Annabelle’s Honey Cake

For years, loaf-style honey cake eluded me. I tried tons of recipes, but always ended up with loaves that were burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. A few weeks ago, a colleague mentioned a wonderful recipe that her mom, Annabelle, uses each year to make honey cake.

This is that recipe, and it gave me a very important reminder about how the type of pan you use will affect your outcome. The loaf on the right in this photo baked in my King Arthur Flour loaf pan and yielded a nearly perfect loaf, with a bottom and sides that are just slightly darker than my personal preference. The loaf on the left, however, baked in a darker pan from another maker and yielded a bottom and sides that are certainly too dark to serve. Next time, I’ll pull the darker pan much earlier and will cut down the baking time in my King Arthur Flour pan by about 3 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup strong black tea

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line each with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a fork to combine. Add sugar, vegetable oil, honey, and tea; stir to combine. Add flour mixture in several small batches, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine.

Divide batter evenly between pans; I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup and scooped portions into each pan to try to get as even a division as possible.

Bake for 40-55 minutes*, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Makes two 9 x 5 loaves.

*The original recipe called for baking for 45-55 minutes, but this was too long for my oven. For a dark pan, I’d recommend baking for about 38-40 minutes, and for a lighter pan, for about 40-45 minutes, to prevent sides and bottoms that are too dark. 

 

Advertisements

Vanilla Bean Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of gal who bakes her own birthday cake. This year I went back and forth between several ideas, and finally settled on a two-layer, 6-inch cake decorated with a buttercream hydrangea. Happy birthday to me, eh?

A while back I’d bought this color swirl piping set, and it was a total disaster. This time, I tinted my buttercream three different shades of purple and blue, then put them in three separate 12-inch piping bags, all of which went into an enormous, 18-inch piping bag. It worked incredibly well; see more photos of the cake below. A word of caution, though: I actually think this cake would be even more delicious without buttercream frosting. The next time I make it, I think I’ll bake it in a regular 8-inch round pan and either drizzle it with a powdered sugar icing or just serve it with fruit and whipped cream.

Vanilla Bean Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
  • 6 tablespoons milk

*Save the pod and make vanilla sugar – just add the pod to a jar of white sugar and let it infuse the sugar with vanilla-ness!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla seeds and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Purple, sky blue, and leaf green gel food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat on medium, then medium high speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down your bowl, then add the heavy cream and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

To frost and decorate your cake, place one cake on your cake stand and top with buttercream, spreading almost to the edge. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides, smoothing the buttercream as much as you can.

Divide your remaining frosting into one small portion (about 1/4 cup) and tint leaf green; set aside. Divide the rest into three equal portions and tint one dark purple, another light purple, and the other sky blue.

Place dark purple, light purple, and sky blue frosting into separate 12-inch piping bags. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and place the 12-inch bags inside. Pipe petals in a few layers (I did three, and it was a ton of frosting) to make your hydrangea flower, then pipe petals around the bottom edge of the cake.

Fit a small piping bag with a leaf tip and fill with leaf green frosting; pipe leaves on each side of your hydrangea flower, then pipe a few leaves around the bottom of the cake.

Store in a domed cake stand at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 6 slices.

Here’s a detail of the flower.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look closely you can see the tiny vanilla seeds in the cake. 

 

Strawberry Vanilla Cupcakes

Filled cupcakes became a big deal a few years back, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my grandma Zella made filled cupcakes back in the ’80s and ’90s. Long before shows like Cupcake Wars appeared on television, Zella scooped out her cupcake centers and filled them with lemon curd, pudding, and pie fillings. I think this strawberry vanilla cupcake would have made her proud.

If you’re using a fruit or pudding-like filling, you’ll want a sturdier cupcake so that a) the cupcake doesn’t fall apart when you take a bite and b) the filling doesn’t get too absorbed into the cake. These cupcakes are on the drier side, more like a pound cake and able to hold the strawberry filling very well. When paired with a fresh strawberry buttercream, the flavor combination is a delightfully summery treat. I recommend making your filling first and allowing it to cool completely before you bake your cupcakes and make your frosting to save time during assembly.

