If there’s one thing I know about food blogging, it’s that people love chocolate. And If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I love chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate. So dark it’s healthy. At least that’s what I tell myself. But somehow, I have yet to post a chocolate cake. Sometimes things get consumed before I get ahold of a camera. And we all know a post without a picture is no bueno. This, however, is bueno. Muy bueno. Read more

Three years ago today, we said I do. Three years! I guess we’re not newlyweds anymore. And I’m not so sad about that. I love that I know my husband 3 years better than I did when we got married. I love that I love my husband 3 years more than I did when we got married. The path hasn’t always been straight or easy, but it has been rewarding. So thankful to share this journey with Kevin, my sweet graduate school husband. To many decades more!

Speaking of sweet, I made a cake. A mini anniversary cake. I think I’ve started a new tradition in our marriage.

Isn’t it cute? Anything tiny is somehow cute. At it’s widest, it’s 3.5 inches—perfect for 2 people. It tastes like a wedding cake too. You know the wedding cake taste—fruity, decadent, and rich. So I took a risk and crafted a new recipe with hints of orange and almond (based off this one). Luckily the risk paid off—it’s my new favorite cake. Happy Anniversary to us!

Anniversary Cake
Almond + orange cake, inspired by Cake Love
makes one 9-inch pan 

DRY
1/2 c.+ 2 tbsp. unbleached AP flour
2 tbsp. potato starch (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3 tbsp. finely ground almonds
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

LIQUID
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 tbsp. orange juice, freshly squeezed

CREAMING
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c. + 2 tbsp. extra-fine granulated sugar (I food process my regular sugar)
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Set rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Set out ingredients and equipment. Sift flour. Finely pulse almonds to a flour like consistency. Measure dry ingredients into separate mixing bowl. Add flour and almonds and whisk together. Measure liquid ingredients into a separate bowl and set aside. Place butter and sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 3-5 minutes. (This will feel odd, but keep it on low.)
4. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through the step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.
7. Prepare the 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Do not spray the sides of the pan. (This helps to keep your cake from doming in the middle as it bakes. The cake is able to crawl up the side as it bakes and maintain an even shape.)
8. Place batter in pan. Bake for 28 minutes.
9. Once the top of the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake. The center should be an even blonde color and the edges should be just beginning to pull away from the pan. When the skewer shows a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done.
10. Cool cake for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Use a small off-set spatula to loosen the cake from the rim of the pan. Carefully invert and remove parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before assembling.

Italian Meringue Buttercream with a hint of orange
recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; makes 2-2 1/2 cups
* a candy thermometer is necessary for this recipe

2 1/2 egg whites
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. extra-fine sugar
2 tbsp. cold water
2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp. orange oil

1. Set out ingredients and equipment. Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (for the 1/2 egg white, crack into separate bowl and only add half of the white). Measure 1/2 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine. Measure the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar into a separate bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.
2. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermomometer in the sauce pan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
3. With the  mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue.
4. Keep the mixture running and pour the 2 tablespoons of sugar into the meringue.
5. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245° if it’s not there already. When it has reached 245°, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue, with the mixer running. (It helps to hold the pan just above the height of the mixer. Pour confidently trying to hit the meringue and not the side of the bowl.)
6. After 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the speed of the mixture to medium for 3-4 minutes or until meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated. Add orange oil. Mix one final time.

Assemble the Cake
1. Using biscuit cutters, cut two 3.5″ circles and two 2.5″ circles.
2. Assemble the tiers separately. Fill bottom layer of each tier with buttercream. Apply a crumb coat to each tier. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Ice bottom tier and top tier separately. To achieve the rustic look, pull a butter knife around the circumference of the cake. Start from bottom and work up.
4. Using a flexible spatula, carefully place the top tier of cake on to bottom tier. Clean up any knicks in the move. The italian meringue buttercream repairs easily.
5. Store cake in refrigerator, covered. Serve at room temperature.
*For in-depth cake assembly instructions, click here.

We celebrated my husband’s birthday last weekend. We’re now closer to 30 than 20. Kind of weird. In normal fashion, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted. Without hesitation, he said Lemon Raspberry Cake.

I was so excited he knew what he wanted, I made the cake without hesitation hoping he wouldn’t change his mind. As I was putting the final touches on the cake, I realized something. The cake was pink. Pale pink. I had just made my husband a pale pink birthday cake. I never considered that raspberry icing would produce a pink cake. Happy birthday little girl husband!

