Citrus Pound Cake

citruspoundcakeI’m a fairly frugal baker, searching for uses for leftover ingredients whenever I can. I learned to make fudge with the leftover evaporated milk from my pumpkin pie recipe, various curds and pastry creams with the leftover yolks from my egg whites from white cake, and meringues from the leftover whites from those various curds and pastry creams. This week’s walnut torte left me with about two and a half tablespoons of orange zest, so I put some of it into orange shortbread cookies and used the remaining portion and juice for this pound cake.

Full disclosure, while this tastes delicious and its texture is exactly what I’d hoped for except for a few larger air holes (see the photo here), it’s not nearly as citrusy as I wanted it to be. Next time I make this – and there will absolutely be a next time – I’m going to include much more zest so the orange and lemon flavors really come through.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

For the orange glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice

Preparation

Let butter, eggs, and sour cream stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and lightly flour an 8x4x2 loaf pan.

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

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and continue beating on medium or medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 7 minutes, scraping your bowl a few times. Beat in zests and extracts to fully combine, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, along with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture and beat for 1 minute after each; scrape the bowl well before adding your next egg. Add remaining flour mixture and sour cream alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating after each until ingredients are just combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 30 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice. Add remaining juice about 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring to a pourable consistency. Pour over cooled cake; let set before serving. Store cake at room temperature in an airtight container or well wrapped in plastic wrap. Makes about 10 servings.

Walnut Torte

walnuttorteAre a torte and a cake the same? Sort of. Various sources on the internet report that tortes originated in central or eastern Europe; they are richer than a typical butter-and-flour-based cake, relying on ground nuts or breadcrumbs as a key ingredient. Some tortes are completely flourless, while others use just a small amount of flour.

This torte recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, that trusty volume tucked between a red and white plaid cover that my mom gave me more than 22 years ago. As with most BH&G recipes, this one turned out incredibly well – I delivered it to my dear friend Diana this morning and we had a slice together. The orange flavor really lifts the walnut, and the chocolate buttercream pairs beautifully with both. This is definitely a recipe I’ll make again.

Ingredients

For the torte

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups walnuts

For the buttercream

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • About 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the candied walnuts

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 8-inch baking tins. Combine flour, baking powder, and orange zest in a small bowl; set aside.

Place eggs and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add walnuts and process for about 1 minute, until nearly smooth. Add dry mixture and pulse to just combine.

Divide batter evenly between cake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool in tins about 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake bakes, make your candied walnuts: combine walnuts, sugar, and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar and butter caramelize and coat the walnuts. Pour onto a sheet of parchment and separate the nuts using two spatulas; allow to cool completely.

For buttercream, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until fully incorporated. Add vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon milk, beating on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add additional milk; you want a spreadable consistency, but the frosting shouldn’t be runny.

To frost, place one cake on your cake plate and cover with a layer of buttercream; top with the second cake and frost the top of that cake, leaving the sides bare. Place candied walnuts in the center. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes about 12 servings, depending on how big your slices are.

Campfire Cupcakes

campfire cupcakesDespite absolutely loving the woods, I’ve never been camping. Shocking? Perhaps. But seriously, I think I’d be more of a glamper than a camper, retreating to a cozy cabin for my woodland excursions. In any case, I absolutely love a campfire, and have wanted to make these campfire cupcakes for some time.

A word about the frosting: I cannot imagine how many calories or grams of sugar there are in this combination of butter, marshmallow fluff, and powdered sugar – so make sure you include the kosher salt. It’s not quite as sweet as you might imagine, especially when paired with the dark chocolate of these cupcakes.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 7 ounces marshmallow fluff
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Red, orange, and golden yellow food coloring
  • Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies, cut into small “logs”

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this makes 13 cupcakes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, scoop batter into cupcake wells, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from cupcake pans; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute, then add 1 cup powdered sugar. Beat until all of the sugar is incorporated, scrape down the bowl, and add the second cup powdered sugar. Beat again, then add marshmallow fluff and beat to combine. Add remaining powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and kosher salt and beat to completely combine.

Divide frosting into three portions and tint red, orange, and golden yellow. Place a piece of plastic wrap (about 20 inches long) on our counter; dollop yellow frosting in a straight line, then orange, then red so you have three parallel lines of frosting on your plastic wrap. Roll up and twist both ends, then snip off one end and insert it into an 18-inch piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M large open star tip. Pipe a few trial blobs to make sure all three colors come out at once.

Pipe flame-shaped blobs of frosting onto each cupcake and add three cookie “logs.” If desired, pipe a few more blobs of frosting to cover the ends of the logs. Store in an airtight container in the fridge; bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 13.

Woodland Creature Cupcakes

woodlandcupcakesI’m a year-round hiker, taking to the woods in all seasons. This past week Mike, Tucker, and I logged more than 10 miles on the trails at our local park. Today’s baking was inspired by the woodland creatures I love, but have never come upon while out on the trails. Granted, meeting a fox or hedgehog would be quite different than meeting a bear, but it’s still something I hope to experience someday.

