Basic Chocolate Cake


Hello from China and happy Valentines day!

Well after months of anticipation and weeks of hard work, packing, moving, and flying, I have finally arrived in Suzhou. So now what?


It’s a bit strange because I have pretty much always been a busy person. Much of my adult life has been spent working a full-time job and teaching dance part-time or working a full-time job, a part-time job and teaching dance part-time or going to school full-time, working part-time and teaching part-time or packing/moving and working part-time/full-time. See the pattern? Busy girl. So this abundance of free-time feels a little funny.

Of course I can’t sit still for too long so I am working on filling my time back up. I’m in the process of enrolling in a online BSN program, I also want to start taking classes to learn some Mandarin, and we will be looking for an apartment soon. We went out the other night and found a great grocery store, so once we get in an apartment I can hopefully get back on the cooking and blogging bandwagon. In the meantime I will appreciate the time I have and just be thankful that I am able to take it. I definitely understand how lucky/blessed I am right now.


On the topic of keeping myself busy, in the weeks leading up to the move I did my best to build up a collection of photos and recipes. I also told you that I wanted to share some great baking basics, that might not be the fanciest of techniques, but were great jumping off points and good for when you’re in a pinch and need a go-to dessert recipe.

I’ve already started to compile a collection (and gave it it’s own label of Baking Basics) that includes go-to recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies and Blondies. I wanted to add to that list of basics a recipe for both classic chocolate cake and yellow cake.

Today I’m sharing the chocolate cake recipe. You might be confused because the picture is clearly of chocolate cupcakes. And you’re going to be even more confused when I tell you now that this recipe is much better suited for regular layered or sheet cake, and not cupcakes. The crumb is super light and airy and it just doesn’t lend itself to being a sturdy cupcake. It’s also perfect for a layer cake because it *doesn’t* dome up much, which is what you want when you’re stacking cakes but isn’t what you’re looking for when you make cupcakes. Are you sufficiently confused now?

I can’t tell you why I decided that night to make cupcakes instead of pouring it into cake pans and making a regular cake. It probably had something to do with the mountain of boxes and missing kitchen supplies that were surrounding me at the time.

After realizing how ridiculous it would look and sound to tell you it’s better suited for cake, I wanted to remake it and get new pictures. Alas, I ran out of time. Now it’s Valentines day, I am craving chocolate cake and it just feels like the right time to share it.

So again, this recipe makes a KILLER CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE. The crumb is light and airy, but still rich and chocolatey. It uses regular all-purpose flour (which most everyone has on hand) and not cake flour which I look at as a bonus. It calls for coffee, but don’t be worried. It doesn’t taste like coffee it just enhances the chocolate flavor. It can obviously be made into cupcakes, but, again, it’s better suited for CAKE. It’s one of those do what I say and not what I do things. And actually the cake tastes just as rich, moist and delicious in either form so it’s not like making the cupcakes would be wrong… Eek, I should stop before this turns into the worlds longest novel about cake vs. cupcake.


Basic Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter, flour, and parchment paper. (Grease pans with butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Butter the parchment paper then add about a tablespoon of flour to each pan, shake and tap until it’s evenly distributed)

In a glass measuring cup stir together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, mix until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, add the hot coffee. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one more time.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two cakes pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then flip out onto the wire racks. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

Source: Ina Garten via Food Network

Pumpkin Praline Cake

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Originally I was thinking that if Jesse wasn’t going to be home for Thanksgiving I would just fly back to Ohio. Unfortunately we found out too late and the cost of airlines tickets was outrageous. How annoying is it that the airlines can get away with charging so much more for tickets during the holidays? So I had to stay in San Diego for Thanksgiving.

Since a few friends were also staying in town, I decided to host a not-Thanksgiving dinner. Going in a completely different direction I planned a Mexican feast, complete with chicken enchiladas, shrimp enchiladas, black beans, and rice.The friends I had over were also at our turkey dinner 2 weeks earlier, so I don’t think they missed the traditional meal too much. And I have to say, I forgot how much I love enchiladas at home.