Luckily, he ate it in all it’s pale pink glory. I guess I could have done raspberry on the inside and lemon on the outside. The scarecrow said it best—If I only had a brain.

Speaking of lemon, this graced the inside of the cake.

Between all four layers.

Mini Lemon Raspberry Cake
Yellow Butter Cake + Lemon Curd + Raspberry Italian Meringue Buttercream

Yellow Butter Cake
I halved the Yellow Butter Cake recipe from a couple posts back. Bake in a square pan. Follow recipe as directed. Check cake at 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut cake into fourths to achieve mini square cake as pictured.

Lemon Curd
recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; yields 2 cups

1 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
4 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled

1. Squeeze lemon juice making sure to strain out seeds. Measure sugar and cornstarch into a heavy bottomed saucepan. (I use my Le Creuset for this.) Crack eggs and yolks into a separate bowl and set aside.
2. Whisk lemon juice into sugar mixture, followed by the eggs and yolks.
3. Whisk in cold butter one tablespoon at a time.
4. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring to simmer, whisking continuously.
5. When you begin to see lava bubbles—large, slowly forming bubbles that burp steam—reduce the heat to the lowest setting and whisk briskly for 1 minute to pasteurize the lemon curd. (Lava bubbles usually appear 10 minutes in.)
6. Pour directly into bowl, and cover with plastic wrap pressed to surface to keep a skin from forming.
7. Immediately refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using.
Note: I halved the recipe for the mini cake. 

Raspberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
I halved the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe from a couple posts back and added raspberries. Make recipe as directed. If you are making a full recipe, you’ll need 1/2 c. raspberries. If you are making a half recipe, you’ll need 1/4 c. raspberries. Puree raspberries in food processor. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the puree into a bowl to remove seeds. Add puree to buttercream and whip until combined.

Ice the Cake
For a quick tutorial, click here. Serve cake at room temperature.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I wanted to show you a slice of the cake, but I wasn’t serving the cake until later that evening. So, I cut the cake. Took some pics. And put the cake back together. The Italian Meringue Buttercream is very forgiving like that.

Still pink, but good as new!

Vanilla Cake + Pastry Cream + Italian Meringue Buttercream = Very Vanilla Cake. I’m in love.

This cake will please the pickiest of palettes—it’s vanilla, right? But don’t call it boring. It’s so rich, so good, and so sinful. And, might I add, so worth the calories.

This was only my second time to make Italian Meringue Buttercream. However, this will be gracing the outside of many more cakes to come. It is TO DIE FOR. Definitely not as easy to make as your traditional buttercream, but it’s worth the time and technique. Trust me.

Speaking of technique. A couple years back, my graduate school husband used to work Saturdays. I absolutely hated being home alone (I’m a big time extrovert), so I kept myself very busy cooking and baking all day. Sometimes I would try new recipes just to see if I could do it, with no real intentions of actually eating it. One Saturday I set out to make Italian Meringue Buttercream. It looked challenging enough. So I got out my candy thermometer. Made the meringue. Made the “candy.” Added the butter. Whip, whip, whip. And viola—buttercream success! Since I hadn’t made a cake and had no intention of doing so, there was no reason to save the icing. However, graduate school husband does not like to throw anything out. We are after all on a graduate school budget. With plenty of time to spare before he got home, I began feeding the trashcan. And then I heard, “Surprise, I’m home early!” I was caught. Red handed. Feeding the trashcan perfectly good buttercream. Note to self—it is not a good idea to practice techniques and then throw away the perfectly good end product, especially on a graduate school budget.

Moreover, why would I ever toss something so delish? I will never throw out Italian Meringue Buttercream again. Sorry trashcan. It’s just too dang good.

The recipe behind the cake and buttercream is from my favorite, Warren Brown. Pinky promise, I will only make cakes from Warren’s recipes from here on out. They are the best. He has an app too with recipes included! Don’t wait. Download it now. If you plan on making this cake, I recommend making the pastry cream first. Then the cake. When the cake has cooled and you’re ready to ice, make the buttercream. Stay tuned below for decorating tips.