Flavor-wise, these cupcakes are an orange-cinnamon combination based on my honey cupcake recipe, which originally calls for lemon zest instead of orange. I wanted a bright flavor profile for these treats, and that’s exactly what I got – a nice kick of citrus against the warmth of cinnamon, all in an adorable little cupcake.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the frosting and decoration

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Brown and orange food coloring
  • Mini and regular-sized chocolate chips
  • Candy eyes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch yielded 16 cupcakes when cups were filled about half to three-quarters full.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest, and beat until well combined, then add honey and beat until well combined.

With the mixer running on its lowest speed, gradually add flour until the mixture is just combined, then add milk and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl frequently to fully incorporate all ingredients.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake pans, filling about half to three-quarters full. Bake for at least 17 minutes, then check cupcakes for doneness; if cupcakes are not done, continue baking for 1-2 minutes and checking after each interval to be sure they don’t burn. My cupcakes baked for about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for just a moment in the pans, then cool completely on wire racks.

When cupcakes are cool, prepare the frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 1 minute, then add all the powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon and beat to combine.

Divide your frosting into three portions: leave one natural, then tint the other two brown and orange. To make my fox color, I combined some of the brown frosting with orange food coloring for an earthier tone.

Frost half of your cupcakes with a thin layer of the natural-colored frosting; these will be your hedgehogs and foxes.

To make hedgehogs, fit a piping bag with a Wilton 233 tip (the grass/fur tip) and pipe fur, leaving a heart-shaped area of the cupcake plain. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make foxes, fit a piping bag with a small star tip (I used Wilton 13) and pipe fur, leaving two patches of the cupcake plain for the fox’s cheeks. Switch to a leaf tip (I used Wilton 352) and pipe on ears. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make bears, take a small portion of the natural frosting and combine it with the brown frosting to make a lighter brown shade. Place it in a small piping bag and snip the end; reserve for the bear’s muzzles. Cover the entire cupcake with brown frosting, then pipe on the muzzle; add candy eyes, a chocolate chip for the nose, and chocolate chips for the bear’s ears. Use a sharp knife, pulling upward, to create the bear’s fur.

Frost the remaining cupcakes however you like, or just use the remaining natural frosting and leave them plain (which is what I did). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

Easter Blossom Cake

orangecake1It’s Easter Sunday, but it’s 35 degrees in Pittsburgh this morning. Spring is an unpredictable season here in western Pennsylvania – it could be 75 and beautiful or 28 and snowing, all in the span of a few days. Mother Nature will do what she likes, and we all have to just go with it.

I like to think Mother Nature would enjoy this cake, not only for its buttercream blossoms but also its flavors. The cake itself is orange, with vanilla buttercream and a mixed berry filling. I didn’t feel like making my filling from scratch, so I heated up about 1/2 cup mixed berry preserves, then combined about 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch with a few teaspoons of water to make a slurry. I stirred the slurry into the preserves and simmered it for about 8-10 minutes to thicken it, then cooled it in the fridge before using it.

Ingredients

For the cake

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

For the frosting, filling, and decoration

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Bonne Maman mixed berry preserves, thickened*
  • Pink, yellow, fuchsia, and green gel food coloring

*To use preserves as a cake filling, place 1/2 cup preserves in a small saucepan over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine about 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water to make a slurry, then stir into the preserves. Simmer until thickened – the mixture will reduce as it cooks. 

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, vanilla extract, and orange zest 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.

To make the frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and beat on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes. You want a spreadable consistency, but not so soft that your flower petals won’t hold their shape.

Place bottom layer of cake on your cake stand or plate and pipe a border just inside the edge of your cake; fill with thickened preserves. Top with the other cake and frost top and sides, covering with an even layer of frosting. Reserve a small portion of white frosting for flower details and another small portion for leaves; tint the remainder of your frosting to your desired shades and pipe flowers to create your design; I used roses, rosebuds, and five-petal flowers, then chilled them until they set before placing them on the cake. I then used two different sizes of closed-star tips to fill in the gaps with the other blooms and added leaves.

Store cake in an airtight container in the fridge; bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on your slice size.

Here’s an overhead view of the cake, for a complete view of the flowers:

orangecake2

Lamb Cupcakes

lambcupcakeWhile searching for spring cupcake ideas, I came across these adorable lambs on Eats Amazing, a food blog out of England with incredibly creative treat ideas. The original recipe called for a chocolate/coconut combination, using shredded coconut to make the fleece, but I decided to just go with frosting. They’re probably the most adorable cupcakes I’ve ever made.

My frosting is a basic vanilla almond buttercream, but you could experiment with other flavors if you like to complement the chocolate – using chocolate frosting would make adorable brown sheep, so I might do that next time. You could also just frost these cupcakes by hand and make little swirls with your spatula for a wooly look instead of piping, but I really like how these turned out with the star tip.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch made 15.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla and almond extracts, and vegetable oil into the separate wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, fill cupcake wells with batter – you want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For frosting, 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.

