Berry-topped Buttermilk Cake

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Ever since we made a wedding cake last summer, we’ve been meaning to blog about the buttermilk cake recipe we used. It’s by far our favorite cake recipe, not only because it is superbly delicious (because it really is!), but also because it holds up well to frostings and fillings and slices like a dream. It’s become our go-to vanilla cake recipe and I can’t imagine switching to another one.

It has a rich flavor from the buttermilk and vanilla, and a tender crumb thanks to the cake flour, and it has always turned out perfectly. We made it recently for our brothers’ graduation party (see the pie we also made), and thanks to our parents’ wedding anniversary this past week, we had another opportunity to make it. Our family just moved, and this is also the first cake we baked in our new house! Although finding all the measuring tools and ingredients was a bit of a struggle, we are happy to say that our new oven is more than up to the task of cake baking.

We have typically frosted this cake with Swiss meringue buttercream, but this time around we wanted to save the hassle of separating eggs and instead make a more standard American buttercream. Smitten Kitchen recently posted a classic buttercream, but brilliantly added sour cream, which imparts a richness to the frosting and a very subtle tang to cut the sweetness. You can’t taste the sour cream itself, but it really adds a special something to the frosting. We topped the whole cake off with berries (inspired by this pic on Bouchon Bakery’s Instagram), which were a phenomenal addition. We especially love strawberries with this buttermilk cake (which is the pairing we made for the wedding) and next time we’ll probably slice some to go in between the layers. Do yourself a favor and make this cake before the end of the summer, while berries are sill in season!

Buttermilk Cake with Buttercream and Berries

Cake recipe and frosting from the always fantastic Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 3-layer, 8 or 9 inch cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

2 cups (455 grams or 16 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature                                         7 1/2 cups (just under 2 lbs.) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy                                                        1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream, plus more if needed                                                                            1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Plus…a variety of fresh berries to top (we used strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. But raspberries would also be great!). You can also add some between cake layers. Make sure your cake is well-chilled before serving if you do add fruit between the layers, to ensure stability.

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat your oven to 325. Butter 3 9-inch round cake pans (we used 8-inch pans and had no problems with them spilling over, though they were a little thicker and took slightly longer to bake). Line the bottom of the pans with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper, too. Dust the pans with flour.

In a large bowl, combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend for 30 seconds with an electric mixer on low speed (you can use a stand or handheld mixer for this cake). Add butter and 1 1/4 cups of the buttermilk. Blend on low speed until combined, and then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk until well blended (we recommend beating well to remove any strands of egg whites, because these can be a pain to fold in at the end and you don’t want to overmix the batter).

Add 1/3 of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, and fold in with a spatula completely after adding each addition.

Divide batter between pans evenly–we’ve found that pushing the batter towards the edge so there’s less in the middle will prevent the cakes from doming too much and result in nice and level cakes. Bake 26-28 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Turn out cakes onto wire racks and let them cool completely before frosting. Level if necessary.

For the frosting:

Beat together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat again. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon or two of sour cream to soften the frosting. Frost the cake and top with berries. This frosting gets soft somewhat quickly, so if you’re piping, we’d suggest periodically putting your piping bag in the fridge. Also, because of the sour cream, make sure you store this cake in the fridge up until shortly before serving. Enjoy!

Chocolate Silk Pie

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Dusting off the blog again…there, that’s better! We didn’t mean to go a month without posting, but it’s inevitable when your brothers graduate high school and then the rest of your family moves an hour and a half away (we’re staying in our area for now to work, but we’ll join them in mid-August before we head back to school). All of this chaos has meant less time for cooking new things, but we still made time for some special baking. We served this chocolate silk pie (along with a buttermilk cake with Swiss meringue buttercream and lemon curd) at our brothers’ graduation party, and every last crumb was enjoyed!

