How To Make The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Im not one for secrets.  Especially where chocolate is involved. 

I always have a few tricks up my sleeve and I can never keep them secrets for long.  Brown sugar baked bacon is one secret.  Sweet, salty, crisp, and perfect.  Adding that bacon to biscuits,  completely over the top good!  Brown butter in everything, most especially chocolate chip cookies…. another secret I just couldn’t keep to myself.  

Today another secret comes out.  We’re talking about the most perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.  Soft, glossy, light and spreadable… and the secret ingredients are Rich Chocolate Ovaltine and heavy cream!  Malted chocolate milk powder and cream to add extra body, and a light whipped texture to our frosting.  It’s unexpected and perfect!  

I hope there is cake (and waaaay too much buttercream) in your future.  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Three sticks (1 1/2 cups or 12 ounces) softened, unsalted butter.  I think it’s best to leave the butter out overnight to softened to room temperature through and through.  Softening butter in the microwave makes the butter more melty than soft and can break our perfect buttercream,  

•  Unsweetened cocoa powder, and lots of it.

•  Salt, to balance the mountain of powdered sugar.

•  A mountain of powdered sugar. 

•  Milk for moisture and softness.

•  Rich Chocolate Ovaltine, the chocolate malted milk powder adds a creamy softness to this buttercream and makes it extra rich, glossy, and luscious.  

•  Heavy cream because, always.  

•  Extra credit:  pure vanilla extract.  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Whipping together perfect buttercream frosting isn’t hard, but there are a few tricks to make things go smoothly.  

First, room temperature butter is creamed together with unsweetened cocoa powder and salt.  No sugar just yet.  Incorporating the butter and cocoa powder will ensure that the butter is soft and pliable and the chocolate is evenly distributed throughout the frosting.  The mixture will be thick.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl once or twice during mixing.  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Next, add the powdered sugar all at once.  Just go for it.  Mix on low and slowly drizzle in milk and vanilla extract.  Get the mixture incorporated, but no need to whip the frosting on high just yet.  We’ll get to that soon.  The frosting should be relatively smooth and glossy (and it’s only going to get better!).  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

In a small bowl, stir together Ovaltine and heavy cream.  

The mixture will thicken a bit as it sits.  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

With the mixer on medium, add half of the Ovaltine and cream mixture.  Increase the speed and add a bit more.  The buttercream will lighten slightly in color as it comes together.  

Stop the mixer and scrape along the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that it’s all mixing evenly.  You may not need the entire Ovaltine mixture, but just add enough to create a glossy, smooth, completely spreadable frosting.  I find that beating the buttercream on medium for about 1 minute makes a lovely frosting.  Try not to overheat the buttercream as that might break the butter.  

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This buttercream is whipped and soft.  Perfect for frosting cakes.  It’s so soft and creamy it won’t rip the cakes or cause you undue stress. Plenty of frosting for a three layer cake or a sheet cake with frosting to spare.  Any leftover frosting can be stored in the freezer for a cake or chocolate emergency.

This buttercream is also supreme eaten directly from the bowl with a spoon.

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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Prep Time
20 min

Prep Time
20 min

  1. 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  2. 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  4. 4 cups powdered sugar
  5. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  6. 1/4 cup whole milk
  7. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  8. 2/3 cup Rich Chocolate Ovaltine powder
  1. Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour half of the cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream. Stop the mister scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add remaining cream mixture or until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Beat until soft and creamy, about 1 minute.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Bring to room temperature before frosting cakes and cupcakes.

What’s the best salt for baking?

It’s possible that you’ve never even considered the question of salt, but salt in an essential component in baking.  Sure, you may only add 1/2 a teaspoon at a time to your baked goods, but don’t take salt for granted!  Salt accentuates the flavor of bakes goods.  It particularly enhances the flavors of butter, and flour, and salt works wonders in a recipe with chocolate!

In bread baking, salt helps the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide.  Did you know that it also creates a stronger and tighter crumb.

There are three major types of salt in stores.  How do you choose?

Jump on over, let’s talk salt!


