Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1: Caramel Pudding

For Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2, click here. For Vol. 3, click here.

Caramel PuddingIf you’ve been on my social media in the past few days, you know I’ve been busy lately. Aside from working and blogging and petting dogs and being a person in New York City, I’m making a wedding cake!Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1One of my nearest and dearest friends is getting married on Sunday, and asked yours truly to make a big, beautiful cake for her and her dream man. I said yes—it was a proposal this baker couldn’t refuse. Of course, July 15, 2018, seemed very far away when I agreed to this last summer. In fact, it didn’t start feeling imminent until May, when she and future hubs planned a trip home to NYC to make some final arrangements, including a cake tasting.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Cut to June 4th when I showed up to the bride’s mother’s apartment with three little layer cakes: all vanilla, two with traditional Swiss Meringue Buttercream, one with Seafoam (brown sugar) Swiss Meringue Buttercream, two with mocha filling (the bride’s request), and one with caramel (the groom’s favorite). I wasn’t too confident, not because I didn’t think the cakes would taste good, but because this isn’t just any ol’ cake, you know?Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1The original plan was that they would choose one filling and one frosting and that would be that. About five minutes into the tasting we were all in agreement—vanilla, mocha, and bright-white Swiss Meringue Buttercream. But that was before the mother of the bride randomly stacked a bite of the caramel-filled cake on top of a bite of the mocha-filled cake and then insisted the rest of us do the same. Just like my friend and her betrothed, each filling was fine on its own, but they were better together—the combination of chocolate, espresso, and dark caramel is divine. And so, it stands that this cake will be vanilla layers with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and alternating mocha and caramel fillings.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Since this cake has to be made, transported, and assembled in the middle of a hot, humid NYC July, I had to take melting into consideration when developing the recipe(s). Traditional American Buttercream (butter + confectioners sugar + vanilla + heavy cream, AKA most of the frostings on this site) was out as a filling/frosting option—too prone to melting. Instead, the fillings and frosting are all at least partially egg-based. Eggs are textural and structural powerhouses in cooking and baking, and most importantly, they don’t melt.Caramel PuddingThe frosting, which I’ll write more about on Friday, is made from egg whites, while the fillings are made with the yolks. The mocha filling is simply my chocolate pudding with a tablespoon of espresso granules added to the dry ingredients—easy peasy. I’ve already gone on and on about its richness and depth, and used it as a cake filling.Caramel PuddingToday is all about the caramel filling—this rich, silky, insanely delicious pudding that is practically like eating a little bowl of pure caramel! So freaking good.Caramel PuddingCaramel Pudding is a streamlined spin on the Butterscotch Cream Pie filling I made last fall. It’s super quick and easy to make, coming together in just 15 minutes on the stovetop. You may absolutely enjoy it without any accoutrements, but I especially love it with whipped cream and a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce.Caramel PuddingAnd, of course, it also works well as a cake filling, if whispers of dark caramel between layers of buttery vanilla cake are a thing you’re into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1They are definitely a thing I’m into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1

Caramel Pudding
makes 4 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving (optional):
whipped cream
caramel sauce

Combine sugar, light corn syrup, apple cider vinegar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until dark amber, about 7-8 minutes. Do not burn. Whisk in milk. Mixture will bubble violently and caramel may briefly seize, but keep whisking until it has smoothed out and boiled for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/3 of the mixture into the egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to pot and place back over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and butter.

Push through a sieve to remove lumps. Divide mixture among 4 4-ounce ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surfaces. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or until cold.

When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and caramel sauce, if desired.

Caramel Pudding will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Caramel PuddingLet’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1

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Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate CakeThis cake deserves a better name.Triple Chocolate Cake
It’s thin layers of my favorite chocolate cake filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with the best buttercream ever to come out of my kitchen. It should have a more creative name than Triple Chocolate Cake.Triple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate CakeTriple Chocolate Cake
Other name options included, but were not limited to:

• Fancier Chocolate Cake
• Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake*
• Eleven Layer Chocolate Cake**
• The Chocolate Cake of My Dreams (This Week, Specifically)
• Unnameable Chocolate Cake

*Gertrude is a chihuahua whom I have never met. She cannot actually eat chocolate, nor has she ever baked a thing (as far as I know). Things got weird, okay?
**Six thin layers of cake (three layers, split in half), five layers of pudding.Triple Chocolate Cake
When all was said and done and over-analyzed, I went with the least ridiculous, most accessible, accurate name. Triple Chocolate Cake it is—the most decadent, chocolaty cake ever to appear on this blog.Triple Chocolate Cake
Out of the three sources of chocolate in this cake, I’ve already discussed two of them at length. You’ve heard me wax on and on about my stellar chocolate cake and I recently wrote all about my seriously phenomenal chocolate pudding. I could have frosted this cake with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream, but instead I turned the volume up to 11…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, y’all! The lightest, fluffiest, silkiest chocolate frosting I’ve ever made ❤

