Cherry Frosting

cherry limeade cupcakesThis frosting, which I first used on cherry limeade cupcakes, could work very well on vanilla, lemon, or chocolate cupcakes. Because it uses the juice from maraschino cherries, it’s a good option for year-round baking, and you can always add the cherries themselves to top your cupcakes or cake if you like.

This recipe yields enough for at least 18 cupcakes, but I believe it could frost about 2 dozen if you use more modest portions on each cupcake than I used on my cherry limeade cupcakes. The recipe can be easily doubled to cover two-layer cakes or sheet cakes.

 

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

Preparation

Beat butter in a mixing bowl for 1-2 minutes. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and allow the sugar to fully incorporate into the butter; this will take several minutes.

Add almond extract and 1/4 cup cherry juice; beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, then add another cup of powdered sugar and additional juice. Beat on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes.

Lime Curd

vanilla lime cupcakesWe have lemon curd, so why not lime? I used Martha Stewart’s key lime curd recipe and adapted it using regular limes. I was also surprised to see that this recipe doesn’t require tempering some of the lime mixture into the eggs, then returning the tempered mixture back into the pan for further cooking, like you do with lemon curd.

It does take a while for this mixture to reach the right consistency, so prepare to stand at your stove for about 12-15 minutes. The end result is absolutely worth it, though. You can use this curd in vanilla lime cupcakes, coconut cupcakes, or whatever else your heart desires.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preparation

Place a bowl and sieve next to your stove for easy access once your curd is cooked.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, eggs, lime zest, and lime juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture holds the shape of the whisk – this will take about 12-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter a few pieces at a time until butter completely melts.

Strain the curd through your sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Chill for about 3 hours before using; I chilled mine overnight.

Brown Sugar Butterscotch Cake

brown sugar butterscotch cakeI’m the kind of woman who bakes her own birthday cake. This year, I wanted a brown sugar cake with butterscotch, and so I made one.

Homemade butterscotch is easier to make than you might think. Mine turned out thicker than I expected this time, probably because I cooked it over higher heat than I should have. Since my sauce ended up thicker and less appropriate for drizzling over the top of my cake, I remedied it by stirring in some heavy cream to thin it out – and it worked very well.

This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups of batter, which made one 8-inch round cake and two cupcakes. You could easily double it to make two 8-inch rounds for a taller layer cake and would still have some batter left over for cupcakes.

Brown Sugar Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment, and grease the parchment. Flour lightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and melted butter, whisking until no lumps remain. Whisk in egg, sour cream, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly whisk in flour mixture until batter is completely smooth; it will be fairly thick.

Pour 3 cups of batter into the pan; make cupcakes with any batter that remains.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream*

* You can omit the tablespoon of heavy cream if you like, but I’ve become a big fan of heavy cream in buttercream lately. It yields a very smooth, creamy texture that is easy to pipe and spread. 

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl, then add heavy cream and beat for another minute or two.

Butterscotch Sauce

**If your butterscotch has become too thick to drizzle, add heavy cream, about 1 tablespoons at a time, and stir to thin it to a drizzling consistency.

To assemble your cake:

Slice your cake in half lengthwise and handle it very gently; my cake began to crack just a bit when I separated the top from the bottom.

Place one layer upside down on a cake platter and top with frosting, spreading frosting to about 1/4 inch of the edge.

Top frosting with about 1/3 cup of butterscotch sauce. Place the second cake layer on top; frost the top and sides.

Before serving, drizzle slices of cake with butterscotch sauce; you could also just drizzle the sauce over the top of the cake if you like.

Store in the refrigerator for up to three days; bring to room temperature before serving. When storing cakes in the fridge, they can dry out, so it’s best to use them within a day or two once they’re refrigerated.

Butterscotch Sauce

butterscotch sauceHomemade butterscotch is very easy to make. I admit that my first batch, which went into butterscotch cupcakes, turned out better than my second batch; I suspect I cooked this batch on higher heat than I should have, which resulted in a much thicker confection once it cooled.

This sauce turns out best when simmered, rather than actually boiled; use medium-low heat, and look for small to medium-sized bubbles – if you see large bubbles on the surface, turn your heat down slightly to keep the sauce at more of a simmer.

The sauce will thicken as it cools, but should still be easy to drizzle. If you happen to cook your sauce at a higher heat than you should and it turns out too thick to drizzle, simply thin it out using a few tablespoons of heavy cream to get it back to drizzling consistency. It will still taste delicious…believe me.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in brown sugar, then heavy cream.

Bring mixture to a simmer/gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract and salt.

Allow to cool completely before serving. Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Honey Orange Muffins

honey orange muffinsYesterday I saw a recipe for honey muffins on Taste of Home, a wonderful cooking and baking site. I’m on a low-sodium diet, so I checked out the sodium content in the original recipe and saw it was 242 mg – much too high for one muffin for someone like me.