This delightfully decadent pie starts off with a simple Oreo crumb crust, and filled with a slightly less simple but very delicious chocolate silk filling. It’s topped off with a generous layer of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings. The filling is so rich and smooth, and goes excellently with the contrasting crunchy crust and ethereally light whipped cream. Another bonus is that, unlike with many chocolate silk fillings, the eggs are cooked so it’s safe for everyone to enjoy. We recommend making the crust and filling the day before, chilling the pie well overnight, and then topping with whipped cream just before serving. The pie is great straight out of the fridge but also can be brought closer to room temperature before serving.

Happy 4th of July!! We hope you’re enjoying a pie this good today to celebrate.

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Chocolate Silk Pie

Makes 1 9-inch pie (serving 8-10)

Crust from The Pioneer Woman, chocolate filling from Annie’s Eats (originally Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

For the crust:

25 whole Oreos (no need to remove the filling!)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

3 large eggs

¾ cup sugar

2 tbsp. water

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces

For topping:

Lightly sweetened whipped cream (we beat about a 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a mixer with a spoonful of sugar until fluffy, and it was just right. But sweeten to taste!)

Semisweet chocolate, for shaving

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Crush the Oreos finely (a food processor works well here, or the old-fashioned Ziploc bag and rolling pin trick). Pour in melted butter and combine. Press into a pie pan and bake for 5-7 minutes until set. Let cool fully.

For the filling, add the cream to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.

Rig together a makeshift double boiler but placing a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the bowl (this will cook the eggs too quickly and cause them to scramble). Combine the eggs, sugar, and water in the bowl and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until the mixture has thickened and reaches 160˚ F on an instant read thermometer, about 7-10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and from the heat and beat 6-8 minutes more, until the mixture is fluffy and cooled to room temperature.

Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla until well blended. Then, beat in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until well blended. Gently fold in the chilled whipped cream until the mixture is streak-free. Spread the filling into the cooled crust and chill the pie for at least 3 hours until set (we refrigerated it overnight).

When ready to serve, top with a generous layer of whipped cream. Grate some chocolate over the pie using a microplane zester. Slice and serve. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Lemon Bars

imageYou may have noticed before that we love the raspberry and lemon combination! Maybe it’s partially the fact that maroon and gold are our school colors, but the delicious sweet, tart, fresh taste is probably what keeps us coming back. These bars in particular are probably one of our all-time favorite desserts. The filling is similar to that of a key lime pie, but with lemon juice instead. The addition of fresh raspberries (and a thick, buttery graham cracker crust, of course) take these bars over the top. It’s hard to have any self control around these sweet-and-sour bars, and if you try them, you’ll see why. We know this is going to be one of those recipes that we make for years to come!

Raspberry Lemon Bars

Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients

For the crust
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon

For the filling:

2 large egg yolks
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 ounces fresh raspberries
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 in. pan with parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes (until very lightly browned). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and zest; as you stir, the mixture will thicken a bit. Gently fold in the raspberries, trying to keep them mostly intact.

Pour the lemon raspberry mixture over the graham cracker crust. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until just set.

Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least an hour and slice into bars. Enjoy!

 

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Avocado, Corn, and Tomato

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We’re home for the summer and back in the kitchen! This semester went by far too quickly…it’s so strange to think that we began this blog at the onset of our junior year of high school, and now we’ll be college juniors in the fall. We’re approaching our 4-year blog anniversary (we need to bake something special to celebrate that!).

One significant feature of this semester was finishing up our second required year in a foreign language- we both chose Spanish. Fortunately for us, our experience of Latino cultures is hopefully just beginning. I (Celine) will be traveling to southern Mexico next winter for an immersion trip and will likely get to practice my (admittedly very choppy) language skills. More accessibly, there are so many fantastic restaurants across the country, too, as a product of the  increasing incorporation of Latino food into American cuisine. Luckily for us, there’s a pretty good Mexican restaurant right near campus, with a multitude of offerings, from burritos to horchata to salsa verde enchiladas. I spent a bit too much money there this year, but it’s hard to resist!

