Classic Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean Rum Frosting

classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting

  For many, carrot cake is a must-have on the dessert table after enjoying a fattening dinner on Easter Sunday. In my own family, it was actually quite rare. My Grandmother always made a banana pudding trifle or a layered coconut cake for Easter. I only recall eating carrot cake as a spring dessert served at church events or family get-togethers; but though it was scarcely served in my home, it has always been a family favorite when we had the pleasure of eating it.

  This recipe wasn’t specifically meant for Easter, though. I’ve been meaning to post a cake for the past week but they just haven’t worked out, so I decided on this classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting and well, it happens Easter is this weekend. The recipe for this cake was given to my mother by my Grandmother which she acquired from a friend (my, what a mouthful!) twenty-something years ago. It has always been a family favorite. Of course, I did adapt it slightly. Typically, walnuts or pecans are used, but instead, I used almonds.

 It’s a delicious, dense, and very moist cake. It uses a total four cups of carrots! The frosting has a very light and fluffy mouthfeel, with a slight rum flavor and vanilla bean speckled all about.

 

CLASSIC CARROT CAKE WITH VANILLA BEAN RUM FROSTING


 cake:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups raw cane sugar

4 large eggs, room temp.

seeds from (1) vanilla bean pod

1 1/4 cup organic canola oil

1/3 cup buttermilk, room temp.

4 cups grated carrots

3/4 cups coarsely chopped almonds

   frosting:

seeds from (2) vanilla bean pods

1/4 cup dark rum

8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.

8 ounces butter, room temp.

4 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of sea salt

 method:

Before starting anything, split open two vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and the pods in a small jar with a lid. Add the 1/4 cup of dark rum and close the jar. Let the ingredients sit for an hour or more. When ready to use, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and discard the pieces. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three, 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices- set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla bean seeds. Beat the ingredients with an electric hand mixer until pale and fluffy; once they reach this stage, begin streaming in the oil. Add the buttermilk and then the flour in three batches, beating each addition until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the grated carrots and chopped almonds until combined. Divide the batter amongst the three prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. They’re done when the cake springs back up after being touched lightly, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from around the edges of the pans. Invert onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

 for the frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and add the powdered sugar and vanilla-infused rum. Beat on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy about3 minutes.

 assemble the cake:

 Place the first cake layer on a cake board/plate/stand and spoon about 3/4 cups of frosting on and spread around with an offset spatula. Repeat this with the second and then the third. Use any remaining frosting to frost around the edges. Or, you can use all the frosting on the first, second, and top layers and leave the sides naked. Decorate with fresh or edible flowers.

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Cake with Ganache

  December, despite being born in this month, there’s not much I really look forward to in it except for my birthday, Christmas, and the closing of another year and the beginning of another year alive.  It can be a depressing month, mainly due to the scenery and the weather.  It gets quite windy where I am located and the house is surrounded by a forest of trees so everything becomes quite dull and lifeless looking blowing in the wind.  The grass turns brittle and the trees gray and spiritless without their coat of leaves.  Winter reminds me just how quickly the other seasons fade, as it always seems the longest.  It also makes me appreciate the other seasons a lot more.

  When it comes to my creativity, it usually relies on the mood of the day.  I’m somewhat one with the weather, all it takes is a cold, cloudy day to bring me into the depths of despair.  For photography, especially food, December light can be difficult to work with.  By the time I’m back from work and done test baking, the light is practically gone and I hadn’t even decided what backdrop to use.. and it’s only four o’clock in the afternoon.

  Anyway, I could honestly go on about the depressing things about December and just the season of winter in general, but let’s skip that because I’m sure you probably share the same if you’re not a winter person; if you happen to be a winter person, well, good for you!  I won’t understand why, but that’s okay.  I once was, but I honestly don’t know why I enjoyed it.  I think it was because I was a child, born and raised without knowing what cold actually felt like.  Up until I moved to Virginia, wearing a sundress and flip flops to my Grandmother’s Christmas dinner was normal.  Now, I actually have to wear pants.

  Now, let’s talk chocolate cake.  My birthday was just last week and I decided to bake my own cake for the occasion for the very first time.  I think it’s a tradition I should start doing every year.  My youngest sister insisted I wasn’t allowed to do such a thing, but by who’s authority, I persisted!  I did most everything the night before to save time, but really, I don’t think I saved much time at all.  I still found myself with this cake four hours later while the rest of the family anxiously awaited its arrival onto the kitchen counter top so they could eat it.

