Archive for the 'Cakes' Category

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

I’ve finished the second week of school…and am just about to begin the third week. On Friday, one of my third graders gave me three pears from a tree in her backyard. Such a nice gift! So, I made this chocolate and pear cake over the weekend and it is delicious! My pictures can’t do it enough justice, so you’ll have to go check out the original for yourself, from Smitten Kitchen.

Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Rich, dark, dense, delicious.

This was a chocolate-almond-ginger cake for a good friend’s birthday. Everyone enjoyed it, and it seemed like the kind of cake that would still taste great a few days later…if it possibly lasted that long! The recipe was from here, and here’s how I adapted it:

I used half regular cocoa powder, and half black cocoa powder (purchased from a specialty baking supply store).

I put a thin layer of marzipan in between the two cake layers, along with the chocolate frosting slathered on and small pieces of crystallized ginger sprinkled on top of that.

*As you may have noticed, I’m not using a fancy camera anymore — Just my plain ol’ iPhone camera. One day I’ll get myself a nice new digital camera that takes quality pictures and this blog will be reinvigorated. For now, we’ll all just have to deal with silly phone features (which are kind of fun to use, but maybe not as appealing food-wise)

Lemon, Chocolate, Champagne, Oh My!

Bria and Dave’s wedding was fantastic and fun – the perfect mix of serious, thoughtful, goofy and joyous. I was honored to bake them their wedding cake and cupcakes! In three flavors, no less! I’m sorry I don’t have the recipes right now as links but you can look them up in my blog archives.

There were three flavors of cupcakes:

1. Chocolate Raspberry (chocolate-raspberry cake with a homemade raspberry filling and chocolate cream cheese frosting)

2. Lemon Almond (gluten-free almond cake with a homemade vegan lemon curd filling and a lemon cream cheese frosting)

3. Champagne (vanilla champagne cake with a white choclate filling and fluffy champagne frosting)

We made at least 200 cupcakes (some didn’t quite make it to the wedding…oops). And they were seriously enjoyed! Just take a look at the happy couple:

Celebrate!

The birds are back! And, so am I!

I can’t believe my last post was in February! I know there are some dedicated readers and bakers out there who have checked in with my blog a zillion times a day and have missed my posts terribly (cough, cough, Gina, cough). I’ll try to bake more this school year, and even better, I’ll try to post about them. In the meantime, I’ll let you know that I went to 7 weddings this summer, and I’ve still got one more to attend in October. I’ve baked two wedding cakes (well, one was a set of cupcakes). I simply HAVE to post about these desserts, especially since I have amazing professionally taken photographs!

This cake was for my friends Rachel and Zach, who had a lovely August wedding. I used the same recipe for this cake as I did for my wedding cake last summer, except I left out the fresh ginger. It was a great fluffy yellow cake, with homemade raspberry jam and toasted slivered almonds in between the layers, and slathered with vegan cream cheese frosting. I piped a dark chocolate ganache swirl around the outside and voila! The cake was ready for the love bird toppers, and for the love bird bride and groom to cut into it! Just look at these cuties:

I’ve gone to so many weddings recently; I’ve eaten a lot of cake and cried a lot of tears (of joy). It was really nice to be a part of some of the weddings and get to bake the desserts. Tune in soon for my wedding cupcakes!

Rachel and Zach, it was a pleasure to bake your wedding cake, and celebrate you both together with so many other people who love you!

Here are some in-process pictures:

I broke your heart…

I know it’s hard right now, but it’s best for the both of us. Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day.

The title and first line of this post come from an email I received from a friend, who sent me this picture he took of my heart-shaped cake. For a friendly Valentine’s Day potluck, I baked this almond cake with raspberry filling, with a buttercream icing. In the shape of a heart, of course, with no less than pink piping on top. It was whole until we decided to cut into it, and the very creative cutting job was done by the friend…

The cake was enjoyed by all and devoured immediately. I guess that’s what tends to happen when pieces are cut as large as eighths of the cake being slid onto each person’s plate!

