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

Ingredients
  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
Instructions
  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.

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.

Cream Cheese Frosting 101

These are simple Lemon Scented Buttermilk Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, decorated with fondant flowers and edible pearls.

Cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite toppings for cakes and cupcakes!  From citrus scented cakes, to rich chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese frosting is a decadent and versatile cake topping.

Cream cheese frosting is also fairly easy to make.  But what happens when cream cheese frosting goes wrong?

Have you ever found yourself with a mixing bowl full of curdled cream cheese frosting?  Ugh! How frustrating!  It’s more than frustrating… it’s an outrage, and I’m here to get to the bottom of it.

I’d experienced my fair share of curdled cream cheese.  While I don’t claim to understand the science behind curdled cream cheese, I do have my theories on its prevention.

Cream cheese frosting is a combination of butter, cream cheese and sugar.  The temperature of the ingredients and the manner of incorporation are important when it comes to the curdling factor.  Cream cheese must be at room temperature.  I make sure my cream cheese is completely soft by letting it sit out overnight.  Butter is a different story.  I leave my butter out for about 2 to 3 hours before making the frosting.  It should be at room temperature, but still a bit cool.  The butter shouldn’t be completely soft and mush in the package.  It should be soft, but still hold its cube shape.  Got it?

In the mixing bowl, start with the cream cheese alone.  Beat it in the mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the butter. Beat the butter into the cream cheese for about 1-2 minutes.  At this point, you’re just seeing that the butter and cream cheese are incorporated into one another.

Here’s the kicker- I find that if the butter is overly warm, and I start it off in the mixer with the cream cheese, my end product is  curdled cream cheese.  I think that the water in the butter, separates from the fat and creates a curdled mess.  The trick is to keep a soft but slightly firm butter cube and beat the cream cheese before adding the butter.  I think the incorporation of these two fats is important, so be kind to them, and mind their temperatures.

Once the fats are friends, add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, sifted powdered sugar, and milk for thinning.  You should be clear of curdling from here on out, and have a oh-so-yummy topper for your cupcakes!

Lemon Scented Buttermilk Cupcakes

adapted from Demolition Desserts

Print this Recipe!

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

2 large eggs, at room temp

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oen to 325.  Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the kosher salt after sifting and set aside.  Measure out the buttermilk.  Rub the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant and tinged a slight yellow.

2. Cream the butter and the lemon sugar using an electric mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, letting the eggs beat for 1 mintue in between additions.  Scrape down the bowl in between additions.

3.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients.  Start by adding one third of the flour mixture.  Mix just to incorporate.  Add half of the buttermilk.  Add another one third of the flour mixture.  Mix to incorporate.  Add the last half of buttermilk, followed by the last third of flour.

4. Spoon into paper lined cupcake pans.  Check the cupcakes after 12 minutes.  Makes 12 cupcakes.

The cupcake recipe should be doubled for the amount of frosting the below recipe produces. The make 24 cupcakes, or a two layer 8-inch or 9-inch round cake, double the cake recipe above, and use the frosting recipe below as is.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

8oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

4-6 cups powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons milk

depending on desired consistency

Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.  I like my cupcake frosting to be slightly more thick than cake frosting, so it can hold its shape on the cupcake.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

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Hey Dude (that I’m currently dating),

We need to talk.  It’s about your mother.

Mostly… it’s about how I need to meet your mother.  We’ve been carrying on for a while now… and I need to meet the lady that birthed you, clothed you, slapped you upside the head, and made you the awesome man you are now.  If I don’t meet her soon, she will surely think me some sort of hussy harlot who was born in a barn and doesn’t much care for other people’s mothers.  This is not the case.  I care about most mothers, often.

It’s a lady thing that perhaps you don’t understand.  I need to be nervous.  I need to bite off all my nails.  I need to agonize over the perfect outfit that will make me look sophisticated, but sweet and approachable, womanly without being more womanly that her.  I need the outfit that says I can damn well take care of myself, and keep her dear and darling son in line for the rest of his life.  It’s a fine fine fiiiine line.

I need to let your mother look me up and down in examination.  I need to stand there and let her envision me as her daughter-in-law.  I need to eat her casserole, express my desire for the recipe… then I need to do her dishes.

I need to let her tell me how to do things that I already know how to do, like make a pie, and pluck my eyebrows.  We need to watch 60 Minutes together.  She in her recliner, me sitting on the floor.  I need to offer to bring dessert.  She’ll make a face when it’s being served, and enjoy it despite herself.  It’s all a dance.  Every moment of it.  It’s all a test… because mothers do not let their sons go quietly… they let them go passive aggressively.

