Friday, April 24, 2009

Mock Hostess Cupcakes

I randomly crave chocolate.  Given a choice of dessert, I'll generally go after the vanilla or fruity option simply because I feel like chocolate is so overpoweringly....chocolate.  It covers the taste of anything else that tries to play sidekick, and thus is pretty forgiving.  Vanilla or fruit has so much possibility, and so I feel it takes that much more talent and creativity (not to mention execution!) to accentuate and engage the flavours.

But, like any woman, I still crave chocolate sometimes.  So, in hopes of making something similar to the Hostess Cupcakes of childhood, I put these lovely little cakes together with a favored recipe (incredibly fluffy) and some help from Dorie Greenspan's Baking book that I got for my birthday.  The frosting is simply a chocolate ganache that was stirred a few times as it cooled in the fridge until it became spreadable.  YUM!  Make your cakes first, then the frosting, and then the filling, as the filling really needs to be used as soon as it is made.

Fluffy Chocolate Cake

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c butter, soft
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB cocoa, unsweetened
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c ice water

Oven - 350F
2 x 8" rounds, greased and parchment lined on the bottom, or 24 cupcakes

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.  Whip until very smooth and light, and the volume increases, about 3 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate and the cocoa, and mix until combined.  In three additions, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the iced water, mixing well between each addition.

Pour into pans or scoop into lined muffin tins and bake at 350F.  Approximately 25 minutes for rounds or 18 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick just comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

Marshmallow Creme Filling
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 large egg whites, about 1/4 c
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c water
1 tsp good vanilla extract (since this is the only flavouring)

Note: You will need a candy thermometer for this, as the syrup must be boiled to a high enough temperature.  Or you can do it old-school with ice water and cook the syrup to the beginnings of firm ball, but a thermometer is so much easier.

Put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (cold ones will not mount properly, so if you must warm them, place them in the bowl and put the bowl in a sink of warm water, and swirl them around).

Put the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a heavy bottomed pot.  Stir to combine, and then bring to a boil and slap a lid on the pot for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, take the lid off and clip on the candy thermometer (hopefully the probe reaches far enough down - if not, you'll have to tip the pot to the side - be careful! culinary napalm!).  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 242F.

While the syrup is cooking, monitor the temperature carefully.  When the syrup reaches about 225F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed.  If they reach firm peaks before the syrup is ready, keep them beating on low speed.  As soon as the syrup reaches 242F, turn the mixer to medium and slowly (carefully) pour the syrup into the whipping whites, between the beaters and the bowl.  Do not stop to scrape down the bowl or anything that touches the sides. Whip on high for 5 minutes.  The filling should be looking shiny and fluffy.  Continue beating for another 5-10 minutes, or until the filling reaches room temperature.  Use the filling immediately for best consistency.

Ready a piping bag (I used a Wilton #10 tip) and fill it with the frosting.  Punch the tip into the top center of the cupcake, and squeeze about a tablespoon of filling into it.  You will see the cupcake begin to expand, and as this happens, slowly pull the tip out as you lightly squeeze a little more to fill the hole.  Cover with frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together, stirring every 20-30 seconds depending on the strength of your microwave.  When it is smooth, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until the ganache is a spreadable consistency.  This makes enough for 24 cupcakes, or it multiplies easily to make more for a cake.

Should you desire to pipe the loop pattern on top (I was too lazy and I just wanted to eat them), you can make a simple icing of powdered sugar and milk, but make sure it is very thick so it pipes and holds its shape.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Turtle Brownies with Caramel Sauce

Kinda fudgy, a little cakey, dry flaky top with a moist center... sounds like the perfect brownie to me!  Adding some chopped pecans, chocolate chips, and caramel make these Turtle Brownies pure decadence.  I needed to satisfy a chocolate craving yesterday, and these sure did it!