After developing a fixation on Israeli/Mediterranean cuisine following our trip to Israel over spring break, we seem to have transitioned to Mexican since we got home for the summer. These tacos are in the lineup. They couldn’t be easier, nor more delicious! Shrimp is sauteed with pureed chipotle in adobo sauce, diced, and mixed with avocado (always, always a good choice!), corn, and tomatoes. This fabulous mixture is piled onto a tortilla with some greens and a drizzle of lime crema. These went over very well with our family, and we already are looking forward to round two ASAP!

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Avocado, Corn, and Tomato

Serves about 6

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1½ cups corn (kernels cut from the cob or thawed frozen kernels both work)
  • 2 avocados, pitted and diced into medium-sized cubes
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage (we used an un-sauced cole slaw mix from Trader Joe’s and it worked well)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced baby spinach leaves
  • 1½ tbsp. olive oil
  • Corn tortillas
  • ½ cup sour cream+a squeeze of lime juice, for serving (just combine the two in a small bowl)

Directions

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl. Add the chipotles in adobo to a small bowl and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth (you can add a little water to make this go easily, though it’s ok if it’s not completely smooth). Add 2-3 tablespoons of the chipotle puree to the bowl with the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and toss until the sauce is distributed evenly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn, avocado, cilantro, and lime juice. Season  to taste with salt and pepper and toss to combine (be careful not to crush the avocado!). In a small bowl, combine the cabbage and spinach, and combine.

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer and cook, turning once,  until opaque and cooked through, a couple of minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and let cool for a couple minutes before chopping coarsely and adding to the bowl with the corn and tomato mixture. Fold in with a light hand until thoroughly combined. Assemble tacos with corn tortillas, the cabbage mixture, and the shrimp mixture. Drizzle with the sour cream/lime juice mix and serve. Enjoy!

 

Shakshuka

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(iPhone shot from our Instagram. Characteristically, I accidentally left my real camera at school over Easter break!)

Long time, no post! Despite the radio silence here over the last few months, we’ve still been enjoying great food and cooking whenever we get the chance (which, since we live in dorms without kitchens at school, isn’t too often).

Over spring break we had the opportunity to visit Israel with a group of students and a couple of professors from our college. Everything about the trip was fabulous, but as expected, the food was a definite highlight. The pita bread here just doesn’t compare- even the homemade ones we’ve made in the past (😢). We left with a lot of recipe inspiration, and when we were home for a couple of days around Easter we decided to flip through the wonderful cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi.

This popular Israeli dish, shakshuka,  has been on our radar for a while- and not just because it has a ridiculously fun-to-say name! We weren’t able to try it while we were in Israel, so upon our return home we decided to put it on the menu.

What a dish! You might think it’s a little weird to poach eggs in a thick, flavorful tomato sauce, but trust us- this meal is pretty awesome. Shakshuka has it all, with creamy, spicy, salty, rich, bright flavors in every bite. Served on challah toast with a side of cucumber/tomato salad with some fresh feta and a dollop of Greek yogurt, it’s the perfect unique meal that is sure to wow everyone who tries it!

Shakshuka

From Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil                                                                                                                                                     2 tbsp Pilpelchuma harissa paste (check the foreign foods aisle of your grocery store)
2 tsp tomato paste
2 large red peppers, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
800 g canned tomatoes, gdrained
4 medium free-range eggs plus 4 egg yolks (or, use 6 whole eggs)                                           Feta cheese and chopped parsley, to top
120g Labneh or Greek Yogurt
Salt

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the peppers soften, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. Check to be sure that it is seasoned to your liking.

 

Make wells in the sauce to hold the eggs. Break them and put them into each well. Swirl the egg white with the sauce a bit. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes; the whites should be set but the yolks should still be runny. Covering the skillet while cooking with speed up the process a bit.

Remove from the heat and top with the feta and parsley. Serve with challah toast and spoonfuls of the yogurt or Labneh. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Caprese Skewers with Garlic Crostini

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Happy New Year! We hope that everyone had a great 2015 and is looking forward to the new opportunities and adventures of 2016!

