Happy Birthday to me! Today I turn 25 a hair over 30, and if you know me, you know there’s few flavors I love as much as bourbon and caramel. It seemed only appropriate to combine the two to make one phenomenally fall dessert, and I have to say- it was worth the effort. This bourbon caramel cake is right up my alley, and I think you’ll love it too. Let’s dive in.
Look, I’m not above celebrating my own birthday. I know it may seem a little narcissistic, but let’s be honest: 2020 has been a wild one. Sometimes we need a happy celebration to take the edge off, and birthdays are the perfect excuse. So yes, I’m totally celebrating myself (and bourbon! and caramel!) with this little bourbon caramel cake, but I’d welcome you to insert your own celebration to the equation. Whatever great thing you have going for you in life, I’d challenge you to sprinkle it with all the love and candles and cake you can muster. If, at the heart of it, there’s a whole bunch of gratitude and joy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
So onto this bourbon caramel cake. Here, fall flavors, a hint of booze, and rich textures are all packaged into a small batch cake recipe that is more petite than the cakes we normally share around here. My guess is that most of our celebrations are including fewer people these days, so you can count on this treat for about 9 servings, 6 if you’re serving crazy, sugar-hungry people like me. The cake layers are bourbon and brown sugar-scented with all the soft and fluffy texture to boot. The frosting, an old-fashioned Southern-style caramel icing, sets up thick and adds loads of flavor and sweetness to the tender cake. Let me tell you how to make it.
We start with the cake! This one is simple with butter, oil, and two kinds of sugar creaming together. Next, we add eggs and then begin alternating the wet and dry ingredients. Cake flour contributes soft texture and bourbon adds the warmth and flavor. The batter is baked in a 9″ square pan and then allowed to cool. When you’re ready to frost the cake, you can start making the icing. Butter and brown sugar melt and cook over the stove until it’s bubbly throughout. Heavy cream barely thins out the mixture that is then put in the bowl of a stand mixer to whip with powdered sugar until somewhat cool. Next, a small bit more of butter is added and stirred until smooth. Admittedly, this icing is kinda tricky to work with.
Find the right consistency for this icing is the trickiest part as the icing is applied best when warm but not too soupy. I’d encourage you to play with it a bit to find the right texture and gently reheat and icing that sets up too quickly. Work fast and know we’re not aiming for perfection here- just a really yummy cake. If you have any celebrations coming up, I’d encourage you to give bourbon caramel cake a try~ I know I’ll be celebrating with a slice, and I’d love for you to join me. Happy Thursday and happy baking!
If you like this bourbon caramel cake you should try:
This bourbon caramel cake has fluffy bourbon brown sugar layers and an old fashioned Southern caramel frosting!
Yield:9 Servings 1x
For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1–3/4 cups cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
¾ cup unsalted butter, divided
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
½ cup heavy whipping cream, plus more to thin out icing
2–1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
To prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 (if using a dark pan like me. Otherwise, you can go up to 350 but bake time will be shorter). Lightly grease a 9” square pan and cut out a sheet of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of it. Set aside.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, canola oil, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth, about a minute and a half. Add the egg and yolk and stir until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in any unincorporated bits. Add half of the cake flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir on low to combine. Add ¼ cup of the milk as well as the bourbon and vanilla. Stir on low. Add the remaining cake flour and milk and stir on low just until combined. Fold in any unincorporated bits. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 35-37 minutes or until the cake has puffed, turned golden, and a toothpick inserted just barely comes out clean. Don’t overbake! Set aside to cool completely.
When ready to frost the cake (see notes), remove the cake from the pan, use a serrated knife to trim off any dome, and cut in half lengthwise to create two 4.5”x9” cakes. Prepare your frosting as follows.
In a medium saucepan, combine ½ cup butter and the brown sugar over low heat and stir the mixture until the butter and sugar are combined and smooth but the mixture hasn’t begun to boil. Turn the heat up to medium and stop stirring. Cook until bubbles appear on the sides and middle of the pot. Remove from heat and carefully stir in ½ cup cream. Whisk the cream in to incorporate, but be careful, as the mixture may splatter. Place back on heat and bring to a bubble again then remove from heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and add the powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until the mixture has cooled to a warm temperature. Add the remaining butter and beat ad additional minute. At this point, assess the texture. The frosting should be slightly warm and very loose. The frosting will set up as it cools, so you’ll need to add a bit of additional cream or milk to thin it out. I usually find 2 tablespoons is the perfect amount, but you can decide. Dollop a little bit of frosting on your serving platter or plate and place the first “layer” of cake down. Spread additional frosting on top to adhere the second layer and observe how it sets up as it cools. At this time, if the frosting sets up too firm and you want to add a little more milk, you can gently reheat it for a few seconds in the microwave and then add additional milk. Frost the cake and allow to cool before enjoying! Please note this frosting is way different to work with from traditional buttercreams, but you can briefly reheat the frosting to get it smooth enough to frost again. Just don’t overheat!
I like to work with chilled cakes. You can pop these layers in the freezer to achieve, if desired.
The other day, a friend and I passed The Cheesecake Factory, and we both had our own stories to tell. Back in high school, The Cheesecake Factory was where it was happening, and nothing said “Friday night” like a trip to the movies and a 1,600 calorie slice of cheesecake to-go. Truth be told, I’d still dominate a whole cheesecake on my own weekly if I wasn’t utterly concerned about my waistline, but lately I’ve really been digging the simplicity and adaptability of these simple cheesecake bars. If you’ve never made something similar (but surely you have, right?) these almost no-bake treats are the way to go, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them!
These simple cheesecake bars are a great option as we transition into fall. If you’re not quite ready to dive head-first into pumpkin spice and apple pies, these fluffy and flavorful squares are the way to go. Here, a press-in graham cracker and pecan crust comes together with a little butter, salt, and sugar, and is baked briefly in a small square pan until set. On top of it, a whipped filling made with cream cheese, sour cream, and whipped cream is spread out, and the bars set up to a semi-firm consistency in the fridge. The filling stays airy and whipped, even after refrigeration, but it will set up plenty for you to slice pretty squares to serve all your friends. The best part here is the topping: you get to choose! Caramel, chocolate sauce, fresh fruit, sprinkles, whipped cream, or candied nuts would find a welcome home on these simple cheesecake bars, so you can go with whatever feels right.
These bars can easily be made ahead but keep best refrigerated. Bonus: you can even freeze them! I froze a batch in the freezer, thawed in the fridge overnight, and sliced up delicious squares the following day. These simple cheesecake bars are truly one of the easiest make-ahead options I can think of. When you’re ready to serve, simply adorn the with your favorite toppings, or let friends and family decorate them on their own.
