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Posts Tagged ‘cake’

There is no better fall smell than filling your home with the comforting scent of spicy pumpkin, especially when the cozy aroma wafts from your oven, not a candle or an outlet. Before your house smells like turkey and scorched potatoes, start your Thanksgiving festivities with pumpkin streusel coffee cake.

A few years ago I baked this cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. After I got strange looks from people that morning, I found out I was supposed to have brought treats the day before; but once we sliced into the soft, warm-in-the-middle cake, they quickly forgave me. See, look at those beautiful, forgiving smiles.

The recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com., a website on which I have a recipe box overflowing with homestyle goodness. But here’s what sends it over the top — instead of using plain nuts in the streusel, I tossed in Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch from King Arthur Flour. I don’t think they sell it anymore, but you could use any praline nuts like pecans or cashews and crush them up.

Cozy cake wishes,
Staci 

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I got an F in art in middle school and I avoided the subject in high school. As an adult and a mother, I realized I liked buying scrapbooking materials but I never actually scrapbooked. I’m not much of an interior decorator either. Mostly I just slap my framed black and white photography in the hallways and call it good.

So why in the world I thought I could create delicately adorned petits fours is beyond me. But when my friend Ann asked if I could make them for her stepdaughter’s wedding I said, “Sure, I’ll give them a try.”

imperfect petit fours

To see what petits fours [that you’d actually want to serve at your wedding] look like, check these out on Pinterest.

mess of petit fours

Maybe my confidence and enthusiasm came from the experience I’ve gained making hundreds, actually thousands, of baby cheesecakes like Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce, Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake, and Deepest Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Honey Ganache.

A few things I learned in this process:

  • Making sheet cakes and cutting 1-inch by 1-inch squares with a knife just doesn’t work. They are too small to handle the weight of stacked layers covered with fondant, which turns them into leaning and tumbling towers of petits fours. Use a small round or square biscuit cutter instead.
  • It takes a lot more pourable fondant to smoothly cover each petit four than what you’d think. A lot.
  • Petits fours are remarkably more time-consuming to make and assemble than baby cheesecakes.

If you are up to the petit four challenge, these are the websites I used to get me though the trial and error process. Golden Vanilla Cake from King Arthur Flour – a cake that I would definitely bake again because of its full vanilla flavor and soft texture. I used seedless raspberry jam for the vanilla petit four layers.

For the chocolate petits fours, I baked my Heavenly Chocolate Cake and made the Whipped Chocolate Cream layer in these Chocolate Pomegranate Petits Fours from A Spicy Perspective.

For the icing on both the vanilla and chocolate cakes, I made White Chocolate Poured Fondant Icing from King Arthur Flour and used the tips in their their article, “Pointed pinkies only, please: petits fours with poured fondant icing.”

Although the square blobs of cake were a fail in the context of serving them at a wedding, they tasted fabulous. Maybe the bride will come around to offering her guests adorable little cheesecakes instead. Dun dun daadun, dun dun daadun…

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Remember that double chocolate pumpkin cake you made a few years ago? The one with pumpkin buttercream frosting so good you ate the bottom first just to save the best for last?

double chocolate cake with pumpkin buttercream

This time, do yourself a favor and save the recipe in your online recipe box, email it to yourself, or better yet print it and tape it inside your cupboard door. Because you WILL be looking for it again. Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream from Picky Palate

In addition to the cinnamon, I added a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the buttercream frosting. As stated in the recipe, you can make two 9×5 cake loaves, 24 cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes. I made eight mini loaves and two medium cake loaves. There’s plenty of frosting so smear it on thick like a redhead with a bottle of sunscreen.

Sweet fall wishes,
Staci

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Each spring, thankfully after the kids’ hockey season, I get busy with a few catering gigs. I’ve been fortunate to create desserts for the Fire & Ice gala in April and a few graduation and birthday celebrations in May. This year, in addition to my signature cheesecakes, I was asked to bake almond tortes for a graduation party using a family’s special recipe.

