Chocolate and Vanilla Checkerboard Cake

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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?). 

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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Hard Cider Cupcakes

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Would you believe it? It’s Thanksgiving weekend and almost December. I can’t believe how the year had gone by so quickly. Given the time of year, it’s prefect for the cupcake of the week: hard cider cupcakes! So what exactly do I mean, you might ask? This cupcake is an apple cider cupcake with a cinnamon whiskey buttercream. And yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

There of course is a back story behind each cupcake I make. For this one, I need to thank Janie and Denise for the idea and also sharing the Buzzfeed post about cupcakes that “will get you drunk.” After doing the math, unless you want/can eat at a minimum 30 cupcakes, there is no possible way to get drunk off these cupcakes. Nonetheless, these were really fun to make and scrumptious desserts at Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.

I based the recipe off one of the Buzzfeed recipes but ended up adding a lot more spices and ingredients to make the cake flavorful and fluffy. In the cake, I also used spiced apple cider from Trader Joe’s rather than traditional apple cider, which I imagine would be just as delicious.

While I normally am not a fan of frosting, this cinnamon whiskey buttercream was really delicious. The whiskey provided a nice kick to the sweet cinnamon vanilla. I ended up adding a dash of salt as well to “cut” the strength of the whiskey.

Overall, the cupcake was delicious and a hit at Thanksgiving, and I loved pairing it with some hot apple cider as well. Enjoy!

Xoxo,
JJC

Recipe
Cake, yield 15
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
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 apple cider and sour cream.
7. Fill 15 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon whiskey (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, cinnamon, and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_0516

Apple Cupcake with Maple Peanut Butter Frosting

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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

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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.

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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

Raspberry and Lemon Cupcakes

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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

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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.

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Minion Cupcakes

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In making these minion cupcakes, I broke one of my cardinal rules of baking and used a boatload of artificial coloring. But come on, the minions from Despicable Me are just too adorable. I recently saw Despicable Me 2 in theaters. It wasn’t necessarily the best story (the plot of the first Despicable Me was better). However, the minions made the movie worth watching a second time. That is enough about the movies; this is a cupcake blog, not a movie review site.

The cupcakes I made this time included a chocolate cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting. I have not ventured to the world of gum paste, which makes for more cakes with a more professional-looking design. I may soon, but the summer is, believe it or not, almost over (side note: where did this summer go?). Anyway, I used a buttercream frosting and added food coloring to it. For the yellow and blue colors, I added about 7 drops of food coloring. I bought a black gel frosting pen for the black straps on the minions’ goggles and for their smiles. I also used the black to mix it with the normal white buttercream to make the grey goggles. Considering I didn’t have enough frosting bags, I think I did a pretty good job with the makeshift bags made of Ziploc bags cut at the corner. It worked pretty well, since you need to create a flat surface for the yellow. For about 16 cupcakes, I would recommend that you use 3/4 (1 1/2 sticks) of unsalted butter.

The entire process from mixing the batter to the end of frosting took nearly three hours. It was definitely worth it. The chocolate cake is nice and moist and almost melts in your mouth. Plus you have to feel happy when you see the minions. AND the cupcakes are smiling at you. Next on my list of cupcakes to bake are the evil purple minions!

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Xo,
JJC

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Moscato Cupcakes

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The cupcake was a nice vanilla. Moscato is a very sweet wine, so it provided a nice flavor. I’m not entirely sure if I will make this again. I have a lot more recipes to try before re-working this one again!

Recipe from Brooke-Bakes

Cake
The cake was an interesting texture with a crunchy outside. Since the moscato burned out in the oven, I used an apple corer to create a crater in the middle of the cupcake and added one teaspoon of moscato. Then I re-covered the cupcake.

Frosting
Moscato is so sweet that the frosting tastes like vanilla. No matter how much you add, the flavor will be a creamy vanilla.