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Well guys, I’ve done it. I written the first cake recipe of my 31 before 32 birthday challenge. It was a little labor intensive, mostly because I started with only a vague idea of what I wanted my finished product to look like, but I think things turned out pretty well. Plus, it was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. The recipe looks long, I know, but that is also because I included how I assembled and decorated the cake. You don’t have to take it as far as I did; this cake would still delicious without the fussy presentation. Here we go.
- 2 boxes Pillsbury Purely Simple Chocolate Cake Mix
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 cup of milk
- 3 eggs
- 2 heaping tbsps of chopped lavender buds
- 4 pints of blackberries (minus 10 pretty ones*)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 6-8 cups of powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp powdered lavender*
- pinch of salt
- 2-3 drops of food coloring (optional)
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Either the night or several hours before you bake your cake, combine the ganache ingredients in a microwave dish and cook at 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream. Set aside uncovered for at least 3 hours to cool.
- Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box and fold in the chopped lavender after the batter is combined. Split the batter evenly between 3 9″ pans and bake as directed.
- While the cakes are baking, combine the filling ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened sufficiently (A). Allow to cool to room temp before using.
- Put a plate in the freezer for about fifteen minutes before taking it out to test a spoonful of hot filling. Take the filling off the heat while testing. Push your finger through the filling on the plate – you’re looking for it to wrinkle and not flood back in to fill the gap.
- While the filling and the cake cool, beat softened butter (using a hand or stand mixer) adding the powdered sugar a 1/4 cup at a time until the frosting reaches the right consistency.
- Add in the food coloring and powdered lavender and beat for an additional two minutes.
- Carefully, using a serrated knife or leveler, cut the domed top off of each of the cake layers producing three flat even(ish) layers.
- Fill piping bag (or ziplock bag) with 1/3 of your frosting.
- Starting with the bottom layer make a frosting ring around the bottom and middle layers of your cake.
- Split the black berry filling between the two layers carefully spreading across the cake to the frosting ringed edge.
- Stack the middle layer onto the bottom layer and the gently top with the top layer.
- Using the rest of the frosting in your piping bag (and a little from the bowl if you need) quickly cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and then place into a refrigerator to set for 25 minutes.
- Next, cover the cake in a more generous layer of the frosting, making sure to have a slightly thicker coating on the very top of the cake. Place in the refrigerator for an additional 25 minutes.
- Next spoon the cooled ganache over the top of the cake, creating drips down the side.
- Garnish the top of the cake with the remaining butter cream and the reserved blackberries. I also elected to use tiny chocolate candies.
- I wanted to try my hand at the “naked” frosting look for this cake, so most of the frosting was on the top and the top half of the side. This way there was still the frosting flavor, but the look was sill achieved because the more frosted bits were covered by the ganache.
- Andy took the cake to work with him the day after I made it, and it didn’t even make it to lunch time. Which to me is a pretty good indication that the flavors were all balanced. That being said, despite my fondness for lavender, I didn’t want to over do it so that particular flavor could absolutely be turned up if you are baking for an audience with the same fondness. Be careful though; too much and you end up with a soapy taste.
After a very intense week, I was looking forward to this past weekend quite a bit. I was ready to disconnect for a bit and indulge in something creative. I decided to work on an idea I had a while back, which is coming up with interesting ways to spruce up gluten free cake mixes (there are some really good ones out there these days), sort of like the Cake Mix Doctor recipes, but a bit more pretentious sounding. I also wanted to include fresh rosemary because I’ve tried in a few sweet applications, and I think it brings something unexpected to the flavor party.
Just for funsies, I came up with two variations: a Rosemary Olive Oil Cupcake with Blackberry Frosting and a Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cupcake with Whipped Ganache Frosting. I used the King Arthurs Yellow and Chocolate Cake Mixes as my bases, respectively. The Results:
Rosemary Olive Oil Cupcake with Blackberry Frosting – Pretty good. I was a little worried when I tried the cake without the frosting that it was going to be to herbaceous, but the sweet and fruity from the blackberry frosting went a long way to even things out. I think it needed a tart element to really give things some depth. I’d made a blackberry filling for these, but I forgot to fill the cupcakes before I frosted them (Oops). I think it would have done the trick, though.
Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cupcake with Whipped Ganache Frosting – A bit disappointing. The cake alone was almost perfect, but when paired with the whipped ganache, the subtle flavors of orange and rosemary were very much overshadowed by CHOCOLATE. I am still rolling this one around in my head; keep the cake and change the frosting? Or Keep the frosting and change up the cake? The frosting was a new 2 ingredient recipe I found online: equal parts chocolate and butter, melt together, allow to set up in the fridge and whip until light and airy. Rich, light and a little prone to melting, but as long as the weather is cool, I will be using it again.
Progress made, but no finished recipes quite yet. I’ll have to get back into the kitchen and give things another go. Although, considering how long it took to clean up the kitchen when I was done, it might be later rather than sooner 🙂
I have to tell you guys, I am embarrassingly proud of how well these cupcakes turned out. The frosting was sweet and very berry-y, the filling was fruity and tart, and the cake was so good I’d have eaten it without the frosting. Very rarely do I bake something and not want to tweak the recipe, but this was exactly what I wanted. Originally, I’d planned on making blackberry cupcakes for my birthday, but between office cake, desserts from friends, and special treats from my husband, there was no way I needed any additional baked goods. Now that birthday week is officially over, our kitchen is no longer stocked with an over abundance of sweets. Plus Easter. You have to have something special for Easter. The lime flavor addition was very last minute, but it completely made the cupcakes.
