Monday, April 29, 2019

The Power of Sprinkles Cake Experiment

I have had this cake cookbook on my pile for a while to try and finally pulled all the pieces together! Amirah Kassem is the personality, baker, and cake decorator behind the sprinkle explosion cakes at Flour Shop. Her new book, The Power of Sprinkles, shows the method behind making the cake. Really The Power of Sprinkles is more of a decorating book, because it only contains one cake and one frosting recipe, but then goes on to demonstrate a bunch of variations, from the unicorn cakes to the sushi cakes to the cakes that look like other things (pizza, pancakes, etc.) Because of the one recipe issue, I am not including it in this post; please take a look at the cookbook!

It felt to me like sprinkles were the important thing, so I decided to make a small explosion cake. I had ordered fancy sprinkles already! I used the basic suggestions for the sushi roll cakes, which divided one cake recipe into two 9x13 pans (two colors) and used a half recipe of the icing. Amirah has very clear directions in her book, with pictures for each step. This is how I remembered to put holes in my cakes but not the top layer, and to remember to fill the cake with sprinkles before putting that top layer on! She also has helpful recommendations for timing, scaling up or down, or other variations.

I had been poking around the cake decorating part of the internet (a huge rabbit hole) and decided to try out the watercolor technique on the outside. 

I definitely used too much food coloring in the watercolor stage, but liked how this technique required less icing (I was worried I shouldn't have halved the batch!) and lets you use up all the dregs in the watercolor process, which is basically random blops that get smoothed to a vaguely abstract look (or in my case - almost smoothed. I really need a cake turner!)

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. 

The Power of Sprinkles came out April 9, 2019.

You can use the book for a whole host of ideas for seasonal parties or fun themes, or even just as a jumping off point for your own creative ventures. The cake I made is not exactly pictured, but I pulled inspiration from some of her versions and used her primary cake and frosting recipes.

Check out her website and Instagram too, which may be the two most colorful places on the internet!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Double Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins

I follow a bunch of bakers and other foodie types in Instagram, and one of my favorite is the Table for Two account. Her daily espresso stir into milk is mesmerizing (watch her stories, you'll see what I mean.) I saw these muffins come up the other day, was home for the day, and totally craving chocolate. I also had a lone wonky banana that wasn't going to make it to the weekend. These muffins start with a trick that makes a big difference - high heat to lift the height of the muffins. Please visit the Table for Two blog for answers to FAQ about this recipe, detailed picture instructions, and all her other content. (This is not a paid advertisement by the way, I just like this account a lot.)

Double Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins
(from Julie Wampler at the Table for Two blog)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, room temperature
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips, more for topping


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners and lightly spray them with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together bananas, maple syrup, vanilla extract, egg, coconut oil, and greek yogurt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.

Carefully pour in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated and no flour is left at the bottom.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a large cookie scoop (or ice cream scoop), fill the muffin cups 3/4 full and add additional chocolate chips on top, if desired. Repeat until all the batter is used up. You may get more than a dozen, that's okay.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit then turn down the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and finish baking for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Notes from JennyBakes:

Julie at the Table for Two blog is pretty adamant that you can use a neutral oil like avocado or grapeseed instead of coconut, but says not to use olive or canola or vegetable. I didn't want to wait for my other cold ingredients to warm to room temperature (necessary when working with coconut oil, otherwise it resolidifies) - I used vegetable oil, and thought it was fine.

I used regular flour instead of whole wheat.

I used sour cream instead of yogurt.

I made 1/3 of the recipe because I had 1 banana!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Whole-wheat spelt, date, and molasses scones

I served these scones as an accompaniment to another recipe from A Modern Cook's Year: More than 250 Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes to Get You Through the Seasons, which I will discuss below. It was a good decision because these are not very sweet, but add a nice contrast to the dish I prepared. I didn't have quite a full cup of spelt flour so I used a little bit of all-purpose in the same amount, and it worked just fine. You can actually substitute all-purpose flour entirely, but the texture will be a bit denser.

