Several years ago, while looking for a new way to use up some pumpkin puree (in Canada, a typical can size is almost twice as big as the 15-oz. can in the States, so I ALWAYS have some leftover after making pumpkin pie) I stumbled upon Yossy Arefi’s beautiful pumpkin bundt cake recipe in the New York Times. After the first bite I remember thinking, “This is it, this the only pumpkin cake I need.” It’s perfectly textured and spiced (please use freshly ground cardamom and black pepper — it makes such a difference!), simple to make, and keeps like a dream.
I’ve been meaning to remake and post about it every year since then; it’s taken a few years, but better late than never. Of course I couldn’t help tinkering a bit, as am wont to do. I swapped in some barley flour, my most recent obsession in sweet baking. Pick up a bag if you have a chance — barley flour is sweet and nutty and subs really well for all purpose, particularly in tender baked goods as it has a low gluten content. I’ve been using it in pancakes/waffles/banana bread/cookies with great success (start with a 1/3 swap and try more the next time if that works out well).
I also added a cream cheese filling because pumpkin and cream cheese are BFFs. And though the brown butter glaze in the original recipe is delicious, I went for an even easier, no stove required maple-olive oil glaze (another Yossy recipe) to echo the olive oil in the cake itself. The addition of olive oil makes an especially rich, glossy glaze — save extras for drizzling over individual slices, if you like.
I used my 6-cup heritage bundt cake pan for this cake (a scaled down size of the original recipe). You can double the recipe but make sure to use a 12-cup or larger bundt pan; many large bundt pans are only 9 or 10-cups and I’m pretty sure a double batch would overflow in that size.
The eternal question of how to prep a bundt pan…these days I favor cake goop for prepping my bundt pans, but use whatever method works for you! Make sure to get every nook and cranny and don’t forget the middle tube! Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out.
For the minimalistic glaze drizzle I only needed a tiny amount of glaze (I still had extra, which we drizzled onto slices). If you have a bundt shape that handles more glaze or you want a generous drizzle, make 1.5x the amount listed.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Maple-Olive Oil Glaze
1 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground – I use 6 pods)
1/8 tsp cloves
Few cracks of black pepper
55g extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
213g pure pumpkin puree
60g sour cream, at room temperature
125g all purpose flour
67g barley flour (or substitute spelt or more all purpose)
For the maple olive oil glaze:
50g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of kosher salt
12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
15g (1 1/2 Tbsp) maple syrup
1 tsp hot water, plus more as needed
Make the cream cheese filling: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside while you prepare the cake batter.
Make the pumpkin bundt cake: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan (or brush it with cake goop), making sure to get all the crevices and the middle tube, where cake especially likes to stick.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Mix on medium speed until smooth and combined, 1-2 minutes (the mixture will be thick). Scrape down the bowl and paddle and add the olive oil. Mix on medium-high until light and thickened, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and mix on medium for 20 seconds. Scrape down the paddle and the bowl. Add the pumpkin and sour cream and mix until well combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Whisk the flours together in a small bowl, then add to the wet ingredients (sift them in if lumpy). Use a flexible spatula to fold the flour in until smooth and no dry bits remain. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is well combined.
Add about half the batter to the prepared bundt pan. Tap to level and dislodge any air bubbles. Snip the end off the piping bag and pipe the cream cheese filling on top, leaving a 1-inch border on each side (try not to touch the edges of the pan). Add the remaining cake batter on top and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Place the bundt pan on a baking sheet.
Bake until the cake is puffed and a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.
Make the maple olive oil glaze: When the cake has cooled, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients to make a thick and pourable glaze. (Add hot water a 1/4 tsp at a time if needed to thin the consistency). Pipe, spoon, or drizzle glaze onto the cake. Let glaze set for 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.
If you’re a fan of AsianASMR YouTube channels, you’ve probably encountered some version of double fromage cheesecake over the years. Popularized by Japanese bakery chain LeTAO, double fromage cheesecake is made up of a sponge cake layer, topped with a layer of baked cheesecake, topped with a layer of cheesecake mousse (or no-bake cheesecake). Once set, the entire cake is dusted with leftover sponge cake crumbs. As with many Asian-style cakes it’s light and lightly sweetened — perfect for warm summer evenings.
LeTAO has actually shared their original recipe on YouTube (it’s in Japanese, but you can get a general idea from the subtitles). With their recipe as a guideline, I created this strawberry version by adding a layer of strawberry gelee between the two cheesecakes and strawberry puree to the cheesecake mousse. To pack a stronger strawberry punch, the whole cake is lightly frosted with strawberry whipped cream and strawberry-speckled cake crumbs (strawberry shortcake Good Humor bar vibes, anyone?).
This strawberry double fromage cheesecake isn’t hard to make, but it does take some time for the different layers to set. You can make it leisurely over one day, or break up the work over a couple days to fit your schedule.
You’ll need strawberry puree for the strawberry gelee and strawberry cheesecake mousse layers. I made my own by simply whizzing up some fresh strawberries in a blender, but you can use store-bought puree or use frozen berries (thaw before blending). I like to strain my puree to get rid of the seeds, so I always start with 50% more berries (by weight) than what I need for the recipe. (In this case, I suggest starting with 225g fresh strawberries). Freeze any extras for a later use, or just toss into your next smoothie or swirl into yogurt!
I absolutely love the flavor combination of strawberries and elderflower, so I used some IKEA elderflower syrup in both the gelee and mousse. You could use another brand or even elderflower liqueur (like St-Germain). No biggie if you don’t have it, though — subs are in the recipe!
Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line the bottom of a round 8″ cake pan (with at least 2″ sides) with parchment. Lightly grease the parchment, but don’t grease the sides of the pan.
Combine the milk, oil, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over low until warm (but not hot) to the touch. Remove from heat, add the vanilla, and keep warm while you prepare the rest of the batter.
Place the egg whites in a large, spotlessly clean stainless steel bowl. (You will eventually be mixing all the cake batter in this bowl, so pick one that’s nice and wide.) Using a handheld electric mixer, mix the egg whites on low until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking on low to medium-low until the bubbles tighten and resemble shaving cream. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while. Turn the speed up to medium and whisk until the meringue holds stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are raised slowly.
Add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking on low after each addition. Mix just enough so the color is homogenous.
Sift in the flour in 2 batches. Use a balloon whisk or flexible spatula to fold the flour in after each addition. Fold just until the flour is mixed in, doing your best not to deflate the batter. Take extra care to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, as flour likes to hide and stick there!
Scoop about 1/2 a cup of batter into the milk-oil mixture. Whisk to combine — no need to be gentle about this; you’re just “tempering” the liquid so it’s more similar in consistency to the rest of the main batter, making it easier to fold the two together with minimal deflation.
Drizzle half the milk-oil mixture around the perimeter of the main batter. Use a balloon whisk or flexible spatula to fold in. Repeat with the remaining milk-oil mixture. Fold just until no streaks of liquid remain and you have one homogenous batter. (Again, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl thoroughly!)
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Whack the pan firmly on the counter 2-3 times to break any large air bubbles.