Lastly, she needs to see that I make you happy.  That’s where you come in.  Don’t act weird.  Well, don’t act weirder than you usually act.  Be natural… and put your arm around me once in a while.  It’s your job to make sure that no one gets a third glass of wine.  That’s when things get weird.

It’s also your job NOT to tell your mother that there are beets in the cake I’m serving for dessert.  That will be our little secret.  Unless she loves it… then I’m taking all the glory.

Cool.

Love,

Joy

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Quite right.  This chocolate cake is chocked full of roasted beets.

Beets are trimmed of their greens (which are delicious sauteed) and roasted whole in foil and just a touch of oil.  You know… like you’re making a beet salad, but you’re totally making cake.

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Besides beets, this cake also has the usual cake- y suspects:  flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, powder, and salt.

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I love preparing cake pans for baking.  Something about the ritual just calms me.

Parchment paper rounds (that are cut by hand) totally ensure that the cake will come out of the pan in one piece.  It’s an extra bit of work, but I love the insurance.

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Roasted beets are cooled and peeled (which is easy… not to worry), and grated on the fine side of a box grater.

If you’re wondering about beet stained hands… yes, I had two.  They eventually wash clean.

Beets add moisture and sweetness to the cake.  Beets do not make the cake taste like a salad.  That’s an important thing to know.

The cake batter will be a purple color, but will bake into a moist chocolate cake with no trace of beets.

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Let’s talk about frosting.  Butter and cream cheese are left at room temperature until soft.  They’re beaten with powdered sugar, vanilla, and a squeeze of lemon.

Beets, too!  Beets, shredded and mashed add a slight sweetness and intense color to the frosting.  It’s all you need for food coloring.  It’s delightful and delicious.  And again… it does not taste like salad.

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You may have a few beet strands in your frosting as you decorate the cake.  Think of it as nature’s sprinkles.

… I can’t believe I just typed that.

I’m sorry.

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I want you to fall in love with this cake.  I did.

The cake itself is moist and chocolate-y.  It’s not too sweet either!  Bonus.  The frosting is bright pink, speckled with beet bits, and creamy sweet.

No one would ever know this cake is chocked full of vegetables.  We can just keep that little bit of information between us.  Secret ingredient power!

Pssst… Valentine’s Day Cake!  I’m just sayin…

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake

adapted from Fine Cooking November 2001

Print this Recipe!

For the Cake:

2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans

2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For the Frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened

4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod

1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.   Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the Frosting:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky.  Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Orange Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

Some things:

– I sometimes think about working in a furniture store just to observe couples come in and fight over couch seat depth and textiles: a sociological study, you know?  Ok… I never actually think about working in a furniture store… I’m really bad at talking about end tables and such.

– Only real adults should have to deal with fabric swatches.  Seriously… what is this swatch supposed to tell me about my life?  I don’t get it.

– I think that Ikea should have a bar instead of a cafeteria.

… I’m shopping for a couch… can you tell?  Please send reinforcements (not fabric swatches).

– Buying a car is easier than buying a couch.  I’m pretty sure this is fact.

I made this cake with far too much home decor nonsense in my brain.  I came to realize that this cake is totally the best air freshener EVER.  Couch shenanigans aside… (almost) all you really need is a house that smells of cake.  So much can be forgiven is cake exists on pretty plates with hot coffee.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

This is where satisfaction begins… in this arrangement of small bowls and measuring spoons.

I love that this recipe comes together with just two mixing bowls.  No fancy stand mixer necessary.  Well, no mixer needed until it comes time to make the cream cheese frosting… but even that can be twerked with just a large bowl, wooden spoon, and a good dose of elbow grease.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

Welcome to where wet ingredients meet dry.

This cake is flavor PACKED.  The ground ginger is bright and spicy.  I want to put ginger is just about everything these days.

The molasses is deep, rich, and beautifully alluring.  I love the honey sweetness paired with the delicate orange notes.  This cake is everything ever.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

You want to poke this.  I know you do.

It’s cool.  I do too.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

This is just enough cream cheese frosting to generously frost the square cake aaaannnnddd sneak a few spoonfuls for yourself.  Life is short… unless it’s really really long.  In both instances, spoonfuls of cream cheese frosting are necessary.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

It’s like I turned the lights down low to frost my cake.

That wouldn’t be weird…

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

Pomegranates are the magical gem equivalent in the food world.  While there are no pomegranates in the cake itself, it feels like pomegranates are the only thing you could possibly decorate this cake with.  Pretty/Perfect.

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

Spiced and moist.  Decadent and humble.  This is that.  These are those.  I love when a cake feels relevant and joyful.  I love when cake makes my house smell  better than my awesome pine scented candle.  Air freshener meets crazy delicious.

