Jelly Roll

Does the thought of flipping a delicate, just-baked cake onto a tea towel and rolling the cake in the tea towel terrify you? I’ve been there, man. How can it possibly work, right? Somehow, through baking magic (or chemistry, if you want to get technical) the cake remains intact, and you end up with a lovely spiral of cake to fill with your heart’s desire.

I used to think I couldn’t bake any type of roll cake, but one autumn I conquered this fear and made a pumpkin roll. I didn’t realize back then that you really should roll up your cake in as tight a spiral as you can possibly manage, because although they’re delicate, roll-type cakes are also quite flexible when prepared and baked correctly. This jelly roll is a classic confection based on a recipe I found at King Arthur Flour, featuring a vanilla foam cake (read: more eggs, less fat) and strawberry preserves, dusted with some powdered sugar. I do wish I’d rolled my spiral just a bit tighter once I filled it, and I already have a handful of ideas for future treats Stay tuned!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces strawberry preserves*
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

*You need a thicker fruit filling than jelly for a jelly roll, as it turns out. Jam and preserves are both good ideas, as are fillings like lemon curd, pastry cream, etc. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and lightly dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when you touch it. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away – I needed to use an offset spatula to prevent some of the cake from sticking to the parchment. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To fill, unroll the cake and spread with preserves; roll back up and place seam-side down on your cake plate, then dust with powdered sugar. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes about 9 servings.

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Victoria Sponge

What better way to celebrate the royal wedding than with a traditional English dessert? I’ve wanted to bake a Victoria sponge for a while now, and yesterday’s Harry-and-Meghan-extravaganza presented the perfect opportunity.

Victoria sponge, also called a Victoria sandwich or Victorian cake, was named for long-reigning British monarch Queen Victoria. This simple cake is an absolutely delicious treat; two layers of cake filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream. The cakes themselves are very easy to make, requiring only butter, sugar, eggs, self-rising flour, and baking powder; no extracts of any kind. You might wonder if they’ll turn out bland, but trust me, they don’t. The tart raspberry jam and sweet whipped cream go a long way to complement the cakes, which are a bit like pound cake. This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry’s Victoria sandwich from BBC Food; I measured all of my ingredients by weight for the cakes, rather than volume, to ensure that my ratios were correct.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 8 ounces superfine sugar*
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

*To make superfine sugar, place regular granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse to a fine consistency, like sand. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter, then line each with a circle of parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until combined; add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour and baking powder.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans, leveling the tops with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, then check to see if cakes are done; they will be golden brown on top, have pulled away from the sides of the pan, and will spring back when pressed lightly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes; run a butter knife around the edge of each cake and turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Once cakes are cool, place one layer on a cake plate (handling very gently using a large spatula – my cake cracked easily when I started to move it). Top with raspberry jam.

To prepare whipped cream, place cream and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip at high speed for a few minutes, until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip your cream, or you’ll end up with butter!

Drop whipped cream in dollops over the jam and gently spread to cover the whole surface. Top with remaining layer of cake; dust the top with powdered sugar if desired. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Most recipes note that Victoria sponge is best eaten within about 12 hours after it’s made.

Ruffle Cake

spring ruffle cakeThis adorable ruffle cake was inspired by the clear blue sky, green grass, and budding forsythia I noticed on my walk with Millie this afternoon. It’s a lovely spring day today, fitting for the day before Easter, and this little cake will make a nice addition to our Easter dinner tomorrow.

I watched several videos on ruffle piping before I tried this, including this great one from Cake Style. Although I definitely need more practice, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. You do need a good deal of frosting for this, and while you’ll probably have about a cup left over, it’s better to have too much than too little. You can always use the extra on a small batch of cupcakes, or for another future treat.

White Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with baking spray; line with parchment circles, and spray the parchment.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, shortening, and salt until fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; bake for about 20-22 minutes, until tops are golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Pastel Ruffle Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Blue, green, and yellow liquid food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add salt and beat another 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. Check your consistency;it should be fluffy, but not too thick or too thin. If you need to thin it, add 1 tablespoon milk and beat for another minute.

Divide frosting into three equal portions; tint each a pastel shade of blue, green, and yellow.

To frost your cake:

Trim each cake so you have flat surfaces; reserve your cake scraps for a little trifle or other snack.

Place the bottom layer of your cake on your platter and top with a medium-thin layer of yellow frosting.

Place the top layer on next and apply a thin layer of yellow for your crumb coat.

