Vanilla Cupcakes with Rose Pink Pomegranate Buttercream

Vanilla Cupcakes with Rose Pink Pomegranate Buttercream

  Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time to bake something pink and adorn it with pretty flowers! So, I broke out my seldom used muffin tin and put my rusty cupcake frosting skills to work and made these vanilla cupcakes with rose pink pomegranate buttercream. It’s been quite some time since I last made cupcakes or just a plain, yellow cake for that matter. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a yellow vanilla cake for the blog, so this is probably a first. After two failures and thirty cornbread (they literally looked like cornbread, thanks, chickens!) cupcakes later, I finally got my ratios right. The outcome was a soft, moist, and not too custardy-tasting cupcake. The frosting came out smooth, and not too sweet; with a pleasant tang and rosy pink hue from the pomegranate juice. I was originally going to use a fresh pomegranate but found it was much easier to use the bottled juice instead. 

  Then came the recollection of why I don’t like making cupcakes in the first place: frosting cupcakes. You would think it easy compared to a layer cake, but damn it’s difficult to get these things looking good! Seriously though, it’s an art and it takes lots of practice. Out of twelve cupcakes, I was only able to frost five. FIVE. The rest I may or may not have stabbed with the frosting spatula and angrily ate. In the end, it was nothing a few mini-roses and baby’s breath couldn’t fix. Overall, I’m quite happy with how these cupcakes turned out, even if it was just five that made the cut.


Vanilla Cupcakes with Rose Pink Pomegranate Buttercream

  ingredients: makes about 15 cupcakes

180 grams (1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

64 grams (1/2 cup) cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

226 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

196 grams (1 cup) sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 large egg, room temp. 

3 large egg whites, room temp.

107 grams (1/2 cup) coconut milk (preferably the brand ‘So Delicious Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk’), room temp.

  frosting:

339 grams (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temp.

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cups pomegranate juice, room temp.

2 tablespoons coconut milk, room temp.

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt (use more if needed)


  method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F / 177° C. Prepare a muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract on high speed until pale and fluffy; about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl half-way through. Add the whole egg and beat on low until combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg whites. Beat on low until combined. With the mixer still on low, add half the flour and half the coconut milk to the creamed mixture; once just combined, add the remaining 1/2 of the flour and milk. Beat until the flour is just incorporated(don’t over mix!). Using an ice cream scoop, spoon the batter into the baking cups, filling them half-way full. Use a spoon to spread them around until they’re even in the cups. Bake 17-19 minutes, checking for doneness at the 17-minute mark. If not done, bake for two more minutes. Immediately remove the cupcakes (carefully) from the muffin tin and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely. 
  3. Meanwhile, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and salt until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla, coconut milk, and pomegranate juice. Beat on high speed for 4-5 minutes until voluminous, smooth, and light. Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, frost then decorate with fresh flowers if desired.
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Olive Oil Chocolate Cake with Salted Tahini Chocolate Frosting

Olive oil chocolate cake with salted tahini chocolate frosting. 

  It’s been two months since I last sat down and wrote out a blog post. I’ve slowly been finding my way out of the dark cave that is known as creativity burnout. It always gets ahold of me for a few weeks in the winter time, but this is the first time it prolonged into months. So, I just took it easy. I stopped trying to think of something to post every week and focused on photographing other things instead of food. Then finally, I had an idea the end of December which, at that time, looked a lot different from this cake- but soon enough turned into it. 

 While my favorite aspect is the salted tahini chocolate frosting, but the cake itself is pretty good as well. It’s rich, moist, and has a strong chocolate flavor thanks to the addition of boiling hot coffee. While I love my butter cakes, a good olive oil cake is difficult to pass up. It gives the entire cake a certain smoothness. For some reason, that smoothness is a bit difficult to describe in words; you just have to taste it to find out what I mean!

Now, back to that frosting for a bit. You might be wondering why there’s maple syrup. I really wanted this thick but smooth, fudge-like consistency to the frosting and maple syrup does the job rather well. Without it, it isn’t as smooth and fudge-like. It also adds more to the sweetness, which is nice because too much powdered sugar can be overpowering in flavor sometimes, especially in chocolate frostings.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake with Salted Tahini Chocolate Frosting


ingredients:

  cake:

210 grams ( 1. 3/4c) unbleached, all-purpose flour

288 grams (1. 1/2c) raw cane sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

60 grams (3/4c) cocoa powder{dutch-process}

1 cup strong, hot coffee

180 mL (3/4c) olive oil 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3c cashew milk

1 large egg

  frosting:

2/3 cups cocoa powder{dutch-process}

2/3 cups cashew milk

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8-ounces bittersweet chocolate{60% cacao}, melted and cooled

