Chef Emerson’s Brown Butter Blondie Bites

Blondie Bites Emme

If you love brownies you will love its vanilla forward cousin, the “blondie”. The texture and chewiness of a blondie resembles a traditional, fudgy brownie however, the cocoa is substituted for vanilla and brown sugar replaces the granulated sugar. Being a bonafide vanilla lover myself, I really enjoy the delicious flavor of a well executed blondie.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it’s super kid friendly so you can get your little chefs in the kitchen and let them have it! The recipe comes from a great, easy to follow cookbook for kids entitled, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen which in my opinion, is one of the BEST cookbook publishers out there. Their recipes are always easy to follow, delicious and fail proof.

My daughter made these beauties all on her own and except for a few very minor substitutions, she followed the recipe as written.

Emme Blondie Baker

The nice thing about this recipe is that because the blondies are baked in individual muffin cups they both bake and cool much more quickly. To enhance the flavor and give the blondies a more complex, nutty flavor she decided to first brown the butter which turned out to be an excellent idea. It really added to the richness and overall flavor. She also substituted the white chocolate chips that were called for and instead used Heath® Bit o’ Brickle pieces. Needless to say, these were a big hit in our home. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed (light or dark) brown sugar
  • 8 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips or Heath® Bit o’ Brickle pieces

Instructions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cooled melted butter until nice and smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Add to the wet ingredients the flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to stir gently until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips or toffee pieces.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups filling them up about halfway.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, place the blondie bites on a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

*To brown butter – In a light colored pan*, melt the desired amount of butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After 4-5 minutes the butter will begin to foam and bubble, keep stirring and watching it closely at this point. As the foaming begins to subside watch the color of the butter, once it looks slightly golden brown remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl to cool. You will know the butter is browned and ready by the aroma, it should smell nutty and fragrant at this point.*

Warm and Cozy Cinnamon Baked Apples

baked cinnamon apples

The only thing better than biting into a crisp fresh apple is digging into warm, spiced baked apples which are not only delicious but relatively healthy. Baked apples make a great stand alone treat as well as a fantastic topping for ice cream, french toast, pancakes, waffles, toast or even chicken! They are also incredibly yummy stirred into vanilla yogurt, it makes for the perfect filling breakfast. I like to make a big batch of these apples and then keep them in the fridge so I have them on hand all week for my breakfast and snacks.

This recipe is great because nothing really needs to be exact. Feel free to add a little more cinnamon and spice or if you like your apples more “syrupy“, add a little more liquid or even a dash of maple syrup for flavor and stickiness. There really is no way to mess this recipe up so get comfortable playing around with the ingredients and flavor profile.

One quick trick to speed up the prep time is to use an Apple Corer and Slicer which makes the job so much easier. I feel that the apple slices are a little on the thick side so I like to halve them however, you can bake them “as is” just be sure to increase the cooking time. Serve the apples warm right out of the oven, at room temperature or even cold. They will keep for a few day if placed in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 large baking apples peeled, cored and sliced to medium thickness (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc)
  • 3-4 tbs water or apple cider

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Set aside.

Mix together the brown sugar, vanilla (or granulated) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples slices in the mixture and coat evenly.

Place the apples into the baking dish and add the water or cider to the baking dish. Dot the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender but not mushy.

S’mores Cookie Bars

smores bars.jpg

There is nothing quite like S’mores, they are a warm, gooey, scrumptious bite of heaven. They are without a doubt one of my most favorite desserts and they are always a crowd pleaser as well. I love this particular recipe because it makes it easy to serve them up to a bunch of people without having to make them one by one. In fact, they are so easy to make that even your kids will be able to whip these up, it’s the perfect recipe for those little budding chefs to try their hand at!

These amazing S’mores Cookie Bars comes from one of my favorite baking sites, Sally’s Baking Addiction , you can click right here to link to the original recipe. These are absolutely perfect as written, the only minor change that I made was to use bittersweet chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet because I really love dark chocolate.

