Ultimate Birthday Cake

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Remember that decadent dessert we promised? Well, here it is! We don’t really make big layer cakes all that frequently because when we do, we like to go all out. A few weeks ago, I ordered The Sweetapolita Bakebook, and the first time I flipped through the book, I almost passed over this cake. Based on the outside, I assumed it was simply a vanilla cake with sprinkle-filled vanilla icing; pretty, but nothing too special. However, having followed the Sweetapolita blog for a few years now, I should’ve known better. What really makes this cake fabulous is the filling. A portion of frosting is mixed with eggless sugar cookie dough cubes and sprinkles, and then crumbled colorful cupcakes are sprinkled between the layers.

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Man, is that filling fantastic. It’s such a fun surprise, and the sugar cookie dough bites are definitely the best ones! We’re definitely going to try the eggless cookie dough method for other cakes (chocolate chip cookie dough, anyone?).

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It’s also so fun to have the sprinkles stirred into the frosting. While it made it a little bit harder to frost the cake neatly, it was a really cool effect that I will definitely be using on other cakes in the future.

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We followed the recipe from the book exactly, and since it’s a brand-new book we have chosen against posting it here. You can find the recipe in the book, or find a 3-layer version of the recipe on Sweetapolita’s blog. It was one of our brother’s favorite cakes of all time, and I’m sure we will make it again for a special occasion.

Roasted Tomato, Kale and Feta Pizza

kalepizza1 Freshman year of college is officially over! We moved back home this Tuesday. It feels good to be home, but we’re going to miss school and our friends who live throughout the country this summer- it’s certainly an adjustment going from being surrounded by thousands of other people your age to being with your family again (wonderful people as they are!). One plus, though, is we will have time to get back to blogging. In honor of coming home, we made a very decadent cake this past Wednesday which we’ll be sharing soon, but first, something a bit healthier- kale pizza!

Even if you’re not a fan of kale, I would really encourage you to give it a try here. Anything is improved by cheese and carbs, right? Especially when the cheese is feta and the carb component is homemade pizza crust! Roasted tomatoes add a nice touch, as does the garlic oil that serves as the sauce base. As we approach summer and tomatoes get better, they’re best fresh, but the ones around here aren’t quite there yet and roasting brings out their flavor. Give this pizza a try!

P.S. We made an Instagram for our blog! Follow @weliketwocook if you’d like!

kalepizza2 Roasted Tomato, Kale and Feta Pizza

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes 1 medium-sized pizza

Ingredients

For the tomatoes:
4-5 medium tomatoes
Olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the pizza:
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 ball pizza dough
2 ounces mozzarella, shredded
3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Directions
For the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 300˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the tomatoes into slices that are about ½-inch thick.  Lay the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake 50-60 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through baking, until roasted and lightly browned.  Transfer tomatoes to a plate lined with paper towel and refrigerate for several hours until excess liquid is drained.
For the pizza:
In a small skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Warm over low heat for about 10-15 minutes and then remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the kale to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the leaves are wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the oven to 500˚ F and preheat a pizza stone for at least 30 minutes (the longer you heat your pizza stone, the better your crust will be!).  Roll out or press the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round.  Brush the dough with the garlic-red pepper oil.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the dough. Top with the wilted kale, roasted tomato slices, and feta.
Transfer the pizza to the preheated pizza stone and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 11-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then slice and serve. Enjoy!

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

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Two weeks from now, freshman year of college will be OVER. I feel really bittersweet about it; on one hand, it will be awesome to be done with academic work for three months, but this place has become a second home over the past eight months. I’ve made so many memories here, met tons of amazing people, and been able to experience a new (to me) city- Boston. I feel so lucky to be having such an incredible experience, and I am really excited for the next three years.

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One thing I’m looking forward to about being home this summer is getting to cook again! A couple of weeks ago I was able to make pancakes and cupcakes in a kitchen on campus with a couple of friends, but it’s definitely more difficult to find a way to cook and bake here. My plans for the summer include lots of salads and homemade ice cream!

