Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

Three layers of chocolate fudge cake with fluffy mascarpone chocolate frosting, dark chocolate glaze, and crispy chocolate pearls for Style Sweet CA's 4th blog anniversary!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

STYLE SWEET CA turns 4!!

I can't recall the exact date of my very first blog post.  Sometime four years ago I went from bakery website to food blog.  I used to post pictures of the custom cakes I'd make for clients, but a big move from California to Vancouver changed everything.  My clients turned to readers, my recipes scaled down for the home baker, and I taught myself how to use my digital camera.

The first couple years I spent navigating the ins and outs of blogging, making some horrendous decisions with props and food styling, and a few how-to decorating posts that gained the blog some early attention.  However, as soon as I started to establish this space, I switched gears and wrote my first cookbook.  Since then, I've rediscovered my voice and have been really enjoying writing and photographing the delicious stories you see here.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

"A cake and pastry blog for the home baker."  What does that really mean?  To me, it means taking my knowledge, experience, and expertise and sharing it in an easy to understand, approachable way.  It is inspiring others and hopefully getting you guys jazzed about a particular pie recipe, frosting technique, or cake design.  It is beautiful imagery that excites you enough to want to recreate the dish yourself.  It is going back to some of the basics and understanding why we do certain things in the kitchen to yield tasty results and learning a trick or two that turns a daunting pastry project into something you can actually see yourself making at home.  

Have I stuck to this mission throughout every post over the last four years?  Probably not.  But I try!  But before we see where year 5 will take us, let's dive into this Tripe Chocolate Cake - I know you're dying to grab a fork.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

For the last two blog-versaries, I celebrated with beautiful, over-the-top watercolour cake tutorials.  This year, I decided to do something different.  I think this chocolate cake is still pretty dramatic, but in an entirely different way.  Instead of focussing on a buttercream technique or frilly decoration, this cake is all about the flavor.  Sometimes I get wrapped up with trying to come up with the next best cake design or most unique flavor combinations.  The blog anniversary nearly came and went this year while I still trying to decide what Pinterest-worthy and most Instagramable recipe to make...

In the end, I picked a cake that I wanted to eat.  Chocolate.  And lots of it.  I went with a solid, trustworthy chocolate cake and a mountain of mousse-like milk chocolate frosting that tempts you to lick your screen.  Is it working?  Do you want to faceplate right into those cocoa clouds yet?

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

But really, what I mean is, I went with a chocolate cake recipe that is perfectly moist without being greasy, tender, and deeply chocolatey.  I tried a few variations, but most of the others ended up in the compost bin.  The thing is, I was trying too hard!  I'd strayed too far from my base recipe instead of making small tweaks here and there to improve a recipe that already works.  No need to reinvent the wheel every time!  

This Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe is based on the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from my cookbook, Layered.  I've made some slight changes (see Notes) and added a bit more chocolate.  The method has also been slightly altered as well.  This new way just makes more sense.

Most chocolate cakes are heavy and dressed in deep fudge frosting or thick ganache.  I wanted to off-set the rich cake with fluffy frosting - especially since it's summer and this cake will be competing for your attention from all the strawberry and stone fruit pastries out there right now.  For the frosting, I lightened up my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream with creamy mascarpone and melted milk chocolate.  It is so heavenly and cloud-like! I beg you though, please eat this cake at room temperature!  Oh, and I tossed in a couple handfuls of some chocolate crunchy pearls for texture (totally optional).

For the third element in our Triple Chocolate Cake - dark chocolate glaze.  If you are so tired of drippy cakes by now, please forgive me!  I still think there is a time and place for chocolate glaze, and I hope you will agree that it totally works with this cake.  As always, the perfect drips are a matter of temperature.  It helps to chill the cake so that the cold buttercream helps control the speed of the drip.  If you still aren't sure, then simply try a test-drip on the back of the cake.  If it runs off the cake and on to the cake board, the glaze is probably too warm (chill at room temperature).  If it is blobby and doesn't quite drip, simply re-heat it!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

Chocolate Fudge Cake
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup high fat plain Greek yogurt*
1/4 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

Place the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in a heat-safe bowl.  Carefully pour over the boiling water.  Stir together until smooth and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer (hand or stand), mix together the oil and sugars.  Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.  Add the yogurt and buttermilk and mix until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour and mix until combined.  With the mixer on low, carefully stream in the melted chocolate mixture until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 26 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
4 ounces egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons mascarpone, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Whisk by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer.

Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  Whisking intermittently, warm the egg mixture until it reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Once hot, carefully replace the mixer bowl back on the stand.  Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).

Turn the mixer down to low and add in the butter and mascarpone, a couple tablespoons at a time.  Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

Add in the vanilla, melted chocolate, and cocoa.  Mix on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth, fluffy, and cloud-like**

Chocolate Glaze
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch salt
scant teaspoon bourbon, optional

This recipes makes a very small amount of chocolate glaze and cooks up rather quickly (i.e. - don't walk away from the stove).

Combine the chocolate, cream, and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Place over medium heat until the chocolate begins to melt.  Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and combined.  Stir in the salt and bourbon (if using).  Cool at room temperature before dripping on the cake.

Assembly
Chocolate sprinkles
Chocolate crunchy pearls (optional)

Trim the cooled cakes with a long serrated knife.  Place the bottom layer on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on about 3/4 cup of the milk chocolate frosting with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle on a handful or two of crunch pearls (if using) and gently press them into the frosting.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.

