Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a batch of brownies, and I was flooded with requests for the recipe. I get it — as much as I love tinkering with flavors and techniques, hands down the dessert I crave most often is a good old brownie.

I realize that what constitutes a good brownie varies tremendously from person to person, which is why this is the millionth brownie recipe on the internet. To me, a good brownie is crackly-topped, chewy but tender, and deeply chocolatey. Oh, and well-salted.

brownie in hand

These brownies check all those boxes for me. I still have some tweaks I want to try so I won’t go as far as to call them “perfect,” but for the time being this is the batch to beat.

Without getting too brownie-nerd on you (there’s plenty out there should you wish to delve into that world), here’s a little bit of the rationale behind this recipe:

  • Both butter and oil for a mix of flavor and moisture
  • Both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, the first for a rich chocolate flavor and the second for texture and that crackly top
  • A touch of brown sugar for moisture, flavor, and chew
  • A modest amount of flour to keep things from getting too cakey, but enough so we’re not completely in fudge territory
  • Espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • The eggs and sugar are whipped together to provide structure and also to aid in getting that crackly top
  • Baked in an 8×8 square pan for thick, non-wimpy brownies

brownie cut

This recipe is the result of a lot of tinkering, which is why the measurements are a bit weird. I developed it using gram measurements (I bake by weight 99.9% of the time), but the cup measurements are below as well — just know I haven’t tested them myself.

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75g neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut 70%)
  • 100g (3/4 c + 2 tsp) AP flour
  • 57g (2/3 c) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 169g (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 56g (1/4 c + 1 tsp) brown sugar
  • scant 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 square pan with foil and lightly grease.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and chocolate. Melt over low heat, then set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
  3. Combine all ingredients from the sugar through the espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low briefly to combine, then crank up the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (about 5 minutes).
  4. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a silicone spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, and bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few wet crumbs (not raw brownie batter, but not completely dry), about 25-30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes — baking these just the right amount of time is critical to getting the right texture!).
  6. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze for later. (I actually like chilling my brownies in the fridge for an hour before eating — I find this gives them the perfect amount of chew!)

Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache Drizzle

banana bundt
Summer is almost upon us and that means BBQs, picnics, and backyard get-togethers! While I love me a good layer cake, sometimes you just want a simple, unfussy dessert to take to a potluck; and this is is just that sort of cake. This delicious banana cake is a snap to whip up, and it’s totally fine to make ahead — it actually gets more moist after an overnight rest. Do use your blackest, deadest bananas for this recipe for the best flavor. Typically I keep a bag of overripe bananas (peeled) in the freezer and just defrost what I need in the microwave.

I made this cake in my 6-Cup Nordic Ware Heritage bundt pan. It’s my favorite shape because it’s dramatic and doesn’t really need any embellishment; but chocolate + banana is always a good idea so this cake got a little chocolate sour cream ganache drizzle. If you have a 10-12 cup bundt pan, double all the ingredients.

Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache Drizzle

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the Banana Bundt Cake:

  • 210g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Heaped 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 113g butter, room temperature
  • 200g / 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 115g / 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 325g / about 2 large very ripe mashed bananas

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache:

  • 40g good quality chocolate, milk or dark, chopped
  • 40g sour cream

Method

For the Banana Bundt Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl or jug, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, and bananas. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Add the egg and mix in thoroughly.
  4. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Gently mix in the sour cream/vanilla/banana mixture until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Pour into the prepared bundt pan and level the top with an offset palette knife. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil to prevent scorching.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before turning out of the bundt pan. Allow cake to cool completely before glazing.

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache:

  1. Combine the chocolate and sour cream in a heatproof bowl and heat over a bain-marie. Whisk constantly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in 20 second increments in the microwave, then whisk in the sour cream. Just ensure that the sour cream is at room temperature; otherwise, the ganache may curdle.
  2. Allow to cool at room temperature slightly before drizzling over the cake.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake

peanut butter chocolate cake
I love making birthday cakes. While I don’t have a problem with having a little dessert every day, I do think there’s unique joy in having something made just for you on your special day — hopefully with your tastes and preferences in mind.

