Tag Archive for icing

No-knead Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Last day of October and I’ve got a pumpkin recipe in just under the wire.

Though, truth be told, I made these a couple of weeks ago and took them in to the newsroom for election night, hoping the sugar rush would keep us all going through the tight deadlines and late night. With so many people voting and such a crazy race right up until the end, most of us stayed later than we ever have for an election. I can’t remember ever covering one as interesting and found myself watching the results roll in live as if it was some sort of TV show.

Anyway, back to the rolls.

They’re no-knead. Sensing a theme here? First no-knead pizza dough (if you haven’t tried this, please bookmark it, so very worth it) and then no-knead bread and now no-knead cinnamon rolls. God only knows what will be next, but I am loving this trend.

Once again, it takes some planning since it takes more time for these to rise. The recipe suggests, though, you can let them rise then refrigerate overnight and continue the next day, which is exactly what I did and it worked like a charm. Sure, there were some paranoid moments, like when I cut them into slices and let them rise in the pan prior to baking but couldn’t discern they actually rose a second time. I didn’t have much hope when I put them into the hot oven, but they came out all fat and puffy, shouldering each other in neat little rows.

I gave two to some friend who had popped by with her new baby since she was in the ‘hood and she texted me seemingly minutes after leaving to say she had eaten them both already and was tempted to lick the plastic wrap. That, my friends, is a pretty good endorsement.

The dough is beyond sticky and please learn from my misstep by using a really big bowl. I had a difficult time incorporating all the flour in my small-ish bowl (which felt big before I combined the wet and dry ingredients) and eventually had to dive in with my hands. Let me repeat: beyond sticky. (But, you know, kind of fun at the same time.)

But beyond that, it was pretty easy to work with once it came time roll out and, uh, roll up again. Some of my filling leaked out the edges. Obviously, I’m no expert at cinnamon rolls. But I’ll take ugly and tasty any day. And man are these tasty. I mean, really, how can you go wrong? pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, glaze? Yeah, it’s all good.

So, this is kind of short and sweet but if I don’t post this soon, I’m going to miss my Oct. 31 deadline.

In short: these are good, pumpkin-y and easy. Enjoy.

No-knead pumpkin dough

Misshapen rolls

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Glaze

Glazed pumpkin cinnamon rolls

This comes from the folks over at the Kitchn, like quite a few recipes I’ve posted here. It’s almost to the point where I’m wondering if I need to create a tag for them . . . .

The only change I made was I omitted the pecans. I’ve got nothing against them but was just too lazy to get them out of the freezer, toast and chop them. Oh, and I didn’t use as much milk in the glaze which is why, I’m pretty sure, it’s so much thicker. Not that anyone was complaining.

No-Knead Pumpkin Rolls with Brown Sugar Glaze
Makes 16-18 rolls

For the dough:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 scant tablespoon yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups pecans – toasted, chopped, and divided in half (optional)

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan on the stove top until the butter is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Let the milk mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch – NOT HOT. Then stir in the yeast and the pumpkin. Add the salt and five cups of the flour all at once, stirring until all the flour has been absorbed. Squish it between your hands if you’re having trouble incorporating the last of the flour. The dough will be sticky, but should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flower.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-3 hours. During this time, it should double in bulk. At this point, you can punch the dough down and refrigerate it overnight or continue shaping the rolls.

To shape the rolls (either immediately or with the refrigerated dough), sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and dump the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle and then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a rectangular shape about a half an inch thick, longer than it is wide. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough’s surface and on your hands.

Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the spices. Spread this over the rectangle of dough, leaving an inch of bare dough at the top. Sprinkle one cup of the toasted pecans over the dough, if using. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.

Rub a tablespoon of soft butter into the bottom of two 9×13 baking dishes, two 9-inch cake pans, or a combination. Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick. Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little wiggle room on all sides to rise. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise until they fill the pan and look puffy, 30 minutes for already-warm dough and 1 hour for dough that’s been refrigerated.

About 20 minutes before baking, begin heating the oven to 375°. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to look toasted around the edges. Rotate the pans halfway through cooking.

While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Remove from heat and strain into a mixing bowl to remove any sugar clumps. Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave.

Goodbye Cake

I have a new job!

After more than a dozen years of covering news at newspapers all over hell’s half acre in B.C. before finally making it to the big leagues — the Vancouver Sun, the Globe & Mail and, now, the Calgary Herald — I have just taken over as the new full-time, permanent food writer for the Herald.

