Tag Archives: quarantine baking

Friday Favorites: 2020

Friday Favorites: 2020Happy New Year! This post is coming at you from the recent past—December 29th—so I hope no new terrible things have happened between then and this posting. 2020 was such a weird year. It started off okay, but quickly devolved to…well, whatever this is. I, for one, am hoping for hope in 2021.

As a preface to this list, I wrote three paragraphs about the events of last year (staying at home, flour shortage, bread, people learning to bake, blah blah blah) and then deleted them because, you know, you were there. It was a year where nearly everything changed, but at least one thing remained the same: I was here, baking in Brooklyn. Here are some of my personal favorite recipes from 2020.Friday Favorites: 2020
Mini Layer Cakes

There weren’t many layer cakes on here in 2020, but the ones that made the cut were teensy—just enough for 4-6 servings. Perfect for a pandemic, right?!Friday Favorites: 2020
Pecan Sandies

Buttery shortbread is difficult to beat for ease and pure deliciousness, but adding in a hefty dose of toasted pecans (and nostalgia) never hurt anything.Friday Favorites: 2020
Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}

I got a little homesick around my birthday this year, so I made a Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}, which happens to be a Fort Worth favorite. You won’t find chocolate sponge or cherries in this recipe, but if you are into light-as-air almond dacquoise, whipped cream, dark chocolate and the best kind of chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag), you are in for a treat. Did I mention it’s naturally gluten-free?Friday Favorites: 2020
“I Got Yolks” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta} requires a whole lot of egg whites, which means you’ll have a whole lot of leftover yolks…which means you should make some “I Got Yolks” Chocolate Chip Cookies. To put it plainly, they’re simply the best chewy chocolate chip cookies to ever come out of my kitchen.Friday Favorites: 2020
Crispy, Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, this was a year with two chocolate chip cookie recipes. These crispy, crunchy ones were a long time coming, and were they ever worth the wait!Friday Favorites: 2020
Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes

Rainbow sprinkles and cookie cake are two of my favorite things. Put them together and make them mini? How can I resist?!Friday Favorites: 2020
Buttermilk Pancakes

Perfect fluffy pancakes eluded me for years, but not anymore! These are really good and really easy. Oh, and those golden tops? They’re easier to achieve than I ever thought possible.Friday Favorites: 2020
Chocolate Quinoa Cake {Gluten-Free}

One of my biggest accomplishments this year was staying sober through…everything. While I normally don’t celebrate my sobriety date on here, it seemed important to publicly acknowledge it during a time of so much struggle. When I hit seven years in April, I celebrated at home with this Chocolate Quinoa Cake. It’s made with an easy blender batter, is naturally gluten-free, and absolutely delicious with a blanket of chocolate buttercream.Friday Favorites: 2020
Homemade Chocolate Shell

Making my own ice cream toppings is one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. This two ingredient Homemade Chocolate Shell has appeared on this blog many times over the years, but 2020 was when it finally got its moment to shine.Friday Favorites: 2020
Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

I brought in 2020 eating Almond Boterkoek on my friend, David’s couch. Eight weeks later (to the day!), I figured out the recipe for myself. It’s a simple cake, perfect for any occasion, including saying goodbye to our weirdest year on record.Friday Favorites: 2020
Brown Butter Nutella Swirl Muffins

Brown Butter. Nutella Swirl. Muffins.

Need I say more?Friday Favorites: 2020
Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls

Imagine biting into pure sunshine, but with butter and icing. That’s what these are like.Friday Favorites: 2020
Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

These sweet, tart, teeny-tiny cookies are filled with a homemade ruby red grapefruit curd. So, so good. I cannot say this more explicitly: you must make these. Must.Friday Favorites: 2020
Oatmeal Puff Pancake {Gluten-Free Dutch Baby}

Puff Pancakes are my favorite weekend breakfast of all time, and making them whole grain and gluten-free? Well, that makes them even better.Friday Favorites: 2020
Oatmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside waffles made without flour or animal products? You better believe it!Friday Favorites: 2020
Gingerbread Cake {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Speaking of making things vegan and gluten-free, finally making a Gingerbread Cake for my friend, VJ, was a great way to end the year. It’s dark, perfectly-spiced, and slightly sticky. It might just be the only Gingerbread Cake recipe you’ll ever need.Friday Favorites: 2020
Pumpkin Spice Spread & Pumpkin Pie S’mores