Bake until golden and springy to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately drop the pan onto the counter from a height of 12″. (This helps minimize shrinkage.) Let cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack, then run a thin spatula around the edge. Leave in the pan to cool completely.
Right before preparing the baked cheesecake batter, cut the cake horizontally so you have a round about 1/2″ thick (save the rest of the cake for another use). Use a 6″ cake ring to punch out a circle of cake. Remove the excess cake around the outside of the ring; but do not discard. Remove cake and clean the ring. Line the ring with parchment paper and place on a cake round or sheet pan. Place cut round on the bottom of the ring.
Trim the brown parts off the cake you removed from outside the ring; wrap and refrigerate or freeze — you’ll use this for decorating the outside of the cake.
Make the baked cheesecake:
Preheat the oven to 300F with one rack in the middle and one below.
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt. Mix on medium-low with a handheld electric mixer. Scrape down the sides, add the egg, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and mix until smooth. Add the sour cream and mix until well combined. Add the flour and mix until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared ring. Tap the pan on the counter several times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
Transfer the cheesecake to the middle rack in the oven. On the rack below, place a cake pan filled with about 2 inches (5 cm) of hot water. Bake until the edges are set but the center still gently wobbles, about 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate uncovered until cold (at least 2 hours).
Make the strawberry gelee:
When the cheesecake has chilled completely, prepare the strawberry gelee. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes to bloom.
In a small saucepan, combine the strawberry puree, elderflower cordial, and sugar. Heat over medium until the sugar has melted and the mixture is steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved, then scrape into a heatproof jug or container. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour over the baked cheesecake layer. Chill while you prepare the strawberry cheesecake mousse.
Make the strawberry cheesecake mousse:
Whip the heavy cream until just before soft peaks. Chill while you prepare the rest of the mousse.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold milk to bloom. Set a sieve over a clean, heatsafe bowl.
Fill a small saucepan with an inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a heatproof bowl (that will fit over the saucepan without the bowl touching the water), whisk together the egg yolk, sugar, and elderflower cordial (or water). Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and registers 155F on a digital thermometer. (This is to pasteurize the egg yolk.) Remove from double boiler and whisk in the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. Whisk in the cream cheese and strawberry puree. Strain into the prepared bowl.
Using a flexible spatula, fold in the whipped cream in two portions, just until homogenous. Pour over the gelee layer. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (or overnight).
Finish the cake:
When the mousse has set and you’re ready to decorate, make the strawberry whipped cream. Combine the cream and ground freeze-dried strawberries in a small bowl and whip to medium-firm peaks. (You can also do this in a mini food processor — grind the strawberries to a powder, if whole, then add the cream and pulse until thick like yogurt. It doesn’t take long!) Refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the strawberry crumbs, pulse the reserved cake scraps in a food processor until fine (or press through a sieve). Stir in the freeze dried strawberries.
To decorate, remove the cake ring and parchment paper. Frost the entire cake with a light coat of the strawberry whipped cream. Immediately press the strawberry crumbs all over the sides of the cake (you can do the top too, if you like, but I kept it naked). Transfer any remaining strawberry whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a French star tip. Pipe a few swirls on top and garnish with fresh strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake is best the day it’s assembled, but you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Happy weekend! Just wanted to say hi and share another fun way to use some of your sourdough discard — sprinkle (or funfetti) cake! This is my favorite soft and fluffy buttermilk cake base from Baked to Order, but rejiggered as a snack cake. Snack cake…I love that term! Basically it’s a small, typically one layer cake that is simple to put together and keep around for snacking — no party or special occasion required. Count me in!
You can use discard that’s a few days old; I keep discard in the fridge for up to the week or until it starts to produce “hooch” (a thin, liquid alcohol byproduct on top) or smells unpleasantly acidic. For this cake, you’ll want to bring the starter back to room temperature so it mixes into the batter easily.
If you don’t have sourdough discard, increase the all-purpose flour and buttermilk by 60 grams each. No other changes needed.
I always use plain old rainbow jimmies (the long, rod-shaped sprinkles) for mixing into cakes. They tend to hold their color and not bleed into the batter as much as other styles. Save your fancy designer sprinkles for the top (I get mine from Sweetapolita)!
I used half a batch of my fave buttermilk ermine frosting here, with some freeze-dried strawberries mixed in for color and flavor. But this cake would go well with your favorite frosting — it’s a great time to use up any leftover bits you might have in your freezer. I used about 300g of frosting (a little under 2 cups), for reference. By the way, I always advocate for making a full batch of frosting and freezing whatever you don’t use in an airtight bag. It’s such a useful freezer stash item for when you want to make a few cupcakes or another snack cake. Just bring the frosting to room temperature and re-whip it before using (it may look separated or curdled at first, but it should come together after a good whip at the right temp). Frosting temperature sweet spot for me is around ~72F — much warmer than this and the frosting will be too droopy and runny; much cooler and it’ll be dense and hard to spread.
For the sourdough sprinkle snack cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 square aluminum baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches of overhang on two of the sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the pan and parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk the flours together thoroughly.
In a measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the buttermilk and sourdough discard until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld mixer), combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple of times during this process. Add the oil and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
With the mixer on low, add the flour and buttermilk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed. Fold in the sprinkles.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.
Bake until the cake is puffed and lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the strawberry buttermilk ermine frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the frosting and freeze-dried strawberry powder until smooth. Use immediately.
To assemble: You can leave the cake in the pan for easy transporting, or transfer it to a serving plate. Dollop the frosting on and use an offset spatula or back of a spoon to swirl it over the surface of the cake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.
Mildly sweet and impossibly fluffy, these paper-wrapped sponge cakes have been a favorite of mine since childhood. Along with gai mei bao (coconut cocktail buns) and dan tat (egg tarts), these simple cakes were a must-buy every time we visited a Chinese bakery. After years of attempting to recreate these treats at home, I’m so happy to finally share this recipe with you.
Tang-mian or “cooked dough” method
For this recipe, I use a technique known as tang mian, or cooked dough. Basically, the flour is “cooked” with heated oil and milk before getting mixed with other ingredients. Pre-coating the flour with fat limits gluten formation and yields an extra fluffy, moist, and cottony-textured cake. I’m not sure exactly where this technique originated, but it’s been popular amongst Asian bakers for quite some time. I’ve been experimenting with tang-mian recently and appreciate the textural difference particularly in tall cakes (less so in roll cakes, but that’s another recipe for another day). Try it and see what you think!
Keys to sponge cake success
As with all sponge-style cakes, the keys to success for these cupcakes are properly whipped egg whites and good folding technique.
This cake batter doesn’t contain any leavening agents (i.e. baking powder or soda). Instead, the rise all comes from the meringue — egg whites and sugar that are whipped to stiff peaks and folded into the batter.
I also use cold egg whites for this recipe. While most North American sponge or chiffon cake recipes direct you to use room temperature eggs, Asian cake recipes often call for using cold egg whites. Cold egg whites take longer to whip to stiff peaks, but this allows time to form a very fine and strong meringue with minimal risk of overbeating (a pinch of cream of tartar helps too). I mix on no higher than medium speed for.a smooth meringue with very small, even bubbles — this results in velvety-textured, smooth cake with no unsightly holes. You want to whip the meringue to stiff, shiny peaks for this recipe. This article from Fine Cooking pictures the various stages of meringue — very helpful!