In my time as a news reporter, I’ve written about the birth of a baby beluga, health care, education, dinosaurs in Tumbler Ridge, BC, the deaths of three women killed by men they once loved even after reporting their safety concerns to RCMP. I’ve spoken with ministers and a minor celebrity or two. I’ve sat through heartbreaking testimony and watched people break down in courtrooms. I’ve cried with the family members of homicide victims.

I’ve loved it and hated it, been moved by stories and frustrated by them too.

And now I’m trading covering crime and calamity for cake, the seedy underbelly of the city for pork belly and so on.

It is, no doubt, a dream job and I’m excited. But it wasn’t without some sadness that I left the great team of city reporters. (OK, yes, I basically just moved my stuff about 20 feet from my old desk and I’m still sitting right next to my city peeps, but it’s a whole different world.) Most of all, I miss the camaraderie of so-called Civilized Sundays when I’d bring in baking, like red velvet cake, which we would eat while listening to the police scanner. It’s not so much that I miss working Sundays (because I think I could really get used to this Monday-Friday thing), it’s the ritual of it all.

So, of course, on my last city shift, I had to bring in a cake!

Iced Cake II

I did a really informal twitter poll and people voted for a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. So, I found a recipe for both and got to work a few weekends ago. And, once it was baked, I thought it would be even better to slice the cake layers in half, double the icing and go for a quadruple-layer cake. For the most part that went well, barring some uneven slicing that led to some repair work to one of the layers. I hoped for the best cutting into it that I would bypass where things had gone sideways, but luck isn’t usually on my side. And it wasn’t this time around. So the beauty shot of the slice isn’t as good as it could be. (No doubt also because I didn’t let it cool down after putting on the icing, which would have made for a cleaner cut. But I was impatient (as usual) and just wanted to try a piece of the damn thing.

Barring that one piece, I gave half to some friends who just had a baby and took the rest in to work. Yes, we ate it for breakfast. And that made it perfect.

The cake recipe comes from Rock Recipes (though I have no idea how I stumbled on it originally), while the icing is from Joy of Baking.

Though both were fantastic, I wish I had tried something a little less overwhelming with the cake, like a lemon or basic buttercream. I have a feeling the chocolate icing overpowered the extremely vanilla cake instead of letting them better each other together.

Both are fantastic, though, and well worth trying on their own.

Vanilla Cake batter

Chocolate icing

Whipped chocolate icing

Iced Cake

Cake slice

Slice of cake

Vanilla Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 325.

Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add, one at a time, the eggs, beating well after each to make sure they are fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Gently fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with the evaporated milk, in three parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Divide batter evenly between 2 well greased 9-inch cake pans. (I also put parchment circles on the bottom to ensure a good release.) Bake in oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cake rest in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
(I doubled this recipe to have enough for a quadruple-layer cake. This is the recipe in its original measurements.)
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, put the chopped chocolate, cocoa, milk, and butter.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and beat in, with a hand mixer or wire whisk, the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  If the frosting is lumpy, strain through a strainer to remove any lumps.  Cover and place the frosting in the refrigerator until it is firm (this may take a few hours).  Once the frosting is firm remove from refrigerator and place in your mixing bowl.  Beat the frosting for a minute or two or until it is nice and smooth and of spreading consistency.

Triple Layer Chocolate Cake

It’s my Blogiversary!

Two years ago I decided it was time for me to finally join the blogging world and I started up Patent and the Pantry as a way of celebrating my love of food and photography. But, let’s face it, mostly because of my love of food.

Chocolate Cake slice II

And I got a nice little present just in time for it. I just had my 200,000th page view. I never thought it would grow this much and I am so grateful to all my readers who have bookmarked my blog, forwarded recipes along and faithfully kept up with all my updates even if half of them have involved lemon recipes. Thanks too must go to all my friends and family, which have supported me in this little project.

Any good celebration requires cake. Or at least as far as I’m concerned.

I found this recipe while getting my hair done a few weeks back. Flipping through Bon Appetit, I came across this Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake and immediately wrote it all down with an eye of making it sooner rather than later. Although Red Velvet Cake was fun for the first entry and first anniversary, I wanted to switch things up this time around. And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

I took half over to Andree’s house to share with her. She has been a big supporter of P&P since I launched, offering tips, advice and gently encouraging me to do less baking, more cooking. So, I thought she might like it if she tasted some of the fruits of my baking labours.