Strawberry Filling

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces strawberries, pureed
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, stir together strawberry puree, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and water. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it 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 – this will take a few minutes, but is absolutely worth it. Allow to cool at room temperature before using; makes about 1 cup.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine milk and vanilla extract; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then reduce mixer speed to low and add butter a few cubes at a time. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the vanilla milk mixture.

Return to medium speed and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Scant ¼ cup strawberry puree

Preparation

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar, in half-cup increments, beating until fully incorporated.

Slowly add strawberry puree, mixing until completely incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. If your mixture is too thin, slowly add more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that will be easy to pipe.

To assemble your cupcakes:

Use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the center of each cupcake.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe strawberry filling into each cupcake.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto the top of each cupcake. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Here’s a photo of the inside! 

Almond Raspberry Cupcakes

Baking requires instincts, and I should know by now not to ignore mine. Usually when I fill cupcakes with a custard or fruit filling, I scoop out the centers with a melon baller and pipe the filling into the divot, yielding a nice filling-to-cupcake ratio. For cream fillings, I place the filling in a piping bag and injecting it into the cupcake, because cream fillings are heavy enough to push the cake out a bit and yield the same nice filling-to-cupcake ratio.

Because I wanted to save a bit of time, I decided to use the injection method with my raspberry filling in these cupcakes. After I’d frosted them and tried one (because what kind of baker doesn’t engage in quality control?) I realized that the injection method had failed me: my cupcake had a sad little tunnel of filling, not nearly enough for a good flavor or texture balance. I wondered for a moment if I should drizzle the tops with raspberry jam to ramp up the flavor, then decided to use the leftover raspberry filling for drizzling. Another mistake. It looked ridiculous, far too thick and amateurish.

Eager to maintain my baking cred at the office, I carefully scraped the filling off the tops and replaced it with some raspberry jam to cover the gashes in the frosting. My colleagues enjoyed them very much, but I’ve learned my lesson: my instincts are important, and the next time I get the idea not to follow them, I’ll remember these cupcakes.

Ingredients

For the almond cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the raspberry filling

  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries, mashed
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the almond frosting and raspberry jam drizzle

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Red food coloring
  • About 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times during this step.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake wells, dividing evenly and filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the tin; cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

While the cupcakes bake, make your filling. Stir together raspberries, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it to boil for 1-2 minutes, 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 1/2 cup.

Once both the filling and cupcakes are cool, use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the center and pipe or spoon filling into each.

For the frosting, place butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and add powdered sugar all at once, beating on low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Continue beating on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, then beat on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes. Add a few drops of red food coloring to tint a light pink.

Fit a large piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe frosting in swirls on the tops of each cupcake.

Stir raspberry jam to make it smooth, then fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and twist the bottom of the bag near the tip so the jam won’t run out when you pour it in. Untwist the bag and pipe jam over the tops of the cupcakes.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving.

Patriotic Cupcakes

Happy Independence Day, Americans! I haven’t done a lot of red, white, and blue baking, so this year I thought I’d whip up some patriotic cupcakes and practice my frosting tinting and piping skills while I was at it. I also experimented with a new buttercream, based on a Wilton recipe that uses both butter and shortening. I’m pleased to say it turned out very well!

Tint-wise, I wanted to make “colonial” colors – darker blue and red than what you’d get with your standard gel food coloring. To make a color darker, you need a hint of black, and let me stress the word “hint” here – it’s really a teeny, tiny amount. While my colonial blue turned out very well, my colonial red turned out more like raspberry. I’ll use it on something else, but I was glad to have plenty of white frosting for a second batch of red – this red is just your standard red gel food coloring, though in a very generous amount. Design-wise, the flag cupcakes are my favorites; alas, my fireworks cupcakes (the ones on the center ends in the photo above) look far too much like something that contains genetic material for my liking. Oh well…we pipe, and we learn.