I hope you guys have a terrific week regardless of what you have going on. Give these simple cheesecake bars a try and let me know what you think! Happy Tuesday and Happy Baking!
If you like these simple cheesecake bars, you should try:
These simple cheesecake bars feature a pecan graham cracker crust and a fluffy cream cheese and whipped cream no-bake filling!
For the crust:
1 cup (99 gm) graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup (100 gm) finely chopped pecans
¼ cup (50 gm) sugar
½ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (100 gm) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
16 ounces regular cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
1–1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Toppings of your choice: fresh berries, caramel, hot fudge, fruit, etc!
To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 or 9” square pan with aluminum foil that extends up the sides for easy removal. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and stir to combine. Press the wet crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the bottom is set. Allow to cool completely.
To make the filling:
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Add the sour cream, stirring to combine. In a separate bowl, whip the cream in medium speed until thickened to stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture until smooth, being careful not to overwork the whipped mixture. Spread the filling on top of the cooled crust and smooth with an offset spatula. Allow the bars to cool in the fridge to set, about 4 hours and then cut to serve with the toppings of your choice!
We’re going to take a break from all the regularly scheduled frozen desserts and beach beverages. While there’s so much to love about summer (I’m looking at you, margaritas!), I also completely understand that sometimes you just need a little cake. Maybe some sprinkles, some frosting, and an adorable dessert full of sugary bits of color. Cue these funfetti mini cakes. They’re adorable, simple, and the cutest little mini cakes to make for your kiddos and funfetti-loving friends.
I’ve made different renditions of these funfetti mini cakes for years. For me, the most important thing about anything “funfetti” is the flavor. You absolutely have to have that nostalgic box mix cake flavor. In addition, I really try to come to a balance with the flavors so the cake isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. Admittedly, most funfetti things are insanely sweet, and while my Southern palate doesn’t really mind that, there’s something ultra-pleasing about making a cake that lands somewhere in the middle. With a little salt and a cloud-like whipped frosting, these funfetti mini cakes find that sweet spot (and they look pretty cute in doing so).
The directions in the recipe below are pretty straight-forward, but there are a few other things you may want to know. First, everyone always asks about my sprinkles. I typically buy the rainbow mix available at most grocery stores, but I also adore using homemade sprinkles or these ones from Amazon. Over the years I’ve found that some varieties of sprinkles bleed really badly. You’ll notice in my photos that it happened a bit with these cakes. Different sprinkles do different things, and honestly, I have no helpful solutions. They’re adorable either way.
The other thing I love about these funfetti mini cakes are their shape! With a traditional mini cupcake pan, the cakes are tapered and wind up a bit skinnier on the bottom than they are on the top. Here, I used mini cheesecake pans with removable bottoms. It makes for easy removal from the pan, AND we wind up with those cutie straight sides. This isn’t for everyone, and if you’re happy with your mini cupcake pan, you should stick with it. But if you’re looking for something different, check out the pans I use at home here.
These frosted little guys are as tasty as they are adorable, and if you have some mini celebrations coming up, this may be the perfect treat to serve. Give them a try and let me know what you think! Don’t worry- we’ll get back to summery stuff next week, but aren’t you glad we took a breather for these mini sprinkle cakes? Me too. Happy Wednesday and happy baking!
If you like these funfetti mini cakes you should try:
These funfetti mini cakes are adorable bite-sized treats packed with sprinkles and nostalgic birthday cake flavor!
Yield:18 Mini Cakes 1x
For the cakes:
1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/4 cup (250 gm) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
2 cups (270 gm) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
¾ cup rainbow jimmies sprinkles
For the topping:
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Additional sprinkles for decorating, if desired
To make the cakes:
Preheat the oven (325 for dark pans and 350 for light pans). In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition to incorporate. Add the vanilla. Stir in the cake flour, baking powder, and salt just until combined and then fold in the sprinkles. Don’t agitate the sprinkles too much some varieties bleed their color. Lightly grease mini muffin or cheesecake tins and fill each cup 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pan and then carefully remove each cake to cool completely.
To prepare the filling:
In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and heavy cream and whip on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minutes. Fill a piping bag with the topping and pipe on top of each cake. Decorate with sprinkles as desired. Enjoy at a cool room temperature but store in the fridge.
What is the maximum dose of sand a baby can ingest in one weekend? Is there any kind of rule on the tolerable upper limit of salt water and watermelon? I’m totally asking for a friend- not because I’m at all concerned about my own children… (clears throat). Anyways, we went to the beach this past weekend, and it was adorable. Don’t get me wrong- taking kids to the beach is no walk in the park, but watching them enjoy and explore is super memorable. This was Charlie’s first romp in the sand, and although I was mildly terrified every time he got anywhere close to the water, I loved seeing him get so fired up.
One of my favorite things about the beach is the margaritas is the seafood and summer desserts. I figured I’m not the only one heading South this summer, so if you have a trip to the shore planned, please let me introduce you to this peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake. It’s make-ahead, completely frozen, and is a fun sweets option when you’re serving a hot and sandy crowd. Let me tell you how to make it.
This peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake begins similarly to many of the other ice cream desserts on this site. No-churn ice cream comes together with little more than a hand mixer and a giant bowl. Here, we have two flavors of ice cream- honey and peanut butter swirl. Both get whipped up and layered into a prepared loaf pan with some graham cracker crumble and extra peanut butter. Once the peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake has frozen solid, you can remove it from the pan and top it with additional whipped cream that has been lightly sweetened with honey. It’s simple and delightful!
A few things to know about this recipe: first, you can add a little extra peanut butter if you prefer. Look, I don’t know your life. Maybe you are super into PB. I get that, so if that’s you, add in some more! I like to swirl additional creamy peanut butter into the peanut butter ice cream, or add a few drizzles in with the graham cracker. Second, if you’re on team Salty Sweet, you’re going to want to add a smidge more salt to the graham cracker crumble. I like mine super salty to offset the sweet ice creams, but this is totally up to you. Finally, if you don’t have a loaf pan, feel free to opt for a different type of pan. Just be sure that every slice has each of the cake elements in it.
Give this peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake a try and let me know what you think! Ice cream cake is the perfect treat for these salty days, and I think you’ll really like this one. Have a terrific week, and stay tuned for a new recipe coming up next week!
If you like this peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake you should try:
This peanut butter honey graham ice cream cake has two flavors of no-churn ice cream and a salty graham cracker crumble throughout!
