Tag Archives: Go Mighty

Devil’s Food Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 Jan


We have some great friends in our neighborhood, and one of them happens to share a birthday month with me. Oftentimes, December birthdays can be a total bummer. Everyone is out of town for the holidays, people are all tied up in a billion other celebrations, and, really, if you are going to line your birthday up against a holiday, having to compete against Christmas is like trying to sink a battleship with a blow dart. As I have gotten older, birthday celebrations have gotten smaller and less important, and I can’t say I have any complaints about that phenomenon. Still, knowing the challenges of having a December birthday, I thought that, if nothing else, I could at least make a cake for my friend to help him celebrate, albeit quietly.




It’s funny how birthday parties look when you have children. Often times, the children will outnumber the adults, and whatever fancy spread of food you dream up for the event, there will always be an incongruous pairing of baby carrots and plain pasta to accompany it. And did I mention something about a quiet birthday? I take that back. Having a birthday party when you’re a parent won’t feature any less noise that your childless birthday parties did, it will just feature a very different type of noise (i.e. loud, screaming children playing in your basement instead of loud, screaming guitars from the band playing in your basement).



But, lucky for everyone, nearly every birthday party features cake, and for this birthday party, the cake in question was a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. There are two points I need to make about this cake. The first point is that the person who chose this cake as his birthday cake happens to be English. I have to point this out only because I found it utterly delightful that an Englishman would choose for himself a cake whose presence is so deeply rooted in the American south. The second point about this cake is that, much as I tried, I did not end up making it a typical red velvet cake. The cake I knew I wanted to make (because it is one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, and it pairs beautifully with cream cheese frosting) is technically a chocolate cake, but it does contain shredded beets, so, really, it might count as being sort of a red velvet cake, right? It’s more of a devil’s food cake, which is sort of similar because…the devil…is red?




Okay, so none of that makes sense. But the cake was still utterly delicious. Ultra chocolaty, ridiculously moist, and covered with the most indulgent frosting imaginable, it matters not that your birthday is just days away from Christmas when you get to eat cake like this.


Last Year: Hazelnut Orange Pesto, and a confession about how I am consistently 3 issues behind on the New Yorker.

Devil’s Food Cake

Adapted from Cooking School Secrets for Real-World Cooks, by Linda Carucci

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup packed finely shredded raw beets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower middle position.

Butter and flour the sides and bottoms of 3 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch sides. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir to combine, then make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to combine. Whisk in the buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients all at once, and stir to combine completely. Slowly whisk in the butter. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in the beets. Transfer to the prepared cake pans and spread evenly, using a rubber spatula to pull the batter away from the center of the pans and out along the sides.

Bake until the center of each cake springs back when lightly touched and the sides of each cake just begin to pull away from the pan, 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool on a wire rack, still in their pans, for 10 minutes. Invert each cake onto another rack and remove pans. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely, upside down. Make sure your cake layers are completely and totally cooled before frosting, lest your frosted cake end up a dripping, melted mess.

Cream Cheese Frosting

From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened at room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, and salt by beating on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, slowing add the confectioner’s sugar, and beat until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

26 Dec


Sometimes the best part of making a cake is not actually knowing what cake I am going to make. When I offer to make someone a cake, I always leave the door open in regards to what sort of cake I should be making. Sometimes people immediately know what type of cake they want. Chocolate cake with coffee frosting. Spice cake. But sometimes—and, secretly, this is the type of thing I really, really love—my question is answered with just a list of elements that one might envision in a cake. Orange. Chocolate. Whipped Cream.





And so, it began. When my husband’s cousin (does that make her my cousin as well? I am never quite sure how that works) celebrated her 30th birthday, this is the cake she wanted: something with orange, chocolate, and whipped cream. You’d think that I would take some time to mull that request over before I dove into preparing a cake, but, truthfully, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.