These rice krispie treats are from Easter break, but they’d actually be super easy to make in a college kitchen. They’re a low maintenance and fun recipe- melt butter and marshmallows and stir cake mix into it before adding rice krispies and sprinkles. Cake mix in rice krispie treats may sound a little weird, but these are addictive and have a definite cake batter flavor. If you like funfetti, give this dessert a try!

Funfetti Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 (10 oz.) bag of marshmallows

2/3 cup boxed yellow cake mix

6 cups rice krispie cereal

1/2 cup sprinkles

Directions:

Spray a 11×7 baking pan with nonstick spray or coat it with butter. Put it aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until melted. Stir in the dry cake mix until combined. Remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in the cereal until it is evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in half of the sprinkles. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan and top with the remaining sprinkles. Let the rice krispie treats set, and then slice and enjoy!

Italian Chopped Salad

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It’s been so quiet around here lately, hasn’t it? Celine and I just got back from college Wednesday night after having been away since January. Perk of going to a Catholic college: you get a few days off from school around Easter! The last few months have been busy so it’s been great to be home- especially to use our kitchen. We’re in the baking club, but it doesn’t meet that frequently and it isn’t the same as when you’re in your own kitchen. The things I would do to have a kitchen in my dorm room!

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This salad was the first thing that we made when we got home. There’s something about dining hall food that leaves you craving a really great salad! This unique and delicious combination was just the thing. A combination of spinach and chopped romaine lettuce makes for the perfect base to load up with all the toppings: roasted red peppers, herbed and marinated chickpeas, sliced red onions, and shredded Gouda. A simple vinaigrette is just the right finish for this salad. Delicious as it is as written, I can also imagine that it would be good with mozzarella balls to replace the Gouda and some type of salami or other Italian meat added to it.

Italian Chopped Salad

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper

1 cup chickpeas

3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided

2 tsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ small red onion, thinly sliced

1½ tbsp. red wine vinegar

1½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 cups baby spinach leaves

3 cups chopped romaine lettuce

3 oz. Gouda, shredded

Directions

Preheat the broiler on high. Put the bell pepper on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil. Put the pan under the broiler and allow to cook for about 5-6 minutes or until the first side is completely blackened. Flip the pepper with tongs and continue to cook until the skin of the other side is also blackened. Remove and wrap in the foil you used to line the pan. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Once the pepper is cool enough to touch, peel away and discard the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Slice the pepper and set aside.

Combine the chickpeas in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to blend and evenly coat the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a small bowl with ice water and put the onions into the water. Let them soak for about 30 seconds, then drain and blot away excess liquid. This step will help remove the harshness of the onions.

In a liquid measuring cup, place the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegars; whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach and romaine. Add the majority of the dressing and toss well (add more if desired). Top with the sliced onion, red pepper, chickpeas, and Gouda. Serve and enjoy!

Our Favorite Recipes of 2014

It’s a few days late now, but Happy New Year! These are some of our favorite recipes that we made in 2014. Of course we made many more dishes that were not blogged about (or were blogged about in previous years), but of the ones we posted, these are the very best. We ended the year on a delicious note- our family hosted a New Year’s Eve party, and we had all kinds of delicious things like stuffed mushrooms, pimiento cheese dip, triple onion dip, hummus, ham and cheese sliders, Grandma pizza, blondies, chocolate cake with marshmallow buttercream, and confetti sprinkle cookies. As you can imagine, we spent many hours in the kitchen! It was mostly fun though (and some of those recipes would’ve made this list if we had blogged about them in 2014!).

Without further adieu, here are the best recipes of 2014 on We Like Two Cook (in no particular order)!

1. Chocolate Chip Waffles (with or without the toppings pictured)

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Waffles can sometimes be way too crunchy or soft and floppy. These waffles are perfect, in both texture and flavor, and are made even better with the addition of chocolate chips.