Whole-wheat spelt, date, and molasses scones

Makes 6

1 cup (125 g) pitted dates
5 fluid oz (150 ml) freshly brewed strong black or earl grey tea
1 cup (125 g) whole-wheat spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
2 tbsp (30 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tbsp molasses
1/3 cup (75 g) buttermilk or thin natural yogurt

For the glaze:

1 organic or free range egg
1 tbsp milk
a pinch of sea salt
a handful of rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 395 F (200 C.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Soak the dates in the hot tea for 15 minutes, until the tea has cooled a little. Mix together the flour, baking powder, allspice, and sea salt with your fingertips, then add the butter until the mix looks like bread crumbs. You could also do this by pulsing it in a food processor.

Drain, then roughly chop the dates and add them to the mix, along with the molasses and buttermilk. Mix slowly and lightly until the mixture forms a soft but not too sticky dough. Shape into a rough round ball, place on a prepared baking sheet, and use a knife to score across the top, to mark out six portions, stopping before the knife reaches the baking sheet. It should look a bit like a loaf of soda bread.

Mix the egg and milk for the glaze with a pinch of salt and brush it over the top, then sprinkle with the oats, pressing them into the dough lightly to stick them down.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet and reduce the heat to 360 F (180 C) and continue to bake for about 10 more minutes, until the top is a dark golden brown and when you turn the scone over and tap it, it sounds hollow. Serve warm from the oven and break up as required.

I served this scone loaf with Cauliflower rice with eggs and green chutney from the same cookbook. As skeptical as I have been about cauliflower pretending to be other things, this treatment of it was delicious and we will have it again!

A Modern Cook's Year: More than 250 Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes to Get You Through the Seasons by Anna Jones is one of the books from ABRAMS that I've been procrastinating on because it has so many recipes I want to make! As a former vegetarian still married to one, I know the suffering of most vegetarian options at restaurants and even the offerings in vegetarian cookbooks - so many pastas, and so many portabella "steaks."

This cookbook comes from a different philosophy. First of all it is very seasonal, but it is also British in all the best ways. The recipes feel like they come from a country garden with rotating seasonal produce but also influenced by current eating trends and international cuisines. Sometimes Anna Jones provides a recipe, but other times she provides a formula. There are two pages of curry formulas that I can't wait to try, and the springtime dishes have me searching for ramps already. This is definitely going on my permanent shelf for endless inspiration.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Banana Pancakes with Cardamom Spiced Berries from Pescan

I made Spicy Buffalo Tofu Fingers from the Pescan Cookbook last month, but I had a few more pages marked to try. One morning we had berries in the fridge and bananas that were past their prime, and I remembered this recipe.

Banana Pancakes with Cardamom Spiced Berries

Spiced Berries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1 tbsp filtered water
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup filtered water
1 cup old-fashioned or gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher sea salt
2 tbsp chia seeds or 1 large egg
2 tsp coconut oil

Make the spiced berries. Place the blackberries, raspberries, and water in an 8-inch pan. Cook the berries over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and cardamom, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 3 minutes more, until the raspberries have broken down into a sauce. The blackberries may stay intact depending on how firm they are. The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits.

Make the pancakes. In a blender, combine the bananas, milk, water, oats, almond meal, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and chia seeds or egg. Blend, starting on low, then bringing it up to medium-high speed, until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat, add 1 tsp of the coconut oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the pan is hot, after about 1 minute, make 2 pancakes using half of the batter (about 1/2 cup each), spreading the batter out with the back of a tablespoon. Cook until set on the bottom and a few bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook on the second side until lightly browned on the bottom, about another 2 minutes. Transfer the pancakes to a plate. Swirl the remaining teaspoon oil into the pan and repeat with the remaining batter.

Meanwhile, reheat the berry sauce over medium-low heat. Transfer the pancakes from the pan onto individual serving plates and top each with one quarter of the berry sauce. Reheat the first two pancakes in the pan over medium heat for 30 seconds per side, then transfer to serving plates and top with the rest of the berry sauce. Finish with a bit of softened coconut butter on top.