I’ve Got My Eye On You…

What do you get when you add your chocolate-loving housemate’s birthday, a request for Raspberry Blackout Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, and an only-sometimes-functioning-oven? Add into the mix an emergency run to the nearest TJ’s for dark chocolate chips, an extra pair of hands for rolling, and a lot of freezer space?

Cake Balls!

Now, I will tell you honestly that Cake Balls are delicious and worth the time spent making them no matter whether you’re whipping them up from scratch for the sole purpose of eating a perfectly crunchy outer shell with moist soft cake inside, or if you’re problem-solving a baked cake that wouldn’t detach from the pan like I was. Cake Balls are bite-sized, tasty, cute no matter how they are decorated, and pretty hip right now. Why not?

However fun these birthday desserts were, I am so glad our new oven is being delivered today! No more baking “disasters”!

Mini Gingerbread Loaves for a Sweet New Year

I haven’t updated my blog in forever. I’m so sorry dear readers! Teaching has consumed so much of my time/life/energy/thoughts/dreams/being. When I do leave school, I may still have inspiration for baking but I have few daylight hours to take pictures and sometimes I just can’t bare to be on the computer any longer than I have to, as I crave adult contact and outside adventures! Over winter vacation though, I have had ample time to relax and recuperate, and be outside to my heart’s content. I have baked up a storm, although it wouldn’t seem like it from the small number of pictures I’ve taken. I did capture these delicious Orange Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaves, and I’m happy to share them with you. My lovely housemate gave me these mini loaf pans for the holidays, but the recipe is versatile and you can bake the batter into a larger loaf pan or a cake pan if you want. The orange juice gives a nice spicy flavor, and really highlights the ginger.

Bake these delicious treats to ring in a sweet new year! Have a happy holiday, everyone!

Gingerbread Ingredients and Recipe:

1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup orange juice
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use plain white flour, or do as I did: Easily make it gluten-free by using Bob’s Red Mill brand Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
1 Tbsp. orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Mix pumpkin and molasses. Add orange juice.
Sift together the dry ingredients and combine everything together.

Pour into a non-stick 8×8 inch baking pan, or a loaf pan.  Bake 60 minutes. Bake the mini loaves for only about 18 minutes. If you stick a knife into the middle, it should come out nearly clean but not quite – you want it to be a little sticky.

The Littlest Birds Sing The Prettiest Songs

I’ve kept you in such suspense! I’m sorry! Life has been very busy here, with traveling, moving, applying and receiving a teaching job, etc. So much is going on! But, part of the events going on were traveling to Seattle for Sasha and Robin’s beautiful wedding, which I was lucky enough to get to be a part of by making their wedding cake! Here it is, in all it’s glory:

Because you waited so patiently (and some not so patiently…hi Julie!), I’m giving you a lot of pictures. And a short run-down of the experience. In brief, it was stressful and chaotic and involved so many grocery-store trips that they caused a few break-downs. And a lot of phone calls to my mother to help explain the difference between baking in an electric oven versus a gas oven (literally NO ONE in Seattle has a gas oven. What? Why? I don’t understand). I almost lit the house on fire, no thanks to a certain firefighter that was helping me bake the cake…

But it was all worth it. The wedding was lovely; love-filled; such a warm and beautiful and community celebratory event. Everyone helped out and celebrated Sasha and Robin’s love for each other; every single toast (there were a lot) included a statement of the fact that Sasha and Robin are the best couple IN THE WORLD. I agree. That’s why it was worth it to bake their wedding cake in an oven that was not my own, and have this crazy adventure that I embarked upon. It was totally worth it.

Fluffy Ginger Cake, with Raspberry and Toasted Almond Filling, a Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting, and Chocolate Ganache piping for decoration. The winning combination for such a wonderful couple. The recipes are copied below all the pictures…

You can see Sasha in her wedding dress behind the cake:

The first thing you’ll need to make a wedding cake is lots of ingredients. LOTS. No kidding, I think we went to at least a dozen stores to find everything, which was ridiculous, because why couldn’t I just find everything at one place like I can here, at Berkeley Bowl?? Life outside of the Bay Area confuses me.