Fit a piping bag with a Wilton 104 petal tip and fill the bag with your blue frosting. With the larger end of the tip toward the cake and with your bag at about a 90-degree angle, begin to pipe ruffles from the center of the top of your cake outward. Continue with your blue frosting to cover the entire top of the cake, with one band of blue down the side.

Repeat with your green frosting, then your yellow frosting, covering the entire cake with ruffles.

Store at room temperature.

top of spring ruffle cakeHere’s a nice shot of the top of the cake. 

 

Rainbow Cake

rainbowI bake for many reasons. To create, and to experiment. To comfort, and to cheer. To celebrate, for sure; birthdays and holidays and important rites of passage.

Today, I celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a nationwide right. I celebrate dear friends, whose commitment inspire me. I celebrate equality, while also recognizing that we still have a long way to go in our country, to guarantee not only legal rights but tolerance and acceptance in the hearts and minds of all citizens.

This is, perhaps, my favorite cake I’ve ever baked. It takes quite some time and requires a great deal of patience, but like all good things, it is well worth it.

Ingredients

Rainbow Cake (also known as Marriage Equality Cake or Pride Cake)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet gel food coloring

Vanilla Almond Buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • dash of salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with baking spray; line each with a parchment circle and spray the parchment. Note: if you’re fortunate enough to have 6 pans, you don’t have to worry about doing this in three stages, like I did. If you only have 2 pans, you’ll need to follow the instructions below on baking, cleaning your pans, and re-lining them for each batch.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, shortening, and salt until fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just combined.

Set out 6 bowls; using your dry measuring cups, scoop 3/4 cup of batter into each bowl to divide batter evenly. Tint each portion a different rainbow color.

Pour red batter into one pan and orange into another; bake for 10-11 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately flip cakes onto a cooling rack. Wash pans and repeat the spraying, lining, filling, and baking process with your yellow and green layers, then again for your blue and violet layers.

Cool cakes completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place butter in a mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the salt, and beat for another minute.

Add powdered sugar all at once, then cover your mixer with a towel and beat on low speed until powdered sugar is completely incorporated into the butter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add vanilla and almond extracts; beat for another 2-3 minutes, until very fluffy.

If desired, reserve a small portion of the frosting to tint red; I piped a heart on the top of my cake, but you could cover it with sprinkles or leave it plain or frost it in whatever way you like.

To assemble, level out your layers if necessary; I trimmed mine just slightly to even them out. Begin with the violet layer; place it on your cake plate and cover the top with a thin layer of the buttercream. Repeat with the blue, green, yellow, orange, and red layers; frost the top, then the sides.

Store at room temperature.

Below are a few photos of the process; be ready to use lots of bowls and do several rounds of dishes!

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Butter Pecan Cake (& Cupcakes)

butterpecancakeMy mom, Genny, is not really a flowers-on-Mother’s-Day kind of mom. She’s more likely to plant a garden of flowers than to keep them in a vase on her table…and then mow the lawn, mulch the flower bed, and trim the hedges, all before noon. Her energy at the age of 68 far exceeds that of my energy at the age of 37. She is a force of nature, indeed.

Although Genny isn’t a big consumer of sweets, I suspect she’ll have at least a slice of this butter pecan cake, which I’ve made for her to celebrate Mother’s Day. This recipe strikes me as very Southern, or like something you’d find in the pages of Country Woman magazine – which is fitting because Genny grew up in what used to be a fairly rural part of Maryland and is now a much more populous community for commuters to Baltimore and DC.

This recipe makes quite a quantity, turning out one 8-inch round cake and 24 cupcakes. You could certainly make this as a three-layer cake, or as a two-layer cake with a dozen cupcakes, or just three dozen cupcakes. Whatever you decide, I’m sure your results will be tasty. Happy Mother’s Day!

Ingredients

For the butter pecans (make these first – you need them for both your cake and frosting)

  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter

For the cake (or cupcakes)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups butter pecans

For the frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter pecans, chopped to a finer consistency than what you’re using in the batter

Preparation

For the butter pecans:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, extending the foil over all four sides.

Place pecans and butter onto the baking sheet; bake for about 8-9 minutes, stirring frequently, until pecans are toasted and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them – pecans can burn easily after several minutes in the oven.

Remove pecans from the baking sheet and place on a platter to cool completely before using.

For the cake or cupcakes:

If you’re making a cake or cakes: grease and flour your baking pans or spray with baking spray. I lined the bottom of my baking pan with a circle of parchment as well.