I baked this cake in a square 8×8-inch square pan.  The batter came up to fill the pan about three-quarters of the way full.  Should you find that your batter fills the pan more than three-quarters of the way full, I would suggest baking this cake in a 9-inch or 10-inch round cake pan.  See what works for you.

Orange Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 9 generous pieces in an 8×8-inch square pan

Print this Recipe!

For the Cake:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup unsulphered molasses (not blackstrap)

1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoons orange zest

3/4 cup warm water

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese frosting, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

big pinch of salt

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (plus half of a scraped vanilla bean if you’d like)

pomegranate seeds for garnish

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8-inch square (or 9-inch round) baking pan.  Line with parchment paper and grease and flour the parchment paper.  The parchment paper isn’t entirely necessary, it just makes the cake easier to remove from the pan.  Set pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs until thick and pale.  Stir in molasses, honey, and orange zest.

Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the wet ingredients.  Stir together until entirely incorporated.  Add the warm water and gently stir until entirely incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  If you find that the mixture fills the pan more than three-quarters of the way full, you might consider using a larger pan (a 9 or 10-inch pan may serve your better).

Bake cake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the cream cheese frosting.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese (yea… just the cream cheese) on medium speed.  The cream cheese should be as soft and smooth as possible.  Stop the mixer.  Add the softened butter.  Scraped down the sides of the bowl and beat the two together over medium speed until smooth and incorporated.  Add one cup of powdered sugar.  Blend until incorporated.  Add vanilla extract (and bean, if using) and remaining cup of powdered sugar.  Beat on medium high speed until frosting is smooth and silky.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting the cake.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving.

This cake can be stored, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.  

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

In my kitchen this past week I’ve managed to burn my Thanksgiving brussels sprouts, make a bum batch of chocolate brownies, crack my favorite coffee mug and somehow spill a half bottle of red wine under…UNDER my refrigerator.  Additionally, since my kitchen seems to be a vortex of ill fate, I’ve refused to do the dishes.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, friends.  I was just about due for an intervention.

I was just about ready to throw a stick of dynamite into my kitchen and hope for the best.  Instead I opted for one last shot… mostly because sticks of dynamite like the ones they have in cartoons are hard to find… maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places… whatever the case,  I preheated the oven, kept my head down, and… success!  Sweet, dense, chocolate and peanut butter success.

This dark kitchen cloud seems to have passed, and I’ve managed to get all of my dishes in the dishwasher…. things are looking up and tasting pretty darn good too.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

These peanut butter blondies are serious.  The blondie is dense and packed with brown sugar and peanut butter flavor.  The chocolate frosting is the perfect compliment, although if you simply wanted to add chocolate chips or broken up Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to the blondie batter, that would be just as delicious.  I think frosting on brownies is the ultimate indulgence…. so why not go for it.  Be warned… you’ll need milk to drink with these.  Lots of milk.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

makes one dozen big brownies in a 9×13-inch pan

Print this Recipe!

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 5 cubes

2 cups dark brown sugar

1 cup smooth and natural peanut butter

2 eggs

2  teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13-inch pan, line with parchment paper if you have it on hand, then grease the parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment paper, these blondies will be just fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until the butter is just melted.  Remove from the burner and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the peanut butter.  Stir until incorporated.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.  You want the sugar, butter and peanut butter mixture to be cool enough that the eggs won’t begin to cook when they’re added in.

Whisk together salt, flour and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients.  Stir until just incorporated.  Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth out.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons milk

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cocoa powder and salt.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar followed by 1 tablespoon milk.  Beat well.  Add another cup of powdered sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons of milk.  Melt milk chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler.  Add melted and slightly cooked milk chocolate the frosting and beat to incorporate.  Add the final 1/2 cup of powdered sugar if you need a bit more thickness.  Spread evenly over peanut butter blondies.

Red Velvet Cake with Fluffy White Frosting

Red Velvet Cake

Ooooh God.  This is embarrassing.  This is about to happen.

Here’s a small excerpt from Joy’s (before she was the Baker) diary circa late 1996.  I had strong feelings about a lot of things back then… my first crush named Hayden, my best friend turned enemy, the television show Seinfeld, making the volleyball team and…. MTV’s The Real World.  Yea… I’m not so sure about that last one either.  I dunno.  Here’s an actual excerpt:

Um.  Diary.  Seriously.  (P.S.) Real World Miami sucked just to let you know.

Reasons to be on Real World…

1) I’m athletic… DUH

2) I’m funny… so how bout them Dodgers… who’s on first… knock knock.

3) I’m diverse.  I’m a black girl (woman).

4) Kissing.  But not on camera.

5) I’m from Los Angeles… with bright lights and clear skies.

6) I’m a country music lover… Come on baby let’s go to Vegas.

