Red Velvet Cake

I have a hard time passing up an opportunity to make someone a birthday cake, especially when that someone is a friend I’ve known for almost ten years. And even better, that someone really really likes my baking.

People have very different reactions to red velvet cake. Every time I mention it to one of my friends, she immediately quotes Steel Magnolias “… people are gonna be hacking into this poor animal and it’ll look like its bleeding to death!” which she can do surprisingly well. And though these cupcakes were not tiny armadillos with gray icing, they were pretty tasty. Others have an aversion to using large amounts of food coloring and use beet powder to tint the cake, and some just stick with no food coloring since a true red velvet is not actually red (it’s an ugly brownish color from the cocoa powder in the recipe). I like a red cake myself piled high with cream cheese frostingbut tend to alternate with regular buttercream depending on who I’m baking for. Both are delicious accompaniments to this lovely cake. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


Strawberry Filled Cupcakes

Cupcakes are pretty, and topping them with beautiful, red strawberries and lemon buttercream makes them quite glamorous. I have been making cakes for our office birthdays this year which I really enjoy. My office is so thrilled to have something better than you can get at Safeway (which was our default two block walk for cake). This time they were expecting cake and I brought them cupcakes instead. Whew, what a surprise. Mostly to change things up a bit and simplify the cake cutting awkward waiting period that happens while everyone sits around the conference room table. (Our office might rival “The Office” in awkward moments -I’m not joking).

We lit a candle and sang for Joey. It was a special birthday year (I made her two cakes!) and I made her favorite cake combo – White Cake with Strawberries. I added some flare by filling the cakes with strawberry filling (aka good quality jam – seeds removed) and topping them with delicate buttercream. The edges got a little crispy in the pan (my oven decided to overheat in the middle of baking) but everyone seemed to like the texture contrast. Thankfully they didn’t taste burnt. Perfectionism is a good and bad quality. I almost remade the whole batch….

The white cake recipe I have is delicate and makes a good cupcake. Moist, not crumbly. I used buttermilk this time and think it is a good change. I was asked if the cupcake could be called the “Joey Cupcake” but I was thinking something that rolled off the tongue like “Favaloro’s Favorite.” I think I can do that.

White Cake with Strawberry Filling
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan

For the Cupcakes
1 1/4 C cake flour
1 C all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 C buttermilk
4 egg whites (this is what makes the cake white not yellow)
1 1/2 C sugar
zest of one lemon
1/2 C butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or lemon extract)
Fresh strawberries for decorating (at least 1 pint)

Line two tins with 18 muffin cups. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Sift the dry ingredients excluding the sugar. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs.
In the bowl of a mixer, rub the zest into the sugar until it is fragrant. Attach the paddle and fix the bowl to your stand mixer. Cream the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again for another minute. Add half of the milk/egg. Mix 1/3 of the flour mixture. As soon as it is almost incorporated, mix in half the milk/egg mix, and repeat ending with the flour. Mix for another minute or two to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full, you should yield at least 18. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

For the filling
Heat 1/3 C seedless raspberry jam in the microwave (or stovetop) until it is thin enough to pour.
Once the cupcakes are cool, use a pairing knife and cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect – the frosting will cover it. Spoon about 1/2 Tablespoon into the opening and place the cone back on top. Frost, decorate, and chill to set the buttercream.

For the buttercream
1 C sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks butter at room temperature
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk sugar and egg whites in a stainless steel bowl and set over a saucepan with simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk until the mix feels hot to the touch. It will be very shiny. Add it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the bowl comes to room temperature. Switch back to the paddle attachment. Cut the butter in half. Add one piece at a time. Wait to add more until the previous butter is mostly incorporated. Once all the butter is in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 10 minutes. The buttercream will probably start to curdle but do not fret, it will become smooth again. After it is smooth, add the juice and vanilla a little bit at a time and voila, a perfect buttercream. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and chill in the fridge a few minutes but not too long! Pipe onto the cupcakes (be sure to cover the cut portion).

Mini Cupcakes

I made these a while ago – actually the week I also made the wedding cake – and just now got around to posting them. I realized that I haven’t posted anything of substance for a while and thought before you all forgot about the Lady Baker I must post these fast!

