Orange Checkerboard Cake

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Would you look at that? It’s the end of May. And that means, that 1) temperatures are starting to heat up, and 2) it’s my mother’s birthday. As usual, I was tasked with making the birthday cake. So, naturally, I was going to pick something that I liked…er, I mean, something that mom likes. I thought it would be nice to make a fruity and light cake, since it is beginning to feel like summer. I’ve also been obsessed with checkerboard cakes. Although oranges aren’t quite in season, I remembered that I had one more in the refrigerator and how well the orange chocolate cupcake were from a few months ago, and decided to adapt that recipe.

I’ve now made the checkerboard cake a few times, and I have definitely improved every time (there is less yelling at the cake to tell it to hold together 🙂 ). You can either use a special pan that has dividers and pour the batter, alternating the batter. However, I like to make two separate cakes, and then cut the cakes into rings to alternate it. You use frosting to glue the cakes together, giving it a clean look.

I love baking because it’s truly the intersection of art and science. I still have yet to invest in cookie cutter rings, where you can simply press down to create the rings. Instead, I’m sticking to a homemade engineered way of using a ruler anchored down by a straw as a protractor and cutting around in a circle. The key is patience and a steady hand. That, and well, ensuring that your cake has completely cooled and settled; otherwise, every cut will end in a crumbly mess on the ground with ants invading. Ok, sorry, that escalated quickly. Moving on…

My mom said that she enjoyed this cake, as it wasn’t too sweet. Of course, you can always add more sugar to your tasting. She liked that I used orange juice in the frosting instead of cream and vanilla. This gave the cake a more natural taste instead of an orange creamsicle flavor (which sounds tasty nonetheless). I really don’t like to use food coloring and opted out of adding it to the orange frosting. The only added color was to the lettering ‘Happy birthday mama,’ which I used a dash of grenadine.

Happy baking!

Xoxo,
JJC

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Recipe

Making the Cakes

Ingredients for 1 9-inch vanilla cake
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

Ingredients for 1 9-inch chocolate cake
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
2 eggs

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (plus cocoa powder for the chocolate cake)
2. In a measuring cup, 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. Consistency should be similar to a pudding.
6. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray and pour in the batter
7. Bake the cakes at 350F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Let cakes stand until cool, at least 2 hours*

When the cakes are nearly cool, make the frosting. I made 2 frostings–vanilla and orange. I used the vanilla as the ‘glue,’ and frosted the outside using the orange.

Vanilla Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cream
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Orange Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

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

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Construction of the Cake
1. Using cookie cutters, create rings in the cake.
2. Take the outer ring, and frost the inside of that ring.
3. Take the second smallest ring of the other flavor, and insert it into the first ring.
4. Continue until you are at the center.
5. Frost the top of the first cake.
6. Repeat to create the second layer of the cake.
7. Put the second layer on top of the frosted layer.
8. Frost the outside of the cake and decorate!

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes Part II

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today we have an Irish Car Bomb themed cupcake. What does this adaptation mean exactly? Glad you asked. We have a chocolate Guinness base with an Irish Cream butter cream. Oop, my past few posts have had Irish Cream. Can you blame me? It tastes great…

This recipe is actually blast from the past. I made a batch of Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes for two years ago. Hence, we have Part II of the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. This recipe will always have a special place in my heart, since it’s when I really fell in love with the art AND science of baking. I love that baking is an art in that you can create whatever your heart so desires. But that creativity is a double edged sword. It still requires some precision; otherwise your cake will simply flop over.

Through blogging, it is truly incredible record the progress I’ve made over the past few years. At first, I strictly followed recipes to the bone to try to understand exactly how to make a certain cake. Now, I kind of just threw together what I thought would make a good, scrumptious cake. Talk about #transformationTuesday.

March 2013

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March 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Similar to the first time, I used an apple corer to hollow the center. The only difference is that I filled it with the Irish Cream filling instead of a Jameson chocolate ganache, since I didn’t have any Jameson. The Irish Cream filling worked just as nicely. I used a little less sugar, which made the cake a little darker, and sweet butter cream provided the perfect amount of sweetness to dark Guinness cake.

DSC_1525Lastly, happy baking and enjoy! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Xo,
JJC

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Recipe

Guinness Chocolate Cake, yield 14
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup Guinness Draught
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 eggs

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and Guinness.
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. Consistency should be similar to a pudding.
6. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 325F for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Irish Cream Buttercream
Frosting
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1½ stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons Irish Cream
1 dash of salt

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.
3. Frost cupcakes and decorate.
4. Enjoy!

Pi Day Special

Pi Day Special

3.14. I think is my favorite math-related holiday! I mean, given that there aren’t any mathematical plays on cupcakes, Pi Day is the default winner. Plus this year 3.14 at 9:26:53 was particularly special. It only happens once a century! Well, twice, if you’re on AM/PM time; I have my clocks set to military time. I’m done nerding out about math.

