Currently viewing the tag: "buttercream"

parsnip cupcakes
Parsnips are often overlooked when it comes to baking. I’ll admit I’ve walked straight past them in the produce section, their pale white exterior ignored for other, flashier vegetables. The bold-colored flesh and feathery tops of the parsnip’s neighbor is more familiar, and the root that one associates with muffins and quick bread. So it’s the carrot that is placed in my shopping cart, and then ends up in my cake.

But Martha Stewart changed my mind. Her lovely book Vegetables showed up at my front door, and after thumbing through so many amazing recipes (Skillet Pizza with Greens and Eggplant! Corn and Scallion Chilaquiles! Beet Risotto with Beet Greens! Broccoli Rabe and Ham Croque Monsieurs! Squash Blossom Frittata! Frisee and Roasted Pear Salad!), I (of course) found my way to one of the few desserts in the book, and decided to start there. I’m glad I did.
cupcakesa

Martha Stewart
A few things:

It’s not too late to enter my giveaway! If you’ve pre-ordered my cookbook, you can enter to win a Vanilla Bean Baking Book apron and tea towel set. See this post for details.

Last week my site was down for a little bit, and I lost three posts. I was able to get them back, but sadly all the comments were deleted. So if you left me a question and I didn’t get back to you, please try again! Sorry about that.

It’s less than a week from Election Day, which is also the release of my cookbook. The lovely FauxMartha and my husband helped me come up with the perfect hashtag to celebrate both events: #bakeamericacakeagain. I think we could all use a little extra love while we move closer to Tuesday, and baking cake and sharing some is the perfect way to do just that. Tag your cakes on Instagram to play along! 

Although I thought we were terribly clever, there are already a bunch of fun cake/bake hashtags playing on ‘Make America Great Again’ on Instagram. NPR has a post on the history of Election Cakes that you can read about here.

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wayne theibaud
I first discovered Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Cakes at Zoe’s house. She has a small print hanging in her kitchen, and I find myself drawn to it each time I go visit her. It’s simple but beautiful, and I’m often questioning the cakes as I study them. Are you all just chocolate and vanilla, or is there a carrot cake in there, too? Maybe even pumpkin? Is that lemon curd on top down front, or did someone get crazy with the food coloring? What kind are you, little cake peeking out from the side? Why is only one cake cut into way in the back row? Zoe and I have chatted about the piece over the years, and finally came up with a project that has been starring us in the face: baking through Thiebaud’s Cakes. We’ll be starting the series later this summer, so stay tuned.
wayne thiebaud

honey cake with caramel buttercream

honey cake with caramel buttercream

honey cake with caramel buttercream

wayne thiebaud

crafted honey
I finally purchased a print of Cakes for myself (details below), and it is now hanging proudly in my kitchen. I still find myself questioning each and every cake on a weekly basis, and it’s spurred on some delicious conversation between friends and family alike.

But! I have a non-Thiebaud dessert for you today, however: Honey Cake with Caramel Buttercream. Crafted Honey, a small batch, family-run company sent me some samples a few weeks ago, and I thought adding it to a layer cake would be a good idea. Turns out it was. The honey flavor really shines through, and kept the cake moist a little longer than a butter cake normally does. I used the Wildflower Honey in the cake, but also highly recommend the Sourwood Honey, which I want to pour on everything and I daily eat directly off my spoon.
honey cake with caramel buttercream

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Blackberry Basil Buttercream
‘Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardized international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine today) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.’ -CS Lewis The Collected Letters of CS Lewis, Vol. 1
Blackberry Basil Buttercream
I’ve slowly been working my way through CS Lewis’ letters (Vol. 1 and 2 are currently in my possession, while Vol. 3 seems to be out of print and unattainable, alas, as I can’t quite justify spending over $400 for it). The above paragraph stuck out to me a few nights ago while reading; first, Lewis casually mentions having conversations with Tolkien like it’s a totally normal event (which it was), and second, the concept of ‘Home’ has been on my mind frequently, as I’m working out what it means to be part of a family.

Home, to me, is this small unit of four I reside with daily, although, it is also the dwelling we sleep and eat and nest in. The dwelling can and does change, and while I care about the walls that keep out the rain and snow, that part isn’t the most important.

Well, usually. Sometimes hard wood floors and paint color and kitchen back splashes and throw pillows and bed spreads and shower curtains and coveting marble counter tops and redoing the patio seem more like home then things like eating dinner together and snuggling during a movie and talking through our day and learning to compromise and laughing and family hikes and working things out and holding hands and reading books in bed.

I wonder sometimes if I am so concerned with the appearance of our dwelling and the materials that make up our home because I don’t have such rich history? I hardly know those that came before. I haven’t walked the winding paths my ancestors did; the small lot my house sits upon was owned by strangers. Most my history is lost, scattered in attics and basements I never knew. My great-grandchildren may never set foot here. Sometimes I forget to look ahead to them, focused on leaving this place, this earth better than I found it. The focus shifts to things, and not people, because the connection between generations has slowly been chewed away.

We have been uprooted, we are wanderers.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Blackberry Basil Buttercream

I worked with a man years ago at a small cafe who offered up this quote to me: ‘People aren’t a means to an end; people are the end.’ It has always stuck with me, and when I find myself getting wrapped up in things, forgetting that relationships are the heart of this whole experiment called life, those words find me every time. I’m still learning.