While neither of us are the most ardent New Year’s resolution-ers, we always have the goal of eating more mindfully, particularly fresh food (sometimes this goal is achieved better than at other times!). Since this is a pretty common resolution, what better way to start off the year on our blog than with a plate of caprese skewers? These were truly fantastic, especially when served with crisp, garlicky crostini and a hearty drizzle of balsamic reduction and olive oil. While this plate is rather summery, cherry tomatoes are wonderful year-round and fresh food seems to taste extra good after the many indulgences of the holidays. They couldn’t be simpler, either. These would make for a lovely appetizer at a party, but they’re equally great as a light lunch!

P.S. Still no functioning camera, so this picture is, again, from our Instagram.

Caprese Skewers with Garlic Crostini

Recipe for the crostini from Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead

Ingredients

1 loaf of baguette

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

Cherry tomatoes

Mozzarella balls

Fresh basil leaves

Balsamic vinegar

Directions

For the balsamic reduction, pour in your desired amount of balsamic vinegar (keeping in mind you’ll be reducing it) and simmer over medium heat until it’s thickened and reduced to about half. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the baguette into slices on the diagonal and place on a baking sheet. You’ll get 20-25 slices. Brush lightly with olive oil and top with a sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bread has crisped slightly. Rub the tops of the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.

Skewer the tomatoes and mozzarella balls on a toothpick. Nestle with a leaf of basil, skewering one end of the leaf. Top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Serve the skewers drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, with the crostini aside (we made little open-faced sandwiches as we ate, which worked out well). Enjoy!

Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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(Please excuse the picture quality! My beloved camera’s memory card slot is sadly broken, so in the meantime while I decide to fix/replace it, I’m just using my phone. This pic is from our Instagram account.)

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Leah and I are home from school after a busy and productive semester. We are thrilled to be back in the kitchen and are also enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. The Environmental Studies major in me cringes a little, but boy, is it nice! A couple days after we both got home we wanted to bake something both pretty and delicious to usher in the Christmas spirit  (something that tends to be a little lacking after a stressful week of final exams and papers).

These cupcakes were just the thing! A tender spice cake, infused with the pleasant flavor of apple cider, is topped off with a decadent swirl of brown butter cream cheese frosting. We also opted to make the recommended sparkly sugared cranberries as a fun and delicious decoration. The entire family (with the exception of persnickety Henry, who does not enjoy cream cheese frosting) loved these. I think they’d be great to bring to a New Year’s party, particularly because of the wonderfully sparkly berries,  but they’d be undoubtedly welcome at any holiday table.

Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

2 cups apple cider

3 large eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup all-purpose flour (114 grams)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/3 cup (65 grams) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons water

For the frosting:

½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces (227 grams) cold cream cheese

1 cup (126 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Sugared cranberries

Directions

First, reduce the cider (this will take about a half hour, so plan ahead). Pour the cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and let cook down until about 2 tablespoons remain. Stir frequently towards the end so that the syrup does not burn. Set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip on low speed until the whites get foamy, and then increase the speed to medium/high and whip until medium peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside. In the now empty mixer bowl combine the egg yolks, oil and sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in the water and cider reduction and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low speed, stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites a third at a time with a spatula until fully incorporated into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling each well about 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake until golden brown and set, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They should take 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes after the butter is fully melted. Pour the brown butter into a bowl (quickly, because it goes from brown to burnt pretty quickly) and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cooled brown butter and the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt and beat for another minute or two. Add in the cream and whip on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost the cooled cupcakes. Top with sugared cranberries as desired. Enjoy!!

We Made a Wedding Cake!

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Say hello to our biggest baking project so far! Our dad referred to it as our magnum opus. About a month ago, some family friends approached us to see if we’d be interested in making their wedding cake. We jumped at the opportunity- even though we probably should’ve considered the amount of work involved first! While we don’t have a ton of along-the-way photos, we thought we’d outline the process a bit for anyone who is interested! Warning- this is a long post!