This cake was for my father-in-law’s birthday. He’s one of the most non-picky eaters I know; but while he eats everything, he especially likes chocolate and nuts. This was for a small family celebration, so the cake is quite small: two 6-inch layers. If you want to make it into a double layer 8-inch cake, refer to the original chocolate cake recipe and make 1.5-2x the frosting (this recipe makes a generous amount; I gave this cake a fairly thick layer and still had enough leftover to frost 20 mini cupcakes).

Some notes on the frosting: I’ve had mixed experiences with Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC); although I’ve made it sort of successfully in the past, to be honest I didn’t really like the flavor of it before — it just tasted like sweet butter. (Which I guess it is.) This time was different, for a couple of big reasons:

  • I borrowed my sister-in-law’s stand mixer. It still took awhile to make the frosting, but my hand didn’t feel dead at the end. My previous attempts at SMBC were with a hand mixer; it’s possible that way, but the stand mixer really does make the process way easier and more enjoyable, IMO.
  • Peanut butter and cream cheese. They go so well together, and in this case they combine to make the fluffiest, silkiest, and most tasty peanut butter icing I’ve ever had. I’m generally not a huge icing person, but I could have eaten it straight with a spoon. The brown sugar added a little something something too; a nice depth of flavor that reminded me of honey roasted peanuts. Yum.

I’ve read a lot of SMBC tutorials and recipes (see here, here, and here just for starters), and they vary pretty widely on the ratio of egg whites to sugar to butter. I aimed somewhere in the middle, and chose to be conservative in the sugar amount since I prefer my icings not too sweet. There also seem to be varying opinions on how much cream cheese works in this type of icing, and I know some people have trouble with cream cheese SMBC breaking because of the water content of the cream cheese. I went for a half-butter, half-cream cheese ratio, and kept a couple extra tablespoons of butter on the side in case I needed it to help emulsify the mixture. In the end, I did end up using the extra butter. I also refrigerated the icing for about 10 minutes during that scary curdling stage, then just kept whipping at a low speed and it eventually came together. My advice is to just be patient and not panic; read a few tutorials on how to fix broken buttercream ahead of time so you know what to do if and when your icing reaches that stage. This is honestly one of the tasiest frostings I’ve ever made so I do hope you give it a try!

To add a little texture, I made some peanut brittle for garnish. This was my first time making peanut brittle, which was exciting because I got to use my brand-spanking-new candy thermometer! Last year I attempted making soft caramel candies a couple of times and failed; later I realized it was because my thermometer was a good 15 degrees off…basically the difference between delicious and burnt. The lesson here is: check your thermometer’s calibration by putting it in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil. It should register 212F / 100C when the water boils. Hopefully that’ll save you a few burned batches of sugar!

peanut butter chocolate cake from above

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake with Maple Peanut Brittle

Makes one 2-layer, 6-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Midnight Chocolate Cake

A half batch of this recipe, baked in two 6-inch pans, with the following changes:

  • Use half all purpose, half cake flour
  • Use black cocoa for the cocoa powder
  • Start checking for doneness around 25 minutes

For the Maple Peanut Brittle

Recipe adapted from Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes

  • 55g / 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 110g brown sugar / 1/2 c (I used light)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c light corn syrup
  • Heaped 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 150g / 1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts

For the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 135g egg whites, room temperature
  • 220g light brown sugar
  • 150-180g butter, cut into cubes, at cool room temperature
  • 150g cream cheese, cut into cubes, cool room temperature
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Smooth creamy peanut butter, such as Skippy or Jif, to taste (I used three large spoonfuls)
  • Pinch of salt, to taste

To finish

  • Chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • Various chocolate candies (I used bite sized Snickers and some white chocolate covered almonds)

Method

Make the Maple Peanut Brittle:

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat and set aside.
  2. Combine the baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Have your peanuts measured and ready to go as well.
  3. Combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the mixture reaches 298F / 149C on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Fold in the peanuts and pour the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet (work quickly as it does harden rather fast).
  4. Let the brittle cool completely (about an hour) before breaking in pieces to use for decoration. Store leftovers, layered between pieces of parchment paper, in an airtight container.
  5. Note: To easily clean your sugar work pans, fill with water, cover, and bring to a boil for several minutes. It’ll melt the sugar right off.