2. Broccoli Slaw

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I’m sure my Grandmom is happy to be reading this one! While I used to not be a huge fan of broccoli, I now really enjoy it when prepared well, especially in this delicious slaw. Crunchy, tangy, and fresh- what more could you ask for?

3. Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

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When we got Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, this ice cream (and the heavenly milk chocolate) was one of the first recipes we made. It’s truly fantastic, and has a nice tang from the buttermilk.

4. French Onion Toasts

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I love, love, love caramelized onions. They make pretty much any main dish better! I was bound to enjoy these French onion toasts, since they’re the goodness of caramelized onions on top of French bread and covered in melted Gruyere cheese.

5. Gooey Butter Cake

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This is one delicious dessert. It may be rich, but it’s worth every bite. A yeasted base is topped with a gooey, buttery (of course) topping that gets amazingly caramelized around the edges. Give it a try!

6. Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

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While in my opinion macaroni and cheese from a box is kind of gross, there is nothing better than a bowl of homemade mac and cheese. This one is particularly awesome- it has jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and roasted red peppers. Yum!

7. Funfetti Cupcakes

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Pretty much everyone’s favorite cupcake as a kid was funfetti, right? This homemade version of the boxed classic is spot-on. It’s fluffy, full of sprinkles, and has a tiny bit of almond extract to boost the flavor. Topped with whipped vanilla buttercream, it’s definitely one of my favorite cupcakes!

8. Vegetarian Pot Pies with Feta Scallion Biscuits

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Biscuits are one of my favorite things, so the addition of feta scallion biscuits (which are amazing on their own), makes the flavorful vegetable filling even better. Dare I say that these are even better than chicken pot pies?

9. Orange Ricotta Chocolate Chip Muffins

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These muffins are one of my very favorites ever; they’re soft thanks to the ricotta, and have the addition of orange zest and chocolate chips. I could eat way too many of them in one sitting!

10. Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

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Banana bread is one of the best breakfasts, in my opinion, so I loved these cupcakes. They’re moist and delicious on their own, and are made even better with a decadent Nutella buttercream.

 

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

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I know Christmas is over and most of you are probably no longer in Christmas baking mode, but I thought I’d share these cookies we made on Christmas Eve anyway just because they’re awesome! Snickerdoodles have always been one of my (Celine) favorite cookies. This eggnog-flavored version, which has nutmeg and rum extract to add an eggnog taste without ruining the texture by adding eggnog itself, is particularly fantastic and I know for sure I’ll be making these again! They are perfectly chewy and have just the right amount of eggnog flavor- they’re pretty addictive! These went over really well with all of our brothers. Happy Belated New Year’s- tomorrow we’ll be putting up a post with our favorite recipes of 2014!

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Makes 36

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups (398 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (3.3 oz.) all-vegetable shortening*

1 cup (210 g) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (110 g) packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

For rolling:
1/4 cup (56 g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Mix in eggs and then add vanilla and rum extract. With mixer running on low speed, slowly add flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Whisk together the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg for rolling in a small bowl. Scoop dough out 1 1/2 tablespoons at a time and shape into balls. Roll dough balls in sugar mixture. Bake dough balls on a sheet lined with parchment paper (place dough balls about 2 inches apart) in preheated oven 9 – 10 minutes (the cookies should appear slightly under-baked). Cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

*You can substitute butter for the shortening (which is what we did), but you should make sure to chill the dough for a couple hours if you’re making this substitution to ensure that your cookies don’t spread too much.

 

 

 

 

Kale Caesar Salad

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I first became acquainted with the world of kale raw, in salads, at an awesome place called Sweetgreen. The Kale Caesar salad is nothing short of amazing- creamy Caesar dressing, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmesan crisps, chopped tomatoes, chicken, and of course, kale. I could eat that salad any day! Leah and I recently recalled that we’d seen a delicious-looking kale Caesar salad on a blog a little while ago, so we decided to give it a try!