Therefore, this pi day, I give you two pies and two recipes! These were the second and third times I’ve made pies. The first was a couple of weeks ago, when I tried making one to practice. Hey, if this date only comes once a century, I have to nail it. And it turns out, pies are so easy to make! Why didn’t I previously try them? I might move to pie making rather than cupcakes. Just kidding…and as a shameless plug: stay tuned for later this week for a St. Patty’s day surprise cupcake!

The pie on the right was a scrumptious Irish Cream double chocolate pie. Oh my gosh, was it a good pie! I started with one simple pie crust and realized that I didn’t really plan it out. What was the filling going to be? In a mad dash, I scoured the internet and my pantry for anything that could potentially resemble a filling. It was pretty amazing to watch the simple ingredients to come together to form a solid, sturdy filling that I would spoon into the pie crust.

The main pie is an apple pie. It’s a classic–need I say more? I’m thinking not. Happy baking!

Xo,
JJC

Irish Cream Double Chocolate Recipe
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Irish Cream, to taste

1. Combine the milk, vanilla, sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in the egg yolk until the mixtures just barely comes to a boil.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and Irish Cream.
4. Pour the pudding into the pie crust and place in the fridge to chill for 4 hours uncovered.

Apple Pie Recipe

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Pie Crust (yield 2)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
16 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces
8-9 tablespoons ice water

1. Combine flour and salt in large bowl
2. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Note: after the butter is cut, you may want to use your (clean) fingers to make sure it’s mixed well.
3. Stir in enough water with fork just until flour is moistened.

Divide dough in half; shape each half into ball. Flatten slightly. Wrap 1 ball in plastic food wrap; refrigerate.

Apple Filing
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in 9-inch glass pie pan. Press firmly crust against the pan
2. In a large bowl, gently mix the ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate.
3. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust.
4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of tin foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.

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Irish Cream Hot Cocoa – Easy Recipe!

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But I thought this was a cupcake blog, you say? In my defense, my favorite mug does have a cupcake on it.

Oh snow, we meet again. From the three large storms that have dumped over six feet of snow in New England, I’ve developed a serious case of cabin fever. I read Tim Geithner’s Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, made more cupcakes than I can eat, and watched too many episodes of 30 Rock. The only thing I haven’t done is blogged about some phenomenal homemade hot cocoa.

I first thought of making homemade hot cocoa when I wanted hot cocoa but didn’t want to go to the store to get some. I found some overly complicated recipes online and others that took hours to make (though I hear making hot cocoa in a crock pot is delicious). I was looking for a quick and simple one serving recipe. It took a few tries to get the perfect ratio of sugar to unsweetened cocoa powder, but now I think I have perfected the easy-to-make-hot-cocoa.

This recipe is not only simple, but it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s rich, but not too sweet. Of course, you can add more sugar, depending on your preference. The friends that I have made it for all said they loved it. And I swear it wasn’t because a slip of hand on the Irish Cream.* 😉

Well, here is the recipe!

Xoxo
-JJC

Recipe, yield 1 serving

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa power
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 oz vanilla extract
1 oz Irish Cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the milk, vanilla, and sweetened cocoa mix.
3. Whisk the mixture until the milk is JUST about to boil.
4. Pour hot cocoa and Irish Cream into your favorite mug.
5. Enjoy! Preferably with a good book or with the company of good friends.

* If you do not want to add Irish Cream, add a bit more sugar so the ratio of unsweetened cocoa powder to sugar is 1:1.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcake

Greetings! Two posts in two days? Yup! I need to somehow make up for not posting in nearly a year. That, or it might be the dreary February weather of New England. Three storms, including two blizzards, 4+ feet of snow, and more on the way. I’ll be staying in, baking tons of desserts, and blogging about them.

I spent the morning thinking of what flavor I should try next and what I had in my pantry. One thing that I love is Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. So, why not try a chocolate orange cupcake? I absolutely loved this recipe and wish I could continue eating all of the cake I made without feeling guilty of half a dozen cupcakes (I halved the recipe listed below). This recipe is not that much different from a normal chocolate cake recipe, but the added coffee and orange extract made it 1000 times better than “plain” chocolate cake. Adding the coffee is optional, but I prefer a darker tasting chocolate.

The only challenge with this recipe was the frosting. The frosting that I made was an orange vanilla buttercream. Orange extract by itself does not smell, let alone taste, that great. When mixing it with vanilla extract, the frosting begins to smell like an artificial orange creamsicle. Spoiler alert: I added a few teaspoons of freshly squeezed orange juice, which helped eliminate the creamsicle taste.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Happy baking!
–JJC

RECIPE

Cake
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 eggs

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla extract, orange 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. Consistency should be similar to a pudding.
6. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 325F for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Batter

Frosting
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1½ stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup milk/cream
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar
A dash of fresh orange juice

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.
3. Frost cupcakes and decorate.
4. Enjoy!

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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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Green Tea Cupcakes

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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

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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.

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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.
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