‘There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.’ – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

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cake4Asquare
“PHOSPHORESCENCE. Now there’s a word to lift your hat to… to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.” – Emily Dickinson

(I apologize for the short post. I’m currently working on my first pass for my book, and don’t have time to talk today. But! I do have this hazelnut cake recipe that I hope makes up for my lack of words. Have a lovely weekend, dear friends.)
hazelnut cake with crème mousseline

hazelnut cake with crème mousseline

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ginger cake with crème fraîche buttercream and sugared cranberries | the vanilla bean blog
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” -Andrew Boyd

The theme of Christmas is a tale of benevolence, no matter what version of the story you are celebrating. We purpose to turn to our neighbor and offer what we have: there are good intentions of shoveling sidewalks, delivering cookies, donating money. Our children are reminded there is more to all of this then receiving, although it gets harder each year to convince them. They are introduced to Rudolph and Charlie Brown and Frosty on the screen, while adults everywhere paste on a smile and try to tune out the ill-will demonstrated across the lands. ‘Peace on earth,’ we sing together, in churches and on snowy walks, while decorating sugar cookies and sitting quietly by the fire. This year the words fall flat; hands that could be stretched out to give are too busy pulling triggers and pounding on keyboards, tearing down with a disturbing ease. Our news feed promotes constant anxiety with war and rumors of war, and depressing options for future leaders.
ginger cake with crème fraîche buttercream and sugared cranberries | the vanilla bean blog

ginger cake with crème fraîche buttercream and sugared cranberries | the vanilla bean blog

ginger cake with crème fraîche buttercream and sugared cranberries | the vanilla bean blog
Even as the last candle on my mantle flickers on these darkest nights of the year, my husband walks into the room and turns on a light. ‘Why are you hiding here in the dark?’ he laughs, and sits down beside me. I look around and see food and water, beer and cheese. There are piles of blankets and a roof that covers too much space; it keeps out rain and snow. I snuggle in next to him and remind myself that all is not lost. We have been given so much, more than we need. Although all spaces seem to be bombarded with hopelessness, we will still choose to do some good with our own hands, to share what we have, even if our hearts are ripped wide open* in the process. We will teach our children to do the same.

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-By Wendell Berry (Nicole from Eat This Poem posted this piece last week, and it’s been a much needed read. Her post about it is very good read, too.)

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buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

I’ve been making cakes (and cakes and cakes and cakes) for my cookbook, and I think I am almost done with that chapter. Almost. I think. I can’t stop myself from constantly tinkering with recipes and my family, my neighbors, and everyone at my husband’s office is officially tired of eating cake. But! I did make the yellow cake of my dreams, and yesterday I got the chocolate cake just right. I will need make it again tomorrow, just to be sure. Progress is exciting.

Buttercream is also being worked on. I started with the rhubarb buttercream I made last year; switching out strawberries for the rhubarb. It turned out lovely, and my daughter and I were enamored with the pale pink frosting. Technically this is a cheater’s post (since I really didn’t change that much from the original recipe), but after we put some flowers from the garden on top (and some fairies from her toy box), I thought it deserved it’s own space on the blog.

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

(The pretty pink cake plate is from Dishes Only.)

 

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This cake was made in celebration of Saveur Magazine’s 20th birthday. When it comes to cake I only think in chocolate, but I got the idea of rhubarb buttercream in my head and thought it would pair better with a white cake (although, after eating it, I think it could go either way). There are 21 cakes altogether on the above link, and I recommend checking them out; so many beauties.

We’re still in the moving zone here; we’ve got one week to pack up the rest of our house and say our good-byes. I feel very bittersweet about the whole affair, but am looking forward to the change.

“So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”-Herman Hesse

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chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog
‘Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy for dreaming of something else.’ – Miranda July

This sentence stuck out to me today after a night of taking care of sick kids, another morning of -10 degree weather, more news of cancer and sadness, and a winter with no end in sight. Deep sighs, and one foot in front of the other.

I made these little cakes a few days ago, when the sun was shinning through our windows and we were saying things like, ‘finally we are all healthy!’ and ‘this cold can’t last much longer!’ Dreamers dreaming dreams.

Some beautiful things: Laura has a chocolate hazelnut torte up today, if you need a vegan and gluten free chocolate-hazelnut fix. Melissa made my chocolate bread and has exciting news. And, this article by The Onion helped me smile today. ‘You just have to keep carrying the flame inside you. No matter how hard it gets to be, you carry that g-d*m fire. It’s a hard world. Life is hard. But no matter what, you carry that fire, and you don’t let go.’
chocolate mini cakes with hazelnut buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

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My daughter has been dreaming of a Valentine’s cake for weeks, after seeing a heart-shaped cake in this little cookbook she received for Christmas. It was sort of a last minute affair regardless of all her planning and sketching; I was up late last night baking the cake, and there was a quick trip to the co-op this morning to get forgotten frosting ingredients. Also, Ms. [W] was insistent on red flowers. She was convinced the last little bouquet at the market was full of roses, and I let her believe it.




We all agreed that the best part of this special treat was the raspberry buttercream, hands down. It is from The Smitten’s new cookbook, and while I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt [I couldn’t help myself], I found it to be absolutely perfect. The berry flavor is light, but just right with the chocolate. And the chocolate cake is always a winner in our house. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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We are enamored with these little beauties, and they grace our table at almost every birthday celebration for my littles. Deep, chocolate flavor and sweet but not-too-sweet buttercream make these a perfect choice. Their frosting tops can stand as high and as colorful as you’d like, but they are also beautiful when left alone; the buttery white and dark cocoa becoming a glorious bite of day and night.
Purchase my cookbook!

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