Iodized Table Salt

Table salt is made by sending water down into inland salt mines and then evaporating that water until only salt crystals remain.  In the 1920’s iodine was added to table salt in an effort to prevent goiters (yikes…) which were caused by an iodide deficiency.  Most table salts sold in the United States are iodized.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is an additive free salt.  It is racked during evaporation, which creates its characteristic flakes.  Kosher salt comes in a course grain and a fine grain.  The fine grain is great for baking, because it disperses quickly into ingredients.  A course grain salt could have trouble evenly distributing through a baking recipe, and you wouldn’t want that.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is created from evaporated sea water.  The process is a bit more costly than the inland mining process of table salt, and sea salt may contain trace amounts of minerals.  Because there are many seas around the world, there are many varieties of sea salt: Celtic sea salt, Hawaiian sea salt, Fleur de Sel, and Sicilian sea salt, to mention just a few.  Basically, if there’s a sea, there’s a good chance it has a salt.  I use a fine grain sea salt- La Baleine from France.  It’s nothing terribly fancy and can be found in most grocery stores in the states.

 So which salt is best for baking?  I know I’m supposed to have a definitive answer for you, but really… just use whatever salt makes you feel fine and dandy.  The truth of the matter- in a blind chocolate chip cookie taste test, you may not be able to taste the difference between table salt, kosher salt and sea salt.  It depends on how sensitive your palate is to salt.  I happen to to think that iodized table salt has a stronger salt taste.  I choose sea salt because it feels like it has a cleaner salt taste that accentuates other ingredients but isn’t an assault on the taste buds.

Do you have a favorite salt?

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Please allow me this last party post. You won’t have to hear a word about it after this. Promise. But what’s a party without cupcakes? And what’s a chocolate cupcake without The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting? Tragedy, I suppose.

It should go without saying that these super soft chocolate cupcakes were a hit at the party. But there is one mystery. Around about 2 in the morning, as I was somehow making my way around the room collecting dirty plates, I ran across a plate with a discarded cupcake on it. The cupcake had one bite taken out of it, and then the remainder of the cupcake was smashed upside down onto the dirty paper plate. WHAT!? Who would do that!? Seriously… not cool.

Super Soft Chocolate Cupcakes

Print this Recipe!

makes about 4 dozen cupcakes… maybe more.. lots of cupcakes!

3 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1  cup strong coffee, cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between each addition. Scrape down bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the creamed butter and sugar alternately with the sour cream. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat to incorporate.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cooled strong coffee to the batter. Add in a slow steady stream to prevent splashing. The batter will become fairly thing and smooth. Scrape down bowl and beat for 1 minute to ensure the batter is completely mixed.

Pour into cupcake papers and bake on middle rack for 15 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool to room temperature on wire racks.

Now, as promised- The best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, with a secret ingredient- Ovaltine. Yes, rich chocolate Ovaltine. When combined with heavy cream, it gives the frosting the most luscious flavor and spreadable consistency. So yum!

I didn’t invent Chocolate Buttercream.  The inspiration comes from a Los Angeles bakery I worked in.

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

adapted from Delilah Bakery

1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency.  You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.

Remember how I was lamenting about my sometimes insane Martha Stewart tendencies? Well the craft gene, handed down to me from my mother, came out in full force with these drink umbrellas. The instructions are from Martha Stewart- which pretty much makes her the instigator. Should I shake my fist in the air with displeasure? No, I have to admit, these umbrellas might have been worth the 5 hours it took to make them. They’re pretty cute.

And yes, there were people at this party. But I can’t be sure they all want to be immortalized on this blog. I’ll spare them that pain, if you’ll allow it.

Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise on The Best BLT

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

You know that team building exercise you might play at sleep-away camp that requires you to fall backwards into the waiting arms of a fellow camper?  The Trust Fall?  The basic idea is that you completely let yourself fall backwards, trusting that the person behind you has arms outstretched to catch you before you hit the ground.  It’s a very literal way of saying “Hey!  I’ve got your back!”  or “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you if you fall.”  If the person you’ve entrusted to catch you is not paying attention and flirting with her sleep-away boyfriend as you fall… well, you might have trust issues for life.  Not cool.

I bring up the old Trust Fall because we’re talking about sandwiches.  Sandwiches are serious business.  I feel like I need to do a good round of Trust Falling with someone before we’re allowed to make each other sandwiches.  Like I said… sandwiches are serious.