Yield:10 Servings 1x
For the graham crumble:
2/3 cup (60 gm) graham cracker crumbs
2–1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8–1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on your preferences)
For the ice cream:
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 cups (480 gm) heavy whipping cream, divided
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup peanut butter
For the frosting, if desired:
1 cup (240 gm) heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare the graham crumble:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, stirring until it forms a sandy mixture. Use an 1/8 teaspoon salt at first and add a little extra if desired. Set aside.
To prepare the ice creams:
Line a large loaf pan with plastic wrap that extends up all four sides with a few inches of extra hangover. You’ll form your ice cream cake in the pan so you want to make sure that no ice cream actually touches the pan or it could stick! Set aside.
Pour 7 ounces (half the can) of sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in a large bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat the mixture until it thickens to a soupy fluff consistency. Add the honey and vanilla extract and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Dollop and spread this ice cream into the bottom of the prepared pan. Crumble the graham crumble on top of the honey ice cream until it is adequately covered. You may have a little leftover.
To prepare the peanut butter ice cream stir the remaining sweetened condensed milk with the peanut butter. In a large bowl, whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the peanut butter/ condensed milk into the whipped cream. I like to leave the mixture a little streaky so there appears to be ribbons of peanut butter throughout, but you can fold it all the way together if desired. Pour the ice cream on top of the graham crumble in the pan and then spread to smooth. Freeze completely, at least six hours or overnight.
To prepare the frosting (if desired):
Whip the cream to soft peaks and then add in the honey. Continue whipping to medium-hard peaks. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the plastic. You may need to let it set out for a moment to release from the pan. Spread the honey whipped cream all over the cake and then freeze until about 15 minutes prior to serving. Enjoy!
We need something fancy and delicious to round out these unfamiliar times. In a world where most of us are existing in sweatpants and dirty hair and isolation, I think it’d feel good to put on the ritz and make something special, beautiful, and delicious. These past few weeks I’ve seen so many people tying on their aprons to create in the kitchen. Baking can be seriously fun, even therapeutic for some, and my heart could explode from all of the new pastry friends I’ve been making. It’s not frivolous or careless or a waste of time to express creativity in the kitchen in a time like this. In fact, I’d argue there’s value in creating and enjoying something out of the norm. Use this extra time, this season of unknown, to do something that nourishes your soul in a special way, and be encouraged knowing that this won’t last forever. Take advantage of these days to love on yourself and the people around you in a way we normally don’t make space for. Maybe do so with this lavender cake.
My friend Amy Ho has just published her first book, “Blooms and Baking.” She is cute as a button and her baked good are equally lovely. I always recognize her desserts by their beautiful colors and feminine details, and her book, a collection of recipes dedicated to floral baked goods, is filled with her trademark whimsy and decor. I’ve long been a fan of lemon combined with lavender, and so this lavender cake was an easy pick from the pages filled with interesting flavors and pairings.
Admittedly, this cake does require a bit of work, but it can easily be segmented into a few different part. First, the cake. Here, a simple butter and sour cream cake with a moist and dense crumb is lightly scented with dried culinary lavender. The balance here is perfect: not a hint of soapy floral flavor, just a hint of something in the background. The lemon curd comes together easily on the stovetop and serves as the filling for the layers. In a pinch, you could substitute in a store-bought lemon curd (you can find it by the jelly!) or even your favorite marmalade or berry jam. Finally, the frosting is a fluffy whipped American buttercream make with little more to flavor it than vanilla bean. The end product is a really tall 6″ cake with thick layers and lightly sweetened filling and frosting all over it.
For decor, I opted to use Amy’s “Floral-fetti” technique by covering the cake with dried edible flowers. You can buy these online or at speciality stores, OR you can follow the instructions in her book for using live flowers. The final outcome feels a little like Marie Antoinette in a cake, and honestly, that sounds perfectly awesome. “Let them eat cake!”
Many congrats to Amy on her new book (you can find it here!) and hugs to all of you. Keep your chin up, bake on, and take good care of yourselves. Let’s not just going to get through this- let’s full-on dominate this season and come out on the other side absolutely beaming with hope and determination. Happy Monday to you all and happy baking!
This lavender cake with creamy lemon curd and vanilla buttercream comes from Amy Ho’s new book, “Blooms and Baking.”
Yield:1 Cake 1x
For the lemon curd:
1/3 cup (80 mL) fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
For the lavender Cake
3 cups (360 gm) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon culinary-grade dried lavender ground
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1–3/4 granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
For the vanilla buttercream:
1–1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 to 4-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Flowers of choice, for decorating
Make the creamy lemon curd. Whisk together the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, and salt in a large nonmetal bowl (e.g. glass or porcelain). Place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water, making sugar the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat the mixture ,whisking constantly, until it starts to thicken, 5 to 7 minutes. The lemon curd should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Once the lemon curd has thickened, remove the bowl from the double boiler and allow the curd to cool for 10 minutes. Add the butter, one cube at a time, and whisk constantly until all the butter has been combined. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any clumps. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the curd and transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, until the curd is fully chilled.
Make the lavender cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 6” round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and set them aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, lavender, and salt. Set the flour mixture aside.
In a medium measuring cup, combine the milk, sour cream, and vanilla. Set the milk mixture aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat the ingredients for about 1 minutes, until the mixture if fluffy and pale in color. While the mixer is running, add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture. Mix on low until the ingredients are just incorporated. Add the remainder of the flour mixture and the milk mixture and mix until they are just combined with the egg mixture, about 45 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake the cakes for 34 to 36 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans to cool completely.
Make the vanilla buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until it is creamy, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the milk and vanilla. Beat the buttercream at high speed until it is fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer 1 cup of the buttercream to a pastry ag fitted with a large round piping tip.
To assemble the cake, trim off the tops of the cake layers with a serrated knife if the tops are rounded. Place the first layer of the cake on a cake stand or plate. Pipe a ring of vanilla buttercream around the top of the cake layer. Fill the center with some of the chilled lemon curd. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first and repeat this process, topping the second layer of filling with the third cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remainder of the buttercream. Decorate with flowers of choice.
It’s been an eventful few weeks. It’s okay then it’s scary, there’s nothing to do but then it’s a lot of work. Weather gets hot then cold, my kids are happy and then insane. Can we just agree that things are kinda tumultuous? The political, health, financial, and relational climate of this world is a hodgepodge right now, so it seemed fitting to share a dessert equally nutso: Marble Layer Cake. This is the dessert you go when you’re craving both chocolate and vanilla, and because it’s a slightly smaller batch recipe than I normally share here, you can feel okay about making it during these more isolated times. Let me tell you all about it.