This salad, though different from the Sweetgreen one, is still great. The homemade dressing is very flavorful (however, you’ll probably want a breath mint afterwards, though that’s a small price to pay to get to enjoy the salad!), the kale is crisp and fresh, and the homemade croutons and freshly grated Parmesan round the salad out well. You could also top yours with chicken, tomatoes (when they are in season), or whatever else you’d like, but this salad is also just wonderful the way it is- a simple Caesar salad!

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Kale Caesar Salad

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Serves 2-3 generously, 4-5 as an appetizer

Ingredients

For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
3-4 anchovy fillets
2½ tablespoons mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the salad:
1 bunch curly kale, about 8-12 ounces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Croutons (definitely worth the effort to make instead of buying them! They’re addictive!)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

For the dressing:

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Blot any excess oil from the anchovies, then smash repeatedly with the tines of a fork or the back of a knife until a paste has formed.  Add them to the olive oil-lemon juice mixture.  Add the mayonnaise and whisk the dressing briskly until a smooth emulsion has formed.  Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.  Stir in the grated Parmesan. Taste to check seasonings.

Rinse and towel dry the kale leaves.  Remove and discard the ribs from the leaves, and tear the curly green leaf portions into bite size pieces.  Add the kale to a large salad bowl with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and toss briefly.  Massage the kale leaves for a few minutes until the leaves have become shiny and turn a deeper green color, about 2-3 minutes (this will tenderize them since the leaves are not being cooked. I know it seems a little weird, but it works!).  Add croutons to the salad.  Drizzle about half of the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat.  Taste and add additional dressing as needed.  Top with remaining grated Parmesan and serve. Enjoy!

Crackers topped with Brie and Blackberry Compote

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It’s only fairly recently that I (Leah) discovered that I actually like brie, especially brie and fruit (probably thanks to these sandwiches). Since I’m not a huge fan of cheese, I kind of turned my nose up at cheese paired with fruit when I was little. However, I have luckily realized that creamy, slightly salty brie is a perfect pairing with sweet fruits.

If you’re lucking for an easy appetizer to serve on Christmas, look no further! The blackberry compote takes under 10 minutes and then people can serve themselves; put out a plate of crackers, a wedge of brie, and a bowl of compote, and your appetizer is ready. This would also be excellent hot, as the original source shows, so I will be sure to try that next- I’m sure it would be fantastic!

Merry Christmas, and we will be back soon with more recipes!

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Crackers topped with Brie and Blackberry Compote

Blackberry Compote adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Serves a variable number

Ingredients:

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2¼ teaspoons lemon juice

6 ounces blackberries, divided

1/8 teaspoon or less dried thyme

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Brie

Crackers (we used pita crackers from Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

Cook the water, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat in a small pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then boil the mixture until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.

Place one cup of the blackberries and the syrup into a blender and allow to pulverize until smooth. Strain the seeds if you wish. Add the rest of the blackberries.

Glazed Cranberry Lemon Cake

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It feels so good to be home for Christmas! Getting back into the kitchen has been one of the best parts (and just being home in general!). Leah and I got home pretty late Wednesday night, and Thursday we looked around the kitchen to see what we had and noticed there was a bag of cranberries in the fridge. Conveniently, earlier in the week we had both spotted this awesome-looking cranberry lemon upside down cake on a blog we read and we decided to give it a try. Bundt cakes are delicious, but usually there’s only so much you can do with them in terms of making them look pretty. This cake, though, has the jewel-like layer of cranberries on top, which makes it very festive- perfect for any Christmas gathering!

The cake itself is a simple lemon buttermilk cake that is fast to whip up. You layer cranberries in the bottom of the pan with brown sugar and then pour the batter on top so that the cranberries are visible when you invert the cake. A quick lemon glaze tops it off and it’s ready for serving! We all loved this cake and it’s sure to become a Christmas favorite for years to come!