But when it came to dessert I couldn’t get the traditional pumpkin out of my head. I found this recipe and even though it didn’t really “go” with my theme, it was still awesome. Pumpkin cakes are always super moist, and the crunch from the pecans and the flavor of the caramel was perfect. And don’t even get me started on the cream cheese, whipped cream frosting fusion. Last minute I felt like the frosting needed a little kick so I sprinkled in some cinnamon and it was like heaven on a spoon when I tasted it.

Quick blog announcement: If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know this, but if you don’t (maybe you should :)) then I just want to share that starting Monday I am doing a week long feature on Christmas cookies! Stop by all next week for some Santa- friendly treats!


Pumpkin Praline Cake

Ingredients

Caramel Praline

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tbsp whipping cream
1 cup pecans chopped, and toasted

Cake
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Frosting 4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 – 1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper.

In a small sauce pan over low heat, stir together the brown sugar, butter and heavy whipping. Keep stirring occasionally until it has all melted together, about 5 minutes. Then divide the mixture between the two cake pans. Sprinkle the pecans into the cake pans, over the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

In another bowl, with a hand held mixer (or standing mixer), beat together the eggs, vegetable oil and sugar until well blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients, and with the mixer on low speed, combine. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top of the cake is spongy and the edges start to pull away from the sides. Let the cakes cool in the pan or 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks*. Allow to cool until no longer warm to the touch, at least 1 1/2 hours, before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar until light and creamy. Add the whipping cream 1/4 cup at a time, beating on high speed until smooth, and scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. After the last addition beat until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Finally stir in the cinnamon.

Frost the top of each cake then stack one on top of the other. Garnish with whole pecans.

Adapted from Beantown Baker

Red Velvet Cake

>As you slowly come out of your Thanksgiving food coma (or Black Friday shopping frenzy, for that matter) many of you are probably getting ready to shift into to Holiday gear. Now that Thanksgiving is over I feel like I can open up to you and confess that my tree has been up for 2 weeks. It’s always been my goal/tradition to put my tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and this year we did ours early so, technically, my turkey was well respected. Plus I wanted Jesse to be able to enjoy it a little before he left for China. Oh, and my cats love it when the tree is up. They just curl up under the lights and sleep the days away. Just look at their little silhouettes.

I made this cake for a friends birthday, but how fun would this be at Christmas party? The festive white and red. Also, because our friend has a thing for cake balls, I saved a little cake batter and put it in a small ramekin and baked it, crumbled it and made a few cake balls to sit on top. Wouldn’t it be cool to roll them around in some sparkly sprinkles and make them look like snow balls? I know what I’m doing next time!


Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 to 3 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
5/8 ounce bottle red food coloring (or 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp)
2-3 ounces white chocolate for melting and coating cake balls – optional

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. Flour the pans (shake about 1 tablespoon of flour in each pan).

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vinegar until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and beat to combine. While still beating, slowly add the buttermilk, then the vanilla and food coloring. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. To make the cake balls, reserve 1/3 cup of batter and place in a greased ramekin to be added to the oven in the last half of baking.

Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until the cake feels spongy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the cakes onto the cooling racks.

Once the cake has cooled completely, place one of the cakes on a cake platter or cardboard circle, then spread 1/2 cup of frosting on top. Place the other cake on top and work the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. To make the cake balls, reserve a few tablespoons of frosting. Once the ramekin of cake has cooled, crumble the cake. Add the reserved frosting to the cake crumbles and shape into balls. Place in freezer for about 20 minutes. Then dip each of the balls into melted white chocolate and allow to cool/dry on sheets of parchment paper. Use any remaining cake crumbs (without frosting mixed in) to garnish the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
1 (8 ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
1 (4 ounce) stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioners/powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk
pinch of salt

Directions
Cream together the softened cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, increasing the speed as it becomes incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Before adding the last cup of sugar, add the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of milk, and pinch of salt. Beat to combine then finish adding the sugar. If the frosting seems too stiff, add the extra tablespoon of milk. If it seems too soft try adding a little more powdered sugar.