My first experience with marble anything was at a Starbucks. I was always obsessed with their marble loaf and even shared a copycat recipe on this site a few years ago. I think a cake like this is a fun twist on a traditional chocolate or vanilla cake and makes a great alternative for the plain Janes in your life. Maybe you have a fussy eater in your house who doesn’t love fancy flavors? They’ll adore this! Maybe you’re normally an adventurous eater but you’re really just craving something that feels comforting and familiar? Again, this marble layer cake is the perfect choice. Chocolate and vanilla is always a safe choice, and let’s be honest- we could all use a little of that, right?
I’ll keep it short (and sweet!) today, but I do want to fill you in on a few recipe details. First, this makes a smallish cake. I baked my batter in a 10″ square pan, cut the cake in half, and stacked the two layers on top of one another to form a 10×5″ 2-layer cake. Alternatively, you could bake the batter in two small round pans and stack in that manner. Cakes this size are super easy to store in the freezer, so if you can’t eat it all ASAP, save the leftovers for later! Second, you can basically use whatever cocoa powder you prefer her. I used regular unsweetened, but a dark or dutch processed one would be fine too. Finally, this chocolate fudge frosting is super good, but the consistency will totally change in the fridge. I recommend serving at room temperature.
Do you have any birthdays or special occasions coming up? We can still celebrate, even in the midst of quanrantine! Give this marble layer cake a try and celebrate the people you love even if it’s from afar. Happy Tuesday and happy baking!
If you like this marble layer cake you should try:
This marble layer cake is a chocolate and vanilla swirled cake with a rich fudge frosting. Perfect for small batch baking!
Yield:9 Servings 1x
For the cake:
1/3 cup (80 gm) hot coffee or water
1/3 cup (25 gm) cocoa powder
1–1/3 cups plus 2 extra tablespoons sugar, divided
¾ cup (170 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2–1/4 cups (270 gm) cake flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (200 gm) whole milk, at room temperature
2–1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter
4 ounces cream cheese
2 cups (230 gm) powdered sugar
1 cup (85 gm) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
To prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 10” square pan, lining it the bottom with a cut out sheet of parchment paper. In lieu of a 10” pan you could also use two round 7” pans.
In a small bowl, stir together the coffee (or hot water) and cocoa powder as well as 2 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1-1/3 cups of sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine each into the butter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add half of the flour as well as the baking powder and salt. Stir on low and then add the vanilla and half of the milk. Add the remaining cake flour and then stir in the rest of the milk. Only stir until combined. Spoon out 1/3 of the batter and fold the cocoa powder mixture into it. Begin alternating dollops of the chocolate batter and the vanilla batter into your prepared pan(s) until all of the batter has been used. Smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean about 30 minutes for a 10” pan or 22-ish minutes for the two round pans. Allow to cool completely prior to frosting.
To prepare the frosting:
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until combined, about 1-1/2 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, salt, and milk, and stir on low until smooth and combined. Increase the speed briefly to fluff it up.
Trim any dome off of the top of your cake(s). If you opted to bake your cake in a single 10” pan, cut the square in half to make two equal-sized rectangles. Spread frosting on one half of the cake and then top it with the remaining rectangle. Smooth frosting over the remaining cake and enjoy!
What do Anna Kendrick, Bruno Mars, and my three kids have in common with today’s recipe? They’re tiny and straight-up ADORABLE. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: fancy pants desserts like these mini layer cakes are my favorite. With soft pastel colors and a pint-sized stature, these little vanilla cakes are a happy treat to share with others. No, this isn’t the most social time of our lives (given the worldwide circumstances), but I’ve never known a time where people need love a little more. Maybe love them via cake?
I’ve been wanting to create a tutorial for simple mini layer cakes on this site for a while. I’ve hesitated because I really didn’t want to provide some set of instructions that required you to buy a ton of mini cake pans, cake rings, or other unnecessary equipment. I finally tooled around with a sheet pan cake and found that the layers, when trimmed out with a cookie cutter and briefly frozen prior to frosting, are actually pretty decent to work with. These mini layer cakes aren’t insanely easy to make, but with a smidge of patience you can totally do this. Scout’s Honor.
To make these mini layer cakes, we first bake up a fluffy vanilla cake in a rimmed half sheet pan. This recipe is relies on whipped egg whites for its fluff, but you do need to take care not to overbake it. White cakes are prone to drying out, so bake only until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Once the cakes have cooled completely, we use a 2″ round cookie or biscuit cutter (I like this one!) to trim out rounds of cake. You want to cut out your circles pretty close together, and if done correctly, you should end up with enough to make about 7 and a half-ish cakes. I was happy to have an extra layer in case one didn’t come out super clean, but you can feel free to eat those extra layers yourself. No shame. Place the cake layers on a clean sheet pan lined with parchment and freeze briefly so that the cakes cake firm up. This makes them easier to frost.
The frosting is a simple American buttercream. You can reference my recent post on stacking layer cakes for a little help here. I opted to frost the cakes entirely, but if you wanted an easier option and were planning to serve them quickly, you could also pipe the frosting onto the cakes for a naked look! Click here for a cute example I found on the internet. Truly, do whatever feels right here and just make something that goes with your vibe.
I opted for pastel hues on my mini layer cakes, and you can find some info on the colors I used in my recipe. As always, I opted for Americolor food gels, but use whatever you have on hand. Keep in mind that food coloring can often change the texture of your frosting, so be sure not to use too much. For decoration, I smeared a bit of white buttercream on top and garnished with assorted white and clear sprinkles. Again, this is dealer’s choice. Fresh flowers, fruit, or confetti is super pretty too.
It feels odd to be sharing recipes for cake with you at a time like this, but I also simple sources of pleasure and joy should be indulged in, especially now. If you’re homebound and looking for a fun project, this could be just the ticket. Give the recipe a try, pop the cakes into the mailboxes of people you love, and be apart of your own personal delicious little love movement. Y’all take care and happy baking.
If you like these mini layer cakes you should check out:
These mini layer cakes are cute and delicious treats for gifting or sharing with a few! Check out the tutorial here!
For the cake:
¾ cup (170 gm) egg whites (I use ones directly from the carton), at room temp
1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
1–1/2 cups (300 gm) sugar
3 cups plus one tablespoon (400 gm) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 gm) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
For the frosting (Recipe makes a bit of extra frosting, but this will be sufficient for getting to decorate the tops!)
1–1/2 cups (340 gm) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Milk or water to thin the frosting
To prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep a rimmed half sheet pan (18”x13”) by lining it with a sheet of parchment paper and lightly greasing the sides.
In the clean bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside in another bowl while you continue prepping the cake.