*HELL-OOO

My heavens! I laughed out loud when I found this little gem in my teenage diary. Ooooh but believe me… that little book is full of all sorts of priceless wallowing and poetry so terrible… so foul… that I can barely even stand to revisit it. This little list though…. hot dang… so funny.  I think I love reason number three the most.  Why did I feel the need to put the ‘woman’ in parentheses?  My heavens.  What a weirdo.

I just had to get that off my chest… now, cake.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

I have gone through many a Red Velvet Cake recipe but I’ve finally found my favorite.  The Humming Bakery Cookbook is just a dream when it comes to cakes and cupcakes.  I turned my favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes into a cake with Fluffy White Seven Minute Frosting and topped with whole monster with toasted coconut.  The recipe has a good dose of cocoa powder and buttermilk, making the cake both flavorful and moist.  This beauty makes for a super lovely party cake.  It’s impressive.

Can’t imagine Red Velvet without Cream Cheese Frosting… we’ve got that recipe too!

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Fluffy White Frosting and Toasted Coconut

from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes 2 8-inch or 9-inch round cakes

Print this Recipe!

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 egg

5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 Tablespoons red food coloring mixed with 2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Turn mixer to high and add  the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste.  Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk.  Add half of the flour and salt and mix until combined.  Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour.  Beat on high until smooth.

Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar.  Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Cake

Fluffy Seven Minute Frosting

from Epicurious.com

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

In large metal bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Set bowl over pan of barely simmering water and mix with handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Transfer bowl from pan to folded kitchen towel on counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vanilla. (Frosting can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.)

Red Velvet Cake

Toasted Coconut

1 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Spread coconut on top of a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 6-10 minutes, tossing coconut occasionally so it browns evenly.  Keep a close eye on the coconut, it burns quickly!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

There’s a very specific sort of kitchen math that runs through my brain every time I stare into my refrigerator and try to figure out what to make.

Six carrots + 8 radishes + 2 sticks of butter + half a pot of leftover chicken soup + 1/2 bundle wilting kale + block of cream cheese – one bagel’s worth of cream cheese + yesterday’s pudding experiment.

Unfortunately the hungrier I am when I approach the refrigerator, the more difficult it is the process this math.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

If I made the radishes a snack.  If I combine the wilted kale with the leftover chicken soup.  If I pray that there’s oil enough, eggs enough, canned pineapple enough, sugar enough,  and flour enough… maybe just maybe I can produce Carrot Cake Cupcakes from a good long stare in the fridge.

I wish for you the same success!

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Shredded carrots by the heap-ful are mixed together with sugar, eggs, and vegetable oil.

No mixer, even!

Just a bowl, a whisk, and a dream.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves spice this batter.  It’s simple!

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Dried cranberries and crushed pineapple sweeten and moisten the batter.

Sorry I made you say ‘moisten’ in your brain.  Nobody likes that.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Everytime I decide to make cupcakes I immediately try to talk myself out of it.  All of this individual scooping and individual frosting just seems like an ordeal in the part of my baker’s brain that says ‘don’t work that hard, this could be a Bundt cake!’.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

But I’m glad I turned this Carrot Cake batter intocupcakes.  I took them to a backboard barbecue here in New Orleans in an effort to make new friends.  People were like, ‘whoa these are really good!’ and I was like ‘DUH, I’m Joy the Baker, dummy!’.  (But I only said that last part in my head, so….).

Calling someone a dummy while trying to make new friends is not suggested.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting with a dash of crushed pineapple.  The pineapple in the frosting will mimic the pineapple in the cupcakes.  It’s like matching your purse and your belt.  You know.

carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese frosting

Springtime friendship makers.  Soft and sweet with really great frosting.  They’re like little cupcake weapons… for friendship.

Try them.  You’ll see.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

makes almost 3 dozen cupcakes

adapted from Martha Stewart

Print this Recipe!

For the Cupcakes:

4 cups peeled and finely grated carrots
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped (plus more for optional topping of the frosted cupcakes)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the Frosting:

8oz cream cheese, softened
1  cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk
depending on desired consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together grated carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract, pineapple, dried cranberries, and nuts if desired.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients and stir to thoroughly combine.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted into centers come out clean, 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks, 10 minutes. Turn out cupcakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen for up to 2 months in airtight containers.

Make sure cupcakes are completely cool before frosting.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the cream cheese until soft and pliable.  Add the softened butter and beat on low until well combined.  Add the powdered sugar, pineapple, vanilla, and a dash of milk.  Beat on medium low until mixture is combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add more milk to reach your desired consistency.

Generously spread frosting on each cooled cupcake.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Cupcakes are best served within three days.