Take note, when the bars are done baking, it is very important that you allow them to cool completely otherwise they will be a warm, gooey mess and very difficult to cut. However, if you don’t care about appearances, attack that pan and go crazy! I always love a nice warm S’mores so even if they have cooled and been cut, you can give them a quick zap in the microwave to warm back up. Any leftover bars will keep for about a week in a tightly covered container. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (115g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (100g) graham cracker crumbs (about 9-10 graham crackers)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/4 cup (225g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 heaping cup marshmallow creme

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the bars when they have cooled. Set aside.

In a large bowl using handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium-high speed. Beat for about 2 minutes until smooth and combined, then add the vanilla extract and egg, beating until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl down as needed. Set aside.

Toss the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder together until combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.

Press 2/3 of the graham cookie dough into prepared pan. Spread the marshmallow creme on top. Sprinkle the marshmallow creme with chocolate chips. Mold the remaining cookie dough into flat pieces and layer on top of the chocolate chips. (There will not be enough dough to make one single layer so some chocolate chips will be exposed.)

Bake the bars for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely with the pan set on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Bars stay fresh covered tightly at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Brown Butter Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler

peach cobbler

What is better than crunchy, buttery sugar cookies and warm spiced fruit? How about when you put those two things together to make a delicious cobbler! This super simple dessert is made mostly from ingredients that you have around the house in addition to a pouch of sugar cookie mix and frozen fruit, which is always good to keep stocked in the freezer. This is such an easy and delicious dessert to make when last minute company shows up, they will think you were baking for hours when in reality this recipe takes just a few minutes to pull together. Be sure not to skip browning the butter, it takes just a few minutes but will impart layers of warm, nutty flavor to the cookie topping.

The recipe was adapted from the site, tablespoon.com and you can find the original recipe right here . Although the recipe calls for peaches, you can easily substitute in any fruit that you desire. With fall upon us, warm cinnamon apples would make for a perfect cozy, cool weather dessert but berries, nectarines or even pears would also make for a yummy dish as well. Cinnamon is called for however, apple pie spice, baking spice, nutmeg or any other warm, fall spice would be equally delicious too. Experiment with the fruit and spices until you find something that you love. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the fruit base

  • 2 12 oz. bags of frozen sliced peaches, thawed
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbs fresh lemon juice, about 1 medium-sized lemon
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the cookie topping

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tbs coarse sparkling sugar

Instructions

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Scatter peach slices evenly in pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the lemon juice evenly over top, stir to combine. Top evenly with 3 tablespoons cubed butter.
In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup butter over medium heat and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown, stir frequently. Pour into large bowl. Add to the bowl the cookie mix, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the egg and stir until a soft dough forms. Spoon the dough evenly over the top of the peach mixture. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and edges of fruit filling are bubbly. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
**Tip – This dessert is best served warm and topped with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream**

 

Chef Emerson’s Almond Vanilla Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Em cake 5

If there is one thing my daughter loves to do it is bake and now that she’s getting older, she is almost 10 now, she really loves to work independently on her kitchen creations. I try to give her as much space as she needs during her time in the kitchen assisting only as needed with measuring and baking tips. Don’t be afraid to hand over the reins to your little baker, the only way for them to learn and grow in the kitchen is for them to do the work on their own.

This recipe was adapted from one of my daughter’s favorite cookbooks, The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino who also happens to have a really great YouTube® baking channel. It’s a simple to follow recipe so it is great for kids to try on their own. The original recipe is for a lightly lemon flavored pound cake however, my daughter Emerson isn’t fond of lemon so she decided to change-up the flavor profile. She eliminated the lemon zest and instead used a little less vanilla extract while adding in some almond extract. Then she decided to incorporate some mini chocolate chips as well because in her world, everything is better with chocolate! If you wish to make the original recipe simply use 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest instead of the chocolate chips and extracts combination.