The other half went in to work for my “Civilized Sunday” girls who are kind enough to eat all the baking I can’t keep at the house out of fear I will consume it all. Then we all sit around the desk at work eating goodies and reading our horoscopes . . . . And then, yes, we do get down to serious work because otherwise how would we fill the Monday paper?

The cake went over well, but I’m not entirely convinced it was as good as it could be. My main concern here is that the recipe indicates to beat the cake until well blended after each of the four additions of flour. I’ve always been told to go gently when adding flour to a cake and mix (not beat) only until blended because you don’t want to develop the gluten. I wish I had followed my instincts; I’m convinced this cake would have been even more tender. Not that anyone was complaining . . . .

So, if I attempt this again, I’m going to go gentle on the batter. I’m sure it will only improve things.

However, all that said, it was still a good little cake for a special little day.

Prepared pans

Melted chocolate and cocoa

Chocolate Cake Batter

Chocolate beaters

Chips and chunks for chocolate icing

Melted chocolate for the icing

Two layers

All iced up

Sky high cake

Chocolate Cake slice I

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups mayonnaise (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Frosting

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour three 8″ diameter cake pans with 1 and 1/2-inch-high sides. Combine chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in medium metal bowl. (I used a plastic bowl and it appeared to work just as well.) Add 1 and 3/4 cups boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and mayonnaise in large bowl until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with chocolate mixture in 3 additions, beating until blended after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. (Again, I’d take it easy here and only mix until just blended instead of beating it.) Divide batter among prepared cake pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto racks and let cool completely.

For the frosting, place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully remove bowl from over water; let melted chocolate cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Sift powdered sugar over butter and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended and smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over top of cake layer to edges. Top with second cake layer; spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting decoratively over top and sides of cake.

Cut cake into wedges and serve.

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

I felt like making cupcakes. That’s pretty much the reason for the post.

Iced Cupcake

So, I was flipping through my cupcake cookbook (impulse buy, of course. Sigh.) and found this recipe for Applesauce Spice Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t make all of that the title of the post?) The only reason I paused was because I noticed that it called for unsweetened applesauce and I just happened to have some in my cupboard. Not something I’d normally have hanging around but when I made my Applesauce Cake a few weeks ago, I didn’t look closely at the recipe before going shopping. When looking at the choice between unsweetened and sweetened applesauce, I figured it was only logical that the applesauce cake would call for unsweetened because there was sugar in the recipe.

Duh.

This is why I need to be more explicit with my lists.

I came home to find I bought the wrong kind and had to go back to the grocery store for the right kind of applesauce. I would have returned the unsweetened but was too lazy to go all the way back to the store where I bought it (there are none of that chain close to me; I had picked it up while running other errands). Plus, I guess I figured at some point I would find a way to use it up.

And, lo, I did.

Like every other time I’ve made a Martha Stewart cupcake recipe, I ended up with way more than she predicted. I don’t know if my muffin tin is much smaller than hers or if I’m underfilling the cups, but I ended up with 21 or 22 cupcakes, where she said I would end up with 18. And, people, this was after consuming some batter. (*Hangs head in shame.*)

Spiced batter

But having extras was no big deal, really, because they were good and they all got eaten anyway.

The cupcakes are not overly sweet, which is nice against the cream cheese icing. But I think I actually preferred my mum’s recipe for Applesauce Cake. It just seemed . . . I don’t know. Lighter? Better? And it could be just as easily converted into a cupcake recipe by putting the batter into muffin tins and decreasing the baking time. (Start checking at about 15 minutes. They should probably take about 20.)

One more thing. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened applesauce. That’s 375 mL. A can or jar of applesauce here in Canada is 398 mL, so I just dumped the whole thing in. And it was totally fine, so if you’re worried about that last little bit, just chuck it in.

Cooling

Frosting

Cupcake trio

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn’t have any and the recipe was just as tasty)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (I didn’t put these in because my friend is allergic and I really wanted her to eat one)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add applesauce and then flour mixture, beating until just combined after each. Stir in pecans by hand.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to two months, in airtight containers.

To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to three days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

Brown-Sugar Cream-Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

With an elecrtic mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to three days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

I don’t like beer.

I was absent the night in university when my friends went to the grungy student pub, bought a pitcher and sat down, determined to acquire a taste for the stuff.

No idea where I was–I like to think I was responsibly studying somewhere–but it seems my decision means I will never really love beer the way I might have if I had sat in that smoky room with them.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, food bloggers were raving about cupcakes that included a rather unexpected ingredient: Guinness. Given my distaste for beer, I passed those entries by.