Make the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  1. Place egg whites and brown sugar in a heatproof bowl (such as the bowl of your stand mixer) and whisk to combine. Set bowl over a pot of just simmering water to create a double boiler and whisk until mixture reaches 140-160F. Don’t allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.
  2. Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the egg white-sugar mixture on low for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the speed to medium high. Continue whisking until the meringue reaches glossy stiff peaks and both the meringue and the bowl are at room temperature (about 10 minutes).
  3. Switch out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter one cube at a time. Wait until the butter is completely incorporated before adding the next cube. When the butter is incorporated, repeat with the cream cheese.
  4. Continue mixing on low until the mixture is smooth, then add the vanilla, a pinch of salt, and peanut butter a spoonful at a time (to taste). Taste and add a touch more salt if the mixture tastes too sweet. Mix on medium speed for a couple minutes, or until the buttercream is smooth, silky, and fluffy.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Level your cakes if desired. (Note that this chocolate cake is very tender and moist, so I highly recommend working with them chilled.) Set your first cake round on a cake board and spread a generous amount buttercream evenly over the top, followed by a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Set the second cake round on top and spread a thin coat of buttercream over the top and sides to trap all the crumbs. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add a thicker layer of buttercream over the top and sides, using an offset spatula and icing scraper for evenness.
  3. To get the “rustic” look, use an offset spatula or back of a spoon to create random swoops.
  4. Top with chopped peanuts and peanut brittle if desired. If you’re not serving the cake right away, store in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving. Just before serving, garnish with peanut brittle and candies. (Don’t put the brittle on too soon or it may soften and weep.)

Another Chocolate Cake

full
This past Valentine’s Day, I asked David what kind of cake he wanted. He told me, “I like that chocolate raspberry one.” I like that one too, but was also itching to try some new recipes. So I made another chocolate raspberry cake, this time with Swiss meringue buttercream (more on that later), espresso ganache, and more of that raspberry sauce from the original cake, because it’s just that good.

I never baked layer cakes until last year. My family wasn’t really into cake (often we’d just turn a carton of ice cream into birthday “cake” by decorating it with candy and sprinkles), so there wasn’t much reason to learn. While I think I’m still more of a pie person in general, I’ve started to find real enjoyment in making layer cakes. In a weird way it reminds me of planning a themed concert, which was one of my favorite parts of running a chamber music collective. We’d start out with a theme, and then try to think of different ways of representing that theme. Contrast was important, but all the components still had to make sense together. Other considerations included timing, instrumentalists available, and audience.

With layer cakes, you choose a general cake flavor, then the contrasting / complimenting ones. You have to plan when to make each component so that that everything will be ready at the same time. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that it’s a 3 day process for me — bake the cake layers first so they can chill/freeze, then make all the components (frosting, filling, glazes etc.), and finally assemble everything and decorate. I’m sure it could be done in a single day, but I usually don’t have that much uninterrupted time; plus, it keeps me from burning out and getting lazy (which is when I tend to forget / drop things).

Anyways, if you got through all that cheesy analogy stuff, wow — thanks. You’re probably a good friend of mine or a family member, ha. So about this cake…

I’d been wanting to bake this particular chocolate cake for awhile as I’ve seen it raved about on The Vanilla Bean Blog, Hummingbird High, and a few other baking blogs. Also, it has coffee, which is never a bad thing in my book.