Once you’ve created your perfect meringue, the trick is to incorporate it into the rest of the ingredients while still retaining the structure and air you’ve worked so hard to create. I start by whisking a small amount of meringue into the yolk batter to “temper” it, then scraping the yolk batter over the meringue and using a whisk to fold the two mixtures together. When just a few streaks of white remain, I switch to a silicone spatula and finish folding until the batter is all one color. You can also fold the meringue into the yolk batter in a few portions; but after making many, many chiffon and sponge cakes I find this method is more efficient — plus, I don’t end up with any film of yolk batter at the bottom of my mixing bowl. But use whatever folding method you prefer!
If you grew up eating paper-wrapped sponge cakes, you may know that they are typically baked in flower-shaped individual tins. These tins are taller than typical cupcake molds and give these cakes their iconic shape. I got these flower cake molds from Hong Kong via a very kind friend. They are just under 2 3/4″ tall, just under 3″ wide at the top, and 1 7/8″ wide at the bottom (7cm tall, 7.1cm wide on top, 4.5cm wide on bottom).
Here are a few sources and ideas for finding for these tins:
If you have an Asian kitchen supply store or restaurant supply store in your area, check to see if they carry these molds or something similar. Search for popover molds, rum baba molds, dariole molds, or individual pudding cups. Many of these stores may not list their entire inventory online, so call or visit and bring some photos with you. If you’ve found some tins in your area, please comment with the name/city of the store!
Because I have such strong memories associated with these paper-wrapped cakes, using the proper molds absolutely enhanced my enjoyment of making them. The memories are not just about the taste of the cake — it’s the look and feel of them in your hand, the memory of peeling off the paper and slowly shredding off long pieces. If you have similar nostalgia and want to recreate this specific food memory, I think it’s 100% worth it to track some down.
HOWEVER! You can bake this batter in other cupcake or popover tins or even oven-safe paper cups — the cakes will still taste good. Here’s how I would calculate how much batter to fill a different-sized tin.
Weigh how much water it takes to fill your mold to the top and note the number in grams. For reference, one of my flower-shaped tins holds 180g of water, filled right to the top. You’ll sse these two numbers to calculate about how much batter to use per tin and your yield.
For example, one of my regular cupcake wells fits 100g of water. 100/180 = ~0.56. So, one of my regular cupcake wells holds 56% of the volume of one flower tin.
I use ~90g of batter per flower-shaped tin. Based on the previous calculation, I need 56% of that amount to fill a regular cupcake well. 90 x 0.56 = ~50. So I would use about 50g per cupcake mold, for a yield of 10-11 cupcakes. (90 x 6 = 540, total batter yield. 540 / 50 = 10.8. The recipe makes a little more than 540g to account for some loss in the bowls and utensils, so you should be able to get 11.)
Please note that the yield and baking time will vary depending on the size of your tin(s). Smaller, shallower cakes will bake faster than taller, thicker cakes.
It’s important to line whatever molds you use with parchment paper that extends the top edge. These delicate cakes rise quite a bit during baking and need the support. For my molds, I cut 7.5″ square papers out of parchment and followed this lining technique from Christine’s Recipes. For best results, take the time to crease the papers and get them to lie as flat as possible within the mold so batter doesn’t flow between the folds of the paper. I do NOT recommend using the method where you squish a paper into the mold using a similar-sized cup; though you can use a second mold to press the paper in tightly once you’ve folded and creased it.
For best results, weigh your yolks and whites for this recipe. I use large eggs that typically weigh about 60g with shell, but even so I have noticed a surprising variance in how much large eggs weigh from brand to brand.
Cake flour helps achieve the very cottony, fine texture that is characteristic of these cakes. I do not recommend replacing with all-purpose. Cake flour tends to clump so I I sift it twice, once before adding to the milk-oil mixture and another time when I add it to the liquid.
Chinese Bakery Style Paper-Wrapped Sponge Cakes
Makes 6 large flower-shaped cupcakes (please read notes under “The Molds” if using different tins)
84g whole milk
50g neutral oil (such as grapeseed or canola)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g cake flour, sifted
100g egg yolks (from about 5 large eggs), cold
150g egg whites (from about 5 large eggs), cold
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional — can sub with 1 tsp lemon juice)
84g granulated sugar, preferably caster or superfine
Preheat the oven and prepare the tins: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line cupcake tins with parchment paper so the paper extends the rim of the mold (see above video for method). Place tins, evenly spaced, in a 9×13 baking pan or on a sheet tray.
Set up a bain-marie and heat milk and oil: Fill a medium saucepan with 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and oil in a medium heatproof bowl. Once the water reaches a gentle simmer, set the bowl over the simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water). Whisk over the heat constantly until the mixture reaches 150F on an instant-read digital thermometer, about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the bowl.
Make the yolk batter: Whisk the salt and vanilla into the warm milk-oil mixture. Sift in the cake flour and whisk until smooth. Let cool for 1-2 minutes (to avoid cooking the yolks), then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. The batter should be smooth and shiny. Set aside.
Make the meringue: Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl — choose something large and wide as eventually you’ll be mixing all the batter in it. Using an electric handheld mixer, whisk egg whites on low until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking on low to medium-low until the bubbles tighten and resemble shaving cream. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while. Turn the speed up to medium and whisk until the meringue holds stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are raised slowly.
Combine the two batters: Whisk the egg yolk batter briefly to loosen. Add a large spoonful of meringue and fold in using a whisk or flexible spatula. Scrape the egg yolk batter into the bowl with the remaining meringue. Use a whisk to gently but thoroughly fold the mixtures together. Avoid stirring — we want to retain as much air as possible. Once the two mixtures are about 80% combined, switch to a flexible spatula and continue folding until you have one homogenous batter with no streaks of egg white remaining.
Portion the batter: Divide the batter among the prepared tins (for my flower shaped tins, about 90g each). The tins should be filled to the top. I used a medium cookie scoop to portion the batter; alternatively you can transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe it into the tins.
Bake the cakes: Bake until cakes are golden and springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Try not to open the oven until the cakes are close to being done, or the delicate cakes may collapse. Immediately remove cupcakes from the tins and lay on their sides to cool on a wire cooling rack. This helps minimize shrinkage — a little is normal, but if cakes shrink significantly this is usually due to underbaking or a problem with the meringue/folding. Cakes are best enjoyed the day they’re baked, but leftovers can be stored for a couple days in an airtight container at room temperature or the refrigerator. Enjoy at room temperature.
For obvious reasons, I haven’t made many fancy cakes this past year. It’s hard to work up the enthusiasm when sharing celebrations with your extended family and friends isn’t an option (Zoom doesn’t count). But this week was my husband’s birthday, his second pandemic one. And even if the days of the past year have crawled along ever so slowly (especially lately — pandemic fatigue is real, I tell you), it still felt necessary to acknowledge their passing. With cake.