Yellow Butter Cake
recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; 2 9-inch round cakes or 24 cupcakes

DRY
1 1/4 c. unbleached AP flour
1/4 c. + 1 tbsp. potato starch (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

LIQUID
1 c. half and half
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

CREAMING
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 c. extra-fine granulated sugar (I food process my regular sugar)
4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Set rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Set out ingredients and equipment. Sift flour. Measure dry ingredients into separate mixing bowl. Add flour and whisk together. Measure liquid ingredients into a separate bowl and set aside. Place butter and sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 3-5 minutes. (This will feel odd, but keep it on low.)
4. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through the step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.
7. Prepare the pans. For 9-inch round cakes, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Do not spray the sides of the pan. (This helps to keep your cakes from doming in the middle. Your cake is able to crawl up the side as it bakes and maintain an even shape.) For cupcakes, line the pan with paper liners.
8. Distribute batter evenly in cake pans or fill cupcake liners with 2-ounce trigger release ice-cream scoop. (I also use the trigger release ice-cream scoop for the cake pans to make sure I have an even amount of batter.) For the cakes, bake for 28 minutes. For the cupcakes, bake for 22 minutes.
9. Once the top of the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake. The center should be an even blonde color and the edges should be just beginning to pull away from the pan. When the skewer shows a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done.
10. Cool cakes for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Use a small off-set spatula to loosen the cake from the rim of the pan. Carefully invert and remove parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Pastry Cream
from Macarons by Annie Rigg (This can be made ahead.)

3 egg yolks (save your whites for the buttercream)
3/4 extra-fine sugar (pop it in the food processor)
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. whole milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Put the egg yolks, half the sugar, and cornstarch in a small heatproof bowl, and whisk together until combined.
2. Heat milk and other half of sugar in a small saucepan until it only just starts to boil.
3. Pour the hot milk over yolk mixture whisking constantly until smooth. (If you don’t whisk quickly, the eggs will curdle.) Pour mixture back in pan, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until custard comes to a boil and thickens.
4. Strain into a clean bowl and add butter and vanilla extract. Stir until incorporated. Cover surface with plastic wrap and leave to cool before refrigerating.
5. Refrigerate. Once chilled. Whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold into pastry cream. Continue to chill, covered, until use.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; makes 4-5 cups

5 egg whites
1 1/4 c. sugar, divided
1/4 cold water
4 sticks butter

1. Watch this video tutorial first. Set out ingredients and equipment. Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add 1 cup of sugar and the water into a saucepan. Stir to combine. Measure the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar into a separate bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.
2. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermometer in the sauce pan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
3. With the  mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into the meringue and whip again to combine. Turn mixer off.
5. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245° (hard ball) if it’s not there already. When it has reached 245° and with the mixer running on medium speed, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue. (It helps to hold the pan just above the height of the mixer. Pour confidently trying to hit the meringue and not the side of the bowl.)
6. After 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the speed of the mixture to medium for 6-8 minutes or until meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 2 to 4 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated. (Buttercream may look soupy. If so, keep mixing, it will eventually thicken as everything comes to the same temperature. If not, pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so and mix again.)
7. Ice cooled cake.

Now that you have your cake, pastry cream, and icing, it’s time to make it look pretty! I made a 3-tiered mini cake by cutting out 3 cake rounds using a 4 1/2″ biscuit cutter. You can accomplish the same thing with your 2-tiered 9″ rounds. If you’d like to replicate this mini cake, make the full cake recipe, 1/2 the pastry cream recipe, and 1/2 the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe. You will have some leftover cake. I’ll leave it up to you on what to do with that. But whatever you do, don’t feed it to the trashcan.