Fit a large piping bag with a large open star tip; I used the Wilton 6B. Pipe frosting on the top of each cupcake to make fleece. Place one chocolate wafer, flat side up, on each cupcake. Using a smaller piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or just snipped to allow for a small amount of frosting to come out), pipe dots on each wafer to hold the candy eyes, then add candy eyes. Cut remaining chocolate wafers into quarters and place two quarters on each cupcake for the lamb ears.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

Spring Flower Cupcakes

springflowercupcakesI had big cupcake decorating plans today. And then, facing down my batch, I just couldn’t do it. No flower nail, no multiple shades, no practicing blossoms with my flower tip. I took the easy road instead, using both my Wilton M1 and 4B tips to create something that might, very vaguely, look like flowers. Truth be told, the cupcake pictured here is the best-looking one of the bunch. The others, well…not so much.

Granted, I’m a much tougher judge of my own baking then others are, but I fear that taking these in to work might cause me to lose some of my baking cred, at least in the decoration department. There are yellow rose-like cupcakes too, along with moderately mum-type ones that have way too many leaves and probably look like a four-year-old piped them. Still, if it’s taste that counts, these do have great flavor…so I’ve got that going for me.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Yellow, pink, and green gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch made 15.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, fill cupcake wells with batter – you want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For frosting, 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.

Reserve a small portion of frosting for your leaves; tint the rest to your desired shade. I used yellow for about half the cupcakes, then mixed in some pale pink to create a light peach color for the rest. Fit a piping bag with your desired tip and pipe your desired shapes. Tint remaining frosting green and pipe on leaves using a small piping bag and leaf tip. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Marble Cake

marblecake (2)My dog licked this cake. Before you get out the torches and pitchforks and come after me shouting that chocolate isn’t safe for dogs, I assure you that I’m well aware, and no canines were harmed during the licking of this cake. It was unglazed at the time, meaning Tucker’s delinquent tongue connected with the vanilla exterior only. And yes, I cut the piece that he licked and tossed it in the trash, lest anyone end up like Lucy Van Pelt in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, proclaiming that her lips touched dog lips.

Anyway…marble cake is such a classic, but until yesterday I’d never made one from scratch before. I do remember the marble Duncan Hines cakes of my childhood, when on a very rare occasion (because neither she nor my dad ate chocolate) my mom would make them for my brother and me. This cake was easy to make, though I think I overbaked it just slightly – it was wonderful yesterday, but a bit on the dry side today. Next time, I’ll pull it just a few minutes earlier.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt tin. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir together milk and sour cream and set aside. In another medium bowl, stir together cocoa powder and oil and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, accompanied by 1 spoonful of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Once all eggs are added, alternatively add flour mixture and milk/sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour, until batter is smooth.

Remove 2 cups of vanilla batter and stir into the cocoa/oil mixture to combine completely. Spoon vanilla mixture into your Bundt tin and make a trough through the batter, then add your chocolate batter. Swirl with a knife or small spatula to marble, being careful not to over-mix so you don’t totally blend the two together. Alternatively, you could add vanilla and chocolate batter in layers (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla) and swirl them together, or dollop them in and swirl them – however you achieve your marble is fine with me.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa powder, then add vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Add additional milk to reach a drizzling consistency, then pour over the cake, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides.

Lemon Bundt Cake

lemonbundtcakeEarlier this week Mike needed lemon juice for something, so I zested the lemon and saved it for baking. I don’t like to waste ingredients, so I whipped up this lemon bundt cake, an easy recipe that yields a lovely treat. You’ll notice below that the recipe uses the zest from two lemons, but the juice from just one. You can always reserve lemon juice and use it for cooking or baking by storing it in the fridge for 2-3 days.

This recipe is adapted from my poppy seed cake, and next time I think I’ll toss in some poppy seeds for a classic lemon poppy combination. One thing I love about baking is that when you find a reliable recipe, you can adapt it however you like by adding different flavors. I plan to adapt this recipe many times in the future.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Zest from 2 medium lemons

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt tin.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, extracts, and lemon zest. Stir in flour in three batches, mixing to combine completely.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in tin for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice about 1 teaspoon at a time to reach a thicker pourable consistency. Pour over cake and allow to drip down the sides. Allow icing to set before serving.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; this cake stays moist much longer than I expected. Makes about 12 servings, depending on how generous you are with your portions.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

chocolatestrawberrycupcakePeople can go all out on Valentine’s Day, buying expensive chocolates, sparkling jewelry, and dozens of roses. But some of my favorite Valentine gifts have been hand-drawn or fashioned from construction paper by my nieces and nephews, requiring only creativity and some art supplies.

I’m also a fan of home-baked gifts for any occasion, and these chocolate strawberry cupcakes are an easy option for a Valentine’s Day treat. You just need cocoa powder for the cupcakes and could substitute strawberry jam for the fresh strawberry puree if that’s what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1/3 cup strawberry puree 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch made 13 cupcakes. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and strawberry puree to taste, beating to combine. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe generous swirls onto each cupcake. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes 12 or 13, depending on how full your cupcake wells are filled.