Frankly, the only thing that intrigues me about Guinness is the hypnotic rolling where the head meets the dark liquid in the pint glass just after it’s been poured. But I kept thinking about the recipes.

Cupcakes in profile

I think I was intrigued because they were so boldly unusual. Beer and chocolate? Really? Would the taste of stout be overpowering?Would it mellow into the background to add a perhaps unidentifiable richness? Or would it just be a chocolate cupcake with a good storyline?

It should come as no surprise this recipe comes from a British chef — Nigella Lawson — considering the other culinary oddities that have sprung from the United Kingdom. I mean, consider the blood sausage.

Her version makes an entire cake, though, and I prefer the idea of cupcakes, I suppose, for their portability. It is also much easier to pass them along to friends than a slice of cake. Leaving an entire cake in my fridge is not an option.

And she has paired it with a cream cheese icing, which creates a sort of play on the stout itself, with its creamy white head balancing atop the velvet dark drink.

Three whole cupcakes

I don’t believe in skimping on the icing. The original cream cheese icing recipe suggested adding more whipping cream to thin it out, but I reined in the extra liquid to ensure I had a nicely thick, spreadable topping. As a result, I also didn’t have enough. Given that I ate two cupcakes before even making the icing (quality control–OK, that’s a lie, I was dying of curiosity) and I still had four cupcakes left at the end that went unadorned, I suggest doubling the icing recipe. That way, there will be more than enough to coat all of the cupcakes.

The original recipe called for a half cup of whipping cream. I only used two tablespoons. If you’d like a thinner icing, feel free to add more cream.

My first bite made me realize –again–that Nigella certainly knows her stuff. These cupcakes are rich and dark with only a hint of their secret ingredient –certainly not enough to turn me off the idea of eating several more. Combined with the icing, the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes were heavenly. The icing, perhaps ironically, cuts some of the darkly chocolate flavour.

Bitten

A friend graciously offered to buy the remaining five bottles of Guinness from me, knowing full well they would simply gather dust next to my wine rack. But, having given these a shot, I think I will hang on to them. After all, I think I’d like to make the cake version next. Apparently, all it took for me to like beer was to add chocolate.

Bitten and whole

Bitten profile

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda

Icing

  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Red Velvet Cake

It was a year ago that I embarked on a very special relationship. It has, at times, been hard work. And, other times, very rewarding.

Yes, that’s right. It’s my first blogiversary. Yay!

I felt the best way to celebrate was to take another stab at a Red Velvet Cake. The first attempt was, well, less than stellar. And my fascination with this southern U.S. specialty hasn’t waned in the intervening months. Plus, there is something so appealing about ritual, no?

Red Velvet Slice III

There are about 800 million different red velvet cake recipes on the Internet.* (*Slight exaggeration possible.) And I have a collection of about seven that I’m slowly working my way through. One day I will find the perfect recipe. This one is certainly a step closer.

Take two was far and away better than my first attempt, though, troublingly, not perfect. Friends disagreed. Of course, when you layer that much cream cheese icing on anything it’s going to taste good.

Red Velvet Slice IV

Even though I created a paste using the liquid food colouring and cocoa, I still got faint chocolate-coloured swirls in the batter. I suspect I was overly cautious when it came to mixing the paste in. But this time was definitely more red than the hot pink version from last year. Still, not quite the deep red I was looking for.

I also, decadently, decided to go with a triple layer cake instead of the usual double. (Anything to acquire new baking equipment; I am the worst when it comes to wanting new kitchen things. Single handedly fighting through the recession with baked goods and the stuff in which they are baked!)

And I ate the first piece with a lovely antique silver fork I bought a few days earlier during an antiquing trip with my friend Sherri Zickefoose to Nanton — a little town about an hour south of Calgary that has a handful of very fine shops. Because, when it is a celebration, even if you are alone, it should be done right.

Red Velvet Slice II

Red Velvet Slice

The next day I took the rest of the cake into work. So, on a Sunday morning, three of us sat around listening to the police scanner eating cake with plastic forks at our desks, hours before noon. A rather decadent weekend shift, to be sure.

