White Chocolate and Citrus Confetti Cake with White Chocolate Citrus Buttercream

4 layers of cake with layers of curd and buttercream standing tall

There’s this misconception that a lot of people have that baking is super complicated and requires people to be super precise. I argue for most cakes, muffins and cookies that home cooks are inclined to attempt, that’s not the case. Like with all cooking, being organized is the secret to success. Reading the recipe thoroughly a few times, assembling and prepping all your ingredients before starting any part of the cooking/baking process is essential to a successful result.

One of the things I like about baking, is that by simply swapping out an ingredient here and there you can completely change the flavor profile of what is essentially the same recipe. Case in point…the cake pictured above is the same base as the Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake from a few months ago. I just swapped out white chocolate for the cocoa and dark chocolate and swapped out citrus for the peppermint oil and instead of crushed peppermint candy between layers, I used sprinkles and crushed Belgian Butter Cookies and Corn Flakes. Then I used the same method for assembling the cake. Otherwise the only other thing that was done differently, is that I baked the cake in 2 sheet pans and then used the outer ring of my springform pan to cut out the individual layers. It turns out that the cake cooks more evenly, faster and the top is more level than if you use round cake pans.

So my hope is if you learn anything at all here its that you discover that these are just ideas and you can riff off of any of them by changing ingredients here and there.

Here are the ingredients to make this particular cake,

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp each lemon and orange extract
  • 8 oz. melted white chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 TBS each lemon zest and orange zest
  • 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles/jimmies
  • Icing (see below)
  • 2 cups lemon curd
  • 1 cup of assorted sprinkles for decorating

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, citrus extract and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 2 prepared ½ sheet pans and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 2lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp each lemon and orange extract
  • 1 tsp each lemon and orange zest
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup cornflakes

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl add zest, vanilla extract, citrus extract and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

For assembly

Use the outer ring of a springform pan, or a make a 6″circle out of cardboard to cut out 3 layers from you sheet cakes. Crumble the remaining scraps, to use as your base layer. Slowly build your layers, cake, curd, buttercream, sprinkles and cornflakes. Then keep repeating that process. At the top, you can drizzle some lemon curd, or pipe buttercream roses and finish the rest of the sprinkles.

Secrets to a stress free Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s hard to believe but Thanksgiving is this Thursday. There is not going to be an actual recipe this week as I’m planning and prepping for T-day. But I thought I’d share with you how I plan for a stress and drama-free Friendsgiving.

The best advise I can share is plan plan and plan ahead. I start deciding on what I’m going to prepare in late September. Now this may seem odd, because you may assume that the menu is already decided with it being Thanksgiving after all. Well not so fast. I actually don’t care for Thanksgiving food it’s not something I grew up eating and as I’ve mentioned in past posts on the subject, I’m not a fan of turkey. In fact I just cooked my first whole turkey in 30+ years of cooking this past summer.

Ok so back to the planning. I decide my menu, Then I start to send out reminders to my friends and co-workers via the social medias letting them know if they don’t have other plans they’re welcome to come over. I also set the expectation if they’re unfamiliar with how Thanksgiving works here that I don’t serve typical Thanksgiving food. That way if they have visions of that perfect Rockwellian Thanksgiving dinner they’re not gonna find it here. The other reason we prefer a more casual non-traditional menu and meal is our dining room only sits about 8 comfortably we just don’t have the room for a large formal sit down dinner.

So now that I’ve got people thinking ahead about what their plans may be I start making a shopping list. I frequently have vegan and vegetarian friends over so I start to think about what menu items I can make vegan as well as entree ideas that are fully vegan.  This year we’re going to have BBQ. I’m going to smoke a pork shoulder and a couple of turkey breasts and grill a couple of sides of salmon. For vegan options I’m going to make a dish with butternut squash, corn and black beans in the style of bbq baked beans.

When I grocery shop starting back when I first plan my menu through the weekend before Thanksgiving, I will buy bits and pieces for the meal and store them in the pantry and freezer and cross the items off my list as I go. This prevents us from blowing our entire grocery budget for the month on a single meal and allows me to spread out purchasing the more expensive items. The week leading up to Thanksgiving I will try to grocery shop in the early morning just as the grocery store opens or late at night just before closing. This allows me to avoid the crazy lines. Alternately, try home-delivery its a bit more expensive but if you don’t want to deal with the crowds its a life saver.

If you are planning to roast a large cut of beef or pork or a turkey and have purchased it frozen or been storing it in the freezer like I have, remember that to properly defrost a bird or large roast it takes 4 hours per pound in the refrigerator. so if you have a 20lbs bird thats almost 5 full days to defrost, which means you have to start thawing that bird the Friday or Saturday before turkey-day. So make sure you’ve cleaned out the fridge and have enough space to properly thaw a large bird or roast.

I plan to brine my pork and turkey and cook them the day before Thanksgiving so I actually need to push my thawing schedule ahead by 2 days. This will make sure that the pork and bird are thawed on Tuesday so I can brine them for at least 24 hours before I go to roast and smoke them.

Another area that becomes a problem when cooking for the holidays is leveraging limited cooking space and oven access. One way I avoid the fight for the oven is that I don’t usually make a Thanksgiving dessert. I will take advantage of store bought options or ask my guests to bring desserts. The other advantage of this is I don’t have to have those items compete for fridge storage. I also invested in a turkey roaster and take advantage of my grill and smoker for additional cooking options. Granted the fact I live in Southern California does make that option easy. But the turkey roaster is pretty inexpensive and big box stores often have them on sale this time year. You should be able to pick one up for under $50. Also some models have an insert for warming trays so you can use them like chaffing dishes.

