Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chocolate Pumpkin Spider Cake

Earlier in the month I celebrated my 25th birthday. Gah! I feel old. I may have gone through a quarter century life crisis. For about a week. Then I decided to buy a brand new car (my first car ever!) and say screw the judgement of others and continue seeing a guy who is younger than me (and I'm not just talking a year here). Who cares? I certainly don't. Life is for living and enjoying, not worrying and stressing!

Back to where I was originally heading with this story. Rewind. Earlier in the month I celebrated my 25th birthday and made a dense, moist and truly decadent cake. However, the presentation was ermm... something left to be desired. Let's just say, it was not the most attractive thing I've ever made.... in fact, it was one of the least attractive things I've ever made. But, I found an amazing recipe in the process. So when the opportunity was presented to me a couple weeks ago to bake up some goodies for the United Way bake sale put on by my mother's work, I immediately had a vision of this cake, and new exactly which recipe I would use.

Because I couldn't cut into the cake to show you the inside, I snapped a few pictures during the process so you can get an idea of how it turned out! They're at the bottom, following the recipe instructions!

Yield: 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

For the cake:
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
scant 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the ganache:
4 ounces milk chocolate chips
2 ounces heavy cream

For the buttercream:
1 cup butter, room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream

orange food dye
black food dye
size 3-4 piping tip
toy plastic spider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Grease 3 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease on top of paper and coat lightly with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a small bowl combine buttermilk and pumpkin. Mix together until incorporated. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown and white sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Alternating, add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low for 1 minute until fully combined.

Divide evenly between the 3 cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cake. Let rest in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire racks.

While the cakes are cooling, make your ganache. Place chocolate chips in a small bowl. Place the heavy cream in a small glass and heat in microwave until boiling (keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over). Pour hot cream over chocolate chips, whisking until chips are completely melted. Set aside to cool.

Once cakes are completely cool (you may have to level them out, although mine were pretty flat and this wasn't needed), spoon half of ganache over the top of 1 cake, reserving the second half for the second cake. Spread the ganache over the cake, leaving a small amount of space around the edge to ensure the ganache does not drip off (see picture below for clarification if needed). Set cakes aside so that the ganache can set. This takes a couple hours. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process, and frost once the ganache is firm. I waited until it was firm enough to wrap in plastic, then refrigerated the cake rounds until the following day to assemble the cake (layered cakes are always easier to assemble when cold).

To make the frosting, beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and smooth. Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix on low initially (to avoid a poof of sugar in your face), and gradually increase speed. Beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of cream into the whipped butter. If the frosting is too stiff, gradually add 1 tablespoon cream into frosting until it reaches your desired consistency. Tint a small amount of the frosting black (if making a spider web) and the remaining a nice bright orange (or your desired colour).

To assemble the cake, frost the first layer of cake, ganache side up, with the buttercream. Repeat with second layer.

Place the final layer on top.

Cover top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (this is called a crumb coat, to catch any crumbs before doing the final frosting). Refrigerate cake for 20 minutes, or until crumb coat has formed a crust and is hard.

Frost the top and sides with a thicker layer, and return to fridge again for a crust to form. Once the frosting is firm (this will help to ensure that black frosting of web does not leach colour into the orange) fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip, size 3-4, with reserved black frosting. Pipe on spider web and find creepy plastic spiders from the dollar store to adorn your cake with!

Source: Cake and ganache from I am Baker, Buttercream by Sweet Treats n' Healthy Eats. Pin It

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

You know what I love? Sunny, blustery fall days where the beautifully coloured leaves dance about your feet as you take a stroll through the city park all bundled up with a big thick scarf around your neck. You know what I don't love? Rainy-borderline-snowy and miserably cold fall days. The only good thing about days like these is that I believe it gives you permission to wear fuzzy pajamas, curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, and indulge in heavenly soft and comfortingly warm cinnamon rolls. Perfect.