If you’ve been here a while, you know I love to sing the praises of sweetened condensed milk—that stuff can do anything, including make a spreadable pumpkin pie filling for everything from toast to s’mores.Friday Favorites: 2020
Cream Biscuit Pecan Sticky Buns

Back when the pandemic began and shelves were empty, I threw my plans out the window and baked and blogged exclusively from what I already had on hand. These Cream Biscuit Sticky Buns were one of the results—a mash-up of two of my favorite things.Friday Favorites: 2020
Maple Sugar Cookies

These little sugar cookies have huge maple flavor. Made with brown butter, brown sugar and a double dose of pure maple syrup, they’re impossible to resist.Friday Favorites: 2020
Cocoa Brownies

I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention that this blog turned five years old in 2020! It was a highlight of my year, as was celebrating with the Cocoa Brownies from my first post. They’re easy, fudgy and so, so good.

Have you made any of these recipes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Friday Favorites: 2020

Coconutdoodles

CoconutdoodlesPeople tell me all the time that they don’t bake because it doesn’t allow for improvising. I’m here to tell you that assumption about baking being all about precision is a big ol’ myth. At least half of the recipes in my archives started from a place of improvisation.

Now, could I have improvised so much when I first started baking? Probably not. The key is developing a few solid base recipes and paying attention to what different ingredients do—after that, it’s trying new things, like working with what you already have and fending off your crippling fear of failure. It’s the same with improvising during “regular” cooking, or in music or in theatre or in musical theatre. You’ve got to know the rules before you can bend them. But then, bend away, and if it doesn’t work, bend another way.CoconutdoodlesThe base recipe for these Coconutdoodles has been on here once already this year. It looks different there, filled with pecans and white chocolate chips, but the recipe is almost *exactly* the same otherwise. Same with last year’s Funfetti Cookies—take out the white chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles and you have a blank slate sugar cookie recipe.CoconutdoodlesCoconutdoodlesCoconutdoodlesCoconutdoodlesThat’s right, a blank slate. A new start. A place to improvise by adding that random half-bag of coconut you have leftover from…well, I don’t remember what, but that’s beside the point. The point (!) is to load up that dough with as much coconut as it can take, then blitz the rest into a powder with some sugar and roll your cookie dough balls in it, snickerdoodle-style. But it’s coconut, so…Coconutdoodles.CoconutdoodlesCoconutdoodles bake up super thick and puffy, and while the sugary coconut-crusted exteriors don’t really toast, they do get extra crispy. Oh, and the insides are super chewy and loaded with an obscene amount of coconut. Ob-scene. I really thought it might be too much, or that it might make the cookies crumbly, but it‘s the exact right amount and these cookies stay soft for days. I know because I ate this whole batch myself. That was weeks ago and I’m still sad that they’re gone.CoconutdoodlesBut you know what? I have this blank slate sugar cookie dough, and I’ve got another half-bag of coconut, and heaven knows I’ve got time to make cookies this weekend. I’ll save my crippling fear of failure for next weekend.Coconutdoodles

Coconutdoodles
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but recommended)
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Coating:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

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

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter until fluffy and lighter in color. Beat in granulated sugar. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

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

Make the coating. Combine granulated sugar and coconut in a food processor. Pulse 10-15 times or until mixture is snowy (no big pieces of coconut). Do not over-process, as mixture can become a paste. Place coating in a shallow bowl.

Scoop chilled dough in 2 tablespoon increments, and roll into balls. Roll each dough ball in the coating mixture. Place dough balls at least two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes, until puffy. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat process with any remaining dough, letting the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

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

CoconutdoodlesCoconutdoodles

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesIt has been documented on here that I fear making cheesecakes, but that’s not exactly true. I don’t fear cheesecake, I fear a leaking springform pan in a water bath (bain marie). Yes, I know you are supposed to wrap it in foil, but I’ve never seen anyone explain in exacting, painstaking, borderline-dull detail how you should do that so that there is absolutely no risk of leakage. And so, I have still (!!!) never made a traditional baked-in-a-springform cheesecake.