Since I doubled, tripled, quadrupled, 10-timesed the recipe, I needed a lot of ginger. We had to grate it all very finely:

Thank goodness I had help from good friends to grate all of this. And peel the ginger. Look, so much ginger peel!

My wonderful friends helped at every step of the process. Here they are, covering the cake-plate/board with black material, so that it would look fancy. It took a lot of concentration:

We very carefully sliced each cake in half horizontally. This is the biggest cake (15-inch diameter). This was the trickiest to slice and then lift the top half off, so that we could spread jam and sprinkle toasted almonds in between the layers — I was worried that if we picked up the top half, it would crumble and fall apart. So, I found a very thin large flat cookie sheet, and stuck it between the layers after I sliced them, and then simply lifted the top half off of the bottom, spread yummy fillings inside, and then pushed the top layer off of the cookie sheet and back onto the bottom…It sounds simple now, but it was a very stressful 2 minutes of the cake-decorating adventure!

Spreading jam, and carefully placing toasted almonds in the middle of the layers of the 9-inch round cake:

To decorate a 4-tiered wedding cake, you need a lot of frosting. Like the ginger, I mean A LOT of frosting. This bowl was insanely large, filled with an insane amount of frosting. Delicious, yes. Sickening, yes. Amazing, hell yes.

After frosting the cakes on top of each other, I piped thin vines, leaves, and swirls around the cake’s edges, made out of a simple chocolate ganache (recipe below).

Have you ever seen cuter cake toppers than these little paper mache birds? They were so perfect, nuzzling each other! Thank you, etsy!

The moment we’d all been waiting for! The cutting of the cake!! (The cake is the whole point of coming to the wedding, right?…).

Fluffy Ginger Cake Ingredients:

This recipe makes one 9-inch cake

1 Tblsp. apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups plain unsweetened almond milk
2 1/8 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 1/8 cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 Tblsp. freshly grated/zested ginger

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. Or both, if you’re neurotic like I am. Set aside.

Stir the almond milk and apple cider vinegar together well and set aside (the mixture will curdle). Grate or zest your ginger while you wait for the curdling.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl whisk together the almond milk mixture, canola oil, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth using a hand-held mixer, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the ginger at the very end, and mix to incorporate.

Fill your cake pan with the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then when luke-warm, remove cakes from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance shortening, room temperature
3/4 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Beat the margarine, shortening, and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. When you have a smooth, fluffy consistency, add the vanilla bean paste and confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Mix until fully combined. Add more sugar if you want a thicker frosting, but be aware that it can get quite sweet quickly!

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

1/2 pound dark chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler. When smooth, pour into a blender, and then pour in your almond milk. Blend on high for one minute, until fully incorporated. It should be quite thin, like a dark, rich chocolate milk. Pour this into a container and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight. The chocolate will harden (but not completely). You’ll be able to spread it onto a cake, or pipe it in little decorations. You can fiddle around with this recipe, adding more chocolate will make the mixture more solid after refrigerating it, or more milk will make it thinner.

Wedding Cake Testing Galore

It took six cakes, seven frostings, two fillings, and several over-full tummies to make a decision. But we finally chose the cake flavor for my friends’ upcoming August wedding. I’m not going to reveal the winning combination yet, though! You’ll have to stay tuned for upcoming recipes and descriptions, and of course photographs of the completed wedding cake. I do have some photos from the tasting process for you, so you can start salivating in advance of receiving the recipes!

Here is a delightful and light Almond Cake, with Blackberry Filling, and frosted with Honey-Vanilla Buttercream Icing. The Honey-Vanilla flavor ended up being too sweet, but the almond cake is one of my favorites and was definitely in the final rundown of cake flavors and textures!

