Cake: I Love You

After the last cake post, I was determined to not let cake beat me. I’ve had a hankering for cake lately, as well as the desire to experiment in the kitchen, and  . . . we’re here to learn together (right?), so —

Dessert is like a feel-good song,

and the best ones make you dance.

Chef Edward Lee

First off, winter is the season for blood oranges, which I LOVE. They’re as beautiful as they are delicious, so this Blood Orange Poppyseed cake (recipe to follow) was right up my alley. So simple to make and not pretentious in its presentation. Have it after dinner, or shoot — with a cup of morning coffee. But do not feed any to your dog. I know this because I spilled about half a bottle of poppy seeds in the making of this cake, and know what? Quick PSA: those suckers are poisonous to dogs. Don’t worry, though — Wallace only got a few, and except for some excessive drooling, he was fine.

Next in cake experimentation: vanilla cupcakes. Just because. Cupcakes are pretty. And festive. And offer more creative opportunity. I tried different liners and sprinkles, and I’m learning to get better at piping more professionally. Thank you, YouTube. 

  • Things I’ve learned:
  • Put your piping bag inside a tall glass for easier filling. Then really twist the top to push all that icing into the tip.
  • Practice on a sheet of parchment paper first. When you have your technique more or less perfected, you can scrape it back into your piping bag without wasting it (or suffering “practice cupcakes”).
  • If you are using cupcake sleeves, place the sleeve around an upside down shot glass. Then put your baked & frosted cupcake on top of the shot glass, and pull the sleeve around the cupcake. Voilà! Your sleeve is on, your icing is untouched, and your fingers are clean.

Blood Orange Poppyseed Upside-Down Cake

Let’s Stay In, by Ashley Rodriguez
  • 4-5 blood oranges
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″- or 10″-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper

Zest the oranges to get 2 tsp of zest, and removed the peel & pith of the oranges, using a paring knife. Thinly slice the oranges, and lay them in the bottom of your prepared pan.

Cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest in a stand mixer, or hand-held one, until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well to combine.

In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the sour cream to the butter mixture, then add half of the flour mixture. Repeat. Do not overmix, as this will result in a tough texture. Finish mixing by hand to ensure that all is evenly mixed.

Dump the batter on top of the oranges, being careful to spread the batter while not disturbing your oranges.

Bake the cake 45-55 minutes, or until the cake springs back in the middle when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven, and set the cake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto a platter.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

  • 1⅓ cups (185 grams/6.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick/115 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200 grams/7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.

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

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add milk and beat until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly or fold by hand only until combined.

Divide batter evenly between the cups, filling them about ¾ full. Bake for 15-20 minutes (or 8-10 minutes if making mini cupcakes) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to sit for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Cream the butter until light and fluffy with a hand mixer. Slowly add the sugar and blend well. It will be dry! Then add the vanilla and milk and mix. If it is still thicker than your liking, add more milk to adjust for consistency.

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