One small tip to ensure that you chocolate chips are evenly dispersed throughout the cake, lightly dust them in flour before adding them to the batter. Chocolate chips have a tendency to sink to the bottom of batter however, a light dusting of flour will help to suspend them nicely throughout the finished cake. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a bundt ban with cooking spray and lightly dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Place the mini chocolate chips in a small bowl and very lightly dust them with flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

On low-speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the mini chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated.

mixer pic

Pour the batter evenly into prepared bundt pan. Tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

em cake 4

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If needed, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a small butter knife. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan into a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Em Cake 3.jpg

**Tip – To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, gently place them into a bowl of hot tap water and allow them to sit for a few minutes.**

Venezuelan Polvorosa Cookies

Vene Polvorosa Cookie_n

These cookies are SOOOOO good!!! I can’t believe I didn’t discover them until just recently but now that I am “in the know“, these easy cookies have been added to my cookie rotation. A little while back I was asked to do a cooking lesson with my friend’s Girl Scout troop and the focus was, “Snacks From Other Cultures“, and I thought these would be a nice treat to bring in for the girls. They are a traditional Venezuelan cookie that is typically made around the Christmas holiday but truth be told, they are a wonderful treat anytime of the year!

I came across this recipe online at the “Mommy’s Home Cooking” blog site, you can find the original recipe right here . It is such a super easy recipe to make and the ingredients are things that most everyone should have on hand. The recipe calls for pure vanilla extract as a flavoring but since this is a very “vanilla forward” cookie, I decided to amp up the flavor by using vanilla paste (I love all of the flecking in the cookies!!) and my homemade vanilla sugar instead of plain granulated sugar. It was absolutely delicious with these two additions however, they aren’t necessary to use in order to make a delicious cookie. The cookies are still excellent even if you’re using plain granulated sugar and vanilla extract.

This cookie is a crumbly, sandy cookie which I found to be delicious but it’s important to NOT over-bake them or they will really dry out and have an unappealing texture. Watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time, you’re looking for a light colored cookie with just very slight browning on the sides. I didn’t let mine go past the 25 minute mark and they were absolutely perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, for coating 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix shortening on medium speed until creamy, about 20 seconds. Blend in sugar and salt and mix to combine. Add in vanilla and cinnamon.

With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add in the flour and mix just until combined.

Roll balls of dough, about 1 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Arrange the balls on a large baking sheet, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Press fork into the tops to flatten them a little.

Bake for 20 -25 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the sides. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cookies are cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

EASTER SUGAR COOKIES

I love ALL things vanilla! It’s my most favorite flavor and smell and when made right, nothing beats a good vanilla sugar cookie. This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook that I picked up a few months back entitled, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. If you love vanilla this is one cookbook you’ll want to add to your collection. It’s filled with delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, puddings and even candy!

I followed this recipe as is however, instead of just using pure vanilla extract I also used vanilla paste because I really wanted to bring out and highlight the vanilla flavor of this cookie. I used two teaspoons of vanilla paste and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the cookie dough. I did have to restrain myself from throwing the whole bottle in! The combination of vanilla paste and extract really made for an exceptionally flavored cookie! I highly recommend investing in a bottle of vanilla paste if you haven’t already done so. It is a little pricey nowadays but in desserts that are very vanilla forward such as these cookies, it’s really worth using.

While most cookies are incredible when they come right out of the oven, I have found that these cookies actually improve in flavor as they cool and “age“. As they cool the vanilla notes really pop and the texture becomes that perfect combination of sandy, chewy and crispy. I thought that the next day, they were even better and more perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • colored sanding sugar

*If you do not have vanilla sugar, plain granulated sugar is also fine to use.*

Instructions

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the oil and egg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the oil/egg mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Roll dough into balls, about 1 tbs in size and place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets. Pour the vanilla sugar onto a plate and dip a flat bottom glass into the sugar to coat, press into each ball to flatten to about 1/4″ thickness. Re-sugar the glass after every cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are pale golden and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Rotate the cookies sheets from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

**Tip** – Make vanilla sugar by taking used, scraped vanilla beans and submerging them in granulated sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container and within a few weeks you will have vanilla sugar which is perfect to use in all baking applications.

Toasted Marshmallow S’mores Cake

Toasted Marshmallow Cake

If you love S’mores than this is your cake! It’s a rich dark chocolate cake filled with crushed graham crackers and marshmallow meringue frosting and then covered in even more marshmallow meringue frosting and browned until nice and toasty. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! I made this for my son’s 5th birthday the other day and it was a huge hit! My birthday boy and all of the guests loved it and the best part? It might look fancy but it is super easy to make.

