Vanilla Malt Buttercream Birthday Cake

Literally a few days before Casper’s 1st Birthday, he took his first (unassisted) steps! I am both horrified and delighted by this new skill. I mean, he’s still crawling a lot–it’s more efficient–but, he’s definitely walking even if it’s more of a Tommy Pickles stumble. It’s pretty cute but, it takes all of me to not scoop him up immediately every time he stumbles.

We celebrated his first year with some family and friends with a BBQ over the weekend. Sean smoked ribs–they are seriously delicious and he deserves major props for perfecting his method– I made a nectarine and tomato salad that I’ll post here soon, and my deviled egg potato salad that I’ve been trying to perfect (and I think is just about there). I also made this cake, obvs. The cake itself is just my chocolate cupcake recipe, baked as 2 6-inch cake layers. I split each layer, so I had a total of 4 layers because I like a tall party cake. This recipe makes sturdy, stackable, easy to split layers. There’s just something about all those layers that shout “CELEBRATION!” to me. I wanted a classic cake combo and after vacillating for days I decided on a chocolate cake with basic, sugary, vanilla buttercream. I knew Casper would only have a little, so I just kind of threw caution (or mom-crazy) to the wind and went all out with his cake. Even though I wanted a basic buttercream, I had to bump up the flavor a teeny bit more and add malt powder. I love the flavor of malt in sweet, vanilla desserts and it paired so nicely with the deep, chocolatey cake. I also used my homemade vanilla extract–vanilla beans + vodka + time–I actually used the last of my batch that I’ve had for years. Literally, years. Like, 5. It was a kindergartener. So the flavor was very vanilla-y and had specks of vanilla bean, which I love seeing in frostings but any good quality (aka pure) vanilla extract would be perfect. I iced it in what I’m calling a “water color stripe”–basically I followed the method for making an ombré cake, but alternated white and colored frostings instead. It turned out pretty cute, I think, and it was easy to do. This style of frosting is totally fine if it’s imperfect, leaving plenty of room for error. I appreciate that in a frosting technique. I sprinkled the edges of the cake with little star sprinkles to make it extra festive. For the cupcakes, I piped all the remaning colors–plus some pink, since it didn’t end up on the cake itself–into another piping bag and piped it onto the cupcakes using a star tip. I sprinkled those with some star spinkles plus some disco dust (aka edible glitter) and they turned out crazy but fun. I call them “space unicorn” cupcakes.

Anyway, then I made a little paper Totoro cake topper because Casper has a “Tototo” (as he says) plush toy that he LOVES (as well as a pillow and a print in his room). Sean is a huge Studio Ghibli fan, and it’s definitely getting passed on to Casper. He hugs and kisses Tototo and it’s so cute! It kills me. Initially I wanted to make a cake like this one from Lyndsay. I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of trying to pipe a Totoro likeness, but I can put together a paper cut-out version, so I went with that. I also stuck some super cute sparkler candles in the top–thank goodness the didn’t catch Totoro on fire! It was a concern, but he remains unscathed and cake was had by all.

 

PS, You can see the lit sparklers and the rest of the food on my Instagram feed.

Vanilla Malt Buttercream Birthday Cake
 
Prep time
Total time
 
I did 2½ times (using 5 sticks of butter) this recipe to frost and fill a 4-layer, 6-inch cake and generously frost 9 cupcakes. For the cake, I usedthisrecipe and doubled it–which gave me the 2, 6-inch, cakes and 9 cupcakes.
Author:
Serves: about 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • dash of salt
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malt powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer or stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in the salt. Add the powdered sugar, beating on low speed 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Beat in the malt powder, vanilla, and heavy cream (1 tablespoon at a time, to reach desire consistency). Continue to beat the buttercream until it is smooth, creamy, and spreadable. Add more cream or powdered sugar to get your desired consistency. Tint with gel color, if you’d like. Pipe or spread onto the cake layers and cupcakes.
Notes
Adapted from Glorious Treats

Cherry-Almond Buckle

 

How was your 4th of July weekend? Mine was pretttty goooood. We rendezvoused with a boatload of family/friends in Reno, then Tahoe, then Reno again. Casper got to meet all of my cousins, and play with a bunch of our friends babies, and hang with his uncles  and cousins and grandparents and aunt. There was sun, sand, a ton of rain, mountains, lake stuff, desert views, hot dogs, chorizo, a super good chai and breakfast calzone from Coffeebar in Reno, and fireworks on the lake. BOOM! We are home now and I wanna talk about this cake because it has cherries and we like cake around here, right? This is actually a buckle and, from what I understand (thanks Internet), it's a yellow cake with fruit mixed in or on top and the cake batter buckles around the fruit or the cake buckles in the center from the weight of the fruit. Basically, it's a fruitcake of the non-scary holiday-time variety. It's a fruitcake for summer and it's wonderful. This buckle combines my current crush--cherries--with another favorite--almonds--plus a good dose of browned butter because, why not? The flavors are reminiscent of this smoothie--but buttery and less healthful because, cake, obvs. The cake is sturdy yet tender, fragrant from the browned butter and almond extract (a totally winning combo, I think), with lots of juicy-just-sunken cherries, and a nice crisp texture on top from almonds and a sprinkling of sugar. The cake itself reminds me of this Rhubarb Crumb number, sans crumbs with a little easier execution and smaller pan size. It's a casual cake perfect for casual summertime vibes.  
Cherry-Almond Buckle
 