I need to know that someone has got my back when they make me a sandwich.  Who’s making me a sandwich?  No one… that’s not the point.  It’s all about trust, and care and attention.  Like… which slices of bread they choose from the loaf, and how the mayonnaise doesn’t sneak over the edges, and how the tomato slices are just thin enough, and the lettuce is mostly dry from the washing.  Sandwiches have a lot of details.  There’s a lot going on.  I need to trust that my sandwich maker can handle these details… you know?

What?  Too much?  It’s just a sandwich?  Yea… a sandwich.  I take my sandwiches to heart.  I haven’t done the old Trust Fall with the young gentlemen at my local sandwich shop, so frankly, I don’t know if I can trust them to make me a sandwich… ridiculous, but true.

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

So, yes.  I’m a touch neurotic about my sandwiches.  That’s just how it goes.  Because I’m so ridiculous, I usually make my own.

This time around I made my own mayonnaise, because, holy heck it’s easy!  Mayonnaise is a simple emulsion of egg yolk, flavors like mustard and seasoning, acid, and a fat like canola oil or olive oil.   Olive oil will make a strongly flavored mayonnaise.  I went for a roasted red pepper (I bought a jar) version using grapeseed oil as the fat.  This version creates a slightly looser mayonnaise than the one you might scoop from the store bought jars.  For a plain mayonnaise you can make with a bowl and a whisk, check out this tutorial.  It’s handy.

Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise

adapted from Fat

Print this Recipe!

makes about 1 cup of mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped ( I used the jarred variety.  Easy!)

3/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil

Combine egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, and chopped roasted red pepper  in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Mix for about 30 seconds.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and whirl again.

With the machine running (I know it’s loud), gradually add the oil until the mixture starts to thicken and emulsify.  I added the oil in a steady, but very thin stream.  The mixture will start to emulsify at about the 2 minute mark.  Once it starts to emulsify, you can add the fat more quickly.  If the mixture is too thick for some reason, just blend in 1 teaspoon of boiling water to thin it.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  Lasts for 3-4 days.

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

Homemade Mayonnaise and the BLT

The Best BLT

makes one sandwich

2 slices of your favorite bread, toasted

3-4 slices of tomato

2 leaves of butter lettuce, rinsed

4 -5 slices of crisp bacon

generous slather of roasted red pepper mayonnaise

Cook up bacon and drain of a paper towel.  Rinse lettuce leaves, and pat dry.  Slice tomato slices and let rest on a paper towel, allowing some of the moisture to be absorbed.

Toast bread and slather with as much roasted red pepper mayonnaise as you like.  Top with bacon, tomatoes and lettuce.  Top with other slice of bread and you’re in business.  Holy yum!

The Best of 2012

best of 2012

 This year goes down in my personal history book as 100% major.  It’s been one of those years where I feel blessed far beyond what I even knew to ask for.  It’s been filled with gracious opportunity and a lot of hard work.  You are a huge part of my amazing year.  I mean that most sincerely.  Your loyalty and enthusiasm has changed the course of my life and I am deeply thankful.

With this new year, I hope that you are able to dive into the things that you love most.  I hope you feel beautiful most days.  I hope you act with kindness more often than not.  I hope you find inspiration in unexpected places.  I’m going to spend most of the new year writing a new cookbook for you.  But!  Before the book I’m making floral crowns for a New Year’s Eve Party… just because.

What follows are a few images from my year.  I hope they inspire you to reflect on the richness of your year.  By reflect I actually mean scroll through your cellphone pictures and reminisce.  It’s just a good life!

the best of 2012

I spent a good amount of quality time in the kitchen this year.

There was a lot of flour, a ton of parchment paper, some successes, and some failures.

These Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies fall under the success category.  To be sure.

the best of 2012

I went with my father to buy his first iPhone.

This was a big, big moment.  He’s playing it cool, but he’s actually really excited.

the best of 2012

We bought the iPhone.

Dad learned the basics…

the best of 2012

And then he texted my mom through the rest of our lunch together.

I understand…. I really do.

the best of 2012

There are days in Venice, California that are so still and feel so perfect.

I love when water is a mirror.

the best of 2012

I wrote a book that was published this year.  The Joy the Baker Cookbook.

I acted like it wasn’t a big deal, but that’s because I was trying to hide what a huge deal it was to me.

the best of 2012

If you have my book, I appreciate you and I thank you.

If you’ve checked my book out of the library, I appreciate you and I thank you.

If you’ve come to one of my book signs…. you blow my mind with your kindness and generosity.