8-ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup, room temperature

1 teaspoon sea salt

method:

  for the olive oil chocolate cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Prepare two, 6-inch square cake pans with grease and line the bottom(s)with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift the cocoa powder. Pour the hot coffee into the sifted cocoa and stir until combined. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. After five minutes, add the olive oil, vanilla, and cashew milk to the cocoa mixture and stir until mostly combined. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar; whisk until fully combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, then use an electric hand mixer set to medium speed to mix the ingredients until just combined. Add the egg and beat on medium-high for 20 seconds. The mixture should be smooth with no lumps.
  4. Pour the batter equally amongst the two pans and bake for 40-43 minutes. Check for doneness at 40 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. If not, bake for 2-3 more minutes. Remove from oven and let the cakes rest in their pans for 10 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks to cool completely. To avoid a hard top crust on this cake after it cools completely, wrap each cake layer in plastic saran wrap when they’re still just slightly warm and let them sit overnight. The warmth trapped inside will moisten the outside of the cake. 

  for the salted tahini chocolate frosting:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cashew milk, tahini, and vanilla. Heat over low heat until very hot. Sift the cocoa powder into a small mixing bowl, then pour the hot cashew milk over it. Stir until fully combined(the mixture will be very thick before and after it cools). Cool the mixture until it’s cool to the touch.
  2. Chop the bittersweet chocolate and melt it in a bowl set over a simmering pot of water(don’t let the bowl touch the water). Remove bowl from the heat and let the chocolate cool until it is no longer warm, just don’t let it harden again! 
  3. Once the chocolate(s) have cooled, beat -with an electric hand mixer, the softened butter, powdered sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Add the cocoa powder mixture and beat until combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the bottoms and sides of the bowl, then add the cooled, melted chocolate, beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl once more, then add the maple syrup. Beat the mixture until it’s considerably paler in color and feels light, smooth, and fluffy when you run your finger through it- about 4-5 minutes of beating on high-speed.

  to assemble the cake:

  1. Using a cake leveler(if you don’t have one, use a sharp knife and be very careful!), level off any domes that may have formed on the tops of the cake during baking. Place the first layer on your cake board/stand/plate/ and add about 1 1/2 cups of frosting and spread it around the layer evenly with a frosting spatula. Add the second layer on top of the first, with the bottom facing up. Add the remaining frosting on the top and around the sides of the cake. Decorate with fresh flowers and flaked sea salt if desired.
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Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  It’s the season of pumpkins and gourds. The supermarket has an entire section of the store dedicated to them, with several boxes filled to the brim. I realize they’re in season during this time of year, but the one thing I never could understand is why so many people obsess over something as simple as a pumpkin or pumpkin-spice, for that matter. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin in the first place, per the reason as to why I don’t understand the ways of pumpkin lovers. I’ve always preferred the sweet potato, with its subtle sweetness; oh, how it blends so perfectly well with butter and brown sugar! Oftentimes I feel they don’t get the attention they deserve. Well, until Thanksgiving comes around. There’s almost always a sweet potato pie or casserole involved.

  Instead of adding yet another pumpkin spice recipe to the thousands already out there, I decided on a delicious spiced sweet potato cake made with local sweet potatoes and spiced with cinnamon and allspice. Accompanying the cake is a silky-smooth bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream. The chocolate ganache is optional, but if you do decide on it, make sure to sprinkle on a generous amount of flaky sea salt to finish. You will thank me later. 


SPICED SWEET POTATO CAKE WITH BOURBON MAPLE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

   cake
380 grams cake flour, sifted
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
400 grams raw cane sugar
8-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*1 cup mashed sweet potato
¾ cup whole milk, room temp.

*2 medium-small sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

   bourbon-maple swiss meringue buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup raw cane sugar
12-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

   chocolate ganache (optional)
6-ounces fine, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6-ounces heavy cream

Method:

   cake:

  1. Peel and chop two, medium-small sweet potatoes and place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, the maple syrup, allspice, and cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is soft- about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked sweet potato from the water and spices and place in a bowl, then mash with a fork until there are no more clumps. Set aside to cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Grease and line three, 6-inch cake pans.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves; whisk until combined and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla and beat until just combined. On low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined(make sure to scrape down the bowl after each addition). Add the cooled sweet potato and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl of the mixer once more and add one-third of the milk and one-third of the flour; beat until just combined, then continue to alternate the milk and flour, making sure to end with adding the remaining third of the flour. Pour the batter amongst the three prepared pans and spread about evenly. Bake for 35-43 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or until the cake springs back up after a gentle touch. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife to loosen the cake from around the edges, invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

   bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Create a double boiler by placing a heat-proof mixing bowl over a simmering pot of water(make sure the bowl does not touch the water). Add the egg whites and sugar and stir gently but constantly with a whisk until the mixture reaches 160°F / 70°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat the mixture on high with an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment), until thick and completely cool to the touch, about 8 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, begin to add the soft butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until combined. Once all the butter is in, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until silky smooth and voluminous. Scrape down the bowl and add the bourbon, maple syrup, and vanilla. Beat on low until smooth and combined.

  chocolate ganache:

  1. Chop the bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. In another (heatproof) bowl, heat the cream until it’s hot to the touch. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and give it a quick stir then let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir until smooth. Do not pour onto cake until the ganache has cooled and is no longer warm to the touch(it may have thickened a lot by then, but still pourable)

  to assemble the cake:

Level off any dome that may have formed on the cakes during baking. Place the first layer on a cake board/plate/stand, and spread ½ cup of frosting over the top. Add the second layer and repeat with the same amount of frosting, making sure to spread the frosting on evenly. End with the third layer, making sure the bottom of the cake is facing upward; spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Place in the refrigerator so the frosting becomes firm. Pour the ganache into the center of the cake and gently spread towards the edges so it drips down. Serve when the ganache has hardened in place.

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Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

  There’s no better way to welcome apple season than to fry up a good batch of apple fritters. 

 The weather of late has evoked nostalgic feelings of autumn, putting me in the strange predicament of looking forward to the changing of seasons. If you knew me, you’d know I’m not one to welcome the fall season with open arms; I despise seeing pumpkins, bright orange and red decor of all sorts embellishing stores by the end of July. I would live in a world of perpetual summer if I could- I just really don’t like the cold. But this year is different. I’m actually looking forward to the switch from summer to fall. In fact, I made these fritters in slight excitement. It made me think of my younger self, back when I actually enjoyed the cool days of autumn and the cold, snowy days of winter.

  Drive North, South, East or West and you’re certain to see apple orchards dotted about every direction in the state of Virginia. I can count off my hand at least six apple orchards within a twenty-five-minute radius of me. You won’t find me complaining, though. I’m fortunate to live where I live; it’s a beautiful place, and beautiful places give me so much inspiration when I feel drained and ready to give in. I’m extremely thankful for that. So, I set off to my local orchard, a lovely ten-minute drive with scenic views of Virginia farmland and the Blueridge mountains, then came home with a paper bag full of crisp, red apples just waiting to be turned into these apple sage fritters.


Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

   dough:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 cups cashew milk, hot

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 *flax eggs 

3 tablespoons coconut oil 

5 cups canola oil, for frying

   apples:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 medium sized apples

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/3 cup raw cane sugar

3 large sage leaves, minced

   glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon good rum

1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

    METHOD

  1. *Blend 2 tablespoons of flax seeds in a blender until finely ground. Pour into a small bowl and add 2 1/2 tablespoons water and stir. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric standing mixer, add the yeast and hot cashew milk and give it a little stir. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and sugar. Add to the yeast mixture, along with the vanilla and flax egg and beat on medium-high speed with the dough-hook attachment until the dough comes together completely and wipes the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl clean- about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the coconut oil, 1 tablespoon at a time; making sure each tablespoon is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. It will seem like it doesn’t want to incorporate at first, but just give it a few seconds and it’ll come together. Once all the oil is in the dough, you should have a soft, smooth dough. lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, cover with a thin cloth and let it rise in a warm, dry place for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Prepare the apples while the dough rises.
  3. Peel and core the apples and chop them into 1/2-inch long rectangular pieces that have a thickness of 1/4-inch. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the apples and toss until coated. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil and add the apples, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and minced sage. Cook the apples, stirring often, until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy thick mixture and apples are somewhat soft, but the centers still somewhat firm(you don’t want them cooked soggy). Cool the apples until ready to use. If there happens to be a lot of liquid from the apples, strain it out. 
  4. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a floured surface. Roll it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle the apples over one-half of the dough, then fold the other side over the apples. Pinch the sides shut and gently roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle again. Sprinkle the remaining apples all over the dough, then roll it into a tube. Seal the ends shut and flatten the tube with your hands slightly, then roll it out with a rolling pin into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. It’s OK if some apples pop out, just keep pushing them back in. The width should roughly be 5-6-inches wide. Using a knife, cut the rectangle down the center long ways, then cut 2-inch by 2-inch squares from the two strips. There should be about 9-10 squares in total. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet and lightly dust with flour. Space each dough piece about 3-inches apart from one another. Cover with a thin towel and let them rise for 25-30 minutes or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 5 cups of oil(about 2-inches deep) and heat to 350°F. I recommend using an oil or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. The oil to stay at or close to 350°F. Cook the fritters, just two at a time, for 2 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked fritters to a cooling rack(place paper towels under racks to catch oil). 
  5. To make the glaze, sift the powdered sugar, then add the maple syrup, vanilla, and bourbon. Whisk until smooth, then drizzle onto the fritters once they have cooled until warm to touch and no longer hot. 
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Frozen Vanilla Bean Banana Icebox Cake with Ginger Snap Cookies

