Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coconut Layer Cake with Strawberry Buttercream



Do I really have to write words about this cake? Because if you ask me, a five-layer ombre ruffle cake kind of speaks for itself...



Agreed?

Usually when I make something this extravagant, I can't help but find myself a little disappointed in the end result... simply because the more work I put in, the higher my expectations get. This cake, however, did not disappoint!

The cake itself manages to have a lot of coconut flavor without tasting like suntan lotion, and the tanginess of the strawberry buttercream helps to balance the sweetness of the cake and filling. Coconut and strawberry are nowhere near my favorite flavors, but I absolutely loved it!

I'm sure this cake would be perfect for any special occasion, but I know from experience that it's especially appropriate for your younger sister's twenty-first birthday. Happy Birthday, Kelsii!


Coconut Layer Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

For the cake:

2 & 1/4 cups cake flour
1 large egg + 5 large egg whites
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces

For the coconut buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons coconut extract

For the strawberry buttercream:

2 cups unsalted butter, softened
10 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ounce freeze-dried strawberries, ground finely with a food processor

Note: The ruffle technique requires quite a bit of frosting, so you may not need this much strawberry buttercream if you're going to frost the cake differently.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease five 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper, and dust each pan with flour. (I only have three 8-inch pans, so I had to do this step in two parts).

2. In a large liquid measuring cup, beat the whole egg and egg whites with a fork. Add the cream of coconut, water, and coconut and vanilla extracts. Beat with a fork until combined.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Allow the mixer to run at the lowest speed for about 30 seconds to combine these ingredients. With the mixer still running, add the butter one piece at a time; continue mixing at low speed until the butter pieces are the size of small peas, about 2 minutes.

4. With the mixer still running, add 1 cup of the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup of liquid, taking about 15 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat at medium-high speed for about 15 seconds.

5. For an ombre cake, evenly divide the batter into five small bowls. (I used a kitchen scale to ensure the portions were even). You can add as much or as little color to each layer as you like; for my cake, the layers  had 0, 1, 2, 4, and 8 drops of red food coloring. Once you've colored the batter to your liking, transfer the batter from each bowl into each of the prepared cake pans.

6. Bake the layers on the lower-middle oven rack for about 17-22 minutes, or until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Only bake as many layers at once as can fit on a single rack in your oven.

7. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. For the coconut buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium-high speed for about one minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar and salt. Allow the mixer to run at low speed until most of the powdered sugar is incorporated into the butter. With the mixer still running, add the milk and coconut extract and continue mixing at low speed for about 15 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

9. For the strawberry buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium-high speed for about one minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar, ground strawberries, and salt. Allow the mixer to run at low speed until most of the powdered sugar is incorporated into the butter. With the mixer still running, add the milk and vanilla extract and continue mixing at low speed for about 15 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

You can find instructions for assembling a layer cake in this post.
For a demonstration of the ruffled frosting technique, check out this video.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze


Stephen and I often talk about how nice it will be, assuming we're both still in good health, when we're retired and can spend every day doing exactly what we feel like doing.

Based on Hollywood's depictions, this will probably include living in Florida, playing shuffleboard and/or mahjong, wearing visors and fanny packs, owning an RV, solving crossword puzzles, and starting unwelcome conversations with complete strangers.

We recently decided that instead of waiting forty more years to let the good times roll, we'd get started right now! Of course, we can't quit our jobs or anything... but we've begun to make a few small adjustments.

The first change we made was to start a walking regimen; classic old person hobby, right? Gym equipment is for young folks, if you ask me. And running? Bad for your joints! We've started by taking 5 to 10 mile walks a few times a week, but soon I'm sure we'll be up to the requisite three walks a day.

The next adjustment will be to our sleep schedule; we're gradually working toward waking up at sunrise or 4am, whichever comes first. The early bird catches the worm, as they say! Of course, this means we'll need to be in bed by eight o'clock each night at the latest... no more Grey's Anatomy for me!


We're also working on changing our eating habits. I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping yet, but I'm planning to stock up on Ry Crisps, cottage cheese, prunes, Cream of Wheat, plain yogurt, and Fig Newtons. I'm just hoping the store employees don't get too annoyed when I pay with a combination of pennies and expired coupons... and write a personal check for the balance.

Until I can get to the store, we're relying on this lemon pound cake to sustain us. We simply aren't interested in chocolate or ice cream or cupcakes anymore... balderdash! We're now only eating desserts that contain fruit, yogurt, and or granola. Unless it's black licorice or hard candy, of course!