Next time, I might try cutting down on the amount of actual solid chocolate or adding a touch more flour for structure.  I let these bake longer than normal because the center wouldn't set - possibly because of a little too much chocolate (did I really say that?).  The homemade caramel was (still is) wonderful.  Next time, I won't be afraid to let the sugar darken even more!

(I realize the picture would've turned out better if I'd taken the time to put the caramel in a squeeze bottle or plastic bag to drizzle it more professionally, but I just wanted to eat it!)

Turtle Brownies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. semisweet chips (reducing this to 1c next time)
2 TB unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. semisweet chips (additional to above)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. caramel, cold (recipe follows)

Oven - 350F
8x8 greased pan, one bowl wonder

In a large, microwaveable bowl, melt the butter and 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips together in the microwave - carefully! since chocolate burns fast. Add the sugar and whisk to combine, then microwave another 30 seconds more to dissolve more of the sugar (this is what gives the nice flaky top).  Add the cocoa and whisk in completely, then whisk in the vanilla and eggs.  Put the flour, salt, and baking powder on top of the mixture, in that order, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the pecans and 1/2 c. semisweet chips.

Pour half of the batter into the greased pan and smooth out to the sides.  Spoon the caramel over the batter (it doesn't have to be even).  Pour the other half of the batter over the caramel, trying to get even coverage, and smooth it out to the sides.  Bake in preheated 350F oven for 30-40 mins.  A toothpick inserted halfway to the center should come out clean.  You may sprinkle more nuts and chips on top of the brownies, and drizzle with caramel if you like.  Let cool before cutting.


3 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
2 c. heavy cream, at room temperature

Makes 3 1/2 cups, keeps 1 month in fridge

In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, stir the sugar and water together with a wooden spoon.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (syrup will turn crystal clear), stirring occasionally.  When the syrup turns clear, stop stirring, and quickly dip a pastry brush in cold water and wash down the crystals from the sides of the pot - you'll dip and wash several times to get all of the sides clean.  As soon as this is done, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat up to high.  Keep the lid on for 3 minutes, so the steam can condense and wash down the sides of the pot to pick up anything you missed.

After 3 minutes, uncover the pot and continue to cook on med-high to high, until the syrup turns a deep amber colour, about 15 mins.  You may swirl the pot occasionally for even browning, if your pot doesn't cook evenly, but be careful not to splash yourself - this is culinary napalm!  When the syrup begins to colour, it goes pretty quickly after that so keep a close eye on it.

When the syrup is deep amber, remove from heat, and slowly pour in the cream while whisking constantly.  Be very careful as there will be a lot of steam and bubbling, and maybe some splattering.  Return to low heat and whisk until smooth, about 1 min.  Use immediately over ice cream, cakes, cobblers, etc, or cool to room temp. before refrigerating.


I've never made Baklava before.  Mamoun's baklava (when I was in New Haven) was the best I'd ever had and I still miss it.  DF had a recipe he'd used before and we gave it a shot, with minor adjustments.  We also cut the recipe down so that it fit in an 8x8 pan, and cut the stack of phyllo in half so we weren't trying to layer a long sheet.  We placed each sheet touching a different side of the pan so that the entire phyllo layer ended up covering the whole space, instead of stacking them all in the middle and none of them touching the sides!

Be careful not to grind the nuts too fine if you're using a food processor (new Cuisinart 14-c. is a dream!).  Next time, I think we're going to go a little bit coarser on the grind so it's not packed in so tight, though this baklava was definitely lighter than any DF had ever made.