Yield: 12 rolls

For the dough:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups warm milk (about 110 F) + a possible additional 1/4 cup**
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
2 + 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large apple (any kind), peeled and diced

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 oz. low fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 tablespoon milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, yeast and salt. Stir briefly to combine. In a medium measuring cup, whist together the milk, maple syrup and butter. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture and continue mixing until a rough dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Knead the dough on low speed for 5-6 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl- if it's excessively sticky, you can add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as necessary. Conversely, if the dough seems dry and not overly soft, you may need to add more milk. This is challenging to do if the dough has kneaded for awhile, so you'll have to keep an eye on it and if it appears to be dry try to mix the additional milk in as soon as possible.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Briefly warm your oven up at the lowest possible temperature for about 2 minutes, just until the inside is warm. Place the bowl in your oven, along with a small bowl of hot water. Dough needs warmth and moisture to rise, so this will promote a much quicker rising than leaving it out at room temperature. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1- 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the diced apple, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar. In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients for the filling until well combined and evenly moistened.

Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into an 18 x 12 inch rectangle. Mist the dough with water, then sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture, leaving about a 1/2 inch border along the long edge farthest from you. Press the sugar into the dough gently to adhere, then sprinkle with apple mixture. Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight log about 18 inches long, pinching the seam to close when you get to the end. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces.

Transfer the rolls (cut side up) to the prepared baking dish. Return to the oven (reheat briefly and replace water with hotter water if needed) and allow the rolls to rise until just about doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Once rolls have risen, remove and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the rolls to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow the rolls to cool. Make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, cream cheese, extract and milk in a food processor (or by hand, this just takes longer). Add more milk if you want a thinner consistency. Spread the glaze over the rolls, then serve.

Source: slightly adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, taken from Comfort Food Makeovers Pin It

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow Canadians! I hope that you're all enjoying the beautiful weather and the time that comes with a holiday.

Here are a few things that I'm thankful for this year:
  • A job in my field of work that has a lot of potential (right now in the early stages of program development, so I haven't been doing too much), when so many of my classmates and friends are still without work in this sucky economy.
  • A loving and supportive family. I've gone through some pretty major changes in my life in the past few months, and my parents have been behind me every step of the way, and I'm so grateful for them.
  • A great group of friends. Even though almost all of the people that I call my best friends live a distance away (anywhere from an hour and a half to all the way across the world), they are still there for me in a moment when I need them, and I hope they feel the same way about me. Good friends don't come by often, and I try to make every effort to keep those special ones in my life.
  • A brand new car! Not only a brand new car, but my first ever car! A Hyundai Elantra GT (hatchback) with all the bells and whistles. I'm in love. And it's name is Hernandez. Random? Completely. But when I wondered to myself what I would name my car if I was to, Hernandez was the first name that popped into my head. Crazy I know, it's not even a first name, but it was so outrageous that it's just stuck.
  • The beautiful fall weather. Here in southern Ontario we didn't have a fabulous summer. It was cool and rainy most of the time, with only one stellar week of heat and sun. So I am absolutely loving this 20-30 degree sunshiney weather with colorful leaves.
  • Last of all, I really am grateful for where I am in life right now. It might not seem like it sometimes. It's certainly not where I expected to be after just celebrating my 25th birthday. Sometimes I actually feel disappointed or concerned that I'm not where I 'should' be. As I mentioned earlier, a few months ago I made a major change in my life, and that was really tough to make. It affected everything in my life from that point on; it was scary and at the time I wondered if it was the right decision to make. But now I know without a doubt it was the right decision, and although my life isn't 'perfect' right now, I am happy. And grateful for what I have.
What are YOU thankful for this year?
Oh, and I'm grateful for these glorious pumpkin muffins. I made these almost exactly 2 years ago, and have been itching for the opportunity to make them again. They're a little more decadent for a muffin, so they won't be making a regular appearance on my table. But it's Thanksgiving! And that pretty much is a go-free card to shove your face full of good food and wear stretchy pants all weekend.

These muffins are incredible. If you haven't seen them on Pinterest or on another blog, you're in for something special! Light, moist, full of flavour, (borderline dessert-ish) but still healthy enough to eat for breakfast or a snack... what? Pumpkin and whole wheat flour makes it healthy. Ish.

Make them. Do it do it do it. And then thank me.

Yield: 12 muffins

For the filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

For the muffins:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil

For the topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces


To make filling, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl or food processor and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl or food processor. Add in the butter pieces and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, OR if using food processor, gently pulse until mixture is crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons, a medium cookie scoop works well for this). Slice the log of cream cheese into 12 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin tops.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted from BakeSpace.
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