The consensus: this cake is a keeper. It’s moist and not too sweet, with a beautiful dark color from the cocoa + coffee combo and a rich chocolatey flavor. The other cake has a finer crumb and a nice buttery mouth feel, but this one is more moist. Let’s just say I’d make both of them again.
chocodrips

Buttercream: frosting is my least favorite part of cake (unless it’s cream cheese frosting) because it’s often so cloyingly sweet. So, I wanted to try making Swiss meringue buttercream, because it seems to be the preferred frosting for a lot of pro bakers — main reasons being it’s easy to work with and not too sweet. However, it’s also a bit finicky to make because you have to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites and make sure all the ingredients are the right temperature before combining everything. There are lots of articles about “how to fix buttercream” and “why your buttercream broke” etc. etc., so I knew I was in for a bit of a challenge.

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of fun making this buttercream. I don’t own a stand mixer, so it took a LOOOOOOONG time to beat the egg white mixture with my handheld until it was cool enough to add the butter. I also made it the night before decorating (because that was when el bebe was asleep for the night and I’ve learned not to attempt lenghty-ish processes during the day), so I had to re-beat it the next day anyways. I found it difficult to keep at a good temperature for decorating because our kitchen was a smidge warm, plus I did get interrupted a few times by the infant child. So I had to keep refrigerating and re-beating and it got a little annoying. In the end it turned out ok — it was much less sweet than American buttercream. There are a ton of recipes out there, so next time I might try one with a higher proportion of egg whites to butter because I’d like to get it even lighter and silkier. Also, I’d probably borrow a stand mixer. And make it the day of decorating. Basically I need more practice and experimentation.

Ganache/Glaze: SO GOOD, and so easy. I had to freeze the leftovers so I wouldn’t eat it all with a spoon. I basically let it sit while I wrestled with the buttercream. Definitely not high maintenance. If I ever feel like making truffles, I’d fill them with this ganache.

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Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream and Espresso Ganache

Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (200g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (69g) good cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken (I substituted 1T vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used dark roast)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8×2 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With a mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans (it will be very liquidy) and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely, removing parchment paper. Note: these cakes are quite delicate, so I recommend refrigerating and then freezing the layers overnight before decorating so they will be easier to handle.

Buttercream

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream (this is a good start) with a few spoonfuls of raspberry sauce and/or food coloring to get your desired shade of pink.

Espresso Ganache / Glaze

Makes one cup

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 3/4 -inch pieces
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Method

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edge; remove from the heat (this can also be done in the microwave). Add the espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for several minutes. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Let the ganache stand at room temperature until firm enough to spread.

Raspberry Sauce

Make one portion of the recipe here.

To Assemble

  1. Allow cake rounds to chill completely. Level if necessary.
  2. Set one layer on a cake round or platter and spread with a layer of ganache (you can be fairly generous, though reserve at least 1/3 cup or so if you want to glaze the top and sides), topped with a layer of raspberry sauce (leave a thin border around the edge so your fillings don’t seep out from the weight of the top layer).
  3. Set the other layer on top; spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour before spreading a heavier layer of frosting over the entire cake.
  4. Chill again for at least half an hour before adding ganache drips along the sides and spreading it over the top (you will need to gently heat the ganache to get it to a glaze consistency — this was about 20 seconds in the microwave for me). Style Sweet CA has a great tutorial on drippy cakes.
  5. Garnish as desired (I used fresh raspberries, cocoa nibs, and crushed pistachios). Chill if not serving right away, but serve at room temperature with plenty of raspberry sauce. Cake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

Marcus’ Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

chococake1One month ago, I was having a baby. But before there was a baby, there was supposed to be chocolate cake.

Our little munchkin wasn’t due until September 16th, but starting around the 37.5 week mark I was ready to have this baby. Even though I had an easy-peasy pregnancy, the discomfort of wearing a watermelon-sized heater 24/7 during the hottest part of the year was getting old, fast. I had a feeling he’d show up a little early; but as the due date drew closer with no signs of baby, I was preparing myself for a fashionably late arrival (as both David and I had been).