Ingredients and Directions:
- 1 box of Plisbury Classic White Cake
- 3 eggs
- 1 stick of melted butter
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tbsp lime zest
- Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake tins.
- Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3rds full and bake 19-23 minutes.
- Allow cupcakes to completely cool before filling and frosting.
- 24 oz frozen blackberries
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- the juice from half a lime
- Combine sugar, blackberries and lime juice in a medium sauces pan and place over medium heat.
- As the berries start to release juice, reserve one cup of the juice (for the frosting), then continue to let the berries simmer and reduce until they reach a thin syrupy consistency (approximately 20-25 minutes).
- Allow the filling to cool before piping into cupcakes.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 all purpose flour
- 1 cup blackberry juice
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- the juice of half of a lime
- zest from one lime
- 3 sticks up butter cut into cubes
- Combine sugar, flour, cream and both juices in a sauce pan and place over medium heat. Whisk ingredients and allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of a soft pudding (roughly 10-15 minutes).
- Transfer mixture to a stand mixer and beat on high until cooled (6-8 minutes).
- Once mixture has cooled, reduce mixer speed to medium and start adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time until all the butter has been incorporated.
- Switch mixer back to high and whip frosting for 1-2 minutes.
To Build the Cupcakes
- Use a cupcake corer or a knife to cut a hole in the middle of each cooled cupcake.
- Fill the cavity with blackberry filling.
- Frost each cupcake and decorate however you like.
After my disappointment with the last blackberry frosting I tried, I was bound and determined to find one that worked for me. It didn’t take long; a few minutes on Pinterest led me to this recipe for Chocolate Blackberry Ganache from the blog Pastry Affair. Don’t you just love Pinterest?
20 ounces fresh blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
In a large saucepan, combine the blackberries with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and are swimming in their juices. Remove from heat.
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the liquid and save it for later use; you should have about 1/2 cup. Place the solid fruit* back into the saucepan and set aside.
To make the chocolate ganache frosting, place chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl. Warm the blackberry juice back up to boiling and pour over the chocolate, allowing it to set for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth. Allow frosting to rest on the counter, stirring occasionally, until it cools down and thickens (anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes).
Beat the chocolate ganache for several minutes until it incorporates air and feels lighter. Place frosting in a pastry bag (or plastic bag with the corner cut out) and pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with fresh blackberries.
- This frosting turned out pretty amazing. It reminded me of some of the higher end chocolates I’ve had: the deep rich chocolate creaminess with a hint of dark berry. Perfection. I may have a new favorite.
- On the technical side, I did have a slight issue with the execution. I added a little too much blackberry juice to the ganache, so I had to add a cup of powdered sugar when I did the final step to get it to the proper consistency. Still amazing.
- The original recipe also talks about how to make the perfect complementary blackberry cake, but I had a new chocolate gluten free cake mix that I wanted to try out, so I skipped the cake part. I made the cake mix according the the box then folded in the left over blackberry solids* into the batter before I baked it. It was incredibly delicious, and I am definitely going to do it again.
- This was also I pretty big hit with some of my trusted taste testers; one individual even had four cupcakes the day I sent them to work with Andy.
- The box mix I used was the King Arthur Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix, and I am going to start keeping a box in my pantry for any impromptu baking I feel the need to do. It was that good.
This colorful pastry cream recipe by food blogger Dulce Delight is offered up as an alternative to traditional butter cream frosting. It also has the added benefit of being naturally colored by the berries.
I couldn’t find a written (typed?) copy of the recipe from the video, so below I’ve listed the ingredients and an abridged version of the steps covered in the video. Also, I discovered a new brand of cake mix at the store so I decided to pair it with the blackberry frosting and see how things worked out.
*The cake mix was fine in texture, and it baked up the way it should, but the coconut sugar used to sweeten it left the resulting products tasking less like “golden vanilla” as the box claimed and more coconut.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup berry puree
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp corn starch
- In a pot, combine heavy cream, milk and berry puree, and stir over low heat until it simmers.
- While the mixture is heating, in a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns light yellow. Then stir in cornstarch.
- Once the cream mixture simmers, thoroughly mix a half cup of the heated mixture into the egg mixture (to temper it), then slowly pour the tempered eggs and sugar into the cream, whisking until completely combined.
- Put the pot back on the stove and heat to a boil, allow to boil for three minutes, then remove from heat and pour into a room temp bowl.
- Allow to cool slightly, then carefully place a layer to cling wrap over the top, pressing it gently into the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.
- Cool in the fridge for an hour, and your frosting is ready!
- I am sorry to say that I didn’t like this. I really really wanted to like it too. Beautiful lavender non-butter cream frosting should have been right up my alley, but the flavor was, to me, odd. I can’t be more specific than that; I just tasted it, and it was weird.
- Andy thinks I am crazy; he even asked me not to throw it away so he could eat it with the left over cupcakes. And that from a guy who doesn’t like blackberry.
- You will have to store your frosting in a cool place. I had it out of the fridge for 20 minutes to frost sample cupcakes and take pictures, and it started to soften significantly.