Every buttercream that has appeared previously on this site has been some variation on an American Buttercream: a frosting consisting of softened butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla. I usually jazz mine up with heavy cream, and while they are all fluffy and luxurious, none are quite as divine as this one, which is airy from whipped egg whites and rich from butter and melted chocolate.Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Let me give you a quick overview. It all starts with melting sugar into egg whites…Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…and then beating it all into a glossy meringue. Next come two sticks of softened butter…Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButtercreamChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…and then ten ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate. Oh my word.Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Unlike American buttercreams, this one requires a couple of bowls and a little patience, but it is worth every last ounce of effort. I swear, I would eat Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream on a piece of cardboard if it were offered to me…Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
…but I would much prefer to eat it on chocolate cake. This one specifically.Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Triple Chocolate Cake
makes 1 9-inch round cake

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (low fat is fine)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

For Assembly:
1 recipe Chocolate Pudding (about 2 cups)
1 recipe Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (below)
mini chocolate chips, for garnish (optional)
chocolate sprinkles, for garnish (optional)

Cake layers and Chocolate Pudding may be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 25-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days. Layers are easiest to work with when they are cold.

Assemble the cake. Use a serrated knife to slice cake layers equatorially so that you are left with 6 very thin layers. Place one layer, cut-side-up on a serving plate or cake stand. Use an offset spatula to spread ~1/3 cup of chocolate pudding over the top. Place another thin layer on top and spread with more pudding. Repeat this process until you have 6 thin layers of cake and 5 of pudding. Tent the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Remove cake from the refrigerator and uncover. Use an offset icing knife to frost the outside of the cake with buttercream. Pipe as desired. Decorate with mini chocolate chips and/or chocolate sprinkles, if desired. Chill cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Leftover cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes enough to fill, frost & decorate a 9-inch layer cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 large egg whites*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar**

Egg whites will not whip properly if they are not treated well. Before beginning, please ensure that all equipment used in this recipe is very clean and dry. I like to wipe down the bowl(s), whisk, and mixer attachments with vinegar before starting the recipe. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Cut butter into 16 one-tablespoon pieces. Set aside.

Chop chocolate. Place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a very clean, dry heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk frequently until sugar dissolves. Test for readiness by rubbing a drop of the mixture between your clean, dry fingertips to feel for granules. Remove bowl from heat and wipe off the bottom to remove any condensation.

Use a very clean, dry electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat egg white mixture until room temperature and doubled in size, about 7-10 minutes. At this point, the mixture (a meringue) should hold stiff peaks and be glossy.

Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing to combine. Buttercream will probably curdle before re-forming; this is normal. Continue to whip until it thickens and becomes airy and frosting-like. If the buttercream is taking a long time to thicken, it may be too warm. Simply pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before whipping again.

Pour in chocolate and whip until combined. Fill and frost cake layers as desired.

Leftover frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature and whip until fluffy before using.

Notes:

1. I use the ones leftover from making pudding.
2. Cream of tartar is required for this recipe. There is no substitute for this ingredient.

Triple Chocolate CakeChocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate PuddingI’m usually not the sort of blogger who labels her own recipes as “the best ever,” but y’all…this Chocolate Pudding might be the best ever. At the very least, it’s the best I’ve ever had.Chocolate PuddingOf course, until a few years ago, I’m pretty sure that the closest I’d ever come to eating pudding made from scratch was my mom making Jell-o Cook & Serve vanilla pudding on an occasional weekend night. I’m not complaining though—she served it in a set of rarely-used champagne coupes, so it felt very fancy for something we ate on the couch in front of the TV.Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingThis pudding though? It doesn’t need any elegant glassware to feel luxurious. It’s made with both cocoa and chopped bittersweet chocolate, giving the finished pudding a bold, in-your-face flavor. I cut the added sugar way down too, so there’s no cloying sweetness to distract from the intensity of the chocolate. Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingI can guarantee you that there is no boxed mix on the market that makes a chocolate pudding that’s anywhere near this chocolaty.Chocolate PuddingThis Chocolate Pudding is super thick, too. I mean, your average store bought pudding cup can’t hold a spoon straight up like that, now can it?!Chocolate PuddingAnother thing I love about this recipe is that it takes all of twenty minutes from the time I start measuring out ingredients to the time I put the pudding in the refrigerator to chill. This makes it perfect for a lazy night in or for a game night or cookout. I even think you could deck the individual servings out with whipped cream and shaved chocolate and serve them at a dinner party.Chocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingChocolate PuddingMy Chocolate Pudding stays good for a few days in the fridge, so it’s a great make ahead option too. If you can resist the temptation to take a cold, creamy bite, that is.Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding
makes 4 servings

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

For Serving:
whipped cream
chocolate shavings

In a medium-large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk the milk into the dry ingredients. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

Whisk egg yolks with a fork. Remove 1/3 of the warm chocolate mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour chocolate mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat. Whisk in vanilla, followed by chopped chocolate and butter.