Since we’re doing bbq, I decided that I will do cold sides like salad, Cole slaw and elote. This way I don’t have to worry about reheating  a bunch of dishes for service. I also plan to use the turkey roaster and smoker to cook my pork and turkey. This will leave my stove top and oven free for other uses. I plan to smoke the pork shoulder the day before. Then I’ll heat it with bbq sauce just before service.

Well that’s my $.02. I hope ya’ll have a great holiday surrounded by your loved ones and good food.

All Purpose BBQ Rub

  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup coarse sea salt
  • 3 TBS Spanish Paprika
  • 3 TBS Ground Cayenne
  • ¼ garlic powder
  • ¼ onion powder
  • 3 TBS dry mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container

Turned Over

Fig Turnovers with a lemony glaze drizzled over the top

We’ve known for a few weeks that we were going to hit a mother-load of figs from the two fig trees out back. Well this week it happened. So we’re going to make fig and plum turnovers and then figure out some other stuff to do with all of figs ( fig jam and fig bars probably).

To keep things simple, I’m going to use store bought puff pastry to make the turnovers. Perhaps someday I’ll show you how to make puff pastry by hand, but its one of those things that’s extremely time consuming and takes a couple of days. I’m not a professional pastry chef and I actually have a 40 hour a week job that has nothing to do with cooking and baking so I know I don’t have that kinda time and I don’t know too many people that do. Store bought puff pastry will be just fine.

The store bought stuff is easy to find, you can find it in the freezer section in the grocery store. It’s usually next to things like frozen cream puffs, pound cake, pie shells and phyllo dough (all great things for quick easy desserts). To use, you just need to let the puff pastry thaw for 30-45 minutes at room temperature.  I rolled it out until it was about a ¼ thick then cut it into squares.

Squares of puff pastry with a tablespoon of fig and plum filling and egg wash on the edges

Then I brushed adjacent edges with egg wash, folded over corner to corner so non egg washed edge is touching the egg washed edge. To seal the edges, work the tines of a fork along the entire length of the two short edges.

You should have something that looks like this:

Turnovers with edges crimped and vented for baking

I brushed the turnovers with milk then I baked the turnovers in an oven pre-heated to 400F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Turnovers backed to a golden brown and cooling on a wire rack.

Plum and Fig Filling

1 cup each of diced figs and plums

¼ cup sugar

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp lemon zest

Juice of ½ lemon

pinch of salt

¼ corn starch sifted

Place all the ingredients except the corn starch into a medium sized bowl and let sit for an hour or in the fridge overnight. You should see a pretty decent amount of liquid has come out of the fruit. Sift in the corn starch and stir slowly until the clumps work themselves out. It should look like this:

figs and plums with corn starch to form a slurry.

Let stand for 15 minutes. Cook on low in a heavy bottomed pan until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for 3-5 minutes while continuously stirring.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. To cool mixture to workable temperature more quickly, put the fig mixture into a clean heat safe bowl and then place that bowl into larger bowl that’s been filled with ice. Once the mixture cools down its ready to use or you can store it in the fridge for later use.

filling cooking on stove top on low.

This same process works for making all kinds of pie fillings but will work best with fruits that are high in pectin like stone fruits and apples.

Lemoney Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 TBS lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon finely chopped

2 – 4 TBS whole milk

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually add the milk and mix with a fork or whisk. You’re looking for a texture that allows the glaze to easily run down the tines of a fork.

Holiday Treats Part II-Sugar Cookies and more

Snowman Cookie

As I mentioned in a previous post, the thing I look forward to the most during the holidays is baking holiday treats. Here are a couple of my favorite cookie recipes, a simple kid friendly sugar cookie and a chocolate variation of the same sugar cookie. I’ve made a video to show you just how easy it is to prepare the sugar cookies. I’ve also included, my recipe for icing as well as some pictures to show you some examples of different ways you can decorate the cookies.

Chocolate Snowflakes copy
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3 oz grated bittersweet chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder

Put the butter and chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat on medium power for 2 minutes. Take out and stir half way through the cooking time. Remove from the microwave and stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and stir until blended. Slowly incorporate the flour, baking powder and salt. Turn out on a board or counter that’s been dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Knead dough until its blended and forms into a square. Wrap with waxed paper. Seal in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375f. Divide dough in half and return the unused portion to the fridge. Roll dough out until its between 1/8″ and 1/4″. Then cut into whatever shape you’d like. Lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or you can use a silicone baking mat). Bake 8 -10 minutes for softer cookies or 10-12 minutes for crispier cookies.

Icing
2 TBS Softened Butter
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 6 tsp light corn syrup
paste or powdered food coloring

With a hand mixer, soften the butter then add in the powdered sugar. Slowly add in the milk. Gradually add in the corn syrup. The amount of corn syrup will vary depending on the consistency of the icing you’re trying to achieve. The icing needs to be free flowing to flood the cookie surface, but not too loose or it will run off the sides. For piping and lettering it needs to be thicker but still able to flow through a #3 or 4 tip. This should make enough icing to ice 4 dozen 3″ cookies.

Here are some ideas for different ways you can decorate the cookies depending on the season.

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