I have, however, made cheescake bars, cheesecake thumbprints, cheesecake brownies, cheesecake blondies, vegan cheesecakes, and now two different kinds of Mini Mason Jar Cheesecakes, because while I may not be super brave, I am nothing if not a problem solver.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThese Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes are SO good, y’all. So. Good. And they come in very cute, water tight, social distancing-approved serving vessels. Super rich, chocolaty filling, Oreo crust *and* no fiddling with a springform pan? Sign me up!Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThe crusts for these little cheesecakes are just Oreos and melted butter blitzed together in a food processor. Spoon a couple tablespoons into each of your mason jars and give them a few minutes in the oven before adding your filling.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThis chocolate cheesecake filling is super chocolaty from melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder, and has a little extra depth from light brown sugar (though granulated works too). The rest of the ingredients are standard cheesecake fare: cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla and an egg.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesBy far, the most important advice I can give you about making cheesecake is to make absolutely sure that your ingredients are at room temperature. If you’re more organized than I am, you can set your cream cheese out the night before. If you’re like me, just let it hang out (in its packaging) in a bowl of lukewarm tap water for 15 minutes. Throw your egg in there for maximum efficiency.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesYou can make the filling in your food processor (just wipe it out) or use a mixer. Either way, make sure to give the bowl some taps on the counter and let it rest a few minutes to release any large air bubbles before baking. Then spoon it onto your crusts and bake for about 25 minutes. Let the baked cheesecakes hang out in their water bath for five more minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. This brief step helps them transition from the hot oven to your cooler counters more seamlessly. Cheesecakes are divas, in case you couldn’t already tell.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesOnce your chocolate cheesecakes hit room temperature, throw them in the fridge for a few hours to get nice and cold. This will seem endless, but will give you plenty of time to dream up toppings. I went for my new favorite Chocolate Whipped Cream and chocolate sprinkles, but you could do chocolate shell, chopped candy bars, fresh fruit or anything else your heart desires.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesI won’t lie to you, Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes are a commitment, but take one bite and I promise you’ll agree that theyre entirely worth the effort. They’re super smooth and tangy with a big hit of chocolate, and that Oreo crust…well, I think we can all agree that Oreo crust should probably run for president.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesAnd on that note, enjoy this unofficial last weird weekend of this extremely weird summer. It’ll be two more weeks before I break out the pumpkin, and while that seems like eternity, I hope these chocolate cheesecakes soften the blow.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes
makes 6 small cheesecakes

Crust:
12 Oreos
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:
1 8 ounce brick full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream (or Greek yogurt), room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2.5 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 large egg, room temperature

For Garnish:
Chocolate Whipped Cream
chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag)
Homemade Chocolate Shell

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease 6 4-ounce mason jars.

Make the crust. Place Oreos and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the crust mixture into eat prepared mason jar. Press down to form a crust. Place mason jar crusts in a high-rimmed dish. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Make cheesecake filling. You have two options:

If using a food processor: Wipe out any errant crust pieces. Add cream cheese, brown sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add sour cream and vanilla and process until smooth. Whirl in melted chocolate. Add egg and process just until combined. Tap bowl on the counter 10 times and let batter rest 10 minutes.

If using a mixer: In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in brown sugar and cocoa powder, followed by sour cream and vanilla, until mixture is smooth. Mix in chocolate. Add egg and mix just until combined. Tap bowl on the counter 10 times and let batter rest 10 minutes.

Once your batter is rested, divide the cheesecake mixture into the mason jars, about 1/4 cup each. Use the back of a spoon to lightly smooth out the tops, then tap each one on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Return jars to the high-rimmed pan, and place the pan on a counter near the oven.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat. Carefully pour water into the baking pan until it is halfway up the sides of the cheesecakes. Do not get water in the mason jars. Carefully move pan into the oven. Bake 25 minutes, or until puffed and *barely* jiggly in the centers. Let cheesecakes stay in their water bath for 5 more minutes.