Nut Filling

2½ c nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or a mix of any of the above)

1/3 c white sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Honey Syrup

1 c white sugar

½ c orange blossom honey

½ c water

Juice from ½ lemon, strained

Zest from ¼ lemon

2½ cinnamon sticks

1tbs orange flower water or rose water (different flavour)

Pastry Layers

½ lb Phyllo dough

1 stick unsalted butter


Dishes/Utensils Needed

Small microwave-safe bowl, 8x8 baking dish, Pastry brush, Moist kitchen towel, Medium saucepan, Blender/Food processor, Measuring cups, Measuring spoons, Strainer

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Chop the nuts finely using a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the sugar, and cinnamon to the nuts and process to blend.
  4. Put butter in a small bowl and microwave until melted.
  5. Brush some butter on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.
  6. Open the phyllo box and unroll the dough on the counter. Cut the phyllo in half to fit the baking dish.
  7. Place one half-sheet of phyllo in the baking dish and brush some butter over it. Repeat this process until there are 8 half-sheets laid upon the bottom of the dish.
  8. Sprinkle ½ c nut mixture evenly over the pastry layers. Cover with 4 half-sheets of phyllo, buttering each after placing it in the dish. Repeat this process until there is either no more nut mixture left or you only have 8 half-sheets of phyllo left.
  9. Top the dish with 8 half-sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet as above.
  10. Roll any phyllo extending over the edges inwards onto the top of the baklava.
  11. Score the top few layers of phyllo in diamond or triangle pattern. Brush the top of the dish thoroughly butter.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden, about 45-50 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, place all the honey syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Set aside until baklava is finished baking.
  14. When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour half the honey syrup over the dish very slowly. After letting stand for 20 minutes, pour the remainder of the syrup over the dish, again very slowly. Let cool completely, several hours, then cut along the scores completely through.



·      Phyllo comes in 1 lb. boxes. Athens brand includes two half-pound packages in the box, which is convenient for this recipe.

·      Keep the edges of the pastry buttered if necessary to keep them from drying out as you build it.

·      Work quickly but carefully; phyllo is very delicate and prone to drying out.  Keep the phyllo covered with a damp kitchen towel or paper towel.

·      Two people working together can make building this go much more quickly!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Buttermilk Cupcake and Chocolate Frosting

I'm still searching for the perfect chocolate frosting.  Chocolate frostings made with only powdered cocoa somehow taste a little....raw to me.  Using only solid chocolate makes it hard sometimes to get the right chocolate taste - it usually turns out sort of mocha to me.  Chocolate frosting just never tastes chocolate enough! I can't figure this out.

While pondering and studying a bunch of recipes I found, I happened across this lovely frosting on RecipeZaar that had really wonderful reviews.  I modified it a bit because I am not a fan of having to cut into a stick of butter for only 1-2 TB (or using only the egg yolk and ditching the white, etc except I do have a ton of frozen egg whites....).  The buttermilk cupcake was incredibly moist and light, for only having a half stick of butter in the entire batch!  And the combination together? Can't beat that with a stick!

Buttermilk Cake

1 1/4 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2 large eggs
1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk

Oven - 350F
18-20 cupcakes

In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, until combined.  Beat in vanilla.  Add APF, baking soda, and salt to the mixture, and slowly beat together while pouring in the buttermilk.  Stir until well combined.  Pour into tins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18-20 mins.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate
6 oz unsalted butter
1 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 TB hot water
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
3 TB cocoa
4 oz unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 c heavy cream

Melt chocolate and 6 oz butter together, either in a microwave or double boiler (metal bowl over pot of simmering water).  Whisk together until combined.  Stir in espresso and vanilla. Cool to room temp.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or workbowl of food processor), cream the remaining 4 oz butter with half of the powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Scrape down the sides and add the rest of the sugar.  As the mixer starts, slowly pour in the cream.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until it becomes shiny and smooth.  (It will look like it's coming together, then it will break down and look completely curdled and your heart will start to pound as you think you did something totally wrong, but have faith! It will become the most fluffy and luxurious frosting you've ever had)

Makes a ton of frosting - Plenty for a layer cake.  I frosted all 20 cupcakes and had a quart of frosting left for the freezer.  Frosting also freezes and thaws well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sourdough French Bread

I love sourdough.  It is quickly becoming one of my favourite things to make because it DOES take a long time and it leaves me tons of time to practice in between ferments and folds.  This particular loaf of bread was intended to be plain old french bread, and I was going for a nice open crumb on it (see the big holes?).  The crust was a little lighter than I wanted it to, but it had already baked for 50 mins and I was worried it was going to start darkening too much on the bottom.