Prep time
Cook time
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I made this recipe twice in one week, first cherries with sliced almonds and second with a combination of peaches and blueberries (bloobs!) with chopped almonds. Both buckles were delish, but I definitely preferred the texture of the sliced almonds on top over the chopped. Another note, this cake can be made in a regular mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula–no mixer or beaters necessary!
Author:
Serves: 1, 8x8 inch cake
Ingredients
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, browned
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups pitted cherries
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the solids in the butter become deep brown and has a nutty fragrance. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray an 8×8 inch baking pan and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on opposite sides and secure (I use binder clips for this task). Spray the parchment with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix to browned butter and ¾ cup sugar to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Mix in the yogurt and extracts.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold this into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined and there are no longer any streaks of flour throughout the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and top with the pitted cherries, there will be a lot of cherries to batter, press down in spots as needed. Scatter the almonds over the top and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (make sure to test in a batter spot and not a cherry spot) comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing. Leftover cake keeps well wrapped in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

This past Sunday, I had my first Mother’s Day. It was a good one…I mean, this cute little guy was involved…though not exactly what I had imagined Mother’s Days to be. Instead of brunching leisurely, sipping mimosas, and kicking back, I woke up early and was at Home Depot just before 7am to rent a contraption called a “plate compactor.” Then, I moved a literal ton and a half of bricks and sand into my backyard from the driveway. FUN TIMES. I kept telling myself that in a few short weekends it would be all worth it because we will have a lovely, herringbone-patterned brick patio to lounge on for sunshine-y, summer days now and into the future. Luckily, I didn’t do all of this alone. Sean did a ton of the work and his brother also came over to help out. Plus, there was a big square of rhubarb coffee cake and a delicious breakfast sandwich in there, both from Grand Central, between the Home Depot trip and the manual labor stuff.

The cake was a total dream and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I decided to recreate something similar at home. A lot of the recipes I found had a thinner batter that results in a cake with chunks of rhubarb mixed into the cake itself. I really wanted the rhubarb to sit atop the batter between the cake layer and the crumble layer. This cake, an adaptation of the New York-Style Crumb Cake from the famous Baked NYC, was pretty much perfect. A solid ratio of buttery boulders of crumb topping to tender-yet-sturdy cake base–perfect for holding up plenty of tart rhubarb. I didn’t do anything to the rhubarb because I knew that the sweet crumbs would offset the sourness of the rhubarb. I also held back on adding any sort of cinnamon or spice–which is normally my instinct with coffee-cake-like things, but I really wanted it to be all butter and vanilla with punches of rhubarb. The only thing I would do differently next time is to double the rhubarb. I totally think this cake could handle it. I could see this cake being made all times of the year with various seasonal or frozen fruits. I’d avoid anything too wet, like strawberries, but apples, cranberries, pretty much any berry, or even stone fruits (cherries!) would all be lovely.

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Adapted from Baked Explorations

Aside from adding rhubarb, I  used a vanilla bean in the batter and added some extract to the crumb, omitted the cinnamon, subbed in more dark brown sugar, subbed in some oats for flour, and browned the butter for the crumb. To ensure large chunks of crumb, I put the mixture in the refrigerator to rest while I made the cake batter.

Makes 1, 9×13 inch, cake.

For the crumb topping:

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

For the batter:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sour cream

1 1/2 heaping cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I would do as much as 3 cups in the future)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides, and grease well.

Make the crumb in a mixing bowl by stirring together the sugars, salt, and flour. Fold in the browned butter and press the crumb firmly into the bowl before placing in the refrigerator to rest while you prepare the batter.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt for the batter. Place the rhubarb pieces in another bowl and toss with about 1 tablespoon of the dry mix, just to coat lightly. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and the scrapings from the vanilla bean. Beat until the mixture begins to lighten in color and become a bit fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the bowl after each addition and beating until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the rhubarb over the top of the batter. Grab handfuls of the crumb topping, squishing it in your fist to make large chunks of crumb, and cover the entire cake. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes (mine took the full 60) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftover cake can be wrapped well in plastic and stored at room temperature, though I opted to refrigerate the wrapped leftovers. Serve any leftover cake at room temperature.

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