There’s a recipe called David’s Chocolate Raspberry Cake in my book. It’s his favorite, the classic combination of deep chocolate cake, bright raspberries, and silky chocolate frosting. He would have been more than happy with that, but I was in the mood for a Project. I didn’t dare stray from the chocolate-raspberry flavor combination, so this was all about repackaging. We start with the same chocolate cake, but this time the raspberry shows up an an intense gelée, a smooth crémeux (basically a fancy set pudding), and in the rich chocolate mousse. All of that is doused in a gloriously shiny glaze and sprinkled with chocolate crumbs (which taste like oreos) for texture. It was good, very good.
Tips for making mousse cakes
It’s all about the timing
Layered mousse cakes look impressive and complicated, but they aren’t necessarily more difficult to assemble than a “regular” layer cake. While there are several components, none are difficult to prepare and most can be made ahead of time. I suggest spreading the work out over a few days to keep the process relaxed and fun. For example, this is the schedule I followed:
Day 1: Make chocolate cake (store in fridge), gelée (freeze), and crémeux (freeze)
Day 2: Make chocolate crumbs, chocolate mousse, and assemble cake (freeze overnight)
Day 3 (serving day): Make glaze, glaze and decorate frozen cake, defrost in fridge, eat!
You can definitely condense the project into 2 days. However, the key timing points are to make sure the gelée/crémeux are frozen before assembly, the mousse is used right before assembly, and the entire cake is frozen before glazing. Once glazed, the cake will need at least 2 hours in the fridge to defrost before eating.
There are a few pieces of equipment that make assembling mousse cakes straightforward and produce sleek results.
Cake ring: Mousse cakes are often assembled in stainless steel rings that act as molds. I used a 6×3 cake ring.
Acetate: Also known as cake collars, these thin, transparent sheets line the cake ring and make the frozen cake easy to unmold. I used 3″ high acetate cut to fit the ring.
Instant-read digital thermometer: Important for the crémeux and mirror glaze, which are cooked or cooled to exact temperatures for best results. My favorite is the Thermapen.
Powdered gelatin:Gelatin is the setting agent in several layers. I generally use powdered because it’s readily available in my area. You’ll need 26g total (if you’re using packets, this is a little less than 4 packets).
Ruby chocolate: Ruby chocolate is a special variety of chocolate that is naturally pink. It has a unique fruity flavor that pairs really well with raspberries. I use Callebaut brand.
Raspberry puree: You will need 260g raspberry puree total for all the components. You can buy pre-made puree online from some specialty baking / food stores, or make your own. To make raspberry puree, I simply blended one 400g bag of frozen raspberries (after thawing). I used puree with seeds for the gelée, but strained out the seeds for the crémeux and mousse. I had just enough puree; so if you want to use all seedless I would start with ~550g frozen raspberries to ensure you have enough after straining.
Before making the dark chocolate raspberry mousse, I recommend having your cake and gelée-crémeux layers trimmed and all your equipment for assembly ready to go. The gelatin in the mousse will begin setting as soon as you add the cream, and the longer you wait the harder it will be to spread.
I had intended to use another layer of cake but didn’t have quite enough room on after adding the gelée and crémeux. Next time I make this, I’ll put the first round of cake directly on the bottom of the cake ring and pipe mousse around it. That should give just enough room for another extra cake layer.
I didn’t use a piping bag to add the mousse and ended up missing a couple spots around the crémeux. I filled them in with some ganache before glazing, and that worked ok. But after about a day in the fridge the glaze sort of wrinkled where the ganache was (probably because it was a different density compared the mousse). So I definitely recommend using a piping bag and taking care to get all the edges filled with mousse for the cleanest finish!
The recipe for chocolate crumb makes quite a lot; feel free to cut in half or even a quarter depending on how much you want to use for garnish. I made a full batch to freeze extras for snacking and other projects.
Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse Cake with Dark Chocolate Mirror Glaze
Makes one 6×3 mousse cake (serves 8-12) | Chocolate cake recipe adapted from Baked to Order; raspberry gelée, dark chocolate raspberry mousse, and dark chocolate glaze adapted from Dominique Ansel’s Everyone Can Bake; ruby raspberry crémeux adapted from Felicia Mayden; chocolate crumb adapted from Milk
For the chocolate cake (Makes one 8″ round):
57g unsalted butter, cubed
27g neutral vegetable oil
60g whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g all-purpose flour
34g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
165g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
80g sour cream, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
60g freshly brewed coffee
For the raspberry gelée (makes about 240g or 1 cup):
20g cold water
4g (scant 1 1/4 tsp) powdered gelatin
185g raspberry puree (with or without seeds)
30g granulated sugar
For the ruby raspberry crémeux (makes about 435g or 1 3/4 c):
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the pan again and dust with the cocoa powder.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat, and whisk in the oil, milk, and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 25-32 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edge and turn the cake out to finish cooling completely. Wrap and chill the cake in the fridge until ready to assemble.
For the raspberry gelée:
Line a 6-inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.
Bloom the gelatin: Combine the cold water and gelatin in a small bowl. Stir with a spoon until the gelatin has dissolved. Allow to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
Cook the gelée: In a medium saucepan, bring the raspberry puree and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Add the gelatin mixture and whisk to combine, making sure the gelatin completely dissolves.
Set the gelée: Pour the gelée into the prepared pan. Freeze until firm before adding crémeux, about 1 hour.
For the ruby raspberry crémeux:
Bloom the gelatin: Combine the gelatin and 15g of the heavy cream in a small bowl. Stir with a spoon until the gelatin has dissolved. Allow to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
Make the crémeux: Place the chopped ruby chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl and set a fine-meshed sieve over it.
Place egg yolk in a medium bowl. Heat the corn syrup in the microwave until warm. Slowly whisk into the egg yolk until smooth (warming the corn syrup helps temper the yolk).
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 120g heavy cream and whole milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Once the cream-milk mixture comes to a simmer, slowly whisk into the egg yolk mixture until well incorporated. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 180F on a digital thermometer. Remove from heat, then add bloomed gelatin and whisk to combine thoroughly. Strain mixture over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute, then whisk together to form a smooth emulsion. Add the raspberry puree and whisk in thoroughly.
Freeze the crémeux: Pour crémeux over set raspberry gelée. Freeze uncovered until top is set, about 1 hour. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top and freeze until completely solid, at least 5 hours or overnight.
For the chocolate crumb:
Preheat the oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until well combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture forms small clusters.
Spread the clusters in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. (I like to squeeze some clumps together to get a mixture of bigger and smaller pieces.) Bake for 20-22 minutes, stirring occasionally to promote even baking. The clumps should be slightly moist to the touch; they will harden as they cool.
Let crumbs cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month.
For the dark chocolate raspberry mousse:
Note: prepare the mousse right before assembling the cake.
Combine the gelatin and 35g whole milk in a small bowl. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
Place the chopped dark chocolate in a medium bowl and set a fine-meshed sieve over it.
Put the remaining 147g milk in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until steaming, stirring occasionally. Once steaming, remove from heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin mixture.
Strain over the chopped chocolate. Let mixture sit, without stirring, for 30 seconds; then whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the raspberry puree and whisk until completel.ombined. Let cool at room temperature while you whip the cream (you want the ganache to be slightly warm when combining with the cream).
