Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe Fourth of July is just a few days away, y’all! While you may be thinking about vacation or grilling or how to keep your dog safe during the fireworks, I am over here thinking about—what else—cake! Red, White & Blueberry Cake, to be specific. Yes, a layer cake that is loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and tons of whipped cream. It showcases some peak summer produce and looks pretty patriotic, too! This is my kind of Independence Day dessert.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe cake itself if a classic white cake. I used my Vanilla Layer Cake as a starting point, manipulating the recipe until I had a light, fluffy result. The most significant change is that there are no whole eggs in the recipe; if there were, the cake wouldn’t be white! Only egg whites are used here. They are whipped to the point where they hold stiff peaks before being folded into the batter. The air in the whipped egg whites, along with a hefty dose of baking powder and sifted dry ingredients, will keep the resulting cake light and airy.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeWhile the egg whites give the cake tons of structure, their complete lack of fat has the potential to dry it out. I did a few things to counteract this:

  • I reduced the flour. Egg whites provide tons of structure in baked goods, so I was confident that cutting a bit of the flour wouldn’t affect the cake’s ability to bake properly.
  • I used butter and oil. I wanted this cake to have a buttery flavor, but as butter is 15% water, I was concerned that the results could be dry. This recipe requires 3/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable or canola oil. This small amount of oil keeps the cakes nice and moist.
  • I used a combination of regular milk and sour cream in place of buttermilk. Sour cream’s thick texture and fat content keep this cake super moist. Also, as it has been “soured,” when combined with milk, it mimics the tenderizing qualities of buttermilk.

But enough about the chemistry of cake batter. This white cake is crazy delicious—soft, buttery, and flavored with vanilla and almond extracts (you can leave the almond extract out if you have a tree nut allergy). It would be spectacular with a little vanilla buttercream, but that’s not the direction we’re going in today.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeInstead of frosting this cake with buttercream, we’re using Whipped Cream Frosting! It’s a lot like regular whipped cream, except that it won’t weep or slouch after an hour or two. Many recipes for Whipped Cream Frosting require gelatin, but I don’t care for the texture it produces. Instead, our whipped cream is stabilized with sour cream. This adjustment allows for the whipped cream to hold up for days! Just beat some heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form, and then use a handheld whisk to incorporate the sour cream until you achieve stiff peaks. Don’t be tempted to add the sour cream all at once—this will deflate your whipped cream. Instead, add it by the spoonful. This sounds tedious, but it really doesn’t take long at all.

For those of you who do not care for the flavor of sour cream, know that I don’t either. Its flavor here is very subtle, especially when combined with the white cake and berries. If you really don’t wish to use it, you may substitute creme fraiche or cream cheese.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeTo assemble the cake, slice both baked layers equatorially so that you have four very thin layers. If the idea of slicing a cake layer in half intimidates you, just know that they don’t have to be perfect—mine certainly were not! Just do your best. Lay one cut-side up on a serving plate (or a cake round, if you are me and can’t fit a serving plate in your fridge). Top the layer with some sliced strawberries and a few tablespoons of blueberries before spreading whipped cream frosting over the top. It may seem illogical to put the fruit directly on the cake, but it allows the berries’ juices to soak into the cake instead of breaking down the whipped cream. This is just insurance that your leftovers won’t get gross in the refrigerator. Repeat the layering process two more times before placing your last thin layer cut-side down. Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. I went for the naked cake look, but you may do whatever you like. Make sure to decorate with more berries!

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced 15 minutes after assembly.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake may be served immediately after assembly, but know that the whipped cream frosting may squish out the sides a bit. This doesn’t bother me one bit, but know that a couple hours in the refrigerator will help the cake stay more intact.

Look at that! Cake, berries, whipped cream, and a little patriotic flair. Add fireworks and you’re in for a great Fourth of July.Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
makes 1 9″ round layer cake

To Grease the Pans:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cake:
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups milk (not skim or fat-free)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
4 large egg whites, room temperature

Whipped Cream Frosting:
3 cups heavy cream, cold
4-6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

For Assembly:
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer to the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Sift together four times. Do not skip this step. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, vanilla and almond extracts, sour cream, and milk. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean, dry medium-large mixing bowl. Use the whisk attachment on an electric mixer to beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Do not over mix. Set aside.