Earl Grey Cake with Blackberry Filling, with two different frostings on top. On the left, you can see the Orange Blossom Buttercream with the blue flowers surrounding the edge of the cake, and on the right with the purple bougainvillea flowers is Lemon Buttercream. We ended up liking the Lemon Buttercream on the Almond Cake…

But, we couldn’t make the most educated decision without more cakes! Since we had ended up liking different icings with different cakes than we had originally paired together, we decided to change our tasting system the second time around. I baked four different cakes and made four frostings, and we left the cakes unfrosted – everyone took a scoop of each frosting and a slice of each cake, and tried each flavor combination possible. A little bit of this, spread on a little bit of that, and tasted in one mouthful, we discovered a little bit of heaven.

Clockwise, starting at the top left corner, we made: Fluffy Yellow Cake, Toasted Almond Cake (was more like a sticky torte than what we had envisioned), the same Fluffy Yellow Cake with freshly grated ginger mixed into the batter, Cardamom Spice Cake:

Clockwise from the top left corner, I made four creamy frostings and one fresh filling:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream, Cream Cheese Icing, Raspberry Jam Filling, Freshly-Picked-Blackberry (thanks neighbors!) Buttercream Frosting, and Spicy Ginger Buttercream Frosting:

Doesn’t the blackberry frosting have the most beautiful pink color? It also had a nicely tart taste that complimented the sweet buttercream base. The ginger buttercream was also surprisingly popular, and very refreshing and delicious! We had a complex tallying system to decide what flavor combinations we liked best, but in the end, chose something different than how the stars had seemingly aligned:

Stay tuned to see the winning combination of cakes and frostings, as I will be baking the cake for an August 1st wedding. I’ll post pictures and recipes afterwords! And before that, of course, I’ll be baking more yummy treats, and will tell you about those as they appear in my kitchen.

Lime Frosting Forever

When I made about a zillion cupcakes for the Vegan Cupcake Competition (as posted about previously, here), I made about a zillion batches of Lime Buttercream Frosting as well. I thought I would need that much…But in the end I didn’t even use half of it! I had a ton left over, and a birthday party to attend, so what better idea than to bake a birthday cake and frost it with Lime Buttercream?! The birthday girl approved, and I began brainstorming about what kind of cake I should make. Forming the idea primarily around the frosting was exciting. So many flavor combinations could go well with lime…But what would be best? I settled on the most unusual that I could think of. It turned out to be by far the best idea I’ve had recently, and incorporated all the fruity flavors of lime, avocado, and apricot.

In October, I made an Orange Chocolate Cake that had avocado as a central ingredient. However, it was a secret ingredient, because you could not see or taste any evidence of it in the baked cake! My friend Rachel made a version of the cake for her own birthday, leaving out the orange flavor, and radically leaving out the chocolate as well! The cake was tinted a very slight green, and retained a hint of the avocado flavor. This seemed like a brilliant idea, and I decided to make Zoe’s birthday cake this way too.

In between the three layers of avocado cake, I spread a thick layer of apricot jam and drizzled a dark chocolate ganache (melted semi-sweet chocolate, mixed with a little bit of unsweetened almond milk to keep it soft and creamy). I slathered the whole cake with Lime Buttercream Frosting (recipe here) and topped it with a heavy pile of sliced fresh strawberries. This was an incredible and zesty cake, and all the flavors worked together perfectly.

Happy Birthday, Zoe!

Green Avocado Cake Ingredients:
Makes 3 thick 9-inch rounds

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tblsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. baking soda
3 cups granulated sugar
3/8 cup canola oil
3/4 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 1/2 medium avocados
3 cups water
3 Tblsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add all the wet ingredients into a blender (oil, avocado, water, apple cider vinegar, vanilla). Blend until smooth. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir until it is incorporated.

Make a well in the dry mix, and pour all of the wet mix into it. Beat by hand with a whisk until smooth – be careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into your greased and floured cake pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before filling with apricot jam and chocolate ganache, and slathering with Lime Buttercream Frosting. Top with sliced fresh strawberries.


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Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Maple Raspberry Cake

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Maple Raspberry Cake

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