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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.
This past weekend I finally crossed of #8 on my 30 before 31 list! I completed my 12th recipe from cookbooks I already owned. It actually turned out to be a more difficult challenge than I’d anticipated: I am much more inclined to check out what is in my pantry then bake accordingly than I am to go buy all of the ingredients and then have a set bake day. Regardless, I did it, going out on one of my favorite recipes of this whole thing, a quick and easy Apple Pecan Cake.
- I made a couple of changes to the basic recipe to really bring this cake home. First of all, I used brown sugar instead of white for that rich molasses-y taste that pairs so well with apples. Next I cut out the allspice (since I don’t really care for it) and doubled the cinnamon. I also added a tablespoon of vanilla extract, I don’t know that it made much of a difference, but…..it’s what I did.
- The mix was a bit unusual, so much apple! You couldn’t really pour it into the plan, you had to plop it out in chunks and press it as level as a possible so that it can bake evenly.
- I bake pretty regularly, but this recipe got the most enthusiastic response out of Andy that I’ve seen in a while. He ate four pieces the day I baked it. Clearly I need to add this to my regular rotation.
I am putting in a little extra effort these days to get as many items crossed off as I can, although there will be a couple that I know I won’t be achieving. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
I bake quite a bit, and I am always on the look out for tips and tricks that will make the process easier… especially when it comes to baking for people with dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten intolerant, etc.). I’ve noticed many bakers regard specialty baking as overly complicated and unsatisfying, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Nor should it be regarded as something you shouldn’t try unless you’re already a skilled baker. One of the best things I discovered while trying out gluten free baking was that my favorite brand of flour (King Arthur) had a whole line of gluten free products. Everything from all purpose baking mix to actual cake and cookie mixes, and you know what? They are pretty awesome. Most of my taste testers firmly assert that they can’t even tell the difference. So when my gluten intolerant friend requested something chocolate, with fudge and berries for her birthday I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
- King Arthur Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
- 4 Eggs
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Fudge Filling (adapted from this recipe):
- 5 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 6 tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 3 tbsp water
- Pinch of salt
- 1½ tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 all purpose gluten free flour (I used King Arthur)
- 1 cup blackberry juice
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 sticks up butter cut into cubes
- Combine ingredients and bake according to the box’s instructions.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until melted and smooth. Whisk in the cocoa until dissolved, mixture with be very thick. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine together corn syrup, sugar, cream, water, and salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Cool the mixture slightly, about 2 minutes. Then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly before using.
*Can be made up to three days in advance.
- 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. (This will take forever, just stand there and let the mixer do it’s thing)
- Switch mixer back to high and whip frosting for 1-2 minutes.
- Use a cupcake corer or knife to remove a shallow center section from each of the cupcakes.
- Put the fudge filling in a sealed sandwich bag and snip off one of the corners. Pipe filling into each cupcake.
- Pipe or spread frosting onto each cupcake being careful to cover the fudge filling so none is peaking through.
- Garnish however you please; I used chocolate sprinkles and Mini Dark Chocolate Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares.
*I have received no compensation for this post; the opinions expressed are 100% my own*
I have bought quite a few cookbooks over the last decade or so, but I hardly ever use them. I leaf through them every now and again and make mental notes of things I would like to make “soon”. Before you know it, the book is back on the shelf, and I’ve forgotten all about it. I made a pledge earlier this year to make a real effort to use these beautiful books for their intended purpose instead of using them as paperweights or coasters. On our recent trip to Disney, Andy bought me a copy of Baked Occasions, and I swore to myself that I would make at least one of the recipes before February was over. I’m cutting it a bit close, but I am proud to tell you that I have successfully made Very Vanilla cupcakes.
- As you can see from the photo, I decided to use this recipe for cupcakes instead of a layer cake (makes 30 cupcakes). The only problem is this recipe follows the low and slow methodology for baking that produces a nice level cake. Not what you want for cupcakes; you want them to be a little humped up in the center instead of flat across. I forgot to correct for this and had rows and rows of flat little cupcakes. Next time I’ll crank the baking temp to 350 and reduce the bake time to 20-25 minutes.
- This very vanilla frosting is my new favorite, non ganache frosting recipe. So much better than standard butter cream! It tastes a lot liked whipped cream, but you don’t have to worry about melting. While I am usually not much of a frosting girl, I caught myself absentmindedly sticking my finger is the bowl of left over frosting while I was cleaning up. I can’t wait to try this recipe out with some other flavor options.
- I have to admit I was a little intimidated by this recipe the first time I looked at it. The ingredient list is really long, there are so many different steps, and the idea of cooked frosting is still pretty new for me. Seeing it from the other side, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but it was a bit more labor intensive than I usually go for. I am a big fan of one bowl mixes. As far as the cake recipe goes, I would use it again, but probably only for a special occasion.
I am excited to try more things from this book. I think it’s going to force me to stretch a bit as a baker, which is never a bad thing.