Like I mentioned before, I made these during the wedding cake week – which was a bad idea – but they turned out wonderful. They were also for a paying customer, so I wasn’t just being silly in the kitchen during one of the most stressful weeks of my baking career. I actually turned down part of the order (good idea) because the request was for french macarons. I have not tried making them yet, but I swoon over them each time I see them. There is a special bakery in San Francisco which sells only french macarons. They are super expensive but gorgeous. Definitely worth it if you are looking to impress some guests. Sometime in the near future I will attempt pistachio macarons. I decided to try and make it easier on myself limiting the order to 2 flavors. They chose Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting and Cookie Dough Frosting.
I used my favorite carrot cake recipe and subbed currants for raisins since they were mini cupcakes. Also used my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe and used my new star tip to frost these cuties. I decided at the last minute to change the chocolate cupcake recipe so I didn’t use up the buttermilk I needed for the wedding cake. I thought the cakes were just ok. I don’t think I would use the same recipe again (which is why I am not sharing it) because they were just too sweet. I like sugar, but these were overly sugary. Perfect for a girly bachelorette party though. (At least I think that is what I made them for). I was most excited about the new frosting recipe I stumbled across a while ago. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting. Fantastic. No eggs, just cookie dough mixed with buttercream frosting to get the right consistency. I added some mini chocolate chips in the batter and decorated the tops with them too. Cute and simple. You can’t really go wrong with something so small… like babies or puppies….

Here are my favorite recipes for you to try, a few of them I really like come from the cookbook written especially for cake:
Carrot Cake
(Full Recipe for 3 – 9″ Layers)
1 C dark raisins
1 lb carrots (about 4 C shredded – you can leave skins on)
2 C minus 2 T flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 T cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C sugar
1 C dark brown sugar
1 1/4 C oil
1 1/2 C walnuts – roughly chopped

divide oven into thirds. Preheat to 350˚, butter and line 3 9″ pans with parchment. dust with flour. steam the raisins covered 10 mins (alternately add some water to a heat proof bowl and microwave covered for 30 seconds or so to plump). Drain and reserve.

Sift dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then beat in vanilla, sugars, and oil. Mix in dry ingredients until just incorporated, then stir in the carrots, raisins, and nuts.

Divide among pans. Bake about 35 minutes – until the cakes start to pull away from the edges of the pans. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 3 minutes. Turn onto a rack right side up. Once completely cool, wrap and freeze for one hour. (Overnight works great). Frost using Cream Cheese Frosting recipe! This cakes serves a crowd. It is really dense and tall so you can get a lot of slices from one cake. If you half the recipe you can make 3 6″ cakes, or 18 regular cupcakes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz cream cheese (full fat)
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese (room temp please!) for a few minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar. Continue beating on high speed until smooth, scraping sides of bowl. Makes enough to frost 3 layers of cake plus sides.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

1-3/4 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

Eggless cookie dough (recipe below)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, unsalted butter, salt, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

Add milk and continue mixing until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary. With the mixer running, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, mix until well combined.

At this point you can mix in the eggless cookie dough. Mix in enough cookie dough to suit your taste. Any cookie dough leftover you can gladly eat! There are no eggs in it so it is safe. Yum!

Eggless Cookie Dough

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons

2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Add water and vanilla and mix well. Add flour and salt and stir to combine. Stir in mini chocolate chips (optional).

Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Sea of Cupcakes

A friend of mine hired me to make 3.5 dozen cupcakes for her boyfriend’s 30th birthday. It was a surprise for him and a great challenge for me. I found it hardest to put a price on my baking – not necessarily choosing the recipe. It is always easier to charge strangers more than your friends – why is this? Even though I could have charged a little more, I am hoping that if one or two of the people who ate my cupcakes enjoy them enough, they will want to order something too (and bring me closer to my dream).

The birthday boy ordered a carrot cake from me for Thanksgiving (after my weekend bakery-art-show) since he liked it so much, and it was apparent that I needed to include carrot cupcakes in the order. I helped my friend decide on three: chocolate with chocolate frosting, vanilla with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting, and the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. I must confess that I was so excited the week leading up to this order that I went out an bought some interesting decorations. (If I am going to compete at all with some of the ‘strictly cupcake’ bakeries in town I must make them beautiful). So I bought some pearlescent dragees, silver dusting powder, and Sharffenberger Cacao Nibs. I think they will be delightful. I also polled my Go-To friend for decoration appeal of frosting – you know piped with ridges or smooth etc.

I combined some good recipes and a new one to create the final products and am really excited to see how the birthday boy liked them! It didn’t take that long to bake the cupcakes, it took a while to frost them all though. I’m glad I have a few piping bags but I wish I had an additional stand mixer! For the Vanilla cupcakes I frosted them with a round tip so the frosting came out smooth and decorated these with the pearly dragees. I frosted the Chocolate cupcakes using a star tip and added the cacao nibs (nice added crunch). And I split the Carrot cakes in two layers to frost the middle and tops. The Carrot cupcakes took the most time but turned out well. The process served as a good learning experience for me and I’m ready to tackle another large order. I’ve included some pictures of the final products for your viewing pleasure. Thanks Adie for thinking of me!