Place the cold heavy cream in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the whisk attachment). Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Slowly pour the ganache into the whipped cream a little at a time, gently folding it in with a spatula until just combined. Transfer to a piping bag and use immediately.
Assemble the chocolate raspberry mousse cake:
Note: I recommend preparing the cake ring and trimming the layers before making the dark chocolate raspberry mousse.
Line the inside of a 6×3 cake ring with acetate and set on a plastic-lined sheet pan. Make sure you have space in your freezer where the sheet pan can fit flat so the cake can freeze properly.
Trim the cake and gelée-crémeux rounds so both are about 1/4″ to 1/2″ smaller than the cake ring (5 1/2″ to 5 3/4″ inches in diameter). Trim the cake to about 1/2″ thickness. (Save leftovers for snacking or another project, or see baker’s notes for thoughts on using more cake layers.)
Prepare the dark chocolate raspberry mousse (see above).
Pipe about 1/2″ of mousse into the bottom of the cake ring. Lightly tap the pan to ensure there are no air bubbles and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Set the cake layer on top of the mousse and gently press into the mousse until the mousse comes over the edge of the cake a bit. Pipe in about 3/4″ layer of mousse into the cake ring covering the cake layer. Set the gelée-crémeux layer on top of the mousse, gelée side on top. Gently press into the mousse until the mousse comes up the edge of the crémeux. Pipe mousse around the edge of the gelée-crémeux, then pipe in mousse to fill the remainder of the mold. Tap pan again to remove any air bubbles. Smooth the top so it is perfectly flush with the top of the mold. (You may have a little mousse leftover — consider it a baker’s treat!)
Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer. Freeze until solid, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Make the dark chocolate glaze:
Note: prepare glaze about 1-2 hours before you want to glaze the cake, or at least 3-4 hours before serving. After glazing the cake will still need fully defrost in the fridge before serving.
Combine the gelatin and 60g cold water in a medium bowl. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
Sift the cocoa powder into a medium saucepan. Add the 75g room temperature water and stir to form a thick paste. Add a small amount of cream and whisk to loosen. Add the remaining cream and sugar and whisk to combine.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the glaze just comes to a boil, about 3-5 minutes.
Set a fine-meshed sieve over the bloomed gelatin and pour the glaze through the sieve. Whisk to combine and melt the gelatin. Blend with an immersion blender to remove lumps and air bubbles. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and cool to 95F before glazing the cake (this took me about an hour). Right before glazing, strain glaze again into a tall pouring container to remove any air bubbles — pour from a low distance for best results. (Note: glaze can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week; rewarm in the microwave to 95F before using.)
Glaze the mousse cake:
At least 3 hours before serving, unmold and glaze the cake. Line a sheet pan with plastic wrap and set a sturdy plastic container or 4″ cake pan on top. (You want something smaller than the diameter of the cake so the glaze will drip off properly, but make sure it’s level and sturdy.) Take the cake out of the freezer and remove the cake ring. Move the cake to a 6″ cake board and remove the acetate. Double check the glaze is at working temperature — at 95F — before glazing. If not, wrap cake tightly in plastic and keep in freezer until ready to glaze — the cake must be frozen and not starting to melt when the glaze is applied.
In one swift and confident motion, pour most of the glaze over the center of the cake. If everything is at the proper temperature, the glaze should flow down and cling to the sides of the cake. If there are any spots that get missed, use an offset spatula to gently smear some extra glaze on. Let set for a couple of minutes, then use an offset spatula to cut off any stray drips at the base of the cake.
Finish and serve the mousse cake
Use a cake lifter or a couple of offset spatulas to move the glazed cake onto a serving plate. (The extra glaze can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week or frozen; rewarm before using.) Decorate with chocolate crumbs at this point if desired (they will adhere better when the glaze is still a little sticky). Transfer cake to the refrigerator to thaw completely before serving (at least 2 hours, or up to a couple days). Decorate with edible glitter paint, and fresh raspberries (brushed with some warmed apricot jam for shine), if desired, before serving.
I’ve been on a pound cake bender this year, baking and tweaking and baking and tweaking to define my ideal. Pound cake may not rank high on anyone’s sexy, exciting baking list, but I love their unassuming simplicity — perfect any hour of the day, just begging to have a sliver sliced off each time you spot it on the kitchen counter.
As with the perfect chocolate chip cookie or the perfect brownie, the definition of “perfect pound cake” varies from person to person. My ideal pound cake is buttery with a dense but smooth / creamy / plush crumb. It should be moist but not overly so, and just sweet enough to enjoy without accompaniment (though a glaze can glam it up for show). Finally, a pound cake should boast a beautifully golden crust with an attractive crack down the center. Let’s dive into my formula and top tips for pound cake perfection!
My formula for plush sour cream pound cake
Traditional pound cake formulas use equal parts (by weight) butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. While you can make a delicious cake using these proportions, many modern bakers (including myself) like to tweak things a bit to create a recipe that aligns with our personal tastes. Here’s a rundown of the ingredients in my pound cake:
Fats: Pound cake equals rich, buttery flavor, so I use mostly unsalted butter in this recipe. Just a touch of neutral oil adds a little extra moisture.
Leavening: Pound cakes traditionally don’t call for any leavening, hence its characteristic dense crumb. I add a small pinch of baking powder for a little lift, but the lion’s share of the rise comes from proper creaming of the butter and sugar (more on this later).
Sugar: For cakes in general, I prefer using superfine / caster sugar as the extra-fine granules dissolve quickly during the creaming process and produce an ultra-fine texture. I usually make my own by processing regular granulated in a food processor for about a minute.
Eggs: I use a combination of whole eggs and yolks for a rich texture that’s not overly bouncy or dry from too much egg white. The yolks add a little extra fat and emulsification power, which allows for more liquid in the cake overall without compromising the structure.
Flour: For this pound cake, I use bleached cake flour. I tested with all purpose and a mixture of cake and all purpose, but using all cake flour by far produced the most even and tender crumb. All-purpose flour in Canada is usually made from hard wheat, which normally doesn’t pose much of a problem in my recipes. But in this case, I noticed that cakes made with all purpose flour would routinely have a few gummy, dense streaks and a less even crumb overall. It’s possible that bleached and lower protein all-purpose flours would work fine, but I haven’t been able to test them out yet. Cake flour tends to clump, so I always recommend sifting it before mixing. For a thorough explanation on cake flour, see this article on Serious Eats.
Dairy: My main change to the classic pound cake formula is replacing some of the fat and eggs with full-fat sour cream, which both adds flavor and keeps the cake tender for days. I add a touch of milk as well so the cake doesn’t get too heavy. I do not recommend substituting the sour cream with low-fat varieties, yogurt or any other dairy product.
Extracts/flavoring: I love the combination of vanilla and almond extracts for a classic bakery-style flavor. Use pure, not imitation, extracts — imitation almond extract in particular can taste harsh and…well, fake. If you don’t like almond extract, replace with more vanilla. As always, a bit of salt helps round out the flavor and keep the sweetness in check.