Lining the cake pans

Cocoa and colouring

Cocoa and colouring

Empty bottle

Batter stained

Cake batter

Dye spot

Icing dollop

Icing the layers

All iced up

Red Velvet Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 oz. red food colouring (I used two bottles, which I think were 1 oz. each)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour three 8″ cake pans. (Or, butter and line base with parchment.) Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt in bowl, then set aside. In a small bowl, mix food colouring and cocoa powder until there are no lumps. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and cocoa-colouring mix. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter, beat well, then add half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mix. Beat until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda, then add straight to cake batter and stir well. Quickly divide batter between three pans and put in oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cakes are baked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt

Using a mixer, blend cream cheese and butter until smooth. Blend in salt, vanilla and then powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy and then ice cake.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Hello fall!

Um, actually, that would have been more accurate about a month ago during the exactly two-day period that it was autumnal here.

Fall here leaves me wanting. One day the leaves are amber, gold, red; the next, they are brown, scattered, shredded on the ground. I want more time when there is only a slight nip in the air, when watery sunlight filters through the increasingly bare trees, when there is a crunch underfoot from those already fallen.

But, at least I can taste fall.

Lone cupcake

Pumpkin and squash and warm spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger. Roasting and baking, soups and stews and pots simmering on the stove.

I went a little crazy at the grocery store, inspired by a host of pumpkin recipes I wanted to try out: pumpkin cinnamon rolls, chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pies. I walked out of there with six cans of pumpkin. Why do I always buy things like I am part of a family of six instead of a single girl in a tiny apartment with no discernable cupboard space?

(And, as an aside, why do all American recipes call for 15-ounce cans of pumpkin? They don’t appear to exist on this side of the border. I can only find 14 ounces or 28 ounces. Are we Canadians stingy with our pumpkin supplies?)

And which of all these recipes would have me cracking open the first can? It wasn’t much of a struggle to decide. I am increasingly drawn to cupcake recipes. I like individual desserts (perhaps I have sharing issues?) and cupcakes are so darn cute. So, when a friend invited me over for dinner, I shamelessly offered to make dessert. (One does not willingly make cupcakes when one lives alone. It is, literally, a recipe for disaster.)

So, Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing it was.

These were lovely and moist, full of flavour and ridiculously easy. I give two thumbs up to any recipe that doesn’t require me to soften the butter first. Sometimes I just can’t quite plan that far ahead. Since this one calls for melted butter, you can impulse bake these puppies. A dangerous thought indeed. And the icing was a breeze, even if you do need to pull out the butter and cream cheese early to make it whippably soft.

When I arrived at my friend’s house, she put the cupcakes up on the counter, but not far enough out of reach from her young son, who managed to swipe a finger over the icing of one cupcake. I agree, Erik, the icing is irresistible!

Cupcake from the top

I used the same recipe from my Red Velvet Cake (hot pink velvet cake?) for the icing. It’s foolproof and ridiculously good.

The batter was a little too delicious, though. This recipe, according to Martha Stewart, will give you 18 cupcakes. (Find hers here.) I don’t know what size of pan Ms. Stewart is using, but this easily made two batches in my 12-cupcake pan. Or, more accurately, it made 23 cupcakes. It would have made 24 had I not eaten so much batter. Good lord.

Mmmm spices

Mixing it up

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I doubled this because I love nutmeg.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (I used a 14-ounce can and it was still lovely and pumpkin-y)

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and the spices. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Then whisk in pumpkin puree.

Line the cupcake pan with liners and fill each about halfway with batter. Bake until tops spring back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans if needed. (I have one pan, so did not bother with that step.) Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar.

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I don’t drink coffee.

I know, I know. Take a minute to digest that fact. It is a bit strange.

Solo cupcake

But I grew up in a household where there was always a pot of tea sitting around. And it was always Earl Grey. And it still is.

I’m sure it’s partly that because I grew up with it, but it’s still my favourite flavour of tea. But I also love the taste of perfume-y Bergamot — an essence from the skin of a sour fruit. While my family likes Twinings for it’s faint Bergamot taste, I prefer Tazo, which has a bit more of the essence in its mix. Even better? Stash Tea’s Double Bergamot.

And, full disclosure, I like the smell of Earl Grey tea so much, I even bought the Demeter fragrance of it.

While here at home I drink it with milk, at my parents’ house I always have my Earl Grey tea with lemon and sugar. So when I came across a recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing, I immediately bookmarked it. And then, like about a thousand other recipes, I forgot about it for some indeterminate amount of time until I got bored and began going through the aforementioned bookmarks looking for something to surf to.

The stars of the show

Earl Grey tea

I had some extra lemons lying around after making Whiskey Sours on the weekend, was bored and basically wanted to hang out in my kitchen baking and listening to good music. So, I whipped up these babies, ate two and then realized I was going to have to take the rest to work the next day lest I eat them all.