I started with the recipe for my Dark Chocolate Cake which is both easy and foolproof.  The Marshmallow Meringue Frosting was taken from the cookbook,Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats which you can pick up on Amazon if interested. The frosting is also super easy to make but make sure your cakes are cooled and ready to go as you should frost them right after making the frosting. The frosting will be glossy and fluffy like melted marshmallows and although it will be sticky, it will go on the cake nicely as long as you move quickly. After toasting, it will take on a nice, slightly dry outer coating which is simply delicious.

You can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting one of two ways, either in the oven or with a basic kitchen torch. I happen to have a kitchen torch however, as luck would have it I was out of butane the day I made this. So I did what any good cook does when faced with a challenge in the kitchen, I improvised! First I toasted the cake in the oven at 375ºF for about 4 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the cake as it can toast quickly and you don’t want it to burn. Then, using an Aim n’ Flame®, I toasted the outside edges. It took longer than using a kitchen torch and it didn’t toast quite as evenly but it still gave me the desired result and the frosting came out browned and toasty.

Finish off the cake by spreading a little extra marshmallow frosting on top and covering with crushed graham crackers and broken up Hershey® bar pieces. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz) brewed coffee, cold
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

For the marshmallow meringue frosting

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the assembled cake

  • 1 sleeve of graham cracker, crushed
  • 1 large Hershey® bar, broken into pieces

Instructions

For the cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan for even easier release.

Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth, batter will be very thin. Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then loosen the cake from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack. Cool completely.

For the marshmallow frosting – In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the mixture as it heats and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated. Frost cake immediately.

To assemble the cake – Cover the bottom layer of cake with a thick coating of the marshmallow meringue frosting. Cover with half of the crushed graham crackers. Place the second layer on top and completely frost the cake. To toast the frosting, either place the cake in a 375ºF oven for 4 minutes OR use a kitchen torch. Once the frosting is toasted and dry to the touch, add some more of the marshmallow meringue frosting on top and cover with the remaining crushed graham crackers and broken pieces of Hershey® bar.

Sugar Cookie Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

This is a fresh and flavorful cake that is perfect for birthday parties or spring/summer holidays such as Easter. The original recipe is from a fabulous book entitled, Cakes by Melissa: Life Is What You Bake It by Melissa Ben-Ishay, which is filled with great recipes for cakes, frostings, fillings, and toppings! I decided to combine this strawberry cake with her scrumptious recipe for sugar cookie dough which is perfect for nibbling since it contains no eggs. I could eat this sugar cookie dough ALL DAY LONG! The recipe makes a lot of sugar cookie dough, more than you need for this recipe, so you can either halve the recipe or tightly wrap the leftovers and freeze for later use.

The wonderful thing about this cake is that you don’t have to make it strawberry flavored, the recipe calls for a homemade fruit puree for the flavoring so you can feel free to play around and experiment with whatever fruit you like best! Try mixed berries, pineapple, peaches, or even mango! The possibilities for this cake are seemingly endless. For the frosting, I used a swiss buttercream since it tints well and isn’t overly sweet.

One last note, before making your cake be sure to bring all of the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature. Cold ingredients don’t blend as well and subsequently won’t form a proper emulsion. It’s tempting to overlook this step but please don’t as it’s really quite necessary in order to create a fluffy, light baked good. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups strawberry puree*
  • sanding sugar, for decoration

For the sugar cookie dough

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease two 9″ round baking pans or line the pans with parchment paper and butter the paper.

With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 1 minute on high-speed, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the vanilla extract then add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl midway through.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and sea salt. In another bowl, stir together the milk and the strawberry puree.

With the mixer on low-speed, add half of the flour mixture. When it’s mostly incorporated add half of the milk mixture. Add the remainder of the dry and wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Stop mixing as soon as you have a smooth batter.

Divide the batter equally between the two pans and bake until the middle of the cake feels springy when you gently press with your finger, about 35-40 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, make the buttercream frosting and sugar cookie dough. To make the sugar cookie dough, using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on high for about a minute. Add the vanilla and whip to just incorporate. Add the sugar and whip for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and salt and whip just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time.

Allow the cakes to completely cool on wire racks before icing and decorating. Frost the layer cake then break off small pieces of the sugar cookie dough and assemble them around the outside edge of the cake. Sprinkle lightly with sanding sugar. Extra sugar cookie dough can be wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator for use in other recipes.