Push pudding through a fine mesh sieve. Divide pudding among 4 small bowls (I used 4-ounce jars). Press plastic wrap to the surface of each bowl of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until cold.

When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired. Pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Chocolate Pudding

Banana Pudding Cookies

Banana Pudding CookiesWhen I first started out as a New York nanny, I worked for a family that lived in East Harlem. I took care of their baby girl, whom I affectionately called “Zu” (a nickname which bears no likeness to her actual name), from the time she was nine months old to when she was two and a half. And, oh, we had so much fun together. We read a million books, danced to Mary Poppins on vinyl, and I introduced her to the Peanuts (because Snoopy rules). We blew bubbles in the backyard, gave fist-bumps and high-fives, wore silly hats, and made cakes.

Well, I made the cakes. She did a lot of stirring ☺️ The point is that it was the best job I’d ever had up to that point. From the time I arrived everyday to the time I left, we were two peas in a pod.

Banana Pudding CookiesBut if you have children or have ever spent an extended period with anyone else’s children, you know that no matter how much fun you are having together, there comes a point where cabin fever sets in and you’d rather do anything than be in the house for two more minutes. When this happened, I’d put her in a baby carrier and we’d go find something to do. When it was nice, we’d go to the playground. When it was gross out, we’d go to Target and buy things I didn’t need. And sometimes, on very special occasions, we’d hop over to Evelyn’s Kitchen, a treasure of a bakery in East Harlem, for a treat to share.

Banana Pudding CookiesWe always ordered the same thing, one Banana Pudding Pudgie. It’s a soft, chewy, white chocolate-studded cookie that tastes just like its namesake dessert. We’d go home and I’d cut it in quarters so she could grab them easily with her little fingers, and we’d enjoy it together before finding a new record to dance to. Those are some of my favorite memories ever. Just a simple little treat with my sweet, tiny friend.

When the time came for me to move on to a new family, I had no reason to frequent East Harlem or make trips to Evelyn’s Kitchen. This was a time when I was just getting into baking, and so I decided that I would figure out how to make Banana Pudding Pudgies at home. And it only took me fourteen months to get it right 😁😁😁 But I did, and for the last two years, whenever I get a hankering for a treat from Evelyn’s Kitchen, I save the subway fare I’d spend getting to and from East Harlem and make a batch of Banana Pudding Cookies instead.

Banana Pudding CookiesYou guys, these cookies taste exactly like banana pudding. No, seriously. They literally taste exactly like the combination of vanilla pudding, bananas, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream that we grew up with. But they’re portable and much less messy 😊

There are a million pudding-based cookie recipes out there, but this one is different. It’s not made with instant pudding mix–I’ve found it makes these cookies dry and artificial-tasting. So, ditch the mix! Instead add the three main ingredients in instant mix (cornstarch, milk powder, and granulated sugar) individually, followed by a full tablespoon of vanilla extract to round everything out and give these cookies a classic pudding flavor. Combined with mashed ripe bananas and white chocolate chips, these cookies taste–and I can’t stress this enough–exactly like banana pudding.

My Banana Pudding Cookies are not as puffy as the cookies that inspired them, but they capture their flavor perfectly. Incredibly soft and chewy with strong banana and vanilla flavors, they’re the perfect cookies to make for cookouts or picnics, or anytime you are craving banana pudding. And if you have a sweet, tiny friend to share with, all the better.

Banana Pudding Cookies Looking for more banana pudding? Check out my No-Churn Banana Pudding Ice Cream!

Banana Pudding Cookies
makes about 4 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, milk powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Add light brown and granulated sugars and beat until combined. Mix in egg, followed by mashed banana and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating until combined. Mix in white chocolate chips.

Cover dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or up to three days.

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

Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll into balls. Place dough balls at least two inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges are starting to turn golden and the tops are no longer raw looking. Let cookies cool on the pans for ten minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Cool baking sheets to room temperature before baking any remaining dough.

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

Banana Pudding Cookies