  A little while ago I began adding a fruit jam to my cakes.  It adds an exceptionally moist and tender crumb when you do so!  The frosting includes chocolate pudding, then once it is on the cake, more chocolate in the form of ganache.  As you probably know if you take a brisk scroll through my blog, I am chocolate obsessed.  I also happen to love cake, so I have quite a few chocolate cake variations on this site.  I’ve learned so much about baking cake in the year that has passed since I’ve started this blog journey- so much so, that I look back to a few of the cakes I’ve made and think to myself, “why the heck did I make it that way?”.  You live and you learn, as C.S. Lewis so truthfully wrote, 

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

DARK CHOCOLATE POMEGRANATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE


cake:

100 grams dark cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )

1 cup boiling water

175g unsalted butter, room temp.

500g granulated sugar 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

4 large eggs, room temp.

250g cake flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

300g milk, room temp.

pomegranate jam

pomegranate jam

1 pomegranate

1/2 cup sugar

1/4  teaspoon lemon juice

Chocolate frosting and Ganache:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup cocoa powdered 

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

salt

 

method:

for the jam:

  1. Scrape the seeds out from the pomegranate and place them in a small saucepan along with the 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring the mixer often, until the sugar dissolves; reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the fruit is soft and has broken down some.  Remove from heat and press the jam through a fine mesh sieve with a bowl underneath.  Discard the seeds from the sieve and bring the jam to room temperature.
  2. In a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl, add the cocoa powder; pour the boiling water over the cocoa and let it sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth; set aside and bring to room temperature. 

 Once all the ingredients have reached room temperature, begin on the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare three, 8-inch round cake pans in the usual way:  grease, parchment paper, then a light coat of grease over the paper. 
  2. Using an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy- about 7-8 minutes on medium-high speed.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, set aside.  Once the butter and sugar have been creamed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition as well as scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters with a spatula.
  3. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, pomegranate jam, a third of the flour, and a third of the milk to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.  Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour on medium speed while streaming in the rest of the milk, beat until combined.  Pour batter equally amongst the three prepared pans and evenly spread around.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes quickly spring back up when lightly touched.
  4. Cool the cakes 10 minutes in their pans then gently use a knife to loosen the cakes from around the edges of the pan and invert onto cooling racks to cool completely for about 1-2 hours. 

for the frosting and ganache:

  1. Place a medium-sized heatproof bowl in the freezer so it will be chilled for later use.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla, and cocoa powder to a simmer over medium-low heat then turn off the heat.
  3. Heat a double boiler over medium heat and add the egg yolks and sugar.  Stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale yellow.  Continue to whisk the mixture and slowly stream in the milk.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir constantly until thickened.  Once, thickened, remove from heat and immediately pour the pudding into the chilled bowl and whisk briskly till the pudding is cool to the touch.  
  4. Now, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cooled pudding(be sure it doesn’t have the slightest warmth to it or else the butter will melt) on medium speed until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of extra cocoa powder and a pinch of salt; beat on medium-high speed till the mixture is fluffy and becomes slightly pale in color(about 4 minutes or so).  
  5. For the ganache:  finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the microwave or on the stovetop.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed then stir until smooth.  Let the mixture cool so it can reach a spreadable consistency.

Assemble the cake:

  Place the first layer on a cake board/cake stand/plate and spoon about 3/4 cup of frosting onto the top.  Evenly spread around then place the second layer, top-side down onto the first layer.  Spread another 3/4 cup of frosting and place the third and final layer on top, again, top-side of the layer facing down onto the previous layer.  Add the remaining frosting to the top and sides of the cake.  Place the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes so the frosting can firm up some.  Once the frosting is somewhat firm to the touch, add the ganache and spread around the top and sides of the cake.  Decorate with edible flowers and greenery(optional).

GINGER SPICE LAYER CAKE WITH APPLE BUTTER MASCARPONE FROSTING

  The Barley and sorghum fields have been harvested and the {once} green, rolling hills of Northern Virginia are now brown and withered; meanwhile the bronze, red, and yellow hues from the hickory, beech, and red maple trees are scattered about the mountainside and valleys, creating a fiery picturesque scene.  Dotting the sides of the road are small farm stands selling freshly picked apples by the bushel, locally made ciders by the jug, mason jars filled with jelly of all kinds, and honey.  The air is crisp with the pleasant scent of burning wood and chimney smoke here and there- Oh, there are hundreds of things I could write about this beautiful time of the year, as well as the scenes and feelings felt within it.  It’s already passing by so quickly.  Soon all the trees will be bare and it will be brutally cold once again.