If you received my cookbook for the holidays, I’m so so so excited for you to start baking!  Seriously.

The Table of Contents is my favorite page.  Weird and true.  I like spoons.

the best of 2012

San Francisco, you were so kind and generous with your time.  Thank you for the book tour LOVE!

the best of 2012

San Francisco, you let me wear my crazies outfit and my favorite shoes.  I appreciate you!

the best of 2012

Portland!  You blew me away.  I love you.  I just really do.

the best of 2012


Are you kidding me? I can’t even deal.

Each and every one of you that came out to my book signing, that stood in line, and let me scrawl and entire paragraph in your cookbooks… I find it hard to even express how much you have filled my heart.   I appreciate you.  I’m inspired by you.  I’m motivated by you.  I think about you every day.  I am so thankful that you come here and find recipes that inspire you.  I really do love you.

Ps.  You can see more book tour photos here.  It was an extravaganza, to be sure.

the best of 2012

These Mini Pretzel Dogs are one of my favorite recipes of 2012.

Comfort food and carbs.

the best of 2012

I’m the girl that makes Valentine’s Day cards from her and her cat.

So help me God.

the best of 2012

I feel very fortunate to celebrate birthdays with my parents.  This sundae is the salt of the earth.

Happy Birthday, Mama!

best of 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad! 63 is just 36 backwards… no big deal.

the best of 2012

This year I dined at The French Laundry.

The food.  The chefs.  The service.  Every single bit is just beyond special.

the best of 2012

Tucker Taylor and Lena Kwak made me feel super welcome at The French Laundry.  We picked vegetables and made waffles.  Everything : complete.

the best of 2012

My sister lives in Seattle near this building and tree combination.  I miss her nearness… but this picture makes me feel like we’re closer.

the best of 2012

This girl is a part of my heart.  She lives in St. Louis which is exactly too far away from Los Angeles.

We spent some time together this Spring.  Aaaand, I’m sorry my bra is showing.  Just… let it happen.

the best of 2012

I stood in front of Eliot’s childhood home in St. Louis.

English major dorking out.

the best of 2012

Sunrise.  Amtrak.  En route to Chicago.

It looks like dreams and sherbet.

the best of 2012

I’m going to need a bigger bowl, or a smaller cat.

the best of 2012

I rode bikes through the streets of Los Angeles with these renegades.  It felt right.


Can I tell you some truth?

This year was the first time I’ve used this passport.  I went to London.  I drank a lot of gin.  The passport stamp at Heathrow was wonderfully satisfying.


I arrived in London the day of the London marathon.


I then drank all the gin in the city and posed for a picture in front of a door.

the best of 2012

New Orleans stole my heart this year.

The people, the history, the celebrations.  New Orleans just shines!  I’m going back for Mardi Gras in 2013.  I’ll be the girl with her top still on, no beads, and two daiquiris.  Yea… let’s hang out.

the best of 2012

I’ve obviously travelled a lot this year.  It’s been such a blessing.

best of 2012

A boat tip to Maine cleared my mind this August.

best of 2012

It also inspired me to make these buttery garlic steamed mussels.

the best of 2012

Palm Springs, where the sun is like a spiky heating blanket.

the best of 2012

A motorcycle through wine country is equal parts exciting and exhausting.

the best of 2012

Time with Tracy from Shutterbean and Deb from Smitten Kitchen was so great.  We had frizzy hair and didn’t care at all.  Ok… I’m totally speaking for myself on that one.

the best of 2012

Two people know what happened after this bowl of ramen at Momofuku in NYC:  Tracy and her brother Ryan.  It had everything to do with too much gin.  I owe some people some apologies.

Tracy (and silent podcast partner/producer/awesome dude, Michael) have been a major part of my year.  We’ve podcasted and friendshipped all year long.  It’s real friendship, it’s real life: the Joy the Baker Podcast.

best of 2012

Lani and I spent some quality time on a mini road trip,  eating potato chips in the car and picking apples.  This cake is proof.

the best of 2012

Boston in December was a laugh… especially since I made my hosts take me on a tour based on the movie The Town.

Thank you Matt and Joe.  You counteracted my craziness with kindness.

the best of 2012

A shot a television segment for the Hallmark Channel last week.  I wore a lot of purple and made a lot of bacon.  It was awesome!

the best of 2012

Most currently I’m winding down in the beauty of 2012.  This particular winter day by the beach was big and blue.  I hope you’re closing the year with peace in your heart and some dance in your shoes!