Fold dry ingredients into wet in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Carefully fold half the whipped egg whites into the batter, followed by the other half.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Lightly tap each pan on the counter a couple of times just to help any large air bubbles dissipate. Bake for 32-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge of the pans and inverting the layers onto a rack. Allow to cool completely.

Make the whipped cream frosting. Combine heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat mixture until soft peaks form. Switch to use a hand whisk. Add sour cream by the spoonful, whipping until stiff peaks form.

Slice cake layers in half equatorially. Lay one cut-side up on a serving dish or cake round. Top with about 1/3 of the strawberry slices and 3-4 tablespoons blueberries. Drop large spoonfuls of whipped cream over the top and spread them out with an offset icing spatula. Repeat this process two more times. Place the last layer on the top cut-side down. Frost and decorate with berries as desired. Serve or refrigerate immediately.

Leftover cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.

M&Ms Sandwich Cookies

 If you haven’t noticed, I love sandwich cookies. This blog has existed for eight months, and I already have six sandwich cookie recipes in my recipe index. I mean, cookies and frosting together–does a more perfect dessert even exist?! 

Today’s sandwich cookies are my version of a favorite treat from my teenage years. Back then, I was on the high school dance team. Once classes were over for the day, I’d have thirty minutes to change and eat something before practice. Usually the whole team would go for some sort of fast food (ah, teenage metabolism), but occasionally, when everyone was attending tutorials or some other after-school program, I’d zip over to Ridgmar Mall, run to the cookie kiosk, and grab one or two (okay, okay, three!) miniature M&Ms sandwich cookies before driving back to school to dance off all the calories.

To this day, I get nostalgic for those soft cookies, M&Ms, and creamy vanilla filling. But I can’t remember the last time I was in a mall (one of the advantages of living in New York City). And as I always have fresh baked goods at home, I no longer stop for mass-produced treats. 

These days, if I want a few M&Ms Sandwich Cookies, I make them myself. They’re so much better than anything you could get at a mall. Soft, chewy cookies speckled with colorful milk chocolate M&Ms and sandwiched together with a smooth vanilla filling?! Yes. I’ll take three.

Most of my sandwich cookie recipes make five or six dozen very small cookies–far more than anyone really needs. This recipe makes a much more manageable two dozen sandwich cookies. If you’d like more, this recipe doubles very well.

Also, these cookies are slightly larger than my regular sandwich cookies. Where all of my other sandwich cookie recipes require you to scoop dough by the teaspoon, the cookies in this recipe are each made with 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of dough. The larger scoops cut down on the time spent rolling dough and also allow for more M&Ms in every bite! 

I love working with M&Ms for holidays. There’s a perfect color combination for every occasion–red and green for Christmas, orange and black for Halloween, pastels for Easter. Since the Fourth of July is coming up next week, I went with the red, white, and blue variety for this batch! I think they’re pretty cute 😊 No matter which holiday you’re making these for (even if it’s just that it’s the end of a long week), I know these M&Ms Sandwich Cookies will be a hit!

 Want more M&Ms treats? Check out my M&Ms-Potato Chip Cookies!

M&Ms Sandwich Cookies
makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup M&Ms milk chocolate candies

Filling:
1/2 cup shortening (or room temperature unsalted butter)
2 1/2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by egg and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients in two installments, combining completely after each addition. With the mixer on low, add in M&Ms and mix for 10-15 seconds until they are evenly dispersed. Cover and chill dough for 90 minutes, or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Scoop chilled dough by the 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) and roll into balls. Set dough balls about two inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 7-8 minutes, until the tops are no longer shiny. Let cookies cool on pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with any remaining dough.

Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat shortening (or butter) until fluffy. Beat in 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar and salt. Mix in vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. If filling is too thin, add more confectioner’s sugar. If it’s too thin, add an extra tablespoon of heavy cream. If you would like to pipe the filling, spoon it into a piping bag and snip off a corner.

There are two options for filling:

1. To assemble a sandwich cookie by piping, apply filling by pipe a circle in the middle of the underside of one cookie, leaving about 1/4″ around the edge. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.

2. To assemble a sandwich cookie by spreading, use an offset frosting knife to spread 1/2-1 teaspoon on the underside of one cookie. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.

M&Ms Sandwich Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Note:

There is no substitute for cream of tartar in this recipe.