Pan size: My pan of choice is a 9x4x4 pullman pan, which results in a beautifully tall cake with straight sides. You can substitute a 9×5 loaf pan. Do not use a smaller pan or your cake may overflow; if you only have a smaller loaf pan (8×4 or 8.5×4.5), fill the pan so there’s an inch of space at the top and bake extra batter in mini loaf pans or cupcake tins.
Use room temperature ingredients! Ensuring all your ingredients are at room temperature is crucial to a properly mixed cake. Butter and sugar will cream up to the right texture without overmixing, and ingredients will blend properly. Butter should be cool but soft enough that it’ll hold an indent if pressed. It should not feel greasy or oily. (If you have an instant-read thermometer, you’re aiming for 60-65F.) Bring eggs and dairy out of the fridge for 1-2 hours before mixing. You can bring eggs up to temperature quickly by soaking them in warm water for a few minutes. You can warm the sour cream/milk on 30% power in the microwave in short bursts; just take care not to go too far (again, aiming for temperature around 65F).
Don’t rush the mixing process. Cream your butter and sugar until it’s noticeably expanded in volume and lightened in color. Proper aeration of the butter is what will give your cake a good rise and even crumb, so don’t cut your creaming short! Mix on medium speed and scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl periodically to make sure no dense pieces of butter remain. When adding the eggs, go slowly — you’re trying to force liquid and fat together, two things which don’t normally like to mix. I like to lightly beat my eggs and extracts together so I can stream them in gradually. If your eggs are at the proper temperature, they should easily mix into the butter-sugar mixture without breaking. While a curdled batter isn’t the end of the world and should still result in a delicious cake, a properly emulsified batter will bake up with the best crumb and texture.
Bake the cake fully. Pound cakes are thick and dense, so they take a long time to bake — more than an hour! Start checking for doneness until your kitchen smells of buttery goodness and the cake is well risen and golden. Cracks in the surface will be pale, but not wet; a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.
Cool completely. The crumb of the cake will continue to set as it cools. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, turn the cake out and wrap in plastic to cool completely before serving. I find pound cakes taste best on the second/third day: the moisture is well distributed and the flavor has time to bloom.
Plush Sour Cream Pound Cake
Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 cake
For the cake:
140g full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
50g milk, at room temperature
150g (about 3 large) eggs, at room temperature
54g (about 3 large) egg yolks, at room temperature
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
1/2 tsp baking powder
300g granulated sugar (preferably caster or superfine)
28g neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
250g cake flour, sifted
For the glaze (optional):
70g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp hibiscus powder (optional, for color)
1-2 Tbsp milk or cream, plus more as needed
Preheat oven and prepare pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Grease a 9×4 pullman pan or 9×5 loaf pan (I recommend aluminum, not glass or ceramic) and dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
Prep ingredients: In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup, mix together the sour cream and milk. In a glass measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and extracts.
Cream the butter and sugar: Place the butter, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer back to medium and add the sugar in a gradual stream. Once all the sugar has been added, continue mixing on medium until pale and very fluffy, about 5-6 minutes. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl 2-3 times during this creaming process to ensure even mixing. Add the oil and mix well to combine.
Add the eggs: With the mixer on medium, slowly stream in the egg mixture about a tablespoon at a time, letting each addition fully incorporate before adding more. Take your time — adding too much liquid at once can cause the mixture to curdle and affect the final texture of the cake. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl 2-3 times during this process. Once all the eggs have been added, continue mixing for about 30 seconds to make sure the batter is well combined.
Alternate the flour and liquid: Turn the mixer down to low. Add the flour and sour cream-milk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed and no pockets of flour remain.
Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Run a chopstick or skewer through the batter to pop any large air pockets, then use an offset spatula to smooth the top. (Note: If desired, rub a butter knife with a little softened butter and slice down the center of the cake — this encourages the cake to split in the middle. Totally optional.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 65-85 minutes. (This is a fairly tall and rich cake; err on the side of a few extra minutes in the oven to make sure it’s fully baked through. The pullman pan will take a little longer than a 9×5 pan.)
Cool the cake: Cool the cake for 15 minutes in the pan, then run a thin knife around the edges and turn onto a wire rack. Wrap in plastic and allow to cool completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Glaze (optional) and serve: If glazing, unwrap cooled cake and place on a serving platter. Whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and hibiscus powder (if using) in a small bowl. Drizzle in liquid of choice a couple teaspoons at a time, whisking well after each addition, until you reach the desired consistency. Pour or drizzle over cake. Allow glaze to set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Last week we celebrated Isabelle’s first birthday. As I’ve looked back on the photos and videos from this past year and cheered her on as she’s started taking her first steps, I realize — despite the seeming never-endingness that is 2020 — time marches on.
Naturally, there was cake. We’re still sticking to very small gatherings here, so I made a petite birthday cake and a very petite one for Isabelle to “smash.” (Though let’s be honest — this is our third kid and this was hardly her first taste of cake!) It was the perfect size.
Buttermilk Ermine Frosting
Let’s talk for a minute about the buttermilk ermine frosting. If you’ve never made ermine frosting (sometimes called flour buttercream or boiled icing… uh, yum?) you really must try it! It’s fluffy and not too sweet, almost like a sturdy whipped cream in texture. This old-school frosting starts with a flour-milk-sugar roux that’s cooked to a thick paste on the stove. Once cooled, it’s beaten together with softened butter. I promise, it’s much tastier than it sounds! Ermine frosting is softer than Swiss meringue buttercream so it’s not the best for super sharp edges and intricate piping, but it’s tops for eating. Using buttermilk instead of regular milk gives it cream cheese frosting vibes; I’m totally using it the next time I make a red velvet or carrot cake!
A few notes:
The measurements for this cake are a bit odd because it’s scaled down / adapted from this old favorite vanilla cake recipe. The cup conversions are super awkward so I’ve just stuck with grams. I recommend baking by weight whenever possible — it’s much more accurate and quicker/cleaner than breaking out all the measuring cups! A scale is truly my favorite kitchen tool and a worthwhile investment.
To make the cakes pictured, I split the batter among two 6-inch cake pans and two 4-inch cake pans. For the most even layers, weigh the batter (told you the kitchen scale is handy!). Here’s how I do it: before baking, I weigh the bowl in which I’ll be mixing my batter. After I’ve finished mixing my batter, I’ll weigh the bowl with the batter, then subtract the weight of the bowl to find out how much my batter weighs. Then I divide the batter weight by however many pans I’m using. In this case, I first divided by 3 — this is how much batter I put in each of the two 6″ pans. Then I divided the remaining third of the batter between the two 4″ pans. Note that if you’re using different sized pans, they may bake at slightly different rates; though in this case all my layers finished around the same time. Not making a smash cake? You can just use three 6″ pans!
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute plain milk (either lowfat or whole should work nicely) for a plain, delicious vanilla frosting.
Mini vanilla cake with buttermilk ermine frosting (plus a smash cake!)
Makes one 2-layer 6″ cake plus one 2-layer 4″ smash cake (or one 3-layer 6″ cake)
For the vanilla cake:
119g all-purpose flour
136g cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
250 g granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
204g sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
136g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g neutral vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
For the buttermilk ermine frosting:
42g all-purpose flour
140g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
About 1/3 cup peach preserves (or other thick fruit jam)
Sprinkles, for decorating
For the vanilla cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) with a rack in the middle position. Line the bottom of two 6″ pans and two 4″ pans with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.
