Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Cupcake and Daryl Dixon for Halloween

I am a cupcake today.  :)

It was an easy costume to put together - except for the tutu, I already had everything in my closet.  Brown boots and tights, and a chocolate brown tutu I bought on Amazon.  The white top is from ModCloth, and I cut little strips of colored tape to stick on it for sprinkles.  Top it off with a flower headband.

Simple, fun and so cute!

Then there's my husband, aka Daryl Dixon.  Both sexy as can be...

He invested a little more into his costume than I did, and asked me to sew the angel wings onto the black leather vest he found, but he sure pulled off the look, freshly caught squirrel and all.  He thought I should dress as Carol, but I really had my heart set on my cupcake idea.  And luckily, Daryl Dixon seems to like cupcakes for dessert.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Candy Corn Striped Halloween Cake

Let me preface this post by telling you that in spite of the name of this cake, there is no candy corn to be found in it.  I really don't care for candy corn - it's too sugary - but I do love anything with stripes, so I took inspiration from the colors of candy corn for the design of my cake.

There's so much to love about this cake.  Both the buttercream and the cakes are striped in brown, orange, yellow and white, and each layer has a different flavor, too.

Then bittersweet ganache is poured over the cake, dripping temptingly over the sides.

And seeing as how my husband had already opened the Halloween candy that we bought for Saturday, I decorated the cake with a handful of chopped candy and sprinkles for a fun and playful finish.  Also, the more chocolate the better, right?  This is where you could add a few pieces of candy corn here and there, if you like.

Before you get scared off by the idea of baking four cakes and mixing up four batches of buttercream, you only have to make two.  There's a chocolate layer, of course, with chocolate buttercream.  But the other three all begin with a basic vanilla cake batter and buttercream, that you divide up to color and flavor.

I kept the flavors complementary - chocolate, almond, vanilla (with chocolate chips), and coconut.  My favorite bite was a combination of the chocolate and almond.

The recipe is below, and to see how to create the buttercream stripes, click here for a few tips.

You can see other examples of striped buttercream in my purple and white ombre Watercolor Striped Cake, my Neapolitan Cake, the colorful Little Birdie Cake, and my Stripes and Polkadots Strawberry Rhubarb Cake.

Candy Corn Striped Halloween Cake

Chocolate Cake.
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
Cake for Orange, Yellow and White Layers.
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • vanilla, almond and coconut extracts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup natural coconut
  • orange and yellow food coloring
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease four 8-inch pans with non-stick spray.

Chocolate Cake.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and whisk vigorously until smooth.  Pour into one pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Orange, Yellow and White Cake Layers.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, egg whites, milk, vinegar and oil and whisk until smooth.  Divide equally into three bowls.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla to one bowl of batter, 1 teaspoon almond extract to another, and 1 teaspoon coconut extract to the third.

To the vanilla batter, add a few drops of yellow food coloring and the chocolate chips.
To the almond batter, add a few drops of orange food coloring.
To the coconut batter, add the natural coconut.

Pour into the remaining three pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on wire racks, covered with clean kitchen towels, until completely cool.

Chocolate Buttercream.
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
Vanilla Buttercream.
  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk or cream
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix up the buttercreams by slowly mixing the dry ingredients into the butter until combined.  Add the vanilla and milk and whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

For the vanilla buttercream, divide into three bowls.  Tint two of them yellow and orange, and keep the third white.

Assemble and frost the cake in the method described in this post, but use a separate piping bag for each color to keep the stripes clean.

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces heavy whipping cream
For the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl.  Warm the cream in a saucepan over medium low heat, just until simmering around the edges, the pour over the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and pour over the cake, letting it drip over the edges.

Let the ganache set for a few minutes, then garnish the cake with candy and sprinkles.

Recipe and Design by Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cookies and Cream Monster Eyes Cake

As much as I love The Walking Dead - and, um, Daryl Dixon - I don't do the scary, gory side of Halloween.  But the cute, silly and fun aspect - I can totally get into that.  And ever since I saw the monster eye cake on The Cake Blog, I've wanted to recreate my own.

As it happens, I had also been meaning to post a cookies and cream cake - which was always my brother's favorite birthday cake when he was little - and something that I still love.  Even though I'm all grown up, I (and I think most people) still have a thing for treats made with their favorite cookies and candies to make them feel like a kid again on their birthday, but without the torture of being forced to clean your plate of mushy, frozen mixed vegetables before you're allowed to have cake.

He was such a cutie, with his chubby cheeks and wavy brown hair, wearing his favorite cowboy hat and boots (or sometimes an empty cool-whip container as a hat) to play tether-ball, and begging my sister and I to play something with him other than Barbies.  We preferred to pretend he was our live doll, dress him up in baby clothes and curl his hair.

You can make the cake itself vanilla or chocolate - I went with vanilla - with half a package of crumbled Oreos mixed into the batter before baking.  Had I bought an extra package of Oreos, I probably would have added more cookies to the batter so that every single bite contained bits of cookies.

The rest of the cookies are twisted apart and the frosted side used for the monster eyes with the unfrosted side crumbled and mixed into the buttercream.

The salt in the buttercream is important - with all the cookies and candy this cake can lean a little towards being too sweet, and the salt helps to balance the sugar, as well as adds a sophisticated flavor.

You can make your eyes with any color M&M pressed against the frosting.  I thought the yellow, orange and brown was so festive (and also, the little package of M&Ms I bought hardly had any brown).  And because I didn't want an open package of M&Ms tempting me to eat them for breakfast as I was frosting the cake Sunday morning before the photo shoot, I sprinkled them between each layer for extra crunch and texture.  Which just made it taste even better.