I’m excited to live another year with you.  Let’s get into it!

xo joy

Five Tips For The Best All-Butter Pie Crust From Scratch

Chocolate Pecan Derby Pie

You know what breaks my heart?  Store-bough pie crust.  It’s a tragedy.  It’s a crime against good pie.  It’s illegal in at least eight states.  It’s not cool and I just can’t let you do it to yourself.  See, store-bought pie crust is usually made up of unpronounceable fats that can’t possibly taste good.  What does taste good?  Butter in pie crust.  Two syllables.  Approachable and delicious.

Let’s talk about how to make the best pie crust from scratch.  All it takes is a bit of confidence, a good amount of cold butter, tenacity, and a love of pie.

A pastry teacher once told me that ingredients can smell your fear.  It’s true.  Butter can sense your hesitation.  With these tips, I hope you’re inspired to get in the kitchen this holiday season and make a pie.  You can totally do it.  I’m a believer… and also, I’ll know if you buy a store-bought crust.   I have a sense about these things.

Here’s the lowdown on pie crust.

•  Flour, sugar, and salt are whisked together.

•  Cold, cubed butter is added and broken down into the dry ingredients.

•  Buttermilk is stirred in creating a shaggy but moist-ish dough.

•  With a wink and a prayer, dough is kneaded together, left to rest in the refrigerator, then rolled out into a buttery, sturdy, soon-to-be-flakey dough.

You can do it, here’s some extra know-how:

1.  The first rule of successful pie crust:  Keep your butter cold!

See, there’s a reason that our fat starts cold and needs to stay cold before the pie crust hits the oven.  Butter is made up of milk solids and water.  When cold butter hits a hot oven, the water in the butter evaporates quickly, helping to create a flavorful and flakey crust.  When warm, soft butter goes into a hot oven, the butter weeps in the crust before it evaporates.  No one wants a weepy butter crust.

5 Tips To The Best Pie Crust / joythebaker

2.  Dough will be shaggy and that’s just right!  

Pea size cold butter chunks dotting the flour mixture will create a shaggy and marbled dough.  Keep in mind that your dough will be on the shaggy side of cohesive once you add the buttermilk.  It’s not perfect and that’s exactly right.

3.  An hour of rest in the refrigerator is essential!

After the dough comes together into a shaggy disk, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour.  This time is everything!  It will allow the butter to rechill and allow the moisture to distribute through the dough.

4.  Rolling out is a relationship.  

Rolling out pie crust requires patience and intention.  Once you get the hang of things, it takes about 4 minutes from start to finish ensuring that the dough doesn’t warm and ooze before it’s completely rolled out.  Flour a large work surface well.  Start in the center of the dough by rolling your pin back and forth with firm even pressure.  Pick the dough up and rotate it around the floured surface to make sure the dough isn’t sticking as you roll it out.  Don’t worry about making a perfect circle / Don’t worry if you have cracks around the edges / Don’t be scared.  You can totally do this.

5.  Chill out again!

My favorite pie tins are the small, thin metal pie tins.  They house a humble pie and the thin metal heats up quickly in the oven allowing that magical butter/water/evaporation science to create the flakiest pie crust.  Allow the pie crust to chill in the refrigerator while the pie baking oven preheats.  Butter = Cold.

to rise again the leftovers mr & mrs glasses

Let these pies into your heart this holiday season.  I want you to want this.

•  Bourbon Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate // Rich and nutty with melted chocolate and bourbon, too!  Maybe this pie instead of Thanksgiving turkey?  Why not?

•  Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie // No exaggeration when I say this is perfect.  Creamy, earthy, not just pumpkin pie, super extra delicious just do it.

•  Salty Honey Pie // Sweet, salty, and creamy.

•  Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars // A press-in crust with butter and oats if you’re still intimidated about the whole pie crust situation.  I’m looking out for you.