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Here are a few details to set the stage: the cake was to serve about 150 people, the venue was a little over an hour from our house, and the bride and groom wanted a more rustic-looking naked cake (a style we hadn’t tried before). Definitely a daunting task, but we have baked a lot of layer cakes and have plenty of cookbooks and bookmarked blog posts that outline the process, so we knew we were up to the challenge. Design-wise, we ended up doing a 3-tiered cake: 6″, 9″, and 12″ tiers, 3 layers each. This was a pretty good size, and according to a couple of sources we used in our research, a cake that size feeds about 65-75 people. Since the wedding had 150 guests, we ended up doing around 100 cupcakes as well. The cupcakes were awesome for a few reasons: they looked really nice arranged around the cake, they allowed us to make a variety of flavors, and it was much easier than trying to make a super-huge cake.

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Making a tiered cake wasn’t MUCH harder than making a normal layer cake. We used dowel rods that were trimmed to the height of each tier as a support structure and had cardboard cake boards between each tier as well. We used the Sweetapolita Bakebook and Smitten Kitchen as some great sources on assembling wedding cakes (this page on America’s Test Kitchen was helpful as well). We also watched lots and lots of YouTube videos on making a naked wedding cake. For details on making the cake design as well, this post from the 100 Layer Cake blog was AWESOME! We used their frosting design for the top of each tier, and it was beautiful. One thing we would do differently in the future is make sure the tiers themselves were a little more level, as the cake itself tilted just a bit.

The cake itself was this absolutely amazing vanilla buttermilk cake from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. This will definitely become our go-to vanilla cake from now on (bonus: we now have it memorized!). One batch of the cake batter as posted on Smitten Kitchen made either 3 9-inch layers or 1 12-inch layer and 1 6-inch layer. So, for our cake, four batches of batter made all of the layers. The frosting on the cake was luscious vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream from Annie’s Eats, originally from Martha Stewart. To fill between the layers of the cake, we needed three batches of the buttercream. Between the cake layers as well was strawberry jam  and freshly sliced strawberries. It was a delicious combination!

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(Please ignore the fact that this picture is from Snapchat- it’s the only picture we took of the inside!)

Making a naked cake had some different challenges than a classic cake. For a start, we had to make sure as little cake stuck in the pan as possible. While ours still weren’t perfect, we found that plain old butter and flour and a parchment circle worked best! Keeping the cakes as evenly brown and level as possible is optimal as well. One big plus to the design is that you have to make a LOT less frosting, and when you’re transporting the cakes, you don’t have to worry about the sides getting a little bit bumped.

We ended up making three kinds of cupcakes, about 35 of each. The first flavor was chocolate cupcakes with nutella buttercream and chopped roasted hazelnuts. SO good and probably our favorite of the three.

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Next up was funfetti cupcakes with strawberry icing. For the frosting on those, we beat some of the strawberry jam and a few drops of food coloring into vanilla buttercream, but we prefer this strawberry icing and would recommend that instead (even though the strawberry frosting we made was still pretty good!).

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Our final flavor was carrot cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (the cream cheese frosting is the bomb!). When using that carrot cupcake recipe, be extra careful not to overfill or the batter tends to spread and get stuck to the pan.  Some carrot cakes include pineapple and/or raisins and nuts, but this particular recipe is classic and simple (not to mention moist and delicious!), which is great for a wedding.

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All of the cupcakes were super delicious! One other thing to note about the cupcakes- we made them all a couple of days in advance and froze them, just so we wouldn’t be going completely crazy the night before! We wrapped 12 cupcakes at a time in plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and then put them in a plastic freezer bag. When thawing them, we removed them from the packaging to prevent condensation. This method worked really well, and the cupcakes were just as tasty coming out of the freezer as going in!

As far as packaging and assembly, we frosted all the cupcakes and put them into boxes the night before (minus the carrot ones- since they had cream cheese frosting, we did them the morning of the wedding). We kept the cake tiers separated until we arrived at the venue. We filled and frosted them the night before and kept them in the fridge overnight to keep them fresh and well-chilled. We brought extra frosting, an offset spatula, piping bags and tips, flowers, more strawberries for decorating, scissors, non-melting powdered sugar and a sifter (the couple wanted the cake dusted with powdered sugar, and this kind doesn’t melt into the cake after a few hours-really important since we were setting up the cake several hours in advance), spatulas to help move the cake layers, a serrated knife and cutting board, and paper towels with us. We wanted to be well-prepared, and I definitely think we were (we didn’t end up even using a lot of it!!). Once we arrived (in a very well- air conditioned car), we stacked the tiers, filled the small cracks between each tier with extra frosting, and then arranged fresh flowers and strawberries on the cake (as well as putting the couple’s adorable deer toppers on the 6″ tier).

