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

Chocolate Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting & Cherry Jam Middles

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! Do you have any traditions surrounding this much divided holiday? I realize a lot of people throw old St. Valentine a lot of shade, but I’m not one of those. Back in my single-lady-daze I would make all of my girlfriends snarky Valentine’s and we’d do dinner or something else fun. These days, we NEVER go out on the actual day. We celebrate our anniversary of dating (TEN years this year, ya’ll!) this Valentine’s day because I invited Sean to my lady-date thing (why?! so dumb) which was at a Mexican restaurant (Bertha Miranda’s in Reno, to be exact) and I remember asking a girl in the hall of my dorm if my outfit was cute ’cause I was nervous even though there was like a whole girl gang and lone old Sean. I mean I really like-liked him! Anyway, we haven’t actually gone out since then because we are total hermits and love to either get take-out (Chinese! eaten from the carton) or make something at home and eat it on the couch and watch something we’ve DVR’d…which I realize is super romantic, I know…but, makes Valentine’s Day this year as parents SUPER easy and exactly no different than years before. We’ll save the going out for, like, a weekday in March or something.

Anyway, CUPCAKES! I made these cupcakes after failing that cake I mentioned last week–which was pink velvet and totally delish for the record, but a disaster and just didn’t feel like me…whatever that means. So, I re-worked it into something, I think, is truly magical. There are 3 parts to this cupcake dream.

First, the chocolate cake base. Dudes, these cupcakes are my favorite ever. They make exactly 12 cupcakes and come together with just one bowl and a measuring glass. I came up with this recipe a few years ago (for these PB+chocolate guys) and it’s my perfect cupcake. Tender and moist with a fine crumb and perfectly domed tops. Second, there’s a goat cheese frosting! Think classic cream cheese frosting with the tang of goat cheese. It’s our new household favorite and I imagine it would be amazing on carrot cake. Third, the filling is a mix of the frosting with some cherry jam. I realize I’m missing a photo of the jammy middles, but there’s evidence of them on my Instagram…pinky swear. I mixed the jam with some of the frosting because I really dislike what happens when jam meets cake and then just sits there bleeding into one another. Some people are into it, I’m not. I imagine you could just spoon some jam in there and call it a day and they’d still be super delicious. All of the flavors together works super well–rich chocolate, fruity cherry, and tangy goat cheese. These are definitely cupcakes worth sharing with people you not only like, but you like-like.

 

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Print Recipe

Chocolate Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting & Cherry Jam Middles

Cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Goat Cheese Frosting:

4 ounces (1/2 cup) softened, unsalted butter

4 ounces softened cream cheese

4 ounces softened goat cheese

4 cups confectioners sugar

Cherry Filling:

3 tablespoons cherry jam

1/4 cup goat cheese frosting

Preheat the oven to 350ºF land line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients for the cupcakes. Whisk measure out the oil and buttermilk in a large measuring cup and whisk together along with the eggs and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture in the mixing bowl and fold until combined. Divide the batter between the lined muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. The cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead and stored, cooled, in an airtight container at room temperature.

Before frosting, scoop out small wells in the centers of the cupcakes, I used a melon baller for this task, leaving about a 1/2 inch rim around all sides of the cupcake. You can use a pairing knife for this, as well.

For the frosting, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and goat cheese until combined. Gradually add in the confectioners sugar until combined well. The frosting should be soft, but hold it’s shape enough to pipe. If it’s too loose, add more confectioners sugar (1/4 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached. Scoop 1/4 cup of the frosting into a small bowl and stir together with the cherry jam. Fill the wells you made in the cupcakes with the cherry jam and frosting mixture. Either pipe or, carefully spread, the remaining frosting onto the cupcakes, making sure to conceal the filling. Decorate with sugar decorations or sprinkles, if you want.

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Spicy Orange-Bourbon Hot Chocolate

How was your Thanksgiving weekend? Ours was good. It was easy and fun. I made this Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust and it was SO GOOD and much simpler to make than I anticipated. I’m obsessed with it and plan to make it for Christmas, since my brother loves chocolate pie and this version is my new favorite. I also mades these dinner rolls and the mashed potatoes–which I kept warm in the slow cooker and it’s totally my new favorite trick. I also learned that I find rice-ing potatoes super satisfying. It’s on par with melon-balling. I’m a weirdo. Casper snatched a handful of stuffing from Sean’s plate, but luckily he couldn’t figure out how to put it in his mouth (since he’s not on solids yet) and ended up just sucking on the back of his hand instead.  It was pretty funny.

In lieu of Black Friday shopping, I stayed at home in my jams all day, did a bit of online shopping, and decked the dang halls because I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I love it, guys. A lot.

I also made this spicy, boozey, hot chocolate. Sean and his brother had some after kicking the soccer ball around at the park and I’m pretty sure it was the perfect warm-up since it was super cold and windy out there. It’s made with chopped chocolate, so it’s super-rich and creamy. There’s also orange zest in there, which cuts the richness a bit and adds a ton of flavor. The cayenne is spicy and brings on another level of heat, while the bourbon warms everything up in the way only bourbon can.

It’s seriously so good. This may be the winter of hot chocolate. I hope you don’t mind.

[recipe]

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Spicy Orange-Bourbon Hot Chocolate

Makes 2-3 servings

2 cups whole milk

2-3 large pieces of orange peel

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

2 ounces bourbon

whipped cream, additional chopped chocolate, and cayenne for topping

In a saucepan combine the milk with the orange peel and cayenne. Warm the milk over medium heat in a saucepan until small bubbles begin to appear around the edges and the milk begins to steam. Try to avoid boiling it. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, then cover with a lid and let it sit for a minute or two before whisking to combine. Whisk in the bourbon and pour into 2 or 3 mugs, top generously with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped chocolate and cayenne.

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