In a glass measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and 50 grams of the sour cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Mix on low for 30 seconds to combine.
With the mixer still on low, add the butter a spoonful at a time, followed by the oil and the remaining 154 grams of sour cream. Once all the flour is moistened, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds. The batter will be very thick at this point. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle.
With the mixer on low, add half of the egg and sour cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.
Fold the batter a couple of times with a flexible spatula to ensure everything is well incorporated. Divide the batter among the prepared pans (see notes above) and smooth the surfaces with a small offset spatula. Place the pans on a baking sheet.
Bake until the cakes are puffed and springy, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 28-35 minutes. (These cakes don’t brown much.) Cool 10-20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. For easiest assembly, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator completely before filling and frosting.
For the buttermilk ermine frosting:
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until well combined. Add the buttermilk and whisk until smooth.
Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil. One the mixture starts boiling, cook for an additional two minutes. It should be thick and glue-like; if you run a spoon through the middle of the mixture, the line should remain for a second before slowly filling again.
Remove from the heat and use a flexible spatula to scrape into a pie plate (using a wide, shallow pan speeds the cooling process). Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Cool completely to room temperature before proceeding.
Place the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the cooled pudding a spoonful at a time. Once all the pudding has been added, scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Continue mixing until smooth.
Switch to the whisk attachment and add the vanilla. Whip on medium speed until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 3 more minutes. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week (or freeze for up to 6 months). Bring back to room temperature and rewhip before using.
If you plan to pipe words or other decorations on your cakes, set aside a small amount of buttercream (I only needed a couple spoonfuls to pipe “One” and “1”). Transfer about 1 cup of buttermilk ermine frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Level the cakes if needed using a sharp serrated knife or cake leveler. Place one 6-inch round on a cake board or serving platter. Pipe a dam around the edge and fill the center with peach preserves. Place the second layer cut side down. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting to lock the crumbs in, then chill for about 15 minutes. Repeat process with the 4″ cake layers.
Frost the cakes and decorate as desired. I tinted my reserved frosting with a drop of Americolor Dusty Rose and piped the text using a #2 Wilton tip (I recommend practicing a couple times on a piece of parchment paper). Cake is best enjoyed at room temperature.
We celebrated my older girl’s third birthday last week — how did that happen? It seems not that long ago that we were celebrating her impending arrival — and now she’s a happy, rambunctious child who loves kimchi, unicorns, pickles, rainbows, and berries.
Unlike her older brother, Hannah didn’t have too many requests regarding her birthday cake: just “strawberries.” So here we are with strawberry cake! I am happy to report it was a huge hit with the birthday girl, who usually isn’t too much of a cake person — she gasped with delight when she saw the cake, asked for seconds, and gobbled up the leftovers the next day. I think I know what her birthday cake tradition will be now.
A few notes:
The main challenge when baking with strawberries is that strawberries contain a lot of moisture. I chose to cook down the strawberries until they were reduced in half by weight — this concentrates the flavor beautifully. The reduction is easy to track if you use a kitchen scale. For this recipe, you’ll want to start with 240g strawberries (either fresh or frozen works), which is double the weight of the needed reduced puree. Add the strawberries to your saucepan (halved if large) and weigh the entire pan with the strawberries inside. Then subtract 120g from that number: this is how much your pan should weigh when your strawberries have reduced enough.
For this particular cake, I wanted a small but tall cake so I could do a rainbow effect. I divided the batter among three 4-inch pans (filled about 2/3 of the way, about 225g each), and baked off the rest of the batter as cupcakes. Pro tip: if you’re just baking a cupcake or two, pop your cupcake liners in individual ramekins so you don’t have to take out your entire cupcake pan!
The 4″ cake layers are thick, so I cut each in half for a total of 6 layers. You can do this with 6″ layers as well if you prefer more frosting and filling. Note that you’ll need a little extra frosting and filling if you go for additional layers.
For the rustic rainbow effect, I divided about a cup of swiss meringue buttercream (recipe from my book) into 5 equal parts, then tinted using gel food coloring (I mixed the colors individually, so sorry — no specific colors here). After crumb-coating and chilling the cake, I used a small offset spatula to swipe on equal bands of color, starting at the bottom. I placed Callebaut crispearls around the top edge for the gold “crown.”
Boxed strawberry cake has something of a cult following, but isn’t something I grew up eating. One of these days I’ll try the boxed version to see if this bears any similarities! My main objective for this cake was that it should taste like real strawberries and use real strawberries, preferably without fake extracts or difficult-to-find ingredients. I did use a tiny (1-2 drops) of red gel food coloring for a lovely pink hue — if you omit this, your cake will be tinted mauve/purple.
I wasn’t originally planning to blog about this cake, so sorry — I don’t have any great interior shots. The next time I make this cake I’ll update this post with more photos!
Strawberry Buttermilk Layer Cake
Makes one 2-layer, 6-inch cake
For the reduced strawberry puree:
240g strawberries, halved if large, fresh or frozen (but defrosted)
A couple pinches of granulated sugar, if needed
For the strawberry buttermilk cake:
100g all-purpose flour
100g cake flour
120g reduced strawberry puree (see notes above)
70g buttermilk, at room temperature
1-2 drops of red food coloring (optional, for more intense color)
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use 2/3 the amount for another brand of kosher salt or 1/2 the amount for table salt)
30g neutral vegetable oil (I use grapeseed)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
2-3 cups of frosting, depending on your design (see notes above)
Strawberry jam, if desired
Make the reduced strawberry puree: Place the 240g strawberries and sugar, if using, in a medium saucepan. Weigh the entire pan with the strawberries inside. Subtract 120g from this weight and write this number down — this is how much the pan should weigh when your berries are sufficiently reduced. Heat the berries over medium, stirring frequently, until the berries break down and come to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue simmering and stirring until the mixture is thick like tomato sauce and the pan hits the target weight — about 25-30 minutes, but will depend on the size of your pan and heat of your stove. Scrape the bottom and the sides of the pan frequently to avoid scorching. When the berries are sufficiently reduced, transfer to a heatproof container and cool to room temperature before using.
Make the strawberry buttermilk cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle. Line the bottoms of two 6-inch (15-cm)-round cake pans with parchment paper, then grease the pans and dust them with flour.
In a small bowl, sift together the all purpose and cake flours and whisk together thoroughly.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the reduced strawberry puree, buttermilk, and food coloring (if using).
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple of times during this process. Add the oil and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well to combine. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
With the mixer on low, add the flour and strawberry-buttermilk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, about 385 grams of batter each. Use an offset spatula to smooth the tops.
Bake until the cakes are puffed and set and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 25 to 32 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pans are cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edges and turn the cakes out to finish cooling completely. For easiest assembly, wrap and chill the cakes in the fridge before filling and frosting.