Featuring my favorite butter cake as the building block, this is a celebratory stack of orange-scented cake and deeply creamy, chocolaty ganache. Though I was, sadly, not able to get a photo of the final iteration of the cake (all of my daylight was gone, and my kitchen’s lighting is not at all suitable for taking pictures at night), just try and picture this cake with a towering tophat of snowy whipped cream, and you’ll get an idea of its official presentation. The birthday lady (she is 30, after all) was thrilled to receive the cake, and I was honored to be trusted with making such a special cake for such a special birthday for such a special person. Welcome to your 30s, Ms. W. It is so much fun being semi-related to you.


Last Year: Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps

This cake is part of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people. You can read more about it here.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup finely grated orange zest

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 cups cake flour

1 cup half-and-half or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix well, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Sift together the salt, baking powder, and cake flour.

Add about one half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then beat on low speed until well blended. Add about one half of the milk and beat well. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until mixed well. Add the rest of the milk and continue to beat well until the mixture is completely combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center, and a cake tested inserted in the middle of the cakes emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to continue to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup heavy whipping cream

In a double boiler or large, heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, until it is just melted. Remove double boiler from heat, then whisk in the heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, thick, and shiny.

When cakes have cooled completely, set one cake on a serving plate. Slowly pour half of the ganache over the cake, concentrating the ganache in the middle of the cake. The ganache will pool out towards the edges of the cake on its own, but, if you want, you can help coax it to the edges by gently spreading it with a spoon or an offset spatula until it just reaches the tipping point. Place the second layer of cake over the ganache, very gently pushing it in place, just to secure it a bit. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake, again gently spreading the ganache towards the edges.

You can serve the cake as is, or you can top the whole affair with a mountain of freshly whipped cream.

Mini Cherpumple

19 Dec


Let’s just state the obvious here: there is no such thing, really, as a mini cherpumple, because there is absolutely nothing at all to be found about a cherpumple that can be classified as “mini.” The cherpumple, as some of you may recall, is a three-layer, six-part dessert, dreamed up by humorist Charles Phoenix. Three layers of cake encase three different types of pie, which are then stacked atop one another and spackled with cream cheese frosting. It is, just as Phoenix dreamed it, the turducken of desserts.




When I first wrote about the cherpumple, I was surprised to encounter some rather enthusiastic responses to the dessert. Whereas I found the very idea of the cherpumple to be an affront to the very basic tenets of food, every single person I talked to about the cherpumple thought it was fascinating. You must make a cherpumple, I was told. It is your destiny to bring a cherpumple to life.




But I had no interest in actually making a cherpumple. Why on earth would I ruin three good pies and three good layers of cake by Frankensteining them together and trying to make them live as one? That’s crazy. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it was possible to make a cherpumple that was not so crazy. I mean, it would still be crazy—it is the turducken of desserts, after all—but could I make a cherpumple that was a tad more subdued, a bit less depraved, and, most importantly, something that people would actually want to eat because it was delicious, not because it was a fascinating study in the psychology of excess?





There was only one way to find out. My first order of business was to find a way to scale down the cherpumple so that it was still a hybrid of desserts, but not an exercise in terror. Deciding to limit the dessert to a single layer of entombment, I whittled the components of a classic cherpumple down to its best elements: pie and spice cake. In this version, a handsome pie is constructed with a strata of pumpkin butter, sautéed apples, and tart, chunky cherry preserves. The pie is then baked into a positively enormous spice cake, then slathered with tangy cream cheese frosting. While still decidedly decadent and ever-so-slightly intimidating, the finished product is not the towering beast of the original, but rather a slightly more tame and, dare I say it, refined animal.


Okay, no. So, it’s not refined in the least, but it is completely and totally edible, which came as a total shock to me. Somehow the three pie flavors meld deliciously, and the spice cake is a perfect pairing with the autumnal flavors of the pie. I can’t believe I am saying this, but the cherpumple, at least in mini form, is not merely the punchline to a joke of excess and revulsion. It’s actually tasty, and if you’re looking to feed and impress an enormous crowd of people this holiday season, I’d have to recommend giving this baby a try. Maybe only once, though. A cherpumple is not meant to be an annual affair. It’s like the Halley’s Comet of desserts, meant to be experienced, if lucky, only once in a lifetime. Having now undertaken the myth of the cherpumple, I feel as though I can cross this exploit off of my list.