In the same stand mixer bowl you whipped the egg whites in, cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Combine 3 cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt and add half of this mixture to the butter mixture. Stir on low to almost combine and then add half of the milk and the vanilla. Stir to combine and then add the remaining half of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining half of the milk. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the egg whites being careful not to overwork the batter. Smooth the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 19-20 minutes. Be careful to not overbake! The top will be golden and set when the cake is done. Set aside to cool completely- you can expedite this process by popping it in the freezer after cooling on the counter for a bit. Once cool, use a 2” round biscuit or cookie cutter to trim out circles of cake. You should be able to get about 23 circles out of the sheet cake which will make 7 cakes plus 2 extra layers for backup. Feel free to pop the layers on a clean baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze briefly while you make the frosting. This will make assembly a little easier.
To prepare the frosting, whip the butter on medium speed using the paddle attachment on your mixer. Continue for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary, until pale and smooth. Add half of the sugar and stir to combine. Add the remaining sugar, the vanilla, and a couple of tablespoons of milk or water to help it all come together. Stir and add water or milk a tablespoon at a time until the frosting is smooth. Consistency is important here- make sure the frosting isn’t so stiff that it will pull on and rip the cake layers while assembling, but it also needs to be thick enough so that it won’t just squish out the sides. A good consistency frosting will plop off your rubber spatula but will chill to firm. Pop it in the fridge if it gets too warm.
To assemble the cakes:
Each mini cake will have 3 layers. Mix up your colors as you please. For the colors pictures here, I used Americolor Food Gels. The pinkish one is a 3 parts red, 2 parts blue, and ½ part brown. I recommend adding the color a tiny bit at a time to make sure you don’t mix a color you’re not fond of! The blueish greenish cake is 3 parts blue with ½ part brown. The orange-ish cake is 3 parts deep pink with ½ part brown.
When ready to assemble, smear a little frosting on your cake board or serving plate and stack the first layer. Add about 2 tablespoons of frosting on top and use an offset spatula to smooth. Stack a second cake layer and repeat this process twice to finish with a third cake layer. Spread a thin crumb coat of frosting on the cake and pop it into the fridge or freezer to set up. I placed a cooling rack with a sheet of parchment on it in my freezer so that I could quickly chill the cakes while I was making them. I found keeping the cakes cold while assembling helped make the process simple.
Once your crumb coat has set up, finish frosting the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired! For my cakes, I use a round dollop of white frosting that I smudged with the end of my offset spatula. White large and small nonpareils and clear sprinkles finished them up! Share with someone you love and enjoy!
You know how old people forget just how old they are? They always seem to lose track of an anniversary or need a few minutes to add up their age. Well chalk me up as a grandma, because I straight-up forgot a birthday- A BLOG BIRTHDAY. My little site turned four years old two weeks ago, and the day came and went with zero thought. Since I’m not one to pass on a celebration, you better believe we’re going to make up for it with today’s brownie batter cake!
If you’ve been following along here for any length of time, you know there’s been small changes, ebb and flow, and lots of big life stuff happening over the four years this site has existed. The truth is we’ve grown a lot together in that time. You watched us build a house, birth two babies, and take this site from a side gig to a full-time job. We won an award together, went on vacations together, and used up probably a million pounds of butter and chocolate. This site tends to be a place where I jabber on about my personal life and kitchen mishaps, but I really just appreciate having a space for us to do it together. You’ve written to tell me about your success with a recipe or how a certain flavor reminds you of your childhood. We’ve made cakes for your best friends, your little sisters, and your sick neighbors. Yes, I love the chance to share my stories, but the thing that makes this place continue to feel worthwhile is the fact that you all are sharing your stories back with me. It feels good to know I’m not the only one who gets fired up about muffins or wants to wax poetic about a latticed pie. Food connects us to our past, our futures, and all the people we bump into along the way, but here, it also connects me to you. We’re friends in that way, and I’m increasingly grateful for it.
So thanks for celebrating four years of this site. Thanks for being patient when I screw up an ingredient list or when a technique I swear by completely flops in your kitchen. Thanks for sticking with me when I’m writing from a weird space of postpartum hormones or when I talk too much about gross body stuff. Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for sugar and the people that sit across the table from us. Wood & Spoon was created by me but it’s made it this long because of you. We’re celebrating together here.
This brownie batter cake is a fun twist on a chocolate cake. The fluffy chocolate layers get fancified with brownie batter filling and a malted chocolate buttercream that is rich and flavorful. All together, this brownie batter cake is a chocolate lover’s dream, and it’s also a great alternative birthday dessert for the person who just really likes brownies (raises hand!).
The layers for this brownie batter cake comes from my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I love how simple this cake recipe is to make- no butter to soften, no intense mixing process. You could really just make it with a spoon and some elbow grease! The filling is equally simple, made with a smidge of cream cheese, cocoa, and malted chocolate powder. We throw together a few of those same ingredients, along with melted chocolate and tons of butter, for the buttercream, and it’s honestly so good I could eat it with a spoon. 10/10 would recommend you do so. Give this brownie batter cake a make and let me know what you think! It’s been great hanging out with you guys on this site for four years, and I can’t wait to see what is to come.
If you like this brownie batter cake you should try:
1–1/2 cups (340 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (375 gm) powdered sugar
½ cup (55 gm) chocolate malt powder (like chocolate ovaltine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (90 gm) heavy whipping cream
6 ounces (190 gm) dark chocolate (I use 70%), chopped, melted, and cooled
To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 (8″) round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, loosely combine all of the wet ingredients and these to the bowl of the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed for just shy of 2 minutes, scraping the bowl (and bottom of bowl!) twice throughout.
Pour equal amounts of batter in to all 3 pans. Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is just barely set and toothpick comes out of cake almost clean. Allow to cool in the pans and on a cooling rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pans to continue the cooling process. Allow to cool completely prior to frosting. (see notes)
To prepare the brownie filling:
In a medium bowl combine the first 6 ingredients on medium speed just until combined. Add water a teaspoon at a time until it becomes a thick, brownie batter consistency. Set aside until ready to use.
To prepare the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat on low speed for 1 minute until combined. Add the malt powder, vanilla, and salt and stir on low until combined. Add the melted chocolate, increase the speed to medium, and whip for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the whipping cream. Beat on medium-high speed for one minute.
To assemble the cake:
Use a serrated knife to cut the domes off each cake. Put some of the frosting into a piping bag or plastic bag with the end cut off of it. Place one layer on a cake board or serving platter and pipe a ½” dam or frosting around the perimeter of the cake. Fill it just under the top of the frosting with brownie batter filling and top with an additional layer of cake. Repeat this process once more. Coat the stacked cake with a thin layer of frosting and place in the fridge to set up. Continue frosting as desired and serve!
I find this cake is easiet to work with when the layers are partially frozen. Wrap the baked and cooled layers in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight or for a few hours. Thaw out for 15 minutes prior to using.