At my 39-week checkup, my doctor performed a sweep and stretch, which can help encourage labor naturally (I think it’s something like a 30% success rate). That night I had some spotting and a sudden onset of chills. We called the public health hotline, and the nurse recommended I go into labor and delivery (even though I wasn’t having any contractions). I was pretty sure it wasn’t the real thing, but just to be on the safe side we went in. Sure enough, I was checked out and sent home — the chills chalked up to the changing weather and/or hormones released by the sweep and stretch.

The next day was one of our busier Saturday mornings in awhile. David had a funeral to attend, and my Mom and I met some old friends for brunch. On our way home, we stopped by a new coffee place we’d been meaning to try, and then went in search of ingredients for dinner. David wanted to BBQ, and we also had planned to make a good-bye chocolate cake for a church friend who was moving back to Taiwan. Once we got home, David went to start the BBQ while my mom and I started mixing up the chocolate cake. Around 5pm, I stuck the cake layers in the oven, stood up, and my water broke. I’d secretly hoped my water breaking would be how I knew it was time to head to the hospital, but I didn’t think it would actually happen that way. I remember feeling startled and calling over to my mom, “Um, I think my water just broke…” while standing in an ever increasing pool of water.

From that point, everything happened relatively fast. We checked into L & D half an hour later, and within the next hour I went from no contractions to full on 60-90 second contractions a few minutes apart. People say “you’ll just know” when you get real contractions, and I know what they mean now. I asked for an epidural, but was told it would be an extra hour before I could get one because the anesthesiologist on call was in surgery. That hour was definitely the most pain I’ve experienced. Poor David had nail marks all over his arm to prove it. When the epidural finally came, it was such a relief (seriously, thank God for drugs). The nurse checked me shortly afterwards, and told me the happy news that I was fully dilated. She had me rest for an hour, and then we started pushing.

momo1Pushing lasted two hours. As we neared the end of the second hour, my contractions started weakening and I was exhausted. The nurses decided to give me a shot of Picotin to help things along — and 12 minutes later, at 12:47am on Sunday, September 13th, little Marcus burst into the world. Hearing him scream a few moments later was one of the most relieving and beautiful sounds I’ve heard. It’s been a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, exciting, exhausting, and extraordinary month getting to know our little man. We thank God that he’s healthy and generally good-natured (except when he’s hungry) and has a ton of people around him who love him. It is also a blessing having family near and far come help; otherwise I’d be a total zombie surviving on instant noodles and coffee.

chococake2Anyways, back to that chocolate cake — my mom finished baking it, but we were too late to make it into a goodbye cake for our friend. So, when we got home from the hospital, we made some buttercream and transformed it into a “Welcome Marcus” cake. I sure hope Marcus becomes a chocolate lover, because like it or not I’m probably going to make this chocolate-raspberry cake every year around his birthday just for kicks. The recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, my Christmas present to myself last year. My main change was to make the buttercream with all dark chocolate instead of a mixture of milk and dark. I think it’s the perfect amount of sweetness paired with the raspberry sauce. (This is 2/3 of the original recipe, which was just enough to lightly frost the entire cake.) We also only made half the amount of raspberry sauce, but next time I’ll make the full amount because I wish I’d had more to slather on when serving — it’s soooooo good.

Marcus’ Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

Makes 1 4-layer, 8-inch cake | Adapted from The Cake Bible

Cake Ingredients:

  • 85 g / 3/4 c + 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-processed)
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 300 grams / 3 c sifted cake flour
  • 434 g / 2 c firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 227 g / 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • Handful of fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Grease and line two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then grease again and flour. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  3. In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
  4. In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
  6. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting reinvert so that tops are up and cool completely. (Layers can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for a couple of days, or frozen until needed.)