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Glazed Cranberry Lemon Cake

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes 1 Bundt Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

12 tablespoons (6 oz.) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups granulated sugar

Zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

¾ cup buttermilk

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease a Bundt pan with butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan in an even layer, then layer the cranberries over the sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the granulated sugar with the lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips to infuse the sugar with the lemon fragrance. Add the butter to the bowl with the lemon sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed.

In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan over the cranberries.

Bake about 50-55 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set (a tester inserted in the center should come out free of crumbs). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, remove the pan and let cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with 1½ tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

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Happy belated Thanksgiving! It’s been so long since we’ve published a blog post here. Since we left for college, we sadly have not had access to a kitchen (I can’t wait to be an upperclassmen when I have a kitchen in my dorm!). College has been going really well, but it was wonderful going home for Thanksgiving and getting back into the kitchen for a bit. We made some of our favorite things- lots of salad, these awesome pizzas from Smitten Kitchen, chocolate chip cookies, apple cake, French onion soup grilled cheeses, and more.

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Amongst the “more” is this cake, which we made in honor of our birthday/our Dad’s birthday (both of which happened while we were away at school). It’s two layers of pumpkin cake with a layer of dark chocolate cake, chocolate chip cream cheese filling, and dark chocolate frosting. It was also supposed to have a layer of caramel, but unfortunately we had to eyeball the temperature we were supposed to cook it to since our thermometer broke and miscalculated a bit, so our caramel seized up. Oh well! The cake was still fantastic without it, and very decadent (although I’m sure the caramel wouldn’t be an unwelcome addition!). The frosting is really reminiscent of fudge sauce, but thicker. This was definitely a nice treat to have at the beginning of break! We will be cooking up a storm throughout December/January when we go home for break, so there will hopefully be more blog posts coming during that time.

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Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake
 Recipe from Sweetapolita

Makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate cake layer:
3/4 cup (80 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup hot coffee
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the pumpkin cake layers:
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1//2 cup (120 g) packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
For the salted caramel sauce:
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Large pinch of sea salt
For the chocolate chip cream cheese filling:
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (190 g) powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, cut into cubes, softened
3/4 cup (120 g) mini chocolate chips
For the dark chocolate frosting:
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
1 1/4 cups (150 g) dark cocoa powder, sifted
Large pinch of salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

For the chocolate cake layer:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round. Into a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, ,coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until smoothly combined, for about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the spiced pumpkin cake layers:
Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add oil and vanilla and  beat for 30 seconds on medium. Add pumpkin and mix for 30 seconds more.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and add to the pumpkin mixture on the lowest speed.
Divide batter between prepared pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack to let them cool fully.
For the salted caramel:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
Stop stirring and let the mixture cook until it turns amber, about 8 minutes. Quickly remove the saucepan from the heat and add the heavy cream and butter (the mixture will bubble/steam). Return the pan to medium-high heat, and using a candy thermometer, cook until the caramel reaches 248°F.
Transfer the caramel to a heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
For the chocolate chip cream cheese filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 6 more minutes until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese and beat for 1 more minute. Stir in the chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
For the dark chocolate frosting:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. The mixture will be thick and grainy.
Whisk in the heavy cream and sour cream. Heat until hot to the touch and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer frosting to a heatproof bowl and let cool. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 3 hours.
Assembly:
On a cake board or plate, place one of the layers of pumpkin cake. Spread half of the cream cheese filling across it, and then top with half of the caramel (leaving 2 inches around the perimeter of the cake for the frosting to spread). Place chocolate cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of the filling and caramel. Top with a layer of the pumpkin cake. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.
Frost entire outside of cake with the frosting, using a thin layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, and repeat with another layer of frosting. If desired, use a piping bag to decorate the cake and a pastry comb around the sides of the cake. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Keep the cake refrigerated if not using immediately  (let refrigerated cake sit for 2 hours before serving). Serve and enjoy!