Between the cookies, candy and cute monster eyes all over, the cake is as yummy as it is fun to look at.  And this cake is looking at you, too...

Cookies and Cream Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 package Oreos, each cookie cut in fourths (or use a whole package for lots of cookies all throughout!)
Buttercream and Monster Eyes.
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/2 package Oreos
  • M&Ms
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease three 8-inch pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and beat until well combined.  Fold in the Oreos.  Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Set pans on wire racks, cover loosely with clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute until smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt and mix to combine.  Add the vanilla and milk/cream and whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Fill the cake layers and frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream (I also sprinkled the extra M&Ms between each layer for crunch).  Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, carefully twist apart the Oreos and set aside the frosted side for the eyes.  Roughly chop the unfrosted sides and fold into the remaining buttercream (don't over-mix, or the crumbs will turn the frosting gray).  Frost the cake with the Oreo buttercream.

Press M&Ms to the frosted cookies and stick onto the cake for the monster eyes.

Baker's Note:  The reason I wait to add the Oreos to the buttercream until after doing the crumb coat is that they would make it very difficult to get a smooth crumb coat on the cake with all the cookies mixed throughout.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Toasted Coconut Carrot Cake

Our maple tree is turning red, the tips of its delicate, frangible leaves catching fire in the late afternoon sun.  Now that the days are getting shorter, though, I'm barely home from work in time to see the color.

Much too soon, it will be dark before I even leave the office, and I won't be able to winkle out even a few minutes of daylight before dark descends.  I wish fall would last a little longer.

Carrot cake was what I often requested for my birthdays as a kid, but anymore, I never make carrot cake in the summer since it seems so much more appropriate for fall.  With nutty brown butter, warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, and dark brown sugar, this cake breathes of fall.

The cake is moist with plenty of sweet grated carrots, fragrant and spicy.  And while it's fantastic on its own, of course, a carrot cake wouldn't be complete without cream cheese frosting.  After the cream cheese came a scattering of toasted coconut, which I pressed all over the cake from top to bottom.

In the fall, I think of the woods across the street from the house where I grew up.  I think of running up the hill to the old, abandoned house at the top and peering in broken windows at dusty dilapidated furniture.  I think of ambling through the trees, along well-trodden paths, the leaves crunching underfoot.

I remember the feel of the dappled sunlight warming my skin.  I remember picking up the prettiest, most elaborately colored leaves and carrying them home to keep until they turned brown and brittle.  I think of the scent of freshly cut firewood, and the first night cold enough to warrant a fire in the black wood stove in the living room.  Reading books, and playing games, and blankets and hot chocolate and sleepy evenings at home.

Toasted Coconut Carrot Cake

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (about 7-8 carrots, depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups natural coconut, lightly toasted
Preheat the oven to 350.  For the 4-layer 2-tier cake pictured here, grease two 8 inch pans and two 6 inch pans.  For a 3-layer 1-tier cake, grease three 9-inch pans.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Scrape the butter and the browned bits into a large mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the grated carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the dry to the wet, stirring just until combined.  Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean - the cakes will finish at different times depending on the size of pans used.

Set the pans on wire racks and cool completely, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and the meringue powder, mixing until combined.  Add the salt and vanilla; on medium high, whip for several minutes until light and fluffy - add a little more powdered sugar if the buttercream is too soft.

Fill and frost the layers (there's no need to use any supports for the two tiers for this cake, as each tier is relatively small).  Press the toasted coconut all over the cake.

Note, to toast the coconut, spread on a baking sheet and bake at low heat, about 275 for 5 minutes or so, just until golden - watch it carefully as it can burn easily.  Cool completely before pressing onto the cake.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Chocolate Chip Maple Bacon Cookies

    I've been wanting to try bacon in my baking, and why not?  Salty and sweet is a timeless combination.  I love bacon, and we always fry up a few crispy strips on the weekends, which is the only time my husband and I get to eat breakfast together.  There's nothing like the scent of bacon and freshly brewed coffee to entice someone out of a warm bed and down to the kitchen table.

    After mulling over the idea of adding finely chopped crispy bacon to the frosting of the chocolate chocolate cake in my last post, I decided cookies would be less risky for my bacon experiment, since the thought of ruining a batch of cookies (which I have done before by mistakenly adding Worcestershire sauce to the dough instead of vanilla) is far more acceptable to me than ruining a beautiful layer cake.

    While the bacon cooked and cooled, I mixed up my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough - nicely salted and spiced, studded with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.  I tasted the dough with the bits of bacon in it and loved it - but then, who doesn't love the dough more than the cookies?  It's hard not to sneak a few spoonfuls from the mixing bowl.

    Between the bacon and the maple extract, they're pretty much breakfast cookies, and perfect with a cup of coffee.  I brought the cookies to work the next day for my coworkers to sample, and came into the kitchen a few hours later to find a post-it on the empty container that just said "OMG".  I think that says it all.

    Chocolate Chip Maple Bacon Cookies

    • 6 slices bacon
    • 1 cup unsalted butter
    • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup molasses
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon maple extract
    • 2 eggs
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
    • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1 cup pecans, chopped
    Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

    In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp; drain and cool on a paper towel then finely chop.

    In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and molasses for several minutes, then scrape down the bowl.  Add the vanilla and maple extracts, and the eggs, and beat well.

    In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and espresso powder.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture by spoonfuls, mixing just until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and bacon.

    Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, keeping the cookies 2 inches apart.  Bake for 7-8 minutes, until pale golden brown.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen