One of the things I love most about the holidays is the abundant use of spices. I have a proven addiction to anything with gingerbread flavors and while I usually bake up the traditional gingerbread cookies, cakes, quick breads and muffins, this year I thought I’d try something new. Gingerbread flavored buttercream. Well, not just any old buttercream…swiss meringue buttercream! It’s sturdy enough to stand up to the bold spices yet just pure, creamy and silky enough to make you go back for more. Truly a decadent holiday treat.
I’ve been asked for a long time now what method I use for applying ganache to my cakes, so I finally decided to do a tutorial. My methods aren’t ground breaking or innovative, but I do try to focus on teaching a process that is fast, simple, inexpensive and most importantly…repeatable. Give it a try and see for yourself. You might just be surprised at how simple it really can be!
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Sometimes, I can be inspired to create new flavors of cake from the strangest of things. Ice cream is my inspiration a lot of the time, especially good ice cream with as little ingredients as possible. Perhaps it’s the way that the flavors dance on your tongue and the way they play together in one bite. Good ice cream, for me, is never overly sweet and you can taste the actual flavors of the ice cream before you taste any sweetness. That’s the way I like my cake too, with lots and lots of real flavor and just enough sweetness to prove the point that it is actually dessert.
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For a scratch cake, this recipe is pretty simple and quick. Sometimes you need quick. Like those moments when your kids inform you that they forgot to mention they have to bring cupcakes to school the next day…and it’s 9 PM. Or when your hubby/wife says he/she will rub your feet if you feed him/her cupcakes, and you have no cupcakes, your feet hurt, and…it’s 9 PM. We all have those days, right? These cupcakes will come to the rescue. They’re called lemon velvet but they could easily become a nice velvety vanilla cupcake too by just omitting the lemon zest. A versatile and easy recipe cure for forgetful kids and/or sore feet.
Like a brown-eyed baby born with blue eyes, all my buttercreams are born vanilla. The only exception to that is my brown sugar buttercream because it doesn’t follow the recipe below. Make up a batch of vanilla buttercream and imagine the possibilities. You can add some melted white or dark or milk chocolate, any kind of homemade fruit puree (which I prefer over jam), crushed candies or nuts, zest of orange or lime or lemon, freshly made caramel…really, anything! Just avoid anything with too much liquid in it, or cream cheese (I’ll tell you how to make that further down in this post) as this can break your buttercream.
If you’re a fan of butter pecan ice cream, then you will love this cake as much as I do. I created it to have all of the same flavor notes as the ice cream, sweet vanilla with buttery pecans. It’s an extra special cake for the holidays because it’s just rich enough to be holiday worthy but not too heavy that you can’t enjoy it after eating a big holiday meal. You can even serve it instead of the usual pecan pie.
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For as long as I can remember, since starting to make my own scratch cakes, yellow cake has been my nemesis. I admit that I am pretty hard to please when it comes to a yellow cake because I always imagine a taste like a southern butter pound cake and a mouth feel like a fluffy yellow oil-based…(gasp) box cake. All of the chemicals in a box cake really make for a fluffy, delicious, tender soft crumb and I was determined to recreate that mouth feel sans the chemicals.
You might ask, why not just use cake flour? This, of course would solve a lot of problems but I can’t really market my cakes as natural and European style by using a heavily bleached processed product, and personally I loathe the taste and smell of cakes that are made with cake flour. I can actually taste the bleach and the chemicals and it really takes away from that rich buttery flavor. I knew there had to be a way around this.