Unfortunately, I didn't jot the recipe down right after I made it, so I can't tell you exactly, but it all started with about 1c mature starter, 3 c bread flour, 1TB salt, and water (which I can't remember how much of!).  I remember it was a higher hydration dough than I had previously attempted, though.

If you're interested in the recipe, I could probably come up with one that was close....

Chicken and Biscuits

Sometime last week, I needed to make something for dinner and I just wasn't inspired to make anything.  I was in a rush, was prepping for an audition, and didn't want to have to waste time making something extravagant.  Told DF I was going to make some kind of chicken and biscuit bake thing so I could stick it in the oven and warm up for the audition, and I think he almost jumped up and down and clapped his hands like a little boy!  He had mentioned a few days prior to this that he really liked c&b, and I guess it stuck in my head.

Thawed some chicken, looked at what was in the fridge for veggies, and this is what we got.

Chicken and Biscuits

2 chicken breasts, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper
3 c milk, cold, or mix of milk and stock
3 TB butter
3 TB flour

Oven: 375F
Oval 10" casserole dish (some kind of 3qt casserole dish)

Place a 3-4qt pot over medium heat and heat 1-2 TB olive oil  with the garlic.  When it starts to sizzle a little, add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until softened, about 5 mins.  Add some salt and pepper (you should s&p each step, so add a little at a time).  Add the diced chicken, s&p again, and cook until you can't see any more raw spots.   Transfer this to a bowl or plate and set aside for now.

In the same pan, add the 3 TB of butter and wait until it stops foaming.  Sprinkle the 3 TB flour over this and whisk until it is combined.  Let it cook for about 1 min to cook out the raw flour flavour, and then slowly begin pouring in the cold milk (rule: hot rue, cold liquid, stir continuously = no lumps).  Add the milk slowly while you whisk rapidly so your mixture stays smooth.  After everything is smooth and mixed in, you can turn the heat up to med-high and let it come to a simmer, where it will thicken into your sauce.  S&P this as well.

After it has thickened, add the chicken and vegetables back into the pot with the thyme.  Stir it all together and turn the heat down to low while you prepare the biscuit mix.  When biscuit mix is ready, taste the chicken mixture to test s&p seasoning, adjust if necessary, then pour into greased casserole.  Dish biscuit mixture over the top, and bake in 375F oven for about 25mins, or until the biscuit topping is golden brown.  (I would recommend putting the casserole dish on top of a sheet pan, in case it drips over the side)

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 c. cold buttermilk
1/4 c. shortening**

optional: 1/2 c. shredded cheese, or 1 TB dill, etc

**When measuring shortening, cover a dry measuring cup with plastic wrap and scoop it out.  Then just take the plastic wrap off and dump the shortening in the work bowl, and your measuring cup stays clean.  No more nasty greasy cup!

Oven: 375F
~8 ice cream scoop sized biscuits
1 bowl wonder

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the shortening and cut in with a fork until pea sized crumbs remain.  Add any optional add-ins (for chicken and biscuits, I like to add 1 TB dill) and stir them in.  Pour the cold buttermilk over the top and stir the dough together.  Scoop with a disher onto a parchment sheet and bake ~15-18 mins, or until golden brown.


I made tortillas once while I was in Connecticut.  That was bad news.  Somehow, the dough keep sticking to the cast iron, never cooked right, and flaked and broke every time I tried to move it! Definitely a FAIL.

After reading a post from EvilShenanigans on the bread forum I'm on (Fresh Loaf), I was inspired to try again.  I confessed to my best friend that I had succumbed to my artery clogging desires, and purchased a pound of lard at the store for this exact purpose: making tortillas!  This is her recipe, and the only modification I made was to actually use hot milk instead of warm.