*To make the strawberry puree – Clean and hull 3 1/2 cups (a little more than a pint) of fresh strawberries. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, adding a little granulated sugar if the berries are a bit too tart.

“How-To” Baking – Buttercream Frosting 101

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Buttercream frosting is made from a combination of butter and sugar whipped together to create a light, airy and delicious finishing touch for cupcakes and cakes. All but the American version add eggs to the base and instead of powdered sugar, use granulated sugar instead. There are six different types of buttercream frostings: Italian, Swiss, German, French, American and Pudding-Style. American buttercream tends to be the most sweet as it relies heavily on the use of powdered sugar. The other variations of buttercream tend to be a little lighter and less sweet. (Click below on each variety of buttercream for the recipe)

When making buttercream, there are a few general guidelines to be aware of to ensure a delicious finished product every time!

  • Use room temperature ingredients. Cold butter and eggs will make it difficult to incorporate the ingredients into a smooth, silky buttercream. Butter should be just soft enough to break off pieces easily but it shouldn’t look melted and greasy.
  • Separation during mixing is common. Buttercream can sometimes look a little curdled and messy at certain points, to solve this problem simply continue to vigorously whip the ingredients together.
  • Buttercream can be flavored and tinted. Choose pure extracts for the most flavorful result. Tinting works best with a buttercream that is whiter in color.
  • Buttercream can be made ahead of time. Stored in an air tight container, buttercream will keep for up to a week in the fridge. To bring buttercream back to its smooth, spreadable consistency first bring it to room temperature. Then, in a slightly warmed bowl, mix the buttercream using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer and whip until it becomes nice and smooth.

TYPES OF BUTTERCREAM

AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM – This is thick, dense frosting that is very sweet and rich. It’s very easy to make, simply cream together butter and powdered sugar until smooth and silky. Vanilla extract is added for flavoring.

This is a good choice when not a lot of frosting is called for. Due to its sweetness, it might be unappealing in large quantities.

SWISS BUTTERCREAM – This uses a Swiss meringue as its base. Egg whites and sugar are heated over a pot of barely simmering water until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160ºF, this is the point at which the eggs will be considered safe for consumption and no longer raw. The egg white mixture is slightly cooled and then whipped until it develops “stiff peaks“. Room temperature butter is then added and the buttercream is whipped until it becomes smooth and silky.

This is the perfect choice for layer cakes and especially for frosting that needs to be tinted. Its bright white color means it will take nicely to the addition of coloring.

ITALIAN BUTTERCREAM – This is similar to Swiss buttercream only it uses an Italian meringue as its base. Sugar and water are cooked together until it reaches a temperature of 240ºF. It is then carefully added to egg whites that have been whipped to form “soft peaks“. The hot syrup will cook the eggs enough so they are no longer considered to be raw. The combined mixture is whipped until “stiff peaks” form. Room temperature butter is then added and the mixture is whipped until smooth and silky.

This is a great choice when making layer cakes, it’s perfect for both the filling and the outside. It also has a beautiful, glossy appearance thanks to the meringue base.

FRENCH BUTTERCREAM – This is made in a similar fashion as the Italian buttercream only it uses both egg whites and egg yolks for its base, this is know in the pastry world as a pâte à bombe. Because this buttercream contains egg yolks, it has a much richer flavor, color and texture. A mixture of sugar and water is cooked to a temperature of 240ºF. It is then poured into the egg mixture while the mixer is running. Once the mixture is fully cooled, room temperature butter is added and the buttercream is whipped until it becomes smooth and silky.

This is a great choice for making layer cakes. Because of it’s slightly yellowish hue, it is not the best choice for tinting.

GERMAN BUTTERCREAM – This is made using a pastry cream as its base. Cooled pastry cream is whipped, room temperature butter is added and the mixture is whipped together until smooth and silky. To improve the texture, occasionally a small amount of powdered sugar is added.

This is a great buttercream to use for in-between the layers of cakes or to fill cupcakes.

PUDDING-STYLE – This starts with a thickened dairy base that is similar to pudding. The cooled pudding base is whipped with room temperature butter until it is light and smooth.

This is a good buttercream to use for making different flavored fillings for cakes and cupcakes. Good choices for flavorings are chocolate, caramel and butterscotch.