Have you ever spotted a beautiful cake on Instagram, television, or a website and thought to yourself, “Ugh, I wish I could learn how to do this”? Well consider me your genie in a bottle, because today I’m going to be sharing a few simple pointers and instructions for stacking beautiful layer cakes. This is not some super advanced tutorial. This is a quick guide for eager beginners or anyone wanting to polish the skills they already have under their belt. In addition, I’m DYING to answer all of your questions so that I can update this post to include the things you’re interested in learning about, so please feel free to chime in with anything you’ve found to be helpful in your learning experiences. If you’re ready and hungry, let’s dive in!
What Is A Layer Cake?
This feels like a silly question to answer, but let’s be plain as day. A layer cake is any kind of cake with stacked layers! On it’s most basic level, cake is a single layer with frosting, glaze, or some other garnish on it’s top, but a layer cake typically consist of 2 or more layers of cake stacked with schmears of frosting and/or filling. For the purpose of this post we’re going to stick with a 3-layer cake. That was simple, right?
What Do I Need to Make a Layer Cake?
There’s a few basic components required for every cake as well as a few special tools that will make stacking cakes simple for beginners. I have a few of my favorites listed that you can find above on the “Shop” page of my site.
For starters, you’ll need the following: Cake Layers (or a single thick layer of cake that you plan to slice in half) Frosting Filling (if desired) Serrated Knife Offset Spatula (I prefer a small one)
If you’re ready to go to the next level, here’s a few more items to consider purchasing: Cake Turntable Cake Boards Piping Set or Freezer-Safe Ziploc Bag Cake Leveler
If you plan on being serious about learning how to stack a layer cake you may also consider purchasing a cake turntable. When I first started baking, I purchased an inexpensive model from Wilton that I adored for many years. Some time later, I upgraded to an Ateco model that I continue to use today. No need in purchasing anything fancy- just buy what works. A turntable is the single most useful tool for decorating cakes and can make a world of difference in the final outcome of your product.
How To Stack A Layer Cake ?
Let’s take this slow. Heck, I’m going to throw in some numbered steps so we don’t miss a single thing, okay? WE CAN DO THIS! Here we go. 1. Prepare the cake layers. We can stack basically any cake recipe, but we always want to work with cooled layers. A cake straight from the oven will not stack well. I like to chill my layers in the freezer for a bit to make them extra easy to work with- it helps keep all the crumbs stuck to the cake instead of all over my spatula. Once cooled (or semi-frozen!) use a large, sharp serrated knife to trim the domes off of your cake. We want the layers to be flat. So if your cake looks more like a hill than an ice skating rink, trim it off. Get down at eye-level to the cake and carefully cut off the top. Remember to go slow and not take too much off! You can always trim off more but you can reattach cake if you butcher off too much. 2. Prepare the frosting and filling. Again, we need cooled frostings and fillings. Pick your poison when it comes to frosting variety, but keep it simple if you’re new to the game. American buttercream is typically easiest to whip up. Frosting consistency is really important here. Too thick or hard and the frosting will stick to the cake and rip off little bits of it as you go. Too thin and the frosting will squish out the sides. I like a frosting that will scoop onto your finger or an offset spatula without falling off but will droop over BARELY when dolloped. No big droops! With American buttercream, you can typically add water or milk a tablespoon at a time until the frosting thins out to the appropriate consistency. Likewise, you can typically add additional powdered sugar a bit at a time to thicken it up. If your buttercream gets too warm, throw it in the fridge to thicken it up! After all, butter and fat is hard at chilled temps. 3. Prepare your cake board. This is optional. I love to work with a cake board because I typically am frosting a cake on my turntable. I use a piece of packing tape or a non-slip pad to get my board to stick to the turntable. Place it directly in the center and smooth a small dollop of frosting on the board. This will help to make your first layer adhere to the board. If you’re not using a cake board you can add the frosting dollop straight to the flat serving plate that you’re making it on. The cake turntable and board make a difference here, but you can do it either way.
4. Begin frosting your cake. Place the first layer of cake on the cake board with the frosting on it. If you’re not using a filling, go ahead and dollop enough frosting to generously cover the entire cake. For most cake layers about 1″ thick, I like about 1/4″ thickness of buttercream on top. Go ahead and plop some frosting on your cake and grab your offset spatula in your dominant hand. With the spatula parallel to the cake top, begin pushing the frosting around to cover the cake, being sure to not actually touch the cake with your spatula at all. I like to use a subtle rocking motion as opposed to digging the edge of the spatula into the buttercream or cake. Continue this process, adding buttercream as needed, until the buttercream barely hangs over the side of the cake. Then, rotate the spatula barely to dig in a slight edge and twist your turntable like a record player. Keep your hand level and the edge on your spatula tilted slightly so that you can level the frosting top. We started with leveled cakes and we need our frosting leveled too as we stack! Alternative, if you plan to use a filling: Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip or a large ziploc bag with some frosting. Pipe a “dam” border around the perimeter of the unfrosted cake. Make sure your dam walls are high enough and connected to contain all of the filling. If the filling squishes out the top or underneath, it can make frosting your cake neatly near impossible! Once the dam is complete, spoon in your filling and continue the steps as listed below.
5. Repeat this process with additional cake layers. For the cake shown in photos, I repeated the process twice as there are three layers. As your stack your cake layers, be sure to press down gently to allow the cake to adhere and line them up as best as you can. If you find your cakes are wiggling or slipping because of loose buttercream, pop it in the fridge to allow the frosting to set up. You’ll wind up with a wonky cake if you try to frost a slippery fellow. Extra time, but worth it. 6. Crumb coat. A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that traps in any cake crumbs. To start, use your offset spatula to push the frosting overhang on the top layer down onto the sides of the cake. This process takes some practice and is hard to get right the first several times. Use additional frosting from the overhang on the lower layers to cover the sides of the cake and add any additional frosting from the bowl as needed. For our crumb coat, we just want a thin coat of frosting to trap the crumbs, so just do your best to smooth it out. Use your spatula to cover the cake entirely and scrape any extra frosting (sans crumbs!) back into your bowl. Once the cake is coated, pop it in the fridge for the frosting to firm up. The length of time here is dependent on how cold your cake layers were to begin with, so just check your cake occasionally until firm. 7. Finish frosting your cake. Some people prefer to use a bench scraper here, but I almost always prefer my offset spatula. For a naked cake, smear just a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and smooth out the edges as able. For a more opaque layer of frosting, go ahead and dollop a hefty scoop on top and smooth it onto the top with angled offset spatula. Spread more on the sides of the cake and use a bench scraper or the spatula to smooth and decorate. This is an exercise that takes a lot of practice, so cut yourself some slack the first 15 times you do this, okay? If all else fails, go for messy, rustic frosting and claim you did it on purpose. Cool? Once finished, store the cake as indicated in your recipe or serve immediately!
