In the month since the minions cupcake, I have been traveling and also moved to a new apartment in Washington DC. I really like this new apartment, and my three roommates are awesome! We all love cooking and baking and somehow brought all of our kitchen appliances and supplies. The best when making cupcakes is having four sets of measuring cups, two different hand mixers, and six large mixing bowls. Excessive? Maybe, but I’m not complaining.

This recipe I tried because a friend suggested it. In the past I made lemon cupcakes with a raspberry filling, but these are the reverse of them. I loved the light fruity taste of the raspberry cake was even better than the lemon cake, and the seeds of the raspberries give a nice crunch to it. The frosting I made had a light sweet and sour lemon flavoring, which complimented the raspberry cake nicely.

Xo,
JJC

DSC_0329

Recipe

Cake, Yield 24
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup raspberry preserves (or mashed fresh raspberries)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in the raspberry preserves, and continue to mix
7. Fill 24 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 325F for about 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk with 2 tablespoons of dissolved cornstarch
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
~3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids and the confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.

DSC_0323

Green Tea Cupcakes

DSC_1703

Green tea cupcakes really hit home for me. Not only do I love anything green tea because it is good for the healt, green tea cupcakes were the first cupcakes that I ever made from scratch in March 2012. It’s really something to compare photos from then to now and to see how much I have improved.

This time when I made them, I had the company of my cousin Anna and used some stolen borrowed matcha powder from my sister. Baking alone, for me, is usually a stress-reducing activity (until I realize I have a dozen cupcakes for myself–then it becomes stress-inducing!), but it’s also great to bake with family or with friends.

Matcha powder, as expensive as it is, is such a beautiful powder. It is so fragrant and has a beautiful rich green color–no food coloring was used in the frosting! With the green color, it is also fun to make grass and other patterns. We made both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with green tea frosting with a surprise inside. I’m usually partial to desserts with chocolate, but both the vanilla and chocolate cupcakes were delicious, so I’d recommend you make both!

Xo,
JJC

DSC_1683

Recipe

Vanilla Cake, yield 8
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fill 16 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

P1030134

Green Tea Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup matcha powder
1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, matcha powder, and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_1707

Piña Colada Cupcakes

Piña Colada Cupcakes
May 10, 2013

DSC_1596

Happy summer vacation and happy packing up the dorm! I wasn’t originally planning on baking more before heading back home to Massachusetts for the summer, but there were too many baking supplies left over in the kitchen to let go to waste (#JenProblems). So using the ingredients I had left over and a can of pineapple juice, we make piña coladas! As a fan of piña coladas, I enjoyed this cupcake. The only two changes I would probably make would be to replace the baking soda with more baking powder so that it gives the cake a light, tropical feel. The second is the garnish; instead of the leftover baker’s coconut, cute pineapples chunks, little umbrellas, or maraschino cherries would be nice additions, but we’re operating on a student’s budget here, so shredded coconut it is. Overall, it was pretty yummy. It’s even more delicious when you throw in a homemade piña colada with your cupcake!

Recipe
Cake, yield 12
– 1/3 cup Bacardi white rum
– 3/4 coconut milk with vanilla
– 1/4 cup pineapple juice (canned, from Trader Joe’s)
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
– 3 large eggs
– 1 cup of shredded baker’s coconut

1. In a small bowl, combine rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice, and vanilla. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It should be a pale, consistent mixture.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and liquids, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in the coconut.
7. Fill the cupcakes liners to about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until a golden brown color.

Frosting
– 3/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 1/2 tablespoons white rum
– 1 1/2 tablespoons pineapple juice
– 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
– ~ 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the liquid ingredients and mix carefully. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until the mixture is solid. Add flour/sugar accordingly until the frosting is a desired consistency.photo-1