If you’re making cupcakes: line cupcake pans with paper liners.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add flour mixture and milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in butter pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pans, or, for cupcakes, fill cupcake wells about 2/3 full.

Bake cakes for 25-30 minutes or cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool cake or cupcakes completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute.

Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated into the butter. I cover my mixer with a towel to prevent a sugar storm.

Add vanilla and beat until combined; check your consistency and if it is too thin, add another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Stir in butter pecans.

Frost cakes and cupcakes using an offset spatula. I used a 1-inch cookie scoop and dropped scoops of frosting onto each cupcake first, then used all of the leftover frosting on the cake. You wouldn’t want to try to pipe this frosting because of the pecan pieces, but the old-fashioned look of hand-frosted treats suits this recipe very well.

Orange Coffee Cake with Chocolate Streusel

orangeccOrange and chocolate are great friends. Both grow in tropical climates, and as always, I marvel at the creativity of the individual who once thought, “hmm, I like chocolate, and I like oranges…I wonder what would happen it I paired chocolate and orange together?” Brilliance, that’s what.

I adapted the recipe for this coffee cake from one in the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book, using orange zest instead of chopped peel and milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet.

The great thing is that once you zest your orange, you can use the juice from it in this recipe as well. You could probably do without the pecans if you wanted to, but they add a nice crunchy texture.

Ingredients

For the chocolate streusel

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the orange coffee cake

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Add butter and rub in with your hands until the mixture has a texture like coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Mix well, using your fingers to distribute the zest as evenly as you can.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sour cream, milk, orange juice, and vanilla and beat until well-combined.

Add flour mixture in several batches, beating until combined as you go. Continue beating for about 2 minutes until the mixture is smooth.

Pour half of the batter into your prepared pan. Top with half the streusel mixture and use the back of a spoon to gently press the streusel into the batter. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

This cake can be served warm, or at room temperature.

Roman’s Holy Communion Cake

communioncakeMy nephew Roman made his first Holy Communion yesterday, a huge rite of passage for young Catholic kids. When I was little, I remember “playing communion” with Nilla wafers, and I recall my own first communion very well. I have the dress and veil I wore in a cedar chest in my bedroom, along with other family heirloom garments like my grandmother’s wedding dress and my grandpap’s Navy sailor suit.

Roman requested a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for his communion celebration, and the look on his face when he first saw it was priceless. He got an enormous piece, of course.

I’ve made this cake in cupcake form before, and adapted the recipe for two 8-inch rounds here. This would also make at least 24 cupcakes, or a 9 x 13 sheet cake.

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream (for accents)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Scant 1 cup powdered sugar
  • About 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon

Preparation

For the cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment, and spray a second time.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Make three wells; place vinegar in one, vanilla in the second, and vegetable oil in the third. Add water and stir very well to combine; the batter will bubble up just slightly as the ingredients come together. Your batter will be fairly thin, but should be mostly lump-free.

Divide batter evenly between the pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake; the sides of these cakes set up pretty quickly and can burn if you let them go too long.

Remove cakes from oven and carefully run a knife around each edge to loosen them from their pans if they’ve stuck at all. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pans, then carefully flip out onto wire racks (removing the parchment for each cake bottom) to cool completely.

For the frostings

To make the chocolate buttercream frosting, in a large bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add salt and beat another 30 seconds.

Add powdered sugar and cocoa and beat on low speed to incorporate as much sugar into the butter as you can.  I cover my mixing bowl with a kitchen towel during this step to prevent a sugar storm.

Add three tablespoons milk and two teaspoons vanilla extract; beat for three minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the final teaspoon vanilla extract, then beat for another minute.

To make the vanilla buttercream frosting, in a medium bowl, sift powdered sugar and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add salt and beat another 30 seconds.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed to incorporate as much sugar into the butter as you can.

Add 1 tablespoon milk and the vanilla; beat for three minutes. Add remaining milk a half-tablespoon at a time to reach a consistency that can be easily piped.

To assemble and decorate

Flip one cake upside-down onto your cake plate; spread a medium-thin layer of frosting on top. Carefully place your second cake on top of the first layer and frost the top, then the sides.

Fit a piping bag with your desired tip; pipe decorations as you like. I decorated Roman’s cake pretty simply, with his name, a top border that looked a bit like rosary beads, and crosses on the sides.

RomanHCHere, Roman marvels at his cake (and did not lick it).