Almond torte | Random Sweetness Baking

Since I had no idea what a torte was, I told the host I would give the recipe a try. I baked one and gave her a few slices to see if I had done it right. I wasn’t sure if the way I made it would live up to the way her friend makes them. But I knew from the moment the warm scent of this almond dessert floated through my kitchen, I would be pulling this cake from my oven many times to come.

Unlike cake, I’d describe the texture of this torte to resemble a dense blondie or brownie. It’s like a soft almond butter cookie dough center with a delicate crunch of slivered almonds and white sugar sprinkled on the top. You have to tip your head back if you eat this without a fork because the almonds trickle off the top.

I had to finish a bag of regular slivered almonds for this batch, but next time I’m using my Trader Joe’s honey roasted slivered almonds.

Did I make them for her graduation party? As we (don’t) really say in Minnesota – you betcha I did. Eight of them. With the hope of extras for their lake home freezer.

Almond Torte

Torte

1-1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs beaten

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure almond extract

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

2 teaspoons sugar

2 Tablespoons slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add sugar and beat 4-5 minutes until fluffy. Mix in the beaten eggs. Add the salt, almond extract and vanilla extract. Beat on high until combined.

Slowly add the flour, beating until combined and the batter is thick.

Line the bottom of an 8-inch or 9-inch round pan (I use my springform) with parchment paper (cut a circle just large enough to lay on the bottom of the pan by flipping the pan upside down and cutting the paper around the bottom surface). Lightly spray the pan.

Pour the torte batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the almonds on top and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or just until the top becomes light brown and crispy.

Cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days. Can wrap tightly in freezer paper or bags and freeze up to 3 months.

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It’s time for us to try another family’s favorite recipe. It might mean stepping out of our chocolate cake comfort zone because if you’re like me, you have your own favorite way of making chocolate cake and cupcakes. And your favorite frosting.

moist chocolate cake with lots of fudge frosting

Since I’m not much of a cake eater anyway, the only one I make is heavenly chocolate cake with snow frosting. It has Miracle Whip in it which keeps the cake nice and moist. My favorite frosting is the white, sticky, marshmallow-like frosting that we call snow frosting (you may know it as 7-minute frosting). But last fall at the Minnesota Blogger Conference, my friend Michelle shared with me her recipe for margarita cupcakes and we got to talking about chocolate cake. She told me that her family’s favorite is a chocolate cake that she makes with sour cream. The dense, fudgy frosting is her favorite part.

In the picture below, I baked a dozen in my tiny tart pan and piled three into a cupcake tower topped with shaved white chocolate and mini chocolate chips.

chocolate cake made in tiny tart pans

I was skeptical. Everyone thinks their chocolate cake is the moistest — kind of like how every fisherman thinks he guts and debones a fish better than anyone and that there are “no bones in fish that he cooks” but there are always bones. (My dislike for bones is reflected in Buffalo chicken dip for people who don’t like bones or blue cheese.)

The cupcakes were a hit! I brought them along on our Easter weekend to Minneapolis and the kids (and moms) ate them up. I actually liked the frosting better the second day so it was a perfect treat to bake and frost the day before we left. Thank you, Michelle Hals, for sharing your family favorite with us.

Cupcakes in the city

Chocolate cake with fudge frosting

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (4 one-ounce squares)
1/4 cup butter
1-2/3 cups boiling water
2-1/3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small saucepan over low heat melt chocolate, butter, and boiling water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk and then whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry ingredient mixture. Stir until combined.

Now add the egg mixture to the cake batter and stir until silky smooth.

Pour into a 9×13-inch cake pan and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. You can also make two round cakes (bake for 35-40 minutes) or approximately 2-1/2 dozen regular cupcakes (bake 25 minutes).

The frosting is extremely generous so go crazy especially on the cupcakes!

FROSTING
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (12-oz.) package semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
2-3 tablespoons milk

Over low heat, melt the chocolate chips. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat shortening and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla. One cup at a time, add the powdered sugar. Once the chocolate is cooled a little (just make sure it’s not hot), pour into the frosting mixture. Add milk as needed to get to your desired spreading consistency. Frost the completely cooled cakes or cupcakes.