Flour Tortillas

2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c hot milk

Cast iron pan or griddle, or heavy bottomed pan
~12, 6" tortillas

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place all the dry ingredients and stir together.  Add the lard and mix with the paddle attachment until the fat is mostly cut in.  Switch to the dough hook and slowly mix in the hot milk and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 5 mins.  The dough will glisten slightly like a matte finish photo.

Cut into 12 pieces and roll into balls (you can scale this out if you want).  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.  Roll into 6-7" rounds and cook on a medium heat griddle until golden on both sides.  I would recommend rolling and cooling at the same time so the dough doesn't dry out and form a skin.  Transfer the hot tortilla to a plate and cover with a towel while you finish the rest.

Eat while warm, or cool completely before storing.

Croissants and Pains au Chocolat

Who doesn't love a golden brown and delicious, flaky, buttery pastry?  Maybe if you're in line for the next heart attack, it isn't the best, but this recipe from Le Cordon Bleu's Professional Baking book really did turn out pretty amazing.  This was a first try at any of the recipes out of this book, after I've studied it for the past few months.  Not so bad!

The daunting thing about croissants from scratch, is the fact that it is a laminated dough - meaning that the butter is rolled between layers of dough and then everything is rolled together over and over.  The yeast helps with rise and flavour, but the bulk of the rise comes from the water evaporating from the butter, separating the layers of dough.  This isn't so hard if you have the butter and dough at the right (and same) temperature (I think somewhere right around 60-65F where the butter isn't so cold it's stiff, but not so warm that it's going to ooze and melt).

Last time I attempted croissants, it was a big FAIL.  My apt didn't allow air conditioning (miserable place, don't go there) and my work table was a folding table (wobbly and in danger of falling over if you blew on it).  Not ideal work conditions.  This time, however, working on my new butcher block and in lovely cool temperatures, it turned out wonderfully!  Fwiw, even if you think it's going to be bad, press on and go for the goal.  I thought these were going to be completely wrong, worried endlessly that the dough and butter had simply fused together into one layer and that there wouldn't be any flakes, but lo and behold, layers upon layers of flaky golden goodness!

Croissants (and Pain au Chocolat)
from Le Cordon Bleu's Professional Baking

8 oz milk (by weight)
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 oz sugar
1/4 oz salt
1 1/2 oz butter, softened, plus 8 oz butter, cold
14 oz bread flour

Oven: 400F
2 day process
2 baking sheets, ~15-20 items, depending on size

Scald the milk (heat until small bubbles form around the edges so that the heat can denature the enzymes) and let cool until lukewarm.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.  Add the 1 1/2 oz butter and start the mixer.  With the motor running, pour in the milk and mix into a smooth dough, but do not try to develop the gluten.  Rolling in the remaining 8 oz butter will develop plenty of gluten.

Move this into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature until doubled ~1-1.5 hours.  While the dough is rising, go ahead and take out the butter so it can sit for about 30 mins at room temp before you start to try to shape it.  Lightly degas (you don't actually have to punch it) and spread out onto a sheet pan and rest in refrigerator for 30 mins.

While the dough is resting, put the butter on a lightly floured surface and roll them together to form a smooth rectangle, about 8x10".  I like to roll mine between sheets of plastic wrap so it is easy to move around.

When the dough has cooled down to about 60 degrees (about same temp as butter), roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 10x15".  I use my rectangular board as a guideline (it's about 12x16") but use whatever is handy.  Place the butter rectangle on the dough so that it covers the bottom two thirds of the dough (think vertically here) and there is a small edge of unbuttered dough all the way around.  Fold the top (unbuttered) third down so that it covers the middle section, and then fold the bottom third over that so that you have a tri-fold letter shape.  Press the edges together to seam the dough closed so the butter stays in.

Turn 1: turn the dough 90 degrees so that the short end faces you, ie line it up with your board again, long side to long side.  Quickly roll the dough back out into a 10x15" rectangle and fold the top third down over the middle, then the bottom third up to tri-fold into a letter shape again.  Press a finger into the bottom right corner of the dough to indicate 1 turn complete. Cover and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 mins to relax the gluten and cool the dough back down.  (If you are doing this on a chilled marble slab, you might be able to get 2 turns in before having to rest.)