Use tongs to carefully remove mason jar cheesecakes to a rack. Do not get water in the mason jars.

Let cheesecakes cool completely on a rack; the centers will collapse a bit. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap. Garnish with chocolate whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, homemade chocolate shell, or other desired topping before serving.

Store leftover cheesecakes in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To freeze, press plastic wrap to the surfaces of the cheesecakes and screw on mason jar lids. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or in a dish of lukewarm water at room temperature for an hour.

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Make Mini Layer CakesI have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to celebrate this year. Does it feel like the world is crashing down around us and everything is at least vaguely scary? Sure. Is there still stuff to celebrate? You know it.

I mean, all of us are going to have pandemic birthdays this year. Every last dang one. Birthday parties are inadvisable, but cake? That’s non-negotiable. If we can’t have cake in times of both joy and crisis, then what on earth are we even doing here?!How to Make Mini Layer CakesIn that spirit, today’s post is not actually a recipe, but instead is all about how to make a layer cake fit for a pandemic…er, small group. Sure, you could make a single layer of cake for any occasion you have coming up, but some things require a cake that’s stacked up tall, even if it’s on the miniature side. I’ve been making Mini Layer Cakes for years, for everything from birthdays to baby showers to wedding cake practice. It’s super fun and a great way to brighten someone’s day (or your own!) in these rough times.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Big are Mini Layer Cakes?

The cakes pictured are 4 inches in diameter and 2.5 and 2.75 inches tall, respectively.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Many People Can Mini Layer Cakes Feed?

Well, it depends. I think of these as being 4-6 servings, but could go up to eight in a pinch. I’m sure some of you are looking at these and thinking they’d only feed two–I suppose it all depends on exactly how much cake you want to eat in one go. Use your judgment.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

What Flavors are Best for Mini Layer Cakes?

The answer here is pretty much anything your heart desires. The cakes pictured are Vanilla Cake + Nutella Buttercream and Chocolate Cake + Strawberry Buttercream; I chose these flavors based solely on what I had on hand.

The general rule for my Mini Layer Cakes is to make roughly half the recipe of any normal 9-inch layer cake. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas off the top of my head:

Funfetti cake + vanilla buttercream
red velvet cake + cream cheese frosting
carrot cake (without nuts/fruit) + cream cheese frosting
white cake + seasonal fruit or jam + whipped cream frosting
vanilla cake with a little almond extract + mocha buttercream
-vanilla cake + key lime curd + whipped cream frosting
-vanilla cake + lemon syrup + lazy lemon curd + vanilla buttercream with lemon zest
chocolate cake + Oreo Buttercream
peanut butter cake + chocolate frosting
Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}! <—Yes, it works!How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Things You Need to Make a Mini Layer Cake

-a single 9-inch layer of cake
-a half-batch of buttercream
-filling of choice, if not using buttercream
-a serving plate or cardboard round
-a ruler
a 4-inch ring cutter
-a serrated knife for trimming
-an offset icing knife

First things first, you’ve got to have the supplies. This list is pretty similar to what I use for regular layer cakes with a few exceptions. To start, you’ll need one 9-inch layer of cake and a small batch of buttercream…or roughly a half the quantity of most layer cake recipes. I understand that not all cake recipes halve easily (splitting eggs!), so I’ve included halved versions of my vanilla and chocolate cakes at the end of the post.How to Make Mini Layer CakesThe major specialty item here is a 4-inch ring for cutting small layers. Can you just bake your cake in 4-inch pans? Sure, and I have on many occasions, but they tend to produce dramatically domed cakes, and frankly, you’re never going to get as much use out of those pans as you think you will. As a person who has nearly every piece of kitchen equipment anyone could ever need, please trust me on this. It is much easier to bake a single larger layer of cake and then cut it into smaller ones.

With a 4-inch cutter, you’ll be able to get two small layers out of a single 9-inch round layer. If you measure/have a keener eye than I do, you can bake a 9-inch square layer and get four small layers out of it. That way, you can make two mini cakes at once or freeze two of the layers for another occasion. Either way, you’ll have leftover cake scraps, but I don’t see that as a problem.