A Few More Tips On How to Stack A Layer Cake :
I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way. Here’s a few pointers from mistakes I’ve made far too often: 1. Don’t add too much filling to your cake. Jam, curd, or other running fillings cake easily spill out the top of a dam or squish underneath. Be sure your dam has adhered to the cake layer it is on top of and don’t overfill it! Let your dam be about 1/8″ higher than the filling and add your next cake layer gently. 2. Master the cake to frosting ratio. Some recipes will produce extra thick layers of cake that are intended to be torted (or trimmed into layers). Use a large serrated knife here to slice through your cake layer and cut it into appropriately thick layers. Most of my recipes produce cakes that are 1 to 1’1/4″ thick, so about 1/4″ of frosting is appropriate here. If you wind up with thicker layers, consider torting or adding additional frosting between layers. For thinner layers, consider less frosting. 3. Don’t overwork your frosting. This is hard to do. I get it. The more your attempt to smooth and perfect a finished frosted cake, the more likely you are to overwork or deflate your frosting. This can change the color, texture, and mouthfeel of the frosting. Do your best to not overwork and keep in mind that pristine cakes come with practice. 4. Transfer with care! I like to slide a large offset spatula under the cake board to help shimmy it off the turntable. I usually need to do this when popping the cake in the fridge or when transferring it to its serving plate. They make cake lifters specifically for this purpose, but I don’t actually have one. I find a large offset spatula works fine. Do what feels right! 5. Make sure your frosting is the right consistency. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you notice your frosting is difficult to work with, go ahead and fix it before you get too far into the frosting process! The messiest cakes I’ve ever made were when I didn’t take the time to address my frosting consistency. See above for quick tips. 6. Decorating layer cakes is an entirely different topic. Admittedly, I’m not terrific at decorating cakes, so I usually like to stick with basics: flowers, sprinkles, or large piped dollops of frosting. For cake decorating inspiration, I recommend checking out Tessa Huff’s site. She decorates beautiful and attainably intricate cakes. This is a great place to start.
A Few Last Minute Tips on Baking Cakes:
You can’t learn how to stack a layer cake if you don’t have a good baked cake. Here’s a few tips that have helped me: 1. Use room temperature ingredients. The ingredients in most cake recipes will emulsify together better when not at extreme temperatures. So what do you do when you forget to set your ingredients out in advance? Set your eggs in a cup of warm water to quickly bring to room temperature and feel free to nuke milk in the microwave at a low temperature in 10 second intervals till it’s no longer ice cold. As for the butter: consider slicing it into tablespoon pads and resting at room temperature while you set out the rest of your ingredients, or, nuke in the microwave for 8 seconds per side of butter. 2. Use parchment paper to line the bottoms of your pan. Yes, it can be a pain to cut out rounds of parchment, but I use it every time. Why? Because the only thing more annoying that cutting out parchment rounds is baking a beautiful cake only to have chunks of it remain stuck to the innards of your pan. If you’re feeling really aggressive, you can purchase pre-cut rounds of parchment online and they make life so much easier. Just do it. 3. Do not overmix. If you read a recipe that says “mix just until combined”, do just that. Overmixing your batter will cause your cake to be chewy and dense… not usually what we’re going for. 4. Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. If you open your cabinet and the baking soda says it expired in 2009, throw it out. I’m talking to you, Mom. 5. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, don’t fret! I sometimes will use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every scant cup of milk when I need a quick substitute for real buttermilk. Works like a charm. 6. Don’t overbake! Toothpicks cost like, $1 at the store. And I’m pretty sure you can steal them from hostess stands at most chain restaurants. So keep some on hand and when the cake looks just barely firm in the middle and is no longer jiggling in the pan, test it. Moist crumbs should come out. If it’s not done, set the timer for one minute and try again. And in the midst of all that checking, try not to open and close the oven too much. You’ll end up with a cake crater big enough to put your face in. On second thought, this isn’t such a terrible outcome so do whatever you want. No judgement here. 7. Allow to cool a bit in the pan before flipping out on to a cooling rack.
Happy Sunday, Friends! It’s been a while since I checked in on a Sunday, but I figured your day of rest on this long weekend may need a little reading and recipe inspiration. Cue this creme brûlée cake.
I made this cake a few weeks ago for a friend’s birthday, and it was a reminder of why I’m so head-over-heels in love with baking. He called to thank me for the cake and instead of just saying, “It was good!” or “Thanks for the cake!” he told me that the gesture made him feel special. He was just grateful. Y’all, THIS is why we share our gifts with people. It’s not to show off or fill a slot on a birthday menu. It’s to love people! It’s to let them know they were worth your time and resources. It’s to give them a big hug in the form of whatever your gifting is. We share those skills and the things we’re good at to remind people they matter to us. We do it to love them.
If you’re on this site, I have to believe you’re into baking and that you just might need a little push to get out there and share your stuff with the world. Can I just sign up to be the one to encourage you to do it? Who cares if your frosting looks weird or if the cookies are a little burnt? What does it matter if your pie lattice is short of perfect? Take the initiative to share whatever it is you’re working with to the people around you and just wait till you see the difference it makes. Reciprocating love that we’ve been on the receiving end of is a natural thing. When we extend ourselves on behalf of another person, it does something for them- it let’s them know you value them, and that pipeline of love becomes a revolving door of kindness within the relationship and to others that are in proximity. In a world where it’s increasingly common to be ugly to one another, don’t you kinda want to be the person who’s just out there sharing the love? I do. I want to be the person that loves big. If that happens to involve macarons and pies and creme brûlée cake, well, I’m all the more for it.
This creme brûlée cake has fluffy butter cake layers, a creamy vanilla bean custard, and a flavorful burnt sugar buttercream frosting. The flavors, when blended together, sing of the traditional creme brûlée dessert they were inspired by, and the soft textures yield a creamy mouthfeel that is similarly representative. This cake is best made slightly ahead of time as the custard benefits from chilling in the fridge and the frosting requires a few extra steps. When broken down, the cake is complex, yes, but still very attainable even for new bakers.
This creme brûlée cake also has a bit of a choose your own adventure kind of vibe too. I initially set out to utilize the egg whites leftover from making the custard, so a burnt sugar Swiss meringue buttercream was born. But look, y’all- I am TERRIBLE at making Swiss meringue buttercream. Like, terrible. So I also tested this cake with a simple burnt sugar American buttercream too, because I have a feeling I’m not the only one. You can use whichever you please- they’re both terrific tasting.