Assemble the cake: Trim the tops of the cakes to level if needed and peel the parchment paper off each one. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip with about 1 cup of buttercream. Place a dollop of frosting on a cake board, plate, or cake stand and place the first cake round on top. Pipe about ⅓ cup of buttercream onto the first cake round and spread it on smoothly using a small offset spatula. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake to create a dam. Fill the center with an even layer of strawberry jam. Finish by placing on the last cake round, top side down (this keeps the crumbs in while also ensuring a flat top). Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake to lock the crumbs in. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, until set. After the cake has chilled, frost and decorate as desired. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
I love a good chiffon cake — honestly, I’d probably eat it over a regular butter cake 95% of the time. Chiffon cake is light and fluffy but still moist, thanks to a bit of oil in the batter. It’s also best served simply. Regular buttercreams are too heavy for this style of cake, so I prefer to top chiffon cakes with some good old whipped cream and a handful of summer’s best berries.
A couple of notes:
This cake is a simple one-layer affair, though you could easily double everything and turn this into a naked 2-layer cake as well.
I used buttermilk in both the cake and whipped cream for a lovely tang that complements the berries. If you don’t have any on hand, substitute the buttermilk in the cake with water or regular milk (or try half water, half lemon juice plus the zest of a lemon for a lemon-flavored chiffon). You can substitute sour cream or Greek yogurt for the buttermilk in the whipped cream, or just use more heavy cream.
Buttermilk Chiffon Cake with Berries and Buttermilk Whipped Cream
Makes one single-layer 8-inch cake
Buttermilk chiffon cake:
75 g cake flour
90 g granulated sugar (preferably caster), divided
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
60 g buttermilk
40 g neutral vegetable oil, such as grapeseed or canola
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
For the buttermilk whipped cream:
180g heavy cream, cold
60g buttermilk, cold
1-2 Tbsp granulated sugar (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 cups (250-300 g) fresh berries, rinsed and cut if large
1-2 Tbsp granulated sugar
For the buttermilk chiffon cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the lower third. Line an 8-inch (20-cm)-round cake pan with parchment and lightly grease the parchment, but otherwise do not grease the pan. (I like to use a pan with 3-inch sides as this helps the cake top stay nice and flat, but one with 2-inch sides should work as well.)
Sift together the cake flour, 65 grams sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks to the well, and whisk until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium, and whisk until soft peaks. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the remaining 25 grams caster sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until you have glossy, firm peaks.
Using a flexible spatula or whisk, carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter one third at a time. Mix just until the batter is homogeneous and no white streaks remain.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Give the pan a couple raps on the counter to dislodge any big air bubbles.
Bake until the cake is puffed and golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, run a thin spatula around the edge of the cake to loosen, then carefully turn out of the pan and remove the parchment. Use immediately, or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
For the buttermilk whipped cream:
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk to medium peaks. Use immediately.
Mix together the berries and sugar and allow to macerate for about 10 minutes.
Place the cake on a serving platter. Dollop on the whipped cream and use a spoon or offset spatula to spread over the top. Top with macerated berries (leave the juices behind). Serve immediately.
To me, the unofficial start of summer is the arrival of fresh strawberries. To be honest, I’m not much of a summer person — I don’t like hot weather and the mosquitoes that come with it. But I love summer produce, and our family definitely looks forward to berry picking every year.
For the past several years, I’ve made a fraisier to celebrate fresh strawberries. A fraisier is a traditional French strawberries and cream cake, and to me it’s the best way to enjoy candy-sweet, ripe strawberries (after eating them straight off the plant).
With these fraisiers I tend to be a bit casual — I usually make them a little differently every time. Sometimes I use a Japanese genoise as the cake; I’ve also made a matcha sponge version that was delicious. Sometimes I make a gelee layer for the top. I’ve also learned a few things over the years — like the need for gelatin to set the cream, and to keep the cake layers on the thin side to let the strawberries really shine through.
For my 2019 fraisier, I used some fresh basil from our garden to infuse the cream. And because the spring here was quite cool and strawberries didn’t show up until practically July, I added in a few blueberries to make this a fourth of July appropriate cake. (You could definitely just use all strawberries too, though.) The sponge is a lemon-scented chiffon, which is light and fluffy and pretty simple to whip up. The result: summer in every bite.
A few notes:
For easiest assembly, I recommend a 6×3 cake ring and acetate strips. You could also use a springform pan and plastic wrap, but you’ll get the cleanest results from the ring and acetate. (I use these same tools to make Momofuku-style cakes.)
You can make the basil pastry cream base up to 5 days in advance, but wait to add the gelatin and whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the cake.
For the cake, I used a half recipe of this lime chiffon cake and baked it in a 6×3 cake pan (total baking time was about 35 minutes). Don’t use a shorter pan; it will overflow. You could probably also bake this in a quarter sheet pan and cut out two 6″ rounds, but you would need to adjust the baking time.
Berry Basil Fraisier
Makes one 6-inch cake
Half a recipe of this chiffon cake, baked in a 6×3 cake pan (I subbed lemon zest and juice for lime)
1 recipe basil cream diplomat (recipe below)
~1 c chopped strawberries, mixed with a spoonful of strawberry puree or jam; plus about 10-12 strawberries, halved (try to choose ones that are the same height, or trim to match) and 10-12 blueberries
More berries and basil leaves, to decorate
For the basil cream diplomat:
1 c whole milk
50g sugar (1/4 c), divided
20g cornstarch or custard powder
2 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1/2 – 3/4 tsp gelatin*
1/2 tbsp cold
1/2 – 1 c heavy whipping cream*
*Use 1/2 c for a thicker filling and up to 1 c for a lighter filling (I usually use 1/2-3/4 c). If you use more than 1/2 heavy cream, use 3/4 tsp gelatin.
To make the basil cream diplomat: Bring the milk and basil sprigs to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and cover. Allow basil to steep for about 45 minutes.
Strain the milk (add more to reach 1 cup if necessary) and return to the saucepan along with 40g sugar and a pinch of salt. Place a strainer over a heat-safe jug or container.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 g sugar and the cornstarch. Pour in a tablespoon or so of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking on the heat for two minutes.
Strain the pastry cream into the prepared jug or container. Whisk in the butter until combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours).
When you are ready to assemble the cake, finish preparing the cream diplomat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup (60g) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the saucepan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
Whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate while you continue assembling the cake.
To assemble the berry basil fraisier: Line a 6×3 cake ring (or same-sized springform pan) with acetate (or plastic wrap) and place on a cake board or plate. Trim the cake into layers ~3/4 inch thick (you should get three; you’ll need two for the cake. The rest is a baker’s treat!).
Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the ring and brush generously with simple syrup. Place the halved strawberries, cut side out and pointed end up, around the edge of the pan. Add blueberries between the strawberries if desired. Pipe the cream diplomat between the fruits and a layer across the top of the cake. Use a offset palette knife to smooth. Fill the center with the chopped berries + jam, then cover with another layer of cream. Place the second layer of cake on top and press down to level. Soak with simple syrup, then spread a thin layer of cream across the top. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to three days.
Just before serving remove the cake ring and acetate. Arrange the cut fruit and basil on top as desired. (If you are doing this beforehand, brush a little warmed and thinned apricot jam on the fruit to preserve their color.) Enjoy!