This post is sponsored by ABRAMS Books, as part of the ABRAMS Dinner Party. 
Pescan is available March 26, 2019.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Funfetti Cookie Dough Cake from Cake Confidence

I received a review copy of this cookbook  - Cake Confidence by Mandy Merriman - from the publisher through Edelweiss. I was excited to look through it because I have followed the baker in Instagram for a while now (@bakingwithblondie) where you can watch videos of her perfect cake decorating. My cake decorating is not so perfect, and I didn't have all the supplies on hand that she uses, but I still made a delicious cake to celebrate a staff member's pending new job at another library. I picked this for her because she wears a lot of vibrant colors and although she is an adult, she is younger than the rest of us, so cookie dough and sprinkles made sense to me. I added a bunch of notes to the end of this post about the changes I made. Pictures are of my cake; definitely check out the more perfect and taller version in the cookbook itself!

Funfetti Cookie Dough Cake

Funfetti Cake
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1 Tbsp. Mexican vanilla
1 box Duncan Hines white cake mix
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies

Eggless Cookie Dough
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies

White Chocolate Ganache
1 cup "Very white" Wilton or Guittard white chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. Mexican vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream
5-7 cups powdered sugar, sifted

cookie dough balls
rainbow jimmies

Sara and her cake (photo by Libby Young)

Funfetti Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep 6-inch cake rounds with a wipe of shortening and dust of flour.
  2. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, vegetable oil, egg whites, and vanilla until combined. Sift in white cake mix and sprinkles and stir until just combined. Don't overmix!
  3. Bake for 25-27 minutes until center is baked through - don't overbake! Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a cooling rack until room temperature.
Eggless Cookie Dough
  1. After the cake is finished baking, clean out the pans you used for the cake rounds, and press two layers of plastic wrap in an "x" in two of the pans, remembering to press the plastic wrap into the corners, and leaving about a few inches of overhang on all sides. Set aside. This will help you shape the cookie dough layer into the same size round as your cake.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, which should take about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla and mix for about 30 seconds.  
  4. Add in the flour, salt, chocolate chips, and jimmies. The dough will be slightly sticky. Add in flour by the tablespoon as needed.
  5. Roll the dough into tiny balls (think marbles or a tad larger) for the top decor of your cake. Store those in a plastic bag or small Tupperware with lid. Set aside.
  6. Divide the remaining dough into two separate balls and press one ball in the two prepared cake pans. Using the bottom of a 1 cup measuring cup or the bottom of a drinking glass helps a lot! The dough should be 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Wrap the overhang over the dough and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

White Chocolate Ganache
  1. In a small glass bowl, add in chocolate melts and heavy cream. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir with a small whisk until smooth. Add to a squeeze bottle for ganache drip on the side of the cake.

Vanilla Buttercream
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip up butter for about a minute until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Add the salt, vanilla, and heavy cream until combined. Slowly add in powdered sugar, about a half cup at a time. Add in more heavy cream if needed for a thinner consistency. 
  3. Add in pink coloring if desired. Whip on high for 1 minute to create a soft buttercream.
  1. On a cake turntable, tape a 6-inch cardboard round on top of an 8-inch cardboard round. Top with a small amount of buttercream and spread it around to act like "glue" for holding the cake onto the board. 
  2. Place on first cake round and carefully top with the first cookie dough layer. Add on about a cup of buttercream, spread it flat with an offset cake spatula. Add on next layer of cake, and repeat with remaining two layers.
  3. Crumb coat the cake, place in the fridge to set for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add sprinkle rim on the bottom, freeze for a minute or so to set, then add on ganache drip.
  5. Place the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the ganache to firm before adding on the buttercream decor and topping them off with cookie dough balls.
Notes from JennyBakes:
  1. I don't have 6" cake rounds. I baked this cake in 2 9" cake rounds and made only one cookie dough layer. I made my tiny balls too big so almost didn't have enough for that layer.
  2. Because of time, even though I had the ingredients, I skipped the white chocolate ganache step.
  3. I had ordered a set of Fancy Sprinkles, so had to separate them out a bit before using them in this recipe. I tried to keep the tiny balls and jimmies for the cake batter and cookie dough and used the larger pieces on the outside and top. 
  4. I do not like this buttercream and if I made this cake again would use one of my old standbyes that have a more silky texture. Once you go Italian/Swiss buttercream there is just no use for powdered sugar buttercreams in my opinion.
  5. Even with all my modifications and less than perfect execution, this was hugely popular among my co-workers, who called it a unicorn cake and princess cake. The cookie dough inside really is a treat.