To stay updated on more of the old person ways I'm adopting, be sure to follow me on Pinterest or on Instagram @thenonpareilbaker. Holiday-themed sweaters, here I come!

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

For the pound cake:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 & 1/2 cups cake flour

For the glaze:

1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1-3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

2. Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high speed for about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, add the sugar gradually. Beat for 4-5 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

3. In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, yolks, vanilla, and water. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the egg mixture. Add the salt and lemon zest, and continue mixing until blended.

4. Add the flour in three increments by sprinkling about 1/2 cup at a time over the batter and gently folding it in with a rubber spatula. Mix just until all of the flour is incorporated.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake rest for five minutes before removing it from the pan and transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the glaze: Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon milk, and begin whisking it together. Add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.

7. Once the loaf is cooled, pour the glaze over the top, using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly. Allow the glaze to set before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf, about 8 servings.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream


I truly hate it when people who write blogs apologize for not posting often enough. I mean, it's your blog. If you want to post something, do. If you don't want to, don't. And yet, I still feel compelled to acknowledge that it's been almost a month since my last post.

As tempted as I am to compile a list of excuses (the first of which being that I had all four wisdom teeth extracted the day after I posted those caramel snickers cookies!), I've decided instead to rely on humor to distract you from my recent absence.

From sixth grade through high school, I wrote in a diary almost every day. At the time, it really helped me sort through my thoughts and feelings about everything that was going on in my life. Of course, there wasn't really much of anything going on, but as we all know, even the most innocuous events seem life-changing during one's teenage years.

Ever since I started this blog, I thought it would be funny, in a self-deprecating sort of way, to share one of my old diary entires. Possibly something describing in detail the awkwardness of attending a junior high school dance? I was thinking we could all laugh together and marvel at how far I've come.


My mind was quickly changed, however, when I started to re-read some of the things I wrote. The more I read, the more certain I became that the pages of my diary could be used as the script for "stereotypical lovesick teenage girl #1" in any late night sketch comedy show or horribly predictable teen movie. 

But then I remembered that before all of that ridiculous teenage angst, I was a (mostly) normal little girl whose first diary was made by Lisa Frank and had two kittens on the cover; I clearly remember begging my mom for it during kindergarten school supply shopping.

Now that is something I can work with. Allow me to present my first-ever diary entry:
I wish I had a dog. I'm going to the zoo. I want a bunk bed, typewriter and dresses. Skate & knee pads & elbow pads. Polly Pocket Starlight Castle. The Talking Family Dollhouse. My birthday is in December. I had a happy halloween.
Apparently, at the age of five, I thought "diary" was just another word for "Christmas list," and I was particularly concerned with wearing proper protective gear during recreation. By the time I was six, my entries were more geared toward the complex feelings I had about my friends and family members:
May 3, 1994 
My mom is nice. I love her very much. My dad is too. Kirsten I don't understand. Amanda is nice. Kirsten is too. JT is getting nicer. I have a new bike.
May 4, 1994 
I love my teddy very much. I like Mrs. Merryfield and my new school is fun. My sister has Happy Birthday 3.
A few months later, I turned seven. From that day forward, almost every diary entry I wrote sounded, in essence, something like this:
December 12, 1994 
Today I'm 7 years old. I have someone I like. His name is Elliot. But his sister told Christina I liked him. Hana knows too.
Maybe one day I'll feel comfortable sharing something written post-Y2K. In the meantime... all I have to offer you is chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.

(Which, let's be honest, is a whole lot better than four college-ruled pages, front and back, about the heartbreaking crush I had on the guy who sat next to me in math class.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

For the cupcakes:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 & 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
24 miniature peanut butter cups

For the peanut butter buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
6 cups powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffins tins with paper liners.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium speed for about one minute. Add the sugar and cream for about one minute more, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, oil, and water. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing at low speed until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix at medium speed for about one minute, or until the batter is smooth.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Press one miniature peanut butter cup into the center of each cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

5. To make the frosting: Cream the butter and peanut butter for about one minute at medium speed. Add the powdered sugar and salt, and mix at low speed until incorporated. Once the sugar is incorporated, add 4 tablespoons of milk. Beat at medium speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add additional milk if necessary to reach the desired consistency.

Makes about 24 cupcakes.