Fortunately, my Aunt Liz sent me some reduced sodium baking powder last week, and I was able to use that to cut down on the sodium in a big way. My muffins have 93 mg each, and I also mixed in some vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest into the batter to turn these into honey orange muffins. The end result is not only lower in sodium, but also very tasty. Next time, I might add some chopped pecans to the batter and drizzle on an orange icing once the muffins have cooled.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder*
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (or orange juice)
  • zest of half a medium orange

*Rumford makes reduced sodium baking powder; you can find it online.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe made 17 muffins for me.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine egg, milk, melted butter, honey, vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest. Beat with a fork to combine.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined; batter should be lumpy. Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared pans, filling each well about 3/4 full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until tops are light golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.

Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or freeze cooled muffins for future breakfasts and snacks.

Lemon Blackberry Cake

lemon blackberry cake 4Today, in an effort to ramp up my piping skills, I bought a basic Wilton cake decorating book at the craft store. In it, I found a cute berry-and-vine cake and was inspired to make this lemon blackberry cake.

I found a great recipe for lemon cake at My Cake School, then divided the recipe in half to make one single 8-inch round. I don’t usually double-fill cakes, but my blackberry filling made less than I was hoping for, so I thought it needed a bit of a boost; next time, I’ll double the filling recipe.

Once filled, I frosted the top only for a more rustic look, then piped on some vines, leaves, and blackberries. The end result is delicious, light, and perfect for summer. If you’d like to frost the sides of your cake as well, I’d increase the frosting recipe by at least one quarter to ensure that you have enough for piping.

Lemon Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, slightly softened, but still cool
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, then grease the parchment and lightly flour the pan.

In a glass measuring cup, combine eggs, milk, vegetable oil, lemon extract, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine; set aside.

In your stand mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; beat for 30 seconds to combine. With the mixer running on low, add butter one pat at a time, until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Add half the egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes, then scrape down the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating for about 30 seconds after each.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Blackberry Filling

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces blackberries, mashed
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, stir together blackberries, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils, then allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds. Allow to cool before using; makes about 1/3 cup.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Leaf green food coloring
  • Purple food coloring
  • Black food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar all at once, then beat on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Scraped down the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla and heavy cream, then beat for another 1-2 minutes.

 

To assemble the cake:

Reserve about 1/2 cup frosting for tinting. Divide the reserved portion and tint half green and the other half purple/black; I started with purple and added black until I reached my desired blackberry shade.

Slice the cake in half length-wise; place one half on your cake plate.

Top with blackberry filling, spreading within about 1/2 inch of the edges. Top the filling with frosting, spreading gently to within about 1/4 inch of the edges. The filling is slippery, so as you spread the frosting it will mix with the filling a bit, and that’s fine.

Top with the second half of your cake and frost the top using the white frosting.

Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and fill with green frosting; pipe on vines, then switch to a leaf tip and pipe on leaves.

Fit a second piping bag with a plain tip and fill with purple/black frosting; pipe on blackberries.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Below is a detail of the blackberries and vines and a slice of the cake so you can see the filling.

lemon blackberry cake 2 lemon blackberry slice

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

brown sugar cupcakesMy cousin Barb brought her girls Maureen (my goddaughter, age 5) and Margo (age 21 months) up from Maryland for a visit to Pittsburgh this week. Although I whipped up these brown sugar cupcakes without the assistance of my two favorite little bakers, they helped with the buttercream and did a very good job.

Depending on how old they are, little bakers can help with many things. Measuring and pouring can be easy, helpful tasks, as can (careful) mixing. To make our buttercream, Maureen and Margo helped me measure out the powdered sugar into a large bowl, then add it one cup at a time into the mixing bowl. Mo also poured in the vanilla extract and heavy cream and learned the basics of bowl-scraping before helping me pipe the buttercream onto our cupcakes. Even Margo helped squeeze the piping bag for our last cupcake, which she then ate.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe made 23 cupcakes for me.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and melted butter, whisking until no lumps remain. Whisk in egg, sour cream, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly whisk in flour mixture until batter is completely smooth; it will be fairly thick.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about half-full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from pans immediately; cool completely before frosting.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Purple food coloring, if desired

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar all at once, then beat on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Scraped down the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla and heavy cream, then beat for another 1-2 minutes.

Add food coloring and beat for 1-2 minutes; scrape the bowl well to make sure you get all of the food coloring incorporated into the frosting.

Fit a 14-inch piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe blobs of frosting onto each cupcake (it’s easier with little helping hands to pipe blobs than swirls, but you can also try swirls – Mo did a pretty good job at the swirls). Store in airtight containers at room temperature.

Below, Maureen, Margo, and I whip up some tasty frosting…and then the girls demolish some cupcakes.

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