Frozen Vanilla Bean Banana Icebox Cake with Ginger Snap Cookies

  Growing up, my mom would make what we called ‘chocolate eclair cake’. It was the go-to dessert when we were asked to bring a dessert to large gatherings. It was my favorite sweet there most the time. It was rather simple to make, just graham crackers, boxed vanilla pudding, cool whip, and canned chocolate frosting- all layered and kept in the refrigerator. Not too long ago I tried recreating it from scratch, then I tried a slice in the freezer and it was even better that way. So, In a way, that dessert was the inspiration for this recipe. I guess it would be considered an icebox cake, but I’m still not sure. I used the label anyway as it comes pretty close in my opinion.

Traditionally, icebox cake is just chocolate wafers and whipped cream layered and refrigerated. This version has a bit more effort put into it, but the outcome is well worth it. I had a difficult time deciding what cookie/cracker/wafer I should use. I don’t like to buy pre-made things for most of my recipes, so graham crackers or any pre-packaged cookie was off the list. I decided on my ginger snap cookies and combined with the banana pudding, it’s the most delicious tasting combo.


Frozen Vanilla Bean Banana Icebox Cake with Ginger Snap Cookies

  for the pudding/filling:

2 cups whole milk

2 medium-sized bananas, mashed

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)

1/3 cup raw cane sugar

3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons cake flour (or all-purpose)

pinch of sea salt

2 cups heavy cream, beaten to stiff peaks

1/4 cup raw cane sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)

  for the cookies

3/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup raw cane sugar

1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

1 large egg, room temperature

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoons ground allspice

1/3 cup raw sugar, for rolling

  METHOD

  for the cookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Prepare one large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
  2. In an electric standing mixer (whisks attached), beat -on medium speed- the butter and sugar until creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and add the molasses and egg; beat on low until fully combined. Scrape down the bowl once more. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add to the mixer and beat on medium speed until just combined. Spoon out the dough, rolling each piece between the palms of your hands until they’ve formed into slightly smooth(but still have small cracks in the dough) balls, each being around 1/2-inch in diameter. Lightly coat with the sugar and place them on the baking sheet, spacing each piece an inch apart from each other. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Once the cookies come out of the oven, use a flat spoon to flatten each cookie while they’re still soft. Cool on the baking sheet for three minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely before using.

  for the pudding/filling:

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean paste, and mashed banana. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once simmering, remove from heat and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Once the time has passed, pour the milk into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard any pieces caught. In another bowl, combine the cornstarch, cake flour, and salt. Add half of the milk to the flour and whisk until combined, set aside(whisk the mixture again just before using). 
  2. Set aside a clean mixing bowl, whisk, and sieve; as well as a large bowl filled with ice water for later use.
  3. Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with a few inches of water, then place a heatproof bowl that fits over the top of said saucepan(don’t let the bowl touch the water!). Bring the water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Once simmering, add the sugar and egg yolks and continually whisk until the sugar has dissolved(the mixture will look slightly pale yellow in color). Pour in the flour/milk mixture and whisk until combined, then add the remaining milk. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to whisk the mixture until thick and smooth, making sure to whisk the sides and bottom of the bowl so that none of the pudding burns. When it begins to bubble, cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and pour through a sieve into a clean bowl. Set the bowl in the ice water and whisk the pudding until cool to touch. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding so it doesn’t form a skin. Refrigerate until cold(about 30 minutes or so, or place in the freezer until cool; this way is faster). Once the pudding has chilled, proceed to the next step:
  4. Chill a large bowl and the whisk(s) to an electric hand mixer. Once chilled, add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla bean paste and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Stir the chilled pudding, then add to the whipped cream. Fold the two together until fully combined. Line the sides and bottom of a large loaf pan with parchment paper(I made the mistake of using plastic wrap, it was difficult to get into/out of the pan). To assemble the icebox cake:
  5. Place a layer of cookies at the bottom of the pan(they should be firmly in place), then spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on the pudding, then add the remaining pudding over the top evenly. Lastly, top with another layer of cookies. Cover the pan tightly and freeze for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Once frozen drizzle with melted chocolate (optional).
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