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We arranged the cupcakes around the cake and finally were done! What a cool experience. A lot of work and cake batter, but awesome nonetheless. Would we do it again? Yes! Definitely not anytime soon, but having the honor of baking a cake for someone’s wedding is a really amazing. Plus, our parents were at the wedding, and they heard nothing but good things about the cake. Most importantly- the bride and groom were happy with the results!

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Our mom snapped this pic at the reception- the lighting became so pretty as the sun set!

 

Italian Hoagies

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An Italian hoagie, as we call such a sandwich in our area, is one of our favorite sandwiches of all time, when done right. You have chewy and delicious bread, a great place to start for any sandwich, topped with flavorful meats, provolone cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato and red onion. The whole thing is capped off with some red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little oregano. Over the years, we’ve had some really great ones. The first time we realized how much we liked them was years ago after our cousin’s baptism in Staten Island, NY, where an insanely delicious Italian hoagie was served. I have no idea where it was from, but boy, was it good.

Where we live in suburbia good hoagies are difficult to come by (Wawa’s don’t count) so we’ve made our own over the past few years. The key is to use high-quality meat and cheese as well as excellent bread (ours was from La Baguette Magique) and you really cannot go wrong. Unless you’re A) vegetarian or B) missing several wisdom teeth following surgery this past Monday and cannot bear the thought of eating a chewy hoagie right now. But otherwise, this will not disappoint!

Italian Hoagie

Serves 4 generously

Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients

12-inch loaf of Italian bread (or French baguette, which is what we used)

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 lb. sliced provolone

1/4 lb. sliced Genoa salami

1/4 lb. sliced ham (not smoked)

1/4 lb. sliced mortadella

1/4 lb. sliced capicola

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finally shredded

1/4-1/2 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini (this is optional- we omitted this time but they do add a nice spice and tang)

3 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly

1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced (let soak in cold water for 15 minutes to reduce their bite)

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Directions

Split bread lengthwise and remove some of it from the inside. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons each of the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Layer cheese and meat on the bottom half of the bread. Drain onion and pat dry; top the meat with onion, lettuce, pepperoncini, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Season with more salt and pepper. Drizzle the cut side of the bread with the remainder of the vinegar and oil and place on top of the sandwich. Cut into 4 slices and serve. Enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Layer Cake

raspberrychocolatecake

Sorry for all the silence here recently! The summer has been flying by and we haven’t had quite as much time to cook and blog as we like. Since we’re both recovering from wisdom tooth surgery this week, it’s the perfect time for us to share some recipes that we’ve neglected to post about.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back it was our grandmom’s birthday and she requested a cake with a lot of chocolate involved. This cake definitely delivered. It was three layers of dense, fudgy chocolate cake (almost like a brownie but a little softer) with a fresh raspberry filling and a super fluffy chocolate frosting. While it was delicious, I’d recommend not making it a triple-layer cake (I think two layers would be perfect). If you do go the triple-layer route, small pieces are a necessity since it’s so rich.

Rather than listing out all the instructions here, I’m going to just link you to the blogs behind the recipes! For the most part, we followed them pretty completely and all of them have great detailed posts. Check them out. This cake is not one you want to miss!

Chocolate Cake recipe from Annie’s Eats

Frosting from Sweetapolita (We suggest making a double batch to frost this cake; we also omitted the Nutella for some unknown reason- I think it would go great with the raspberry flavor!)

Raspberry Filling from Annie’s Eats (We recommend cooking it a little longer than the recipe suggests when you’re using it to fill a cake, just so that it’s stable)