These will be made again. I might add more tea next time. Also, it was a particularly juicy lemon I used in the buttercream and, in hindsight, I should have measured instead of squeezing through a sieve and right into the bowl. So, it wasn’t all that surprising the icing was quite sloppy. Another cup or so of icing sugar did the trick, but next time I’ll be more careful.

Then again, when I took some into work (I think my colleagues were more excited about me launching a food blog for the inevitable leftovers), almost every comment revolved around the icing. It seems I’m not the only one that loves a lemon dessert.

This recipe originally comes from Desert Candy. Here is her post on it.

She made 24 cupcakes, but I halved it to make 12. This is the version I used. Double if you wish. Also, the original recipe called for self-rising flour. I didn’t have any, wasn’t going to go out and get some (is it even available in Canada?), so some googling led me to several versions of how to make “self-rising” flour (which basically just has leaveners and salt added already). The recipe below uses all-purpose flour.

I also “lemoned up” the icing by using the zest of an entire lemon and more than the required amount of lemon juice. Feel free to tone it down, if you wish.

Earl Grey Cupcake Batter

Just before the oven

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. Earl Grey tea (I used 1 bag and didn’t measure. I might add more next time.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly combined before adding the next one. Mix together the dry ingredients, including the tea. Beat in half of the dry mixture with the wet, then add the milk and the rest of the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Line the cupcake pan with 12 cups and fill them about two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Cream butter, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, juice and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Southern Comfort

Red Velvet Cake is a southern U.S. tradition that is so popular it can even be found in the cake mix aisle. I can’t date when my obsession with this cake began, though I think it first came to my attention while watching Steel Magnolias where the groom’s cake was shaped like an armadillo and it looked like it was bleeding when someone cut into it.

And I’m also not sure what the reason behind this obsession is. Must be something about the virginal white icing hiding the slutty red interior and all its metaphors.

Essentially, it’s a chocolate layer cake infused with red food colouring that turns the cake into a shade of crimson that plays against the white, cream cheese icing.

Red Velvet Cake

But I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to take this on for a dinner party Sunday night.

1) It’s the first cake I’ve ever baked that did not involve me opening a box and praising Betty Crocker.

2) It involved at least 30 minutes worth of research on dutch processed cocoa vs. natural cocoa. (Nutshell: dutch processed is treated to neutralize its acidity, so has to be used in recipes that call for baking powder as it may not react with baking soda.)

3) It also involved a further 30 minutes of research to figure out whether the cocoa I bought for this (Fry’s) was or was not dutch processed, since it was not indicated anywhere on the can. For the record, it is.

On the upside, attempting this cake also gave me an excuse to buy some new toys for my kitchen: an offset spatula and two new cake pans.

I was initially hesitant to make this cake, having never baked one that didn’t come out of a box. This hesitation was amplified after I went out on a blind date with a man who considered himself quite a baker. While the meringues he brought to munch on over coffee were good, I thought it was a bit presumptuous when he tried to talk me out of my red velvet plan.

“You’ve never made a cake?”

And then: “You should make brownies. There’s a great recipe by Alton Brown, just cut back the sugar to half a cup.”

Brownies, he said, were good and easy and hard to screw up.

“You don’t want to make your friends your guinea pigs,” he added.

That was pretty much the end of the date. There won’t be a second one.

And, after that, I was much more determined to master the Red Velvet.

I won’t call it a resounding success — as kind as my friends are for saying it was delicious — but it was a worthy first effort. And, frankly, anything coated in that much cream cheese frosting can’t be all bad. I learned a few things, including the need to sift all the dry ingredients together or suffer the consequences. In this case, that meant cocoa swirls throughout the not-quite-flaming red layers; and that a crumb coat is definitely the way to go when dealing with such an intensely coloured batter.

The Ingredients


Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. liquid food colouring
  • 1 tsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9″ round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. (And ensure the cocoa is evenly distributed.)

Beat butter until soft, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Add vanilla.

In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk and red food colouring. (I used food colour gels here, so added two tbsp. of water and mixed in the gel, adding more and more until the desired colour.)

Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter and eggs, ending on the flour.

Mix in small cup the vinegar and baking soda. Watch it fizz, then add to the batter.

Pour the batter into the two pans and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool in wire rack in the pans for 10 minutes, then out of the pans until cool.

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla. (Prepare to be coated in icing sugar cloud.) Beat to combine.