Cake recipe adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Cream Cheese frosting as I always make adapted over time from many different sources


On a more somber note, if you have a minute to please say a prayer for a fellow food blogger, Annie of Annie’s Eats, her dad passed away very unexpectedly yesterday. I know he meant so much to her and by the way she has described him in her posts he sounded like a terrific man. Please keep her family in your thoughts as you celebrate this holiday with your families and give your loved ones an extra tight squeeze today. My heart is aching knowing this will be a rough road for Annie and her family.

Cookies and Cream Oreo Cake


I picked up a copy of Family Circle magazine almost 2 years ago because of the picture on the cover. It was of a cake that I knew Jesse would love. I tucked it away, planning on making it for his next birthday. Then our world was flipped and flopped and he spent the next birthday in China. I made it up to him by bringing cupcakes the next month when I flew to San Diego for a visit, but I didn’t forget about this cake. Thankfully (for my cake baking sake) this year he didn’t have to leave for China until after his birthday!


After cracking open the magazine and getting a good look at the recipe, I decided to make a few changes. The magazine recommended a cream cheese frosting filling between the layers and whipped cream to frost the outside. I love cream cheese frosting, but it’s probably Jesse’s least favorite, and honestly it didn’t fit with my cookies and creme vision. So I decided to go with what is quickly becoming my go-to frosting for chocolate cakes, Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. Like I said when I used it for the Cherry Coke Cupcakes, the milk in it gives it a whipped cream like taste but it’s as sturdy as a buttercream. So I decided to use it instead. And it worked perfectly.


Cookies and Creme Oreo Cake

Ingredients
Cake

1 1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (or Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
3 large Eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups Buttermilk

Frosting
Scant 1/2 cup Flour
1 1/2 cups Milk
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) Butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
25-30 oreos

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter and flour.

Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or a large bowl using a hand held mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. About 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated and scraping down sides as needed.

With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mix until incorporated. Then add 1/2 of the buttermilk, mix until incorporated. Repeat until the last 1/3 of flour has been used. Mix until incorporated and then beat for 1 additional minute.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the sides begin to pull away from the edges. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks and allow the cakes to cool completely.

While the cakes are baking, prepare the frosting. In a saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens (I would compare it to mashed potatoes). It is very important to whisk continuously so clumps don’t form. This took me about 4-5 minutes, but it’s best to go by texture.

Set milk mixture aside in an ice bath and allow to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, (or bowl of a standing mixture fitted with a whisk) beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Add the cooled milk mixture and beat on high for 3-5 minutes. If it looks separated, keep beating.

Cake Assembly

When the cakes are completely cool, cut each cake in half* horizontally. Use 1/3-1/2 cup of frosting to fill between each layer. When all the layers are stacked, set aside 1/2 cup of frosting then use rest to frost the outside.

Using a ziploc bag and a rolling pin, crush all but 6 of the Oreo cookies. Apply the cookie crumbs to the sides of the cake**.

Use the reserved 1/2 cup of frosting to create 6 swirls on the top of the cake, place a cookie in each swirl.

Serve with a very tall glass of milk.

*If you don’t have cake leveler tool, you can use a knife to score the cake half way up all the way around. Then place a clean piece of fishing wire or floss in the groove and slice away.

**I set my cake plate over a large piece of parchment paper to catch the extra crumbs. It can get a little messy.

Cake adapted from Family Circle Magazine, February 2009. Frosting as I previously posted here, from Tasty Kitchen



I’m a huge fan of cake!! Here are some of my favorites!

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Chocolate Hazelnut and Salted Caramel Chocolate Birthday Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Not-Ice Cream Sundae Cake