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Pull up a bar stool. Or an office chair. Maybe even a reclining Adirondack chair by the pool. Because no matter where you indulge in these margarita cupcakes, you’ll be transported to a dreamy beach lined with sandy towels and sun-baked flip-flops.

Just hope no one steps on a pop-top and has to head on back home.

If you like margaritas, you’ll enjoy these light little cakes spiked with tequila and a twist of lime. Top them with a generous helping of the tart, salty frosting and it’s like licking the rim of your icy margarita.

The recipe is new to me. A fellow blogger from the Minneapolis area, Michelle Hals, shared it with me at Minnesota Blogger’s Conference. The recipe comes from her parents who got it from her dad’s cousin when he made the treats for a high school reunion. Michelle just started a new blog at http://www.michellehals.com so stop by and say hi. She also blogs at http://shelbellescraps.blogspot.com.

Thank you for sharing this family recipe with us, Michelle.

I lovingly call Minneapolis the big city because I live on an acreage in southwest Minnesota. I used to live in the Twin Cities and I love it there.

Margarita Cupcakes

Makes 18 regular-size cupcakes with generous frosting for each.

1 box white cake mix

7-1/2 ounces original margarita mix

2 ounces tequila (or triple sec if you prefer)

1/2 ounce orange juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients and beat on medium-high until fluffy. If you prefer, use triple sec in place of the tequila. The important thing is to use a total of 10 ounces of liquid. Line a regular cupcake pan with papers or grease with non-stick spray. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack.

Simple Lime Syrup (optional)

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I am not a huge fan of cupcakes because they aren’t usually as moist as I like. I found these cupcakes to be a little drier than I like, but an easy solution is to add the following simple syrup:

1 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup sugar

Combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Bring it to a boil and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes until it becomes a golden color. Cool. Poke holes in the cupcakes with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the syrup over the tops of the cupcakes. Let soak in for 10 minutes and then frost the cupcakes.

Salty Lime Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

5 cups powdered sugar

3-4 tablespoons lime juice (use 3 and add more if needed for spreading consistency)

1/2 teaspoon salt

couple dashes of green food coloring if desired

In a medium bowl, cream the butter. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice and salt, beating until desired spreading consistency. Add small amount of green food coloring if desired.

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Do you like your margarita rim salty or sweet?

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Although the names and variations of this caramel cake are as broad as Pink’s hair color, the dessert has been a family tradition for some people for so long they can’t imagine there are people trying it for the first time. For me, it was only a few years ago. My friend, Caitlin O., shared it with us at work and even though I was “cake reluctant,” I slid my fork in it and with one sticky bite I was hoping not everyone in the department knew we had cake = more for me.

The recipe graces pages of community cookbooks, from fundraisers, employee-submitted, family heritage, etc., but to find Better Than Sex Cake in a church ladies cookbook, you’ll find it under a discreet name like Better Than Anything (or Almost Anything) Cake, Better Than Whatever you Wanna Call It Cake, or Heath Cake.

I know, I know – some of you have been reading my blog long enough to know I don’t like cake. Especially the kind you poke holes in and pour in Jell-O or pudding. But this is different. It’s sweetened condensed milk and caramel. You use your favorite caramel ice cream topping. (Like the butterscotch one I drink from a shot glass when I make Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake.) Are you with me?

Better Than Sex Cake

1 box (13 x 9-inch pan size) German chocolate cake mix, and ingredients to bake the cake

1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 jar (approximately 17 ounces or so) caramel ice cream topping

1 tub (8-ounce) whipped topping, thawed

1 package (8-ounce) chocolate toffee pieces (I use Hershey’s Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits)

Bake the cake according to package directions.

As soon as the cake is done, pull it out of the oven and poke holes in the cake with the handle of a mixing spoon. (I use a long-handled lemonade-stirring spoon.) Immediately pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the cake and repeat with the caramel topping.

Let the cake cool in the refrigerator until completely cool. Top with whipped topping and put back in the fridge. Immediately before serving, generously sprinkle the toffee bits on each slice. Store in the refrigerator.

Plan to share this cake because it’s best within 24 hours.

Will this be your first time eating Better Than Sex Cake? Do you have a different name for it?

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