Give this creme brûlée cake a try and let me know what you think! Shout out to the creme brûlée lovers who are going to be really into this treat. Happy long weekend and happy baking!
If you like this creme brûlée cake you should try:
This creme brûlée cake has burnt sugar frosting, a vanilla bean custard filling, and fluffy butter cake layers!
Yield:One 8” layer Cake 1x
For the cake:
1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter
1–3/4 cup (350 gm) sugar
1 large egg plus 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups (410 gm) cake flour
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1–1/4 (300 gm) cups whole milk, at room temperature
For the custard:
1–1/2 cups (360 gm) half and half (or a mix of whole milk and heavy cream will work!)
½ vanilla bean (or ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract)
2 large egg yolks (Save the whites for the buttercream!)
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the burnt sugar crunch:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup (200 gm) sugar
¼ cup (60 gm) water
½ teaspoon baking soda
For the Swiss meringue buttercream (See notes for alternative buttercream!):
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1–3/4 cups (350 gm) sugar
15 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1–1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cream
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease three 8” round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg and egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Add the vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in half of the dry ingredients on low speed. Add half of the milk and scrape the bowl again. Repeat this process with the remaining dry ingredients and milk. Fold in any unincorporated bits and divide the batter between the three pans. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes OR until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
To prepare the custard:
Pour the half and half into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and add the vanilla bean, scraping the insides into the liquid. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat off and allow the vanilla to infuse into the liquid for 15 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, vigorously whisk or beat the yolks with the sugar on medium speed until it lightens in color and becomes slightly fluffy. Add the cornstarch and stir to combine.
After 15 minutes of infusing the half and half, remove the vanilla bean and carefully pour about ¾ cup of the warm liquid into the egg mixture, whisking or mixing quickly all the while to prevent the eggs from curdling. Pour the egg mixture plus the ¾ cup of added liquid back into the saucepan with the remaining half and half. Whisk to combine and then turn the heat to medium-low. Keep stirring until the mixture comes to a low bubble and begins to thicken. Once thickened to a runny mayonnaise consistency, quickly remove from heat. Feel free to strain the mixture with a fine wire strainer as needed. Set aside in a heat-safe bowl and cover with a piece of plastic wrap to cool completely. The custard can be made a day or two in advance.
To prepare the burnt sugar crunch:
Liberally butter a half sheet pan with rimmed sides that is lined with a full sheet of foil.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring together occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture gets hot enough it will begin to bubble. Increase the heat to medium-high and avoid stirring it any more. You can gently swirl the pan occasionally to keep the mixture from burning in one spot. Continue cooking over heat until the mixture turns amber colored, about 10 minutes. It may barely begin to smoke. Remove the pot from heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda quickly. Dump the mixture out onto the pan and barely spread it out with a spatula. Don’t overwork it though as this will deflate all the bubbles. Allow the mixture to cool completely prior to breaking and using in the custard. You’ll want to make the crunch within a day of frosting the cake and keep it in a sealed bag as the crunch will absorb moisture from the air and get chewy/sticky over time.
To prepare the buttercream and assemble the cake:
Prepare a double boiler. Place a small to medium-sized saucepan with an inch of water on the stove. The pot needs to be slightly smaller than the bowl of your stand mixer to ensure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water in the pan. Clean the bowl of your stand mixer well to ensure no trace of fat or grease is in the bowl- this can prevent your egg whites from thickening. I like to squeeze the juice of a half of a lemon into the bowl and use a paper towel to wipe down the insides of the bowl as well as the whisk attachment. Once the bowl is clean, add the room temp egg whites and sugar to the bowl. Turn the burner on to medium heat and station yourself at the stove to stir the eggs regularly. Over the course of about 3-5 minutes, the sugar in the egg whites will dissolves. Once the mixture reaches about 160 degrees farenheit (or when you notice the sugar has dissolved in the eggs- you can carefully feel for this as well!), remove the bowl from the double boiler and place it on the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on medium speed (I use 6 on my Kitchen Aid) for about 15 minutes or until the eggs have developed STIFF peaks. The bowl should be room temperature to the touch and glossy peaks should stand up on the end of the whisk when you scoop them out of the bowl. (Note: sometimes my mixer overheats and the warm eggs have a hard time standing up perfectly straight. Use your best judgment. If the bowl is cool and the eggs are standing up but the mixer is really hot it can make your whites droopy. But don’t underbeat! You frosting will not come together if so!) Scrape the whisk clean and then put the paddle attachment on the machine. Running on medium speed, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Once the butter has all been added whip for an additional 3 minutes until the mixture has fluffed up. Here’s where things can get dicey: If your butter is too cold, you can end up with a curdled lumpy looking mixture in your bowl. You’ll know if it’s not right. Remove a cup of the mixture from your bowl and put it into another. Microwave that cup of liquid for about 15 seconds to carefully warm and then add it back to the mixer. Whip again to see if it comes together and repeat if it continues to look the same. If your mixture is runny and loose, it could be your meringue or butter was too warm. Place the entire bowl in the fridge to cool down for about 30 minutes and then rewhip. It should come together but repeat as needed. Once light and fluffy, add the vanilla and salt. Then, break off about half of the burnt sugar crunch and process it in a mini chopper or blender until it’s reduced to a sandy powder- avoid clumps! Add ¼ cup of the sandy powder to the buttercream and whip until combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon of cream as needed if the mixture is too thick. Frosting is best use immediately, so get started assembling!
When ready to assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes. Place a small bit of buttercream on an 8” cake board or plate and then place your first layer of cake on top. Put about half of the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (alternatively you can use a quart-sized Ziploc with the end snipped off) and pipe a dam of frosting about 1/2” tall around the perimeter of the cake. Be sure the ends of the dam meet well so that your filling doesn’t squish out the sides of the cake. Spread half of the custard into the center of the dam and then top it all with a second layer of cake. Repeat this process and then use the remaining frosting to ice the cake. Decorate as preferred and enjoy! Cake is best served the day it is assembled and should be stored in the fridge. Allow the cake to come to rom temp before serving.
To be honest, Swiss meringue buttercream always feels like a lot of work for me, but I love finding use for all those extra egg whites. If you’re uncertain, you CAN do this cake with a traditional American buttercream too! Cream 2 cups of room temperature unsalted butter until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes on medium speed. Add 1 cup of burnt sugar powder (made by processing the burnt sugar crunch!) and 4-1/2 cups powdered sugar. Add this slowly, on low speed, over the course of a minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add ¼ teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of cream as needed to smooth it out. You can add additional powdered sugar to thicken it up or additional cream to thin it out. Enjoy!