  But to every season there is always a downside, to me that downside is the withering of all the lovely flowers.  Flowers are a very crucial part of my blogging as they are practically the only ‘props’ that I use.  Just when I was saddened by not having any flowers to decorate with, I went on a walk around my neighbor’s farm and found a lone pink rose in one of the garden beds.  It was laden with rain droplets and was perfect in every way; alongside the rose were the prettiest purple mums.  In the end, I ended up smiling as it worked out.  But, pretty soon I won’t be so lucky.

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  As you can see if you scroll through my recent posts I’ve been doing a lot of baking with apples.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of baking with them and I’ll be saddened when the season ends.  Usually I would make my own products using apples as that’s something I like doing instead of buying it pre-made from a supermarket, but I was really anxious to bake this cake that’s been on my mind for quite some time(and was unable to bake as I was away from my kitchen); so, once I got home I made my way to one of the many farm stands in my area that was selling their locally made apple products.  I found the most delicious apple butter and it happened to be made by the local Lions Club members.  Every year they go out and pick apples from the orchards nearby and dedicate an entire day of their time in the kitchen of a community cannery making the apple butter.  They can a thousand or so jars of it and sell it around the county!  Even though I didn’t have time to make my own apple butter, I still got to use it fresh(with local apples, too).

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  My absolute favorite part about this cake?  Well, that would have to be the frosting.  I really wanted something delicious that wasn’t your mundane American buttercream, so I played with it a bit and added mascarpone cheese and a custard that was flavored with that delicious apple butter I bought.  It’s like a hybrid of American and German buttercream(and it’s oh so good).  It’s smooth to the palate when eaten and it spreads beautifully!  In the layers are the spices of fall(as I call them), a hint of vanilla, and for that tender and moist crumb:  more apple butter.

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*Majority of measurements used is in metric units.


GINGER SPICE LAYER CAKE WITH APPLE BUTTER MASCARPONE FROSTING

cake

175 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

500 grams granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 large fresh eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup local apple butter

250 grams cake flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

312 grams milk, room temperature

 

frosting

2 large fresh egg yolks

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/3 cup apple butter

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

dash of ground cloves

pinch of salt

method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and line(with parchment) three, 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, combine the sugar, butter, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 7-8 minutes until light and fluffy.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, spices, baking powder, and baking soda until combined.  Set aside.  Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the eggs; beating one at a time until just combined(about 10 seconds each egg).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Add the apple butter and half of the flour mixture and half the milk.  Beat on medium until just combined; scrape down the bowl once more and add the remaining milk and flour, beat till just combined.  
  3. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 23-25 minutes.  Check for doneness at 23 minutes using a toothpick; if it comes out clean it’s done, if not, bake 2 more minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cakes rest in their pans for 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife, gently loosen the cakes from around the edges of the pan.  Invert onto wire racks to cool completely, about one hour.
  4.  Once cooled, assemble the cake.  Place the first layer flat side down on your cake board/plate/stand and add about 3/4 cups of the frosting.  Spread around with an offset spatula, then add the second layer, flat side facing up.  Add 3/4 more of the frosting, spread; then place the third layer, flat side facing up.  Add the remaining frosting to the top of the cake and around the sides(it’s a naked cake so there will be a very, very little frosting for the edges).

frosting:

  1. Place a small mixing bowl in the refrigerator for later use.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat and stir in the apple butter, let it sit for five minutes(it will look very grainy, so don’t freak out!).  Using a fine mesh strainer/sieve, strain out the mixture over a bowl to catch the liquid.  Discard the pulpy stuff and set the liquid aside.
  3. Create a double boiler by filling a medium-sized pot with a few inches of water, then place a heatproof bowl large enough to fit on top of the pot without touching the water.  Bring the water to a slow simmer over medium-low heat then add the egg yolks and sugar to the bowl; stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and egg yolks look a bit pale.  Continue to whisk the eggs, then slowly stream in the milk mixture.  Whisk constantly till the mixture is thick, this may take a few minutes.  Once the mixture has thickened, immediately remove the bowl from atop the pot of water and pour the custard into the chilled bowl.  Again, whisk frivolously until the mixture is cool to the touch.  
  4. In an electric mixer with beaters/whisks attached, add the soft butter and mascarpone cheese.  Beat on medium speed until combined and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, salt, and custard and beat on medium-high until the mixture is combined and has become light in color and quite volumized, about 2 minutes.

SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

  Ah, September, you came so quickly.  Where did summer go?  I find myself asking this almost every year.  Summer passes by quite swiftly as you grow older.  As a child, I felt as if summer would go on forever(in a good way), even after I moved away from a state where words such as “Fall” and “Winter” were practically non-existent and so were the seasons that matched them.  My favorite seasons have always been spring and summer.  I don’t mind autumn, except when it becomes winter.  This year is different, though; I’m taking the change of seasons quite nicely and actually looking forward to autumn.  At the same time, I can’t help but be a little heartbroken that summer has to end as well.  

  Though the month of September has just begun, I have already felt a change in the air and surroundings.  Most the trees and grass have faded into a different color green over August; they’ve lost their bright euphoria and are on the verge of putting on their autumnal display.  Just today I was able to open all the windows in the house as the weather was beautiful.  As I was standing looking out the kitchen door, a cool breeze swept through the house and outside displayed a shower of yellow leaves falling, like gold, from the black walnut trees surrounding our home.  Here in Northern Virginia, the walnut trees are the last to put on their summer foliage and the first to lose them once late August and September comes around.  It got me giddy about all things fall-ish I will say.

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  I was so sad that I never made it to a peach orchard this year, then on the first of September, I stumbled across an orchard just South of me and about an hour’s drive away.  They had just announced that their gala apples were coming in nicely and were ready for picking, so I took the day off and went apple picking.  Though peaches are almost out of season here, there were still quite a few trees chalked with the delicious fruit.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without picking a few as there’s nothing like a peach straight from the tree.  Just from being there I had recipe ideas pouring out of each side of my brain, so you may be seeing more from my trip to the orchard next week!   

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  Now, let me talk a little about these cupcakes.  They’re a bit addictive!  I could eat them sans frosting because they’re just as good.  The addition of fresh applesauce made them really moist and tender and they pull away from the paper nicely as well.  My favorite part is the top of the cupcake, of course.  It’s chocolate ganache with bourbon, then whipped for a few short minutes with some cocoa powder.  As you’ll see in other places on my blog, I like to use bourbon when chocolate is involved.  That and rum(which you may be seeing soon in another recipe!) are two of my favorite alcohols to bake with.  The ganache piped exceptionally well, you just have to be careful not to have them somewhere hot and rather humid as it will start to soften and may even melt.  

  Can you believe this was my first time ever piping frosting onto a cupcake?  Out of sixteen, just these three made my photo-worthy list.  It really is harder  than it looks, depending on the style you want.  

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*Please read through the instruction and ingredients list thoroughly before you commence baking.  I recommend beginning with the ganache first to give it time to stiffen, which can take close to two hours sometimes; then the applesauce, and lastly the cupcakes.

SPICED APPLE CUPCAKES WITH WHIPPED CHOCOLATE BOURBON GANACHE

Makes 16 normal sized cupcakes

cupcakes:

95 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

185 grams granulated sugar

3 fresh eggs, room temperature

112 mL milk, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

200 grams all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup fresh applesauce, room temperature (recipe below)

applesauce:

3 small to medium sized apples ( I used gala)

1 large cinnamon stick

1/4 cup water

whipped chocolate bourbon ganache:

16 ounces heavy cream

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 tablespoons of good bourbon

pinch of salt

METHOD

for the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.  Prepare two muffin/cupcake tins by adding sixteen paper baking cups.

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer with beaters attached, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla, half of the milk, and half of the flour.  Beat on medium speed till just combined, the beat in the remaining halves of milk and flour.  Gently stir in the applesauce with a spatula.  Spoon the batter into prepared muffin/cupcake tin(s) until 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Check for doneness at 18 minutes with a toothpick, if it comes out clean it’s done; if not clean, bake two more minutes.  Once done, cool in pans for five minutes, then gently transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

for the applesauce:

  1. Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters.  Add to a medium-sized saucepan along with the cinnamon stick and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low; cover and cook apples for 10 minutes until tender.  Once done, drain juices and then mash the apples till slightly chunky.  Spread out onto a plate and bring to room temperature (or put in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes for a quick cool).  Make the applesauce before cupcakes

for the whipped ganache:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, chop the bittersweet chocolate into fine chunks and add to a large heatproof bowl.  Once the cream has reached boiling, pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let it sit 10 minutes, then stir till smooth.  Stir in the bourbon and pinch of salt.  Refrigerate until it has become thick(like a paste), but not completely hard.  Before whipping, I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder for stability.  Using an electric hand beater, beat the ganache and cocoa powder till it becomes thick enough to pipe onto the cupcakes, about a minute or so.  Pipe the ganache onto cooled cupcakes and decorate with flaky sea salt (optional).

