Chocolate Hazelnut and Salted Caramel Chocolate Birthday Cake

It seems like every year someone asks me who will make my birthday cake. And I guess that makes sense, usually people enjoy letting other people do some of the work for their birthday (or maybe they just enjoy the cake?). But for me, more than half the fun comes from planning and making my cake.

Through out the year I keep mental notes of cakes and flavors that look or sound interesting and then a few weeks before my birthday I started planning what I actually want to do. Last year, I had ice cream on the brain. This year, I had gelato on the brain.

Back in San Diego there is a gelato shop that Jesse and I love. The location is awesome, right near La Jolla cove, so we would typically treat our selves after a nice evening of watching the waves and seals. The first time we went I got a scoop of salted caramel and scoop of chocolate hazelnut and I was immediately hooked. It became my standard order. Makes me drool just thinking about it! Like a match made in heaven!

With that in mind, I created the concept for this years cake. I.am.so.excited about how it turned out. The frosting is an absolute dream. Smooth and creamy with the perfect hint of hazelnut. The salty caramel is the perfect match. In fact, I’d like to go out on a limb and say that chocolate hazelnut and salted caramel is the new peanut butter and jelly. Finally, when we threw our party last month one of our guests brought us Ferrero Rocher candies and they were the perfect garnish. Happy Birthday to me!

 

White Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

Last week I told you about the birthday party that we threw for our friend. As much as I wanted to celebrate her birthday, I selfishly also wanted to throw the party so I could make a cake. I love making cakes and I just don’t have very many opportunities to do it. When I find an excuse to bake, I take it!

Mandy, the birthday girl, didn’t have any special requests for her cake. Just something sweet. With no requests, the possibilities seemed overwhelming. Of course I thought of several chocolate cake variations, but I do a lot of chocolate desserts, so I decided to take the road less traveled (for Jesse and I anyway). I am really happy that I decided to go with this non-chocolate cake. It was a nice light finish to our burrito bowl dinner and it was so pretty.

I did make a last minute decision to not use Swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) frosting. In the US, I’m not afraid of the eggs in SMB at all. I know the eggs in the US are safe. I am not as confident in the eggs here. I buy eggs from the refrigerated section but I’ve seen the same brand at other stores not refrigerated, so I’m not convinced they are kept that way through out shipping. I also know that in other countries it’s common to not keep eggs in the fridge. For just Jesse and I, I honestly wouldn’t put as much thought into it, but I was having 10 guests. The thought of a bad egg and all my guests getting sick – eek! Not a risk I was willing to take.

Anyway, SMB would be a great choice for this cake. The fluffy vanilla frosting I used also worked really well. I’ll leave a link for both recipes and you can decide for yourself! Also, I went grocery shopping with the birthday girl the night before the party and she picked out her favorite fruits for the top of the cake. Most any variety of fruits would work! The recipe I used called for a glaze over the fruit, but I didn’t want it to be too sweet so I skipped it and it was fine.

 

 

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

This cake is a match made in heaven for me. It’s a rich, almost fudge like, cake topped with a light and creamy peanut butter frosting. I knew from the moment the photo loaded onto my screen that it would become one of my new favorite desserts. And I am pretty sure it has. Bonus, the size (an 8×8 pan) was perfect for us. We had an amazing dessert for a few days and no cake was wasted.

If your still looking for a dessert to bring to Memorial Day parties this weekend, make this! If you ask me, the true patriotic dessert has chocolate and peanut butter, not apples and spice. 🙂



Chocolate Cake with Smooth Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water

For the Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces), for garnish
1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray an 8×8 pan with non stick cooking spray. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt to the 8×8 pan, whisk together. Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients, 1 large and 2 small. To the large well, add the vegetable oil. To the 2 smaller wells, add the vinegar and vanilla, separately. Pour the water into the pan and use a rubber spatula to stir together until there are no more streaks of flour. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, just a few moist crumbs. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, set a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bowl does not actually touch the water. In the glass bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm and smooth to the touch. Remove the bowl from the sauce pan and either transfer to a standing mixer (with whisk attachment) or use a hand held mixer to beat on high speed about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is cool and thick. Beat in the vanilla, then the peanut butter. Beating on high until fully incorporated. With the mixer still on high add the butter, a few cubes at time, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. You should have a soft, smooth, creamy frosting. If it starts to look curdled as you add the butter, don’t worry (!!), just keep beating, it will come back together. Season with a small pinch of salt if needed.

Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan, then flip the cake out onto a serving plate. Spread the frosting over the cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings and peanuts, if desired.

Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally from Bon Appetit

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