Last weekend, I made a valentine cake. And it was delicious. I was impressed with myself.
I don’t typically make layer cakes. Mostly because transporting a layer cake is a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what, but also because…I am missing whatever gene is necessary to be a rockstar at fancy cake decorating. I am better at what we’ll call “rustic” cake decorating. My version of rustic cake decorating is 1 part legit creativity and 2 parts preschool-style artwork. I’m totally okay with it. I own it. And oddly, I’m a pretty baller cupcake decorator. It’s weird how that pans out, huh?
See what I did there with my new alphabet cookie cutters? So cheesy.
A few things about this cake:
- You should absolutely make your own almond paste. It is SO MUCH TASTIER than the store bought stuff. All you need is almonds, honey, water, and sugar. Here’s a link on how to do it — you can half the recipe and have way more than enough for this cake.
- If you want to have a chocolate-almond layer like I did, bake half your batter as stated in the recipe, and then fold 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cocoa powder into the remaining half before you bake. I actually ended up baking about 2/3 of the batter in round one (plain almond) and 1/3 of the batter in round 2 (chocolate-almond). My chocolate layer was much thinner. Which is fine, as I didn’t want to overpower the plain almond layers. If you want an even showing of chocolate-almond and plain almond cake, divide your batter in half.
- I baked my cake layers in an 8×8 square pan, and cut the layers in half to make a cake that was 8″ x 4″. If you do this, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cakes as your baking time might be a bit shorter.
- For chocolate hearts — melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, put it in a piping bag or a ziploc bag with one of the corners snipped off, and pipe directly onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I put mine in the freezer to help them solidify faster.
- I also made my own sprinkles. It was fun? But store bought ones are just fine, and probably won’t start disintegrating into the frosting 5 hours after you make it.
- According to Molly, this cake is not to be made at any other time of year than Valentine’s Day, but I can’t say that I’ll abide by that rule. It’s too good to wait a full year before making it again!
- I added a thin layer of blackberry jam between my layers (in addition to the frosting).
- The “frosting” on this cake is actually just whipped cream. It balances the cake out perfectly. Make sure you whip your cream thoroughly enough that it is structurally sound. Also, this means you can’t just leave this cake sitting out for long periods of time, lest your dairy spoil (ew) and whipped cream start to melt/un-whip itself (double ew).
recipe, adapted slightly, from My Name Is Yeh
for the cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar
for the “frosting”:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of food coloring, if you want to color your frosting (totally optional)
plus anything you want to use to decorate your cake! I used homemade sprinkles, edible glitter, and chocolate hearts.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your cake pans and set aside.
- Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
- Beat almond paste and egg yolks until well blended, mix in vanilla and almond extract, and set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then gradually fold in the flour mixture. pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean.
- Let cool completely. Sticking them in the freezer helps, and makes them easier to level and frost.
- For the frosting, whip up the whipping cream and add the extracts and food coloring.
- Level your cake layers (so you don’t end up with a leaning cake…unless you totally dig that kind of thing, and then more power to ya).
- Frost and decorate your cake!
I am one of those weird people who takes pride in NOT being over winter. I still like winter. I might even say I love winter. While everyone else starts complaining two weeks in and doesn’t stop until April, I’m generally pretty stoked that it’s cold/snowy/etc. Granted, this is only our fourth real winter (yes, I know winter is still a season in California, but 80 degrees on Christmas IS NOT WINTER), but the novelty still hasn’t worn off. I like cold and snow (but maybe not ice), and I like that those things also make me appreciate summer a lot more. I like getting bundled up and that nobody cares what ridiculous clothing choices I make from December through at least March, because it’s all about being cozy and surviving the wind chill. What I do get tired of, though, is winter flavors. I know, that’s not really a thing, but sometimes it sure feels like it.
This one is especially for those of us who, at some point during the winter months, hit our threshold of baking with cinnamon, chocolate (gasp!), nuts, and apples, and just want it to be seasonally appropriate to make bright, citrusy things again. Things that just scream summer or spring, but mostly just summer because spring in Chicago is any number of things, but warm and consistently sunny are not typically on that list. I want to be reminded of outdoor dining and lemonade and margaritas and mojitos and spending real time outside. Continue reading
If you’re looking for a unique, food-related gift, go candy yourself some citrus. Look at how sparkly it is! Package it up all cute, maybe in little mason jars, and impress your friends. You can even dip the pieces in dark chocolate first, if you’re feeling extra nice.
And then you know what you should do with the leftover candied citrus? Make stollen (basically, traditional German fruit cake.)
Most people hate fruit cake. That is (probably) a scientific fact. It makes sense, right? I mean, I don’t know a whole lot of people who would voluntarily opt for a sickly-sweet, dried fruit laden cake when there are exactly 293874293 other options out there. Continue reading
Thanksgiving Friendsgiving is upon us, y’all! Our first batch of friends flew in on Saturday evening, and we’ve been having fun showing them the city. I do feel a little bad, though, since they happened to arrive on what has been the coldest weekend we’ve had all year. They’re coping quite well, though, especially for being used to the barely-ever-under-50-usually-in-the-70s winter weather of southern California.
I won’t be posting a recipe later this week, but I will have a bunch of festive recipes for you next week! Some pies, and more gifting ideas, too.
I originally had a different recipe to share with you today, but while the particular item in question tasted great, it also looked a little bit gross in photos. It happens, right? Continue reading
I had originally intended to come at you with a recipe for Chocolate Chai Crackle Cookies today, but since I forgot my photos at home, you’ll have to wait til next week for that. It’s worth the wait, though. I swear.
In the interim, I thought I’d share this with you. This is a doozy of a cake…fairly easy to throw together (despite the lengthy ingredient list), and very “fall” tasting. It’d be a great option if you’re responsible for bringing a dessert to a party or potluck, as it travels pretty well and is a nice change from a lot of those sickeningly sweet grocery store desserts that are out there (no hard feelings if you bring those to a party, though. Real talk: we all enjoy a good grocery store cookie/cake/cupcake/brownie from time to time. We don’t always have time to bake. I get you, I promise.) The original recipe calls it a torte, but since this isn’t what I know a torte to be, I’m calling it a cake. So there. Continue reading