How to Ice a Cake

1. Make sure cake is level on top. Do so by trimming off excess using a long serrated knife holding it parallel to the cake. I rarely have to do with with Warren’s recipes (They’re that good!). Place the cake on a stand. Add strips of parchment paper underneath the cake to keep the stand clean.
2. Place heaping amounts of pastry cream in the center of the cake and spread out using an offset spatula. I like to taste the pastry cream when I’m eating cake, so I use a fair amount. Don’t spread cream to the edge of the cake. Leave a 1/2″  gap. It will spread once you add weight on top.
3. Place second layer of cake on top. Add pastry cream and spread if you are adding a third layer.
4. If applicable, place third layer of cake on top.
5. Smooth out pastry cream overhang (have a taste if you wish) and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help to firm the cake up so that it will hold it’s shape when you begin to work with it.
6. In a separate bowl, place a small amount of the buttercream. Pull cake out of freezer. Apply a thin coating of icing over the entire cake, otherwise known as a crumb coat. This will keep those pesky crumbs at bay. If icing right away, place cake back in freezer for 10 minutes. If icing later, place in refrigerator.
7. When you are ready to ice the cake, make sure the icing and cake are around the same temperature. If they aren’t and you ice the cake, it will sweat. Figuratively speaking, your mascara will start to run.
8. Apply icing all over cake. Plop (super technical) icing all around the sides of the cake as well at the top. Be generous. Spread the icing until smooth. It will take about 10 minutes to work the icing smooth. You can leave the cake as is or add a little rustic flare. To do so, hold the spatula vertically and begin pulling up. Repeat around the entirety of the cake. On the top, place spatula in middle, and pull outwards in a curved motion. Repeat.
9. For one final flare, add a simple piece of candy or fruit to the top. And now you have yourself a pretty cake!
10. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Pull parchment paper out from underneath cake. Be gentle. Serve at room temperature. Fall in love with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

I think you know well by now, I love Italian Meringue Buttercream. What’s your favorite type of icing?

I had planned on doing an easter post today. But my idea flopped. Many tireless hours went into, and it flopped. Yes, I do want some cheese with this wine. I wasn’t going to tell you what I was making incase I decided to give it another try. But, I’m not. I’m no good at these things. And by “things” I mean cake balls. I’ve tried a couple times, and they’re just not my forte. I have these conflicting thoughts of “Don’t give up!” and “Just stick with what you’re good at.” Well, I’ve decided to stick with what I’m good at, leaving the cake balls to Bakerella. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for a good challenge. And, I don’t mind if I fail from time to time. But I’ve learned I’m much better at baking than I am at decorating (case in point—cake ball fail). I’m much better at perfecting the classics (scones, cakes, cookies, macarons) than coming up with something new. I’m much better at sticking to my purist ways, than bending the rules and using the not so pure stuff. My take-away from all of this is—stick with what you’re good at, and get really good at it.

Shawoof (wiping sweat off brow). That was cathartic.

Now on to the good stuff. Red Velvet Cake! Remember the Sailboat Cupcakes from the last post? I told you I’d be back with the recipe. As promised, here it is. But first, I have to do another plug for my favorite baker—Warren Brown from Cake Love. His recipes make the best cakes ever (no lie). He is a purist as well. He believes in baking cakes from scratch. None of that artificial stuff. However, he does make a Red Velvet Cake because of it’overwhelming request at his bakery. It’s the only thing he uses food coloring in. You can leave the food coloring out and call it Brown Velvet. Or you can use the India Tree products (this is what I use), which are made from vegetables pigments.

Red Velvet Cake
recipe from Warren Brown, United Cakes of America
makes 24 cupcakes

DRY INGREDIENTS
2 1/4 c. Cake Flour (I used unbleached AP Flour)
2 tbsp. Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking soda

WET INGREDIENTS
1 c. Buttermilk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar

CREAMING INGREDIENTS
2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp)
1 1/2 c. Superfine Sugar (You can pop regular sugar in a food processor to achieve this)
2 large eggs
1 oz. Red Food Dye (Opt out and make it Brown Velvet)

1. Preheat oven to 335° and place the rack in the middle position. Line 2 cupcake pans. (Read the last post for a cupcake liner tip.)
2. Measure the dry ingredients and wet ingredients into 2 separate bowls. Whisk each to combine.
3. Measure the the butter and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on low speed for about 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time into the well creamed butter. Beat in the dye.
5. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time. (This should only take a minute.) Scrape sides. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute.
6.  Pour the batter into the liners and bake the cupcakes for 20 to 24 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
7. Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes before inverting them on to a flat surface. Allow them to come to room temperature before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
recipe by yours truly 

2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp)
16 oz. Cream Cheese (room temp)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Dash of Sea Salt
3-4 c. Powdered Sugar

1. Cream together butter and cream cheese.
2. Add vanilla extract and salt. Mix.
3. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix well between each addition. After 3 cups, taste to see if additional powdered sugar is necessary.
4. Ice your cupcakes. Looking for tips? Check out the last post.

If you missed it, click here for the sailboat decorations. For matching invitations, click here.

P.S.—These lovely little sailboats made their debut on the very talented Shauna Younge’s blog! Thanks Shauna!