Dark Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients:

  • 454 g / 1 lb good quality dark chocolate
  • 227 g / 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave (stirred every 15 seconds). Stir until smooth, and cool until no longer warm to the touch.
  2. In a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixture at medium speed and beat in the cooled chocolate until uniform in color.

Raspberry Sauce Ingredients:

  • 680 g / 24 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 132 g / 2/3 c sugar, optional

Method:

  1. In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be 1 cup.
  2. In a saucepan boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 c. Pour into a lightly oiled heatproof cup.
  3. Puree the raspberries and use a find strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have 1 liquid cup puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and lemon juice. To make a lightly sweetened sauce, measure again. There should be 1 1/3 liquid cups. If you have less, add less sugar. The correct amount of sugar is 1/2 the volume of the puree. (To 1 cup puree, add 1/2 c sugar.) Stir until sugar dissolves.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Level and divide each cake into 2 layers (for 4 layers total). Spread a thin layer of buttercream between each layer, followed by a layer of raspberry puree.
  2. Frost the entire cake with remaining buttercream. Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired, and serve with remaining raspberry sauce.

Chinese Marble Cake

marblecakeMy sister-in-law introduced me to this lovely marble butter cake. I guess you can find this at some Chinese bakeries, although I’ve never personally come across it. This is basically a lightly sweetened pound cake, but with a finer texture (thanks to the icing sugar and milk). Perfect for dinner parties, coffee break, breakfast…ok, basically any time you just want a piece of cake!

This loaf comes together quickly and doubles easily; you could also split into mini loaf pans for Valentine’s Day gifts. Enjoy!

Chinese Marble Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (220g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 oz (200g) plain flour/all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 7 oz (200g) fine or powdered sugar (confectioners sugar or icing sugar)
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the a 8×5 cake pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour and the baking powder together. Add in salt and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Use an electronic beater to mix butter and sugar until well combined or pale yellow in color. Add in the first egg. Beat well after each addition of egg until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add in vanilla essence. Fold dry ingredients into the mixture and mix well. Finally, add in the milk.
  4. Divide the batter into two portions. Stir the cocoa powder into one portion and mix well. Transfer the plain batter into the greased baking pan. Shake it lightly to distribute evenly. Pour the cocoa batter in the middle of baking pan, and lightly swirl the cocoa batter in an “S” shapt with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
  5. Bake until golden brown and cooked, about 40 minutes. Insert a cake tester in the middle of the cake to test doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool on the wire rack for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.

Mini Chocolate and Red Velvet Cakes

minicakes2I love the idea of mini cakes because they’re so cute and festive and don’t require a cupcake pan. I’ve had my eye on these rainbow mini cakes on Molly Yeh’s blog. I decided to try my hand at a simpler, two-layer version (mostly because I was too lazy to go out to buy matcha powder for the green tea layer…next time).

I like a huge cake to frosting ratio (i.e. waaaaaay more cake than frosting because I don’t really like frosting, except for the carrot cake cream cheese variety) so I left my minis naked. But the frosting recipe definitely makes enough for you to frost the tops and sides if you so choose.

Mini Chocolate and Red Velvet Cakes

Assembly:
Make one portion each of the chocolate, red velvet, and buttercream recipes below. Freeze cake layers for at least one hour, or overnight. Use round biscuit cutters to cut out rounds (I used 2-inch and got about 20 mini cakes total). Frost and decorate as desired. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Magnolia Bakery Super Rich Chocolate Cake

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • Scant 1/2 cup boiling water

Method:

  1. Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees or conventional oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar-flour mixture by hand until combined. Whisk in boiling water just until combined. The batter will be watery.
  3. Pour batter into parchment lined 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes in a convection oven or 25 to 30 minutes in a conventional oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Southern Red Velvet Cake

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″ x 13″ dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  3. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  4. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven. Invert onto a plate and then re-invert onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

(Original source)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake

minicakes1