Buttermilk Pie Crust

makes 2 pie crusts

Buttermilk Pie Crust


  • 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk plus 2 to 3 tablespoons more if your dough is dry


  1. To make the crust, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture. Quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas.
  2. Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a fork to bring to dough together. Try to moisten all of the flour bits. On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture. It will be moist and shaggy. That’s perfect. Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. To assemble the pie, remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round. Roll the dough a few strokes, then use your fingers to move the emerging circle around the floured surface. This ensures that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface. The circle won’t be perfect, that’s ok.
  4. Try not to get any tears in the rolled out dough, but if you do, they can be patched together with extra dough. When you roll the dough and you can see it start springing back, that means that the butter is warming and the crust shouldn’t be rolled out anymore. Gently lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in a deep 9-inch round pie dish. Place in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.
  5. Roll out the top crust just as you did the bottom crust, moving the dough across the floured surface every once in a while, and creating a roughly 13-inch circle.
  6. Bake pie according to your particular recipe. Share. Enjoy!


The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER

I grew up in a ‘because I said so’ household.

“Why can’t I have an Easy Bake Oven?”, I no doubt said in the whiniest voice ever.  “Because we have a real oven and because we said so!” was likely the answer from my very reasonable parents.

“Why can’t I wear these filthy overalls and Nirvana inspired grunge flannel to church!?”  I’d ask my mom as we were rushing out of the house, almost late for service.  “For so many reasons, but mostly because I said so!”.  Thank goodness for mothers.

“Why can’t I drive a car like all of my friends who have cars that their parents bought them to drive!?”  Gah… what a brat I was.  My parents response was likely somewhere along the lines of, “You’re crazy.  You’re lucky there’s food in the fridge for you to eat.  You’ve only been on the planet for 16 years and we care too much about you, and our cars, and about other people on the road to ever merge the three.  Also BECAUSE WE SAID SO! Get out of our faces starting now. ”  Thanks parents.

In that vein, I bring you the BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER… because I said so (and also because of browned butter).

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER

I think I’ve posted this recipe on my blog before, but I’ve found a renewed spirit for these cookies after my friends at King Arthur Flour put these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies to the test.  They asked, in step-by-step pictures of butter melting and flour whisking, if these cookies were the very best there are.  The answer is up to you, really.  Are the cookies that come out of your oven after mixing up this dough the best you’ve ever had?

The answer in my opinion:  HECK YES!!  Obviously, and because I said so!

Continue reading The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking 101: The Best Buttermilk Substitutes

the best buttermilk substitutions

Let’s talk about buttermilk.  More specifically, let’s talk about how I never have buttermilk in the refrigerator when I need it.  Wwhhyy!?

What is buttermilk?  Buttermilk is a slightly sour milk.   The sourness of buttermilk comes from acids in the milk, most notably, lactic acids.  Because the proteins in buttermilk are curdled, buttermilk is slightly thicker than regular milk, but not quite as thick as cream.  Buttermilk is also usually much lower in fat than regular milk and cream.

Cultured buttermilk, as it is called in the United States these days, is a pasteurized milk product.  A culture of lactic acid bacteria is added to low-fat milk to curdle and sour the milk.  Many dairies also add tiny yellow colored flecks of butter to simulate, well… buttermilk.

Buttermilk is an important part of baking.  The acidic milk combined with baking soda in a recipe is a baker’s dream. It’s helps add a lightness and tenderness to baked treats.  When baking soda is combined with the lactic acids of buttermilk, the acid neutralizes the metallic taste of sodium carbonate.  We talked about this in-depth in Baking 101: The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder.

What if you’re plum out of buttermilk?  There are solutions…. let’s talk.

The Best Buttermilk Substitutes

Milk and Lemon or Vinegar

In a 1-cup measuring cup, add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  Top the lemon juice with skim, low fat or whole milk.  Stir and let sit for two minutes.  After two minutes, your milk is both acidic and curdled.  If you need 2 cups of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk.  Two tablespoons aren’t necessary.

Milk and Yogurt

Stir 1/4 cup milk into 3/4 cup plain yogurt to create a nicely thick buttermilk substitute.

Milk and Cream of Tartar

Stir together 1 cup of milk and 1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.  To ensure that the mixture doesn’t get lumpy, mix the cream of tartar with 2 Tablespoons of milk.  Once mixed add the rest of the cup of milk.  Cream of tartar is an acid and will simulate the acidic environment of buttermilk in a pinch.

Non-Dairy Option: Almond Milk and Yogurt (with a splash of vinegar)

Stir 1/4 cup almond milk into 3/4 cup almond milk yogurt.  Add a splash (about 1/2 teaspoon) vinegar to the mixture and stir well.  Soy milk and yogurt can also be substituted for the almond milk products.