 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Honey Fig Italian Meringue Buttercream

  Why yes, this is another chocolate cake to add to my {growing} collection.  One can never have too many chocolate cake recipes, can they?  This one is special as it includes shredded garden fresh zucchini, which gives the cake a tender and moist crumb.  Also, a pinch of cinnamon because zucchini, chocolate, and cinnamon seem like close-knit friends, they go so well together! 

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 I tried my hand at Italian meringue buttercream for the first time and I must say, it’s so good!  While researching, I came across various people saying it can be somewhat difficult to make if you’re not familiar with making meringue.   Being myself, I took on the challenge.  It was the first time I’ve ever made meringue, and using my own quantities at that.  The first try was okay, but not quite what I wanted as it was a bit too sweet.  So I tried one more time by changing the quantities of a few ingredients.  The second try was a charm!  Then came adding the butter, a step I didn’t get to on the first try.  At first, I thought it wasn’t looking too promising.  After letting it whip for a little while longer, it suddenly turned into a luxurious buttercream.  Smooth and glossy, with the most amazing texture.  I then added the honey fig jam I had just made, along with a wee bit of vanilla.  The camera didn’t really pick it up, but it has a slight pink tint to it.

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 I spent at least two hours photographing this cake.  The light was just not on my side!  My home has an insane amount of windows, so I usually have a pretty good amount of light anywhere in the house.  It’s also surrounded by greenery, so finding the right type of light can be difficult.  It usually depends on how bright the sun is shining during the time of day I’m shooting.  I was shooting in mid-afternoon light and the sun was giving out harsh, bright light, causing everything outside to reflect their colors through the windows.  So, almost all the light coming into the house was green, and green is my biggest pet peeve when photographing food.  Long story short, I was in Lightroom for quite some time trying to tone down all the colors coming in from outside.  I’m quite pleased with how they turned out, despite spending so much time photographing and then editing them.

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chocolate zucchini cake + honey fig italian meringue buttercream

for the cake:

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp.

500 g granulated sugar 

4 large eggs, room temp.

250 g all-purpose flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )

100 g cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

312 g almond milk, room temp. ( 1 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup shredded zucchini

 for the honey fig jam:

1 pound ripe figs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

for the  frosting:

5 egg whites, room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 fig jam, room temp.

lemon wedge


method:
cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 170°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, laying down parchment paper, then lightly greasing again.
  2.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder; combine the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In an electric standing mixer / hand mixer with whisk(s) attached, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy- about eight minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom on the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition(scraping down the bowl after adding each one).  Add the vanilla and beat till just combined.  Add one-third of the flour and one-third of the almond milk; beat on medium speed until just combined.  Add the remaining two-thirds of flour and almond milk and beat on high for 15 seconds.  With a spatula, fold in the shredded zucchini until it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Pour batter evenly amongst the three prepared cake pans and using an offset spatula, evenly spread around in the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Check for doneness using a toothpick, if it comes out clean- it’s done; if not, bake three more minutes.  Remove from oven and let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
honey fig jam:
  1. Wash, cut stems off, and then slice figs into halves.  Add to a medium sized saucepan and gently mash them until they are well broken up.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and honey to the figs and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let the mixture simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the figs are soft and the mixture is somewhat thick when it runs off the spoon.  About 15-20 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a sieve over a cool bowl and gently press with a spoon to squeeze the good stuff off from the pulp.  Discard the pulp.  Bring the jam to complete room temperature before using it the frosting.  It’s best to make it the day before, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the countertop overnight.
honey fig italian meringue buttercream:
  1. Wipe down the bowl of an electric mixer with the lemon wedge and squeeze about 1/4 teaspoon of it into the bottom of the bowl.  Add the egg whites.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Stir over high heat until the sugar is dissolved and begins to boil.  Once boiling, cease stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.  Bring the sugar to 240°F, once it reaches that temperature, turn off the heat.  Begin beating the egg whites on medium-high speed until they’re frothy and pale in color.  Then, very slowly and carefully ( it’s hot!) begin to pour a very thin stream of the hot sugar into the beating whites.  Increase the speed to high and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Before adding any butter, make sure the meringue is completely cool to the touch, without a hint of warmth to it.   
  3.  Add the butter and beat on medium-high speed till it all comes together and forms a nice, whipped buttercream.  Turn the mixer off and add the vanilla and the fig jam.  Beat on low until just combined.   
assemble and frost the cake:
  1. Place the first layer on your cake stand, plate, or cake board.  Add about 3/4 cups of frosting and evenly spread around.  Place the second layer, bottom facing up, on top of the frosted layer and add another 3/4 cups of frosting.  Spread around and add the third and final layer, bottom facing up.  Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and around the sides of the cake.  Cut and serve.