Ingredients

For the vanilla cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the Wilton-inspired buttercream

  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 –  1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • Royal blue gel food coloring
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Black gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times during this step.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake wells, dividing evenly and filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the tin; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, place butter and shortening in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 1-2 minutes, until very well-combined. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing very well between each addition. Add vanilla and heavy cream, beating for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed; if your frosting is too thick, add another 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream.

Divide frosting into three portions. Reserve 1 portion for white; using an offset spatula, frost the tops of each cupcake with a base of white.

Tint one portion colonial blue using royal blue and a very, very small amount of black. Tint the other portion red.

Fit two pastry bags with small star tips and pipe designs as you like. I chose the following:

  • Stars (top left and bottom ends in the photo above) – pipe a ring of blue around the edge of the cupcake, then fill in with red stars
  • Fireworks (center ends) – pipe red and blue stars with tails
  • Waves (top right) – pipe alternating red and blue waves
  • Flags (center) – pipe a patch of blue on the upper left-hand side, then add red stripes
  • Full coverage stars (bottom center) – pipe blue stars to totally cover the top of your cupcake, then add red star accents

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 12.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Filling

Today’s snickerdoodle sandwich cookies left me with about a cup and a half of vanilla cream filling, and I could think of nothing better to do with it than to pipe it into some dark chocolate cupcakes, Hostess-style. You remember the Hostess cupcake…dark chocolate cake, fluffy filling, waxy (in a good way) chocolate icing and that signature white loopy swirl. I actually preferred the orange version to the chocolate version, but both were quite a treat.

These cupcakes are a take on the classic store-bought version, minus the white loopy swirl (though I really want to do that next time). Mike proclaimed them better than the Hostess version, without intending any offense to the fine folks of Hostess, of course.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting. Make filling; reserve leftover portion for another use.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip with about 1 1/2 cups filling. Insert the tip into each cupcake, piping in filling until the top of the cupcake starts to puff up.

Prepare icing; using a teaspoon from your flatware, scoop about 1 teaspoon of filling onto each cupcake and quickly frost with a small offset spatula.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 15.

 

What to Do with Leftover Filling

Sometimes, you’ll have leftover filling from cookies or cakes. What should you do with your filling? In some cases – like that of lemon curd or dulce de leche – you can just eat it with a spoon. But what if your filling needs to be baked, or would be better put to use in another treat? As a super-thrifty baker, I always advocate repurposing your filling so you don’t waste ingredients or money, and I found one very simple way to do so.

Yesterday I made a big batch of pecan rugelach and had about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pecan filling left over (I didn’t measure it exactly). I decided to bake it into what I call crescent cupcakes, which are based on the Easy King Cake Cupcakes I made for Mardi Gras and are very easy to assemble. You may need more tubes of crescent rolls depending on how much filling you have left, but you can always bake any unused rolls as you would normally and serve them with dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 regular-sized tube PillsburyTM crescent rolls
  • Leftover filling (I had about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 4 cupcake liners into a cupcake pan.

Unroll the tube of crescent rolls and divide the roll into four rectangles. Press the perforated edges together to seal.

Divide your filling evenly between all four rectangles, leaving a border around the edges.Fold the top of the rectangle down toward the middle, then fold the bottom of the rectangle toward the middle, letting the dough overlap. Fold the right side in toward the middle, then the left side.

Place rolls spiral-side up in cupcake wells and bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from cupcake tin and cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze, combine powdered sugar and cinnamon (or whatever spice you like) in a small bowl. Add water 1/4 teaspoon at a time to reach a thick glazing consistency; you don’t want the glaze to drip down the sides. Glaze each treat and allow glaze to set before serving, or serve warm if you prefer.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days; after that, they get stale.

Makes 4.