Don’t have or want a 4-inch ring? Find a 4-inch circular object, trace it onto parchment, then cut out the circle and use it as a stencil.

How to Assemble a Mini Layer Cake

Mini Layer Cake assembly isn’t rocket science, but has its challenges. There is a lot of measuring and evening out of things, but rest assured that you’ll get the hang of it quickly.How to Make Mini Layer CakesStart by using your cutter to cut two small layers out of your larger layer. Make sure that the cutter is as close to the edge of the larger layer as possible, so as to make room for a complete second layer. <—This is important.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesUse your ruler to measure your layers for height. There is a good chance your layers will have an incline, as cakes tend to dome a bit as they bake. Grab your serrated knife and even out the top of one layer. Make sure it’s even (or very close) and measure it again—this how tall you want your other layer to be. Repeat that process to even out that second layer, until they’re identical in height (or very close). Mine are all about an inch tall.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesNext up, stacking. Swipe a tiny bit of buttercream on your plate or cardboard round, then place one of your layers on top. If you’re a messy froster like me, tuck bits of parchment under the cake all the way around for clean edges. Frost the top of your layer, then stack the second layer on top and press down lightly to adhere.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesFrom here, frost as normal. For me, that means a very light crumb coat (thin layer of buttercream), a 20 minute chill, then a thicker layer of buttercream, piping and decor.

Keep in mind that Mini Layer Cakes are smaller and lighter-weight than what most of us are used to, and therefore cannot take as much physical pressure as a larger cake, particularly when frosting around the sides. Be gentle with the cake and with yourself, and remember that there is no shame in having to move layers back into place and frost over flaws. Buttercream is a surprisingly forgiving medium.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesAt this point you can serve your cake. I, however, like to let mine sit for an hour or two ahead of serving, just to let everything adhere nicely. This isn’t strictly necessary, but I find it makes slicing easier and prettier. If you’re refrigerating your cake, make sure to let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Transport a Mini Layer Cake

If you’re making a Mini Layer Cake (or any layer cake), chances are you have to take it to a celebrant or they have to pick it up. In more normal times, I box and transport cakes all over NYC. The most important thing in this process is to make sure your cake fits the box beforehand—this is why I have a ruler in my kitchen. My cake boxes are 3-inches tall, so the cardboard round, both layers of cake and any filling and frosting need to be shorter than that when stacked.How to Make Mini Layer CakesOther important things? Keep your box as level as possible. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping them level while walking and riding in cars and on the subway. It’s just a matter of remembering that pretty much everything (your body, a car seat, etc.) has a natural slope, and then carrying/positioning your box in a way to counterbalance that. Also, remember that cold cakes are easier to transport. When delivering cakes, I refrigerate them as soon as I’m done assembling, and then let them come back to room temp while en route to wherever I’m going.

Please know that I have shown up a few times with cakes that did not look the way they did when I left the house. This is a hazard of the job–rest assured that ugly cake is still delicious. If you make somebody a cake and they don’t like it because it’s a little disheveled, take it back. You don’t need that negativity.

And on that note, if you are inspired to make a Mini Layer Cake or two and need a place for them to go, I’m gladly accepting donations.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes
Are there any Mini Layer Cake tutorials you’d like to see? Thinking of doing one for tiered cakes (wedding cake). Let me know what you think in the comments.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Vanilla Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 batch Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Mix in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients followed by the remaining buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in its pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edge of the pans and invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream.

Chocolate Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso granules (optional, but recommended)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
1 batch Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

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

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and egg, followed by vanilla and buttermilk. Whisk in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the boiling water. Whisk in remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining boiling water.

Pour batter into the pans. Tap full pan 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 cake cool in pan for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream.