What We’re Making With Buttermilk

Buttermilk Beignets

Buttermilk Beignets

So soft and tender straight from the fryer.  Don’t inhale and eat.  Trust me.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake 

Soft cakes topped with ultra sweet, roasted strawberries.

Brown Butter Banana Bread with Rum and Coconut

Brown Butter Banana Bread with Rum and Coconut

Brown Butter and Buttermilk in their greatest union yet.

Chive and Feta Buttermilk Biscuits

Feta Chive and Sour Cream Scones

Dream biscuits.  On the savory side.


Joy the Baker’s Best Winter Recipes

Joy the Baker's Best Winter Recipes

Happy Tuesday!  

Are you thinking about black coffee and chocolate croissants, or is it just me?  Two chocolate croissants.  Two please.  Warm.  Thank you.  

Now that we’re past the holidays and into the part of the year where we’ve conveniently forgotten our New Year’s diet resolutions, it’s time to get in the kitchen, crank up the oven and bake some cold weather comforts.  

Here’s some inspiration.  There’s tons!  

•  Butter Pecan Biscuits for some reason these biscuits put REO Speedwagon in my head.  I can’t fight this feeling anymore.  Pecans make me want to sing. 

•  Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie. In which we spend quality time with chicken and pie crust.  It’s rich, creamy, and worth every bit of time it takes to make this beauty!  

•  Morning Glory Oats are sweet, hearty, and comforting.  It’s like carrot cake, in a bowl, for breakfast.  

•  Maple-Spiced Almond Milk with a hint of pumpkin is Winter-spiced, naturally sweet, and totally huggable.  

•  One Pot French Onion Pasta has all the savory comforts you want from a dinner pot.  Plus it makes the house smell like caramelized onions which is exactly perfect.  

•  Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup.  I hesitate to say it, but the word ‘ZESTY!’ really applies here.  

•  Vegan Banana Pecan Muffins.  Would it sway you to know that my Mom makes these muffins almost every week?  Also, flax seed eggs: wave of the future! 

•  Mushroom and Brussels Sprout Hash.  Just add poached eggs.  Game over. 

•  Roasted Potato Galette with cheddar and chives.  It’s carb on carb.  Totally a Winter tradition.  

Joy the Baker's Best Winter Recipes

•  Turkey and Bacon Meatloaf for sandwiches and beyond.  An embarrassing amount of ketchup is encouraged. 

•  The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies: there are no better words.

 •  I love this Apple Fennel Pistachio and Apricot Salad because it’s the perfect balance of bright, fresh, and sweet.

•  Beer-Battered Onion Rings are for any and every season! No excuses.

•  Classic Lemon Bars: one of the first things I learned how to bake and the recipe  remains the same! 

•  Apple Cinnamon Baked Donuts with Brown Butter Glaze. I can’t stop. Neither should you.    

•  Winter Lemonade with Ginger and Cloves is spiced and sweet and full of health promoting Winter goodness!

•  Salty and Malty Brown Butter Treats becsuse Rice Krispie treats are just a blank slate for all the good things in life.  

•  Sausage and Mushroom Risotto is so good! Go on at get your pot on the burner. So hearty and satisfying with earthy mushrooms and spicy sausage! 

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the Best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

We have a system around here, don’t we?

I bake something every few days, take pictures of it, and post a handful of those pictures in this little wedge of the Internet.

What would it look like if I showed you a whole bunch of everything?  The chocolate.  The cake.  The clock.  The hike.  The traffic.  The indecision.  The bourbon.  The whole dang day!  Well… it would be at least mildly entertaining, but more importantly… it would satisfy my need to over-share.  And that’s really why we’re all here, right?

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

8:18am.  What an utterly obnoxious time to wake up.  The baker in me… the baker that used to have to wake up at 3:15am is disgusted with my current self.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Like it or not, the first thing I do in the morning is flip on my computer.  There’s email and blog comments and… Twitter, duh.  It’s important and frankly, I can’t help myself.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

You should see this.  It’s a view of my bedside and well, under my bed.

One:  I have cherry sheets.

Two:  I store sprinkles of various colors under my bed.  Don’t judge me.

Three:  What you can’t see under my bed is the stack of cake pans I also have stored there.