This cake is part of my goal to make 50 cakes for 50 people, sponsored by Go Mighty and Olay.

Last Year: Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Mini Cherpumple Recipe

For the pie:

Pie crust for a 2-layer pie (this is my favorite pie crust recipe)

3 cups of peeled and sliced tart apples (I used 3 medium Granny Smith apples)

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

½ teaspoon dark brown sugar

pinch of cinnamon

1 ½ cups pumpkin butter

¾ cup chunky sour cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a heavy sheet pan with foil, then place on the lower middle rack of the oven.

In a medium saucepan or skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add sliced apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, and sauté apples, stirring occasionally, until they have softened a bit and released some of their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove apples from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Roll out half of pie dough and line the bottom of an 8-inch or 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges of the dough so nothing falls over the edges of the pie plate. Spread the bottom of the pie with the pumpkin butter, then sprinkle over the cooled, sautéed apples. Dot the top of the apples with the cherry preserves. Roll out the second half of the dough and gently place over the top of the pie. Trim the edges of the dough so nothing hangs over the edges, then crimp the top and bottom crusts together. Cut half a dozen slashes on the top crust, to allow steam to escape while baking.

Bake the pie on the foil-lined baking sheet for 25 minutes, until the edges of the crust are just beginning to brown. Rotate the pie on the baking sheet, lower the oven heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is deeply browned and the pie’s juices are bubbling out of the slashes on top of the crust.

Remove pie from oven and cool completely.

For the cake:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon cardamom

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange an oven rack to the lower middle position. Grease and flour the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and ground spices, then set aside.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, and beat at high speed until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on medium high speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything. Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add in 1/3 of the flour and spice mixture, and mix until just combined. Add in half of the buttermilk, then beat until just combined. Continue adding in half of the remaining flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk, then the last of the flour mixture, beating after each addition until the mixture is just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then give everything one last mix for about 10 seconds.

Pour enough cake batter into the prepared springform pan to just cover the bottom. Release the cooled pie from its pan (I ran a very small and flexible spatula around the inside perimeter of the pie pan before turning the pie out onto my open palm), then place the pie, right-side up, on the thin later of cake batter in the springform pan. Very lightly press the pie into the batter, just to secure it in place. Pour the rest of the cake batter over and around the pie, covering as much territory as evenly as possible. Smooth the top of the cake batter.

Place cake on a baking sheet, then bake on the lower middle rack of the oven for anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes. You want to start checking your cake for doneness at around the 55 minute mark, but do not be surprised if your cake takes the full 75 minutes to bake. The reason there can be much a variable in baking time is due to the fact that springform pan thicknesses very, oven temperatures can vary, and sometimes things just bake up sort of weird, being as though you are baking a heavy pie into an enormous cake. Just test your cake with a cake tester in several places on the cake, looking for the tester to emerge with just a few moist crumbs attached. It might cause the top of the cake to get rather crisp in places, but that is all right. What you do not want is a cake that is done on top and runny in the middle and bottom, so bake this cake with diligence.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool, still in its pan, on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Then, remove springform sides of pan and allow cake to cool completely. This is a super dense cake, so cooling it completely can take several hours.

When the cake has cooled completely, very gently invert the cake onto another wire rack or a large platter, then remove the springform bottom (you may need to loosen it first by gently running a thin knife in between the cake and the springform bottom) and peel off the parchment paper. Very carefully invert the cake back onto a serving platter. You are now ready to frost the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

12 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

4 teaspoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, and salt on high speed until light smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium low, then slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar. Beat for about 4 minutes until the confectioner’s sugar is completely incorporated, then increase mixer speed to medium high and beat frosting until it is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Frost the cake when it is completely cool, using every last bit of the frosting available.

Mini cherpumple will serve an entire army of kitch-loving dessert fans.

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