How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes

Funfetti Cookie CupcakesFull disclosure, I am tired. Like in-my-bones tired. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping well and I just can’t seem to get my brain to concentrate on this blog post. I would say I’m trying my best, but I am actually trying as much as I absolutely have to and not the tiniest bit more. It’s that sort of day.Funfetti Cookie CupcakesI usually take pride in writing a “real” blog post, but was tempted today to just leave it at “Um, hi. I took cookie cake and threw sprinkles in there and made it smaller. Oh, and there’s a plume of vanilla buttercream on each one. Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes, y’all!” …and leave it at that. I mean, that about sums it up, right?Funfetti Cookie CupcakesWell, almost. It doesn’t tell you that these Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes were born because I deeply miss baking for groups. I really wanted to make a cookie cake for weeks, but resisted because who would I share it with?

When the thought of cookie cupcakes popped into my head, it only took me a day to make them and a few more hours before I found some friends to give them away to in exchange for petting their dog and some homemade lemon-basil sorbet. I doesn’t tell you how incredibly heartening it was to see (masked) familiar faces and love on my pup friend and casually envy someone else’s ice cream machine, even though I absolutely do not need another piece of kitchen equipment.Funfetti Cookie CupcakesFunfetti Cookie CupcakesThat rambling, incoherent, grammatically incorrect blurb says nothing of how the exteriors of these little cookie cakes crackle ever-so-slightly against your teeth when you first bite in, or how the centers are a tad underbaked and chewy like almost every great cookie out there. Just like their larger counterparts, these tiny cakes are a bit sunken in the center, perfect for holding a copious amount of frosting. That sentence doesn’t tell you that even when these aren’t fresh and get a little crumbly, they are still pretty wonderful, as all things topped with a small mountain of vanilla buttercream are.Funfetti Cookie CupcakesFunfetti Cookie CupcakesThere’s no mention of how much I absolutely love sprinkles, and how even though they mostly just taste sweet and waxy, I consider them (combined with vanilla and almond extracts) a flavor profile all their own. The little pops of color in and on these Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes make me happy, as does their buttery sugar cookie flavor. These are like having everything I’m nostalgic for all rolled into one single-serve dessert.Funfetti Cookie CupcakesAnd speaking of single servings, that half-assed blog “post” I wanted to write has one more gross oversight. These are perfect for socially-distanced celebrating or for delivering to someone you love and can’t really see right now. It doesn’t tell you that even though you bake all the time, even when you are tired and feel uninspired, making these will feel nothing like work and completely like joy. And how even when you’re a completely depleted puddle of a human who needs a weekend so badly it’s ridiculous, you’ll find a way to find the words to say it all.Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes

Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes
makes 2 dozen cookie cupcakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed (not dark brown sugar)
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract or imitation butter extract (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles (jimmies, not nonpareils)

For Garnish:
Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)
rainbow sprinkles (jimmies or nonpareils)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Mix in egg and yolk, vanilla and optional almond extract. Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in rainbow sprinkles (jimmies). Scoop dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon increments and press into prepared cupcake liners. Bake 12-13 minutes, until the tops no longer appears shiny and the edges are just slightly golden. Centers may not be fully puffed when baking is finished and will sink a bit during cooling.

Let cookie cupcakes cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack before removing to the rack to cool completely.

Remove cupcake liners, if desired. Pipe vanilla buttercream into the center of each cookie cupcake (recipe below). Top with rainbow sprinkles.

Decorated cookie cupcakes will keep at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Vanilla Buttercream
makes enough for 2 dozen cookie cupcakes

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

In a medium-large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add heavy cream by the tablespoon until desired consistency is reached.

How to pipe: Stand a piping bag fitted with a coupler and star tip in a tall cup and fold any bag overhang over the outside. Use a silicone spatula or spoon to “load” 1/3-1/2 of the buttercream into the bag. Unfold bag overhang and lift piping bag out the cup.

Press frosting toward the tip. Twist bag overhang closed and hold tight between your thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand, letting the main portion of the bag be held by your palm and remaining fingers. Use your non-dominant hand to tap the bag a couple of times to dislodge any air bubbles. Pipe a dab or two of frosting onto a surface or small plate, just to get the buttercream going in the right direction.

Pipe buttercream into each cookie cupcake, refilling the bag when necessary.Funfetti Cookie CupcakesFunfetti Cookie CupcakesFunfetti Cookie Cupcakes