Do 2 more turns the same way, chilling the dough in between turns, and always turning the worse looking side up.  You can continue to lightly flour the dough if needed, and if you accidentally rip the dough, patch it with flour so the butter doesn't continue to leak through.

After 3 turns, let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day: Let the dough sit on the counter for about 1 hour to take the chill off before you begin to shape.

Croissants:  Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10" wide and about 1/8 inch thick.  Length will depend on how much dough you have.  You may roll the dough out to the size of your board, then slice in half so you can work with one half at a time.  When slicing, remember to pull towards your body in one clean motion so you don't press down all the layers you just worked so hard to make.

Cut the rectangle into triangles (you can cut into rectangles and then cut diagonally) and place a triangle on the space in front of you, point facing you.  Stretch the top corners of the triangle slightly out (L and R) and begin rolling down the triangle towards the point.  Finish rolling and curve the ends of the roll up towards where you first began (away from you).  Place on parchment lined sheet pan.

Pains au Chocolat:  In a small bowl, beat one egg with a tablespoon of water or milk for an egg wash. Roll dough into rectangle as for croisasnts, but cut into rectangles of desired size (mine were about 4x5" and plenty big).  Put a tablespoon or so of semi-sweet chips, or a thin bar of baking chocolate, in the bottom third of the rectangle.  Brush egg wash along the top edge of the rectangle.  Roll the dough from the bottom edge up, completely enclosing the chocolate in dough and finishing with the egg-washed seam.  Press down slightly to flatten and completely close the seam on the bottom.  Place on parchment lined sheet pan.

Lightly spray the items with oil and cover with plastic wrap so they can proof for about 30 mins.  Preheat your oven while they are rising.  Right before putting into the oven, brush them with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired.  Bake in 400F oven for approximately 15-20 mins.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Red Velvet Penguin Cake

Last week, DF and I once again taunted the temper of the nefarious Kitchen God. Several months ago, I swore off baking cakes and decorating in DFs kitchen (and the rest of the house!) because of several failed cakes. Layers sliding off one another, fillings leaking out, frostings falling apart... It was horrible!

We contrived to bake two layers of cake and after filling the cake (standard cream cheese frosting), cut it to match a picture which I am sure you will all recognize: Tux (the Linux penguin). One crumb coat and full frosting coat later, there was nary a fault to our cake. Success! We proceeded to colour and pipe the penguin design to the top.

Random side rant: I HATE it when people say: "Red Velvet Cake is just a chocolate cake with food colouring." That is completely absurd and absolutely wrong! It is instead a tender buttermilk cake with a HINT of chocolate. It's the touch of chocolate that makes you go: "hmm..." End rant.

Southern Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour (APF)
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 TB cocoa
1 c vegetable oil
1/2 c melted butter
1 c buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 TB red food colour = 1 oz
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Oven: 350F
Pans: 2 x 9" rounds or 3 x 8" rounds, ~24 cupcakes
One bowl wonder

In a large bowl (not plastic as the dye will stain), whisk the sugar and cocoa together until there are no more small lumps of cocoa. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, and then slowly add the oil, butter, vanilla, vinegar, buttermilk, salt and food colour. Sprinkle the APF over the wet, then sprinkle the baking soda over the flour. Whisk together until smooth. Pour into greased and parchment lined rounds and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30mins for 9" pans and 25mins for 8" pans.

Cool 5 mins, run a knife around the edge to loosen from the pan, cool another 10 mins, then unmold onto cooling racks and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 lb cream cheese, cold
2 sticks butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
8-10 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese until creamy. Add the butter and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and mix, then add 8 cups of sugar and cover the mixer with plastic wrap or a towel, and mix until combined. Add the last amount of sugar slowly until you reach the desired consistency. Thin with milk or cream if you accidentally add too much sugar.