Four:  When in need of nighttime reading, I can either reach for The Bible or The Pioneer Woman Cookbook.  It’s true.  It’s real life.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Let’s hit the road.  In a car.  This is Los Angeles City Hall.  I think it’s a pretty building.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

These are my stairs.  I took the liberty of naming them after myself.  They’re called the Kick Joy the Baker Right in the Arse Stairs.

These are the stairs that tame my cake lovin’ thighs.  It’s about 200 stairs in Echo Park that I climb a few times a week.  It’s hard every time.  It never gets easier.  My thighs hate/love it.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

The view at the top of the stairs is a combination of beauty and muck.  The same can be said for most things in Los Angeles.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Look at that, Los Angeles.  You’re lookin’ mighty precious.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

But seriously, it’s time to get down to business.  There’s a Chocolate Bundt to bake… and it’s not going to bake itself.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Oh wait… I’m really going to need some coffee first.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Cocoa powder and coffee.  The beginning of the best Bundt in the world.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Dishes seem to be a byproduct of any kitchen venture.  I still haven’t gotten used to that part.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

I wanted to drink this batter.  It was the consistency of hot chocolate made with heavy cream.  Ooooh snap.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Once I stopped myself from bathing in the cake batter I checked my mail.

Jury Duty.  Civic responsibility.  No comment.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Oh!  Did I tell you?  My Mom got me a book.  A relationship book… by Steve Harvey.

Steve Harvey writes about intimacy and commitment!?  Lord help us all.

And just like that… I’m never dating, ever EVER again.

Also, what’s with the awkwardly placed hand Mr. Harvey?  Do Not Trust.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

My sister sent me a bit of relationship advice as well.  Bourbon.  Bless that girl.  For life.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

But back to the chocolate.  We have chocolate glaze to make while the cake bakes.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

I should mention that this chocolate glaze has sour cream in it.  It’s perfect.  I’m thinking of using it as an edible face mask in the future.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Yes.  This just became quality entertainment.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Now it’s time to hop into some cute clothes, pack up the cake and get off to a dinner party.

This bed tells you several things.

One:  I can’t decide what to wear.

Two:  I’ve packed up the cake, but if I don’t set it next to equally important personal items, I will… no doubt, forget it as I run out the door.

Three:  I make my bed.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Hollywood.  Traffic.  Always and forever.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

This picture is obtuse.  Please take note of Asher’s tasteful v-neck shirt.  Please also take note of the fact that I was finally able to decide on something to wear.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Jeremy made an aaaaaamazing taco dinner.  I should have asked for leftovers to take home, but I was shy.  Dangit!

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

Cake.  Generously sliced.  Entirely appreciated.   Nevermind the salsa still on the table.  We just couldn’t wait for cake!

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

And then we turned to the topic that we always turn to at the end of an evening full of food and drinks:  The Biggest Loser… and how amazing that show is… and how it requires a box of tissue… oh the pounds and the tears shed.

The Making, Baking and Consumption of the best Chocolate Bundt Cake ever.

And the night ends.

Just so you know… this is about as well as I can see at night.  I need new glasses.  On the real.

Let’s talk about cake.  This is the most moist and delicious chocolate bundt cake I’ve ever encountered.  The batter is very loose.  It might make you worry.  Don’t fret.  It bakes up like an absolute dream.  The glaze… with unsweetened chocolate, coffee, and sour cream adds that final touch of delicious glamour to an already stellar cake.  It’s a Bundt.  It’s a dang good Bundt.

The Best Chocolate Bundt Cake with chocolate glaze

makes one 10-inch bundt cake

from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook (really lovely book)

Print this Recipe!

For the Cake:

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee

3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon buttermilk

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted

For the Glaze:

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.

To make the cake batter:  Put brewed coffee and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low speed for about 1 minute.  Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.

Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.  The batter will be very loose.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.

To make the icing:  Chop the chocolate into small pieces, put them in a heatproof bowl (or a double boiler), and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.  Be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water.  Remove the bowl from the heat when all of the chocolate bits have melted.

Melt the butter in a separate pan or in the microwave.  Whisk the melted butter into the melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated.  Sift in half of the powdered sugar.  Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.  Sift in the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  The glaze should be thick and shiny.  Lastly, add the coffee and whisk to create a glossy glaze.

Pour the glaze over the Bundt cake, covering it completely.  Leave at room temperature until ready to serve.