Crumb coat the cake with the frosting and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before adding the glaze.  Once both cake and glaze are at the appropriate temperatures, drip the chocolate over the edge with a spoon.  Pipe on remaining frosting with a large star tip and decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

***Notes
– Replace the instant espresso and boiling water with strong, hot coffee.  You will not be able to taste the coffee flavour in either scenario, but the coffee does enhance the chocolate.  If you'd prefer to leave the espresso/coffee out all together, that is fine too.
– Instead of Greek yogurt and buttermilk, replace with 3/4 cup sour cream.  Alternatively, replace Greek yogurt and buttermilk with plain whole milk mixed with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  Stir the lemon juice into the milk before you prep any of the other ingredients.  By the time you add it to the batter, the milk will appear curdled.  That's OKAY.
– If the buttercream looks like it has cuddled, the butter was probably too cold.  Just keep mixing.
– If the buttercream looks soupy, you probably added the butter in too soon and before the meringue returned all the way back to room temperature.  Chill the mixture (inside the bowl) in the fridge for 15 minute and try whipping again until smooth.
–  The buttercream recipe will make enough to fill and fully frost a three-layer 6-inch cake.  If you only give it a semi-naked crumb coat (as I've done here), then you will have leftovers.

Icing on the Cake Cookbook!

If the title of this post didn't give it away already, then I'm going to just dive right in and get to it... I am thrilled to officially announce that I am writing my second cookbook!

Icing On The Cake Cookbook Announcement

It was nearly three years ago exactly since my career took a major turn.  In the spring of 2014, my literary agent submitted my first book proposal into the publishing world.  She warned me that summer can sometimes be slow in this industry, but that didn't stop me from refreshing my email 1094785 times a day.  Each morning, I would frantically check my messages.  Would today be the day she emailed with the good news? (you can read more about this process in 'how to write a cookbook' - a post I wrote a couple years ago).

Of all days, it was actually over the 4th of July holiday weekend that I received the email that would change my career.  I recall letting myself relax a bit just before thinking that nobody would be working that weekend. To my surprise, my proposal for an exclusive layer cake book was accepted and there was an editor from an amazing publishing house interested in printing my book.  My book??  Are you serious?  Two years later, Layered hit shelves everywhere.

Ever since I hit 'send' on my first manuscript, I've been wanting to write another. The experience was everything I dreamed it could be.  I spent my days writing about all-things cake, testing recipes, and photographing stunning layered desserts.  Who wouldn't want to do that every day?  Being able to publish a book is an absolute honor, and to be granted with the opportunity to do it again is more amazing than I could ever describe.

Icing On The Cake Cookbook Announcement

Okay, on to the new book. Big surprise here... It's all about desserts!!  Pretty, decorative ones, to be exact.  Or as my agent put it in our press release, Icing on the Cake: Decorating Simple, Stunning Desserts at Home is "a guide to creative, show-stopping treats for all occasions, taking home bakers from cake pan to presentation to dessert plate."

Similar to Layered, the new book is full of stylish cakes, both unique and classic flavour combinations, and tons of instructional information for recreating and decorating your own desserts.  This time though, Icing on the Cake goes beyond just layer cakes (there are still a TON of those, too, though).  From macarons to pies to other pastries, the new book will be packed all sorts of sugary delights!!  

My favorite part?  Each dessert will also include a decorative element, artistic pastry technique, a how-to tutorial, or a presentation idea.  So fun, right?!?!  Think stylish buttercream cakes, classic chocolate and sugar work, braided lattice pies, and so much more.  Included will be dozens of step-by-step photos, every baking tip and trick I know, and even extra information for things like recipe conversions, baking timelines and prep ideas, transportation, and presentation.

Icing On The Cake Cookbook Announcement

I've been busy this summer photographing many of the designs and testing recipe after recipe.  Once again, my kitchen is covered in sprinkles, slices of cake to be taste-tested, and a thin layer of buttercream on nearly every surface.  And while Icing on the Cake isn't expected to hit shelves until 2019, you can follow along some of the behind the scenes on Instagram #icingonthecakebook

Icing On The Cake Cookbook Announcement

Of course I can't reveal too much right now, but I hope you all are just as excited about this as I am!  It's going to be fantastic - I just know it, hehe.  I am once again working with my lovely editor and the amazing team at Abrams Books, so you know it will be gorgeous =) 

Lastly, I literally could not have done this without YOU!  Thank you for your overwhelming amount of support and love for Layered.  We are already onto our 4th printing and are now in 3 languages!!  Keep sharing the cake love, and I'll be sure to update you all with new book details as they roll in.

 

Love you all!!  xo Tessa

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes

If you are going to turn your oven on this summer, then it better be for something tasty.  Baking a cake from scratch is an investment of time, energy, cost of ingredients, and even our own sanity at times, but the end result is usually worth it.  Right?  Well, to help ensure that every cake baking adventure end in success, I'm sharing my Top 10 Best Baking Tips for cakes.

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes.

My Top 10 List for Cake Baking Success:

10.  Read Through the Entire Recipe Before Getting Started + Mise en Place
Reading the directions might be an obvious start, but understanding the steps and order of the ingredients can sometimes be undervalued and quickly brushed over.  Some recipes call for components that need plenty of time to rest/chill/cool, so be mindful when scheduling your baking sessions.  You’d hate to have a cake all ready to go only to find out that the ganache needs to be chilled for at least 4 hours before being whipped into frosting.  Likewise, some recipes, like caramel sauce, come together in a hurry, so it is best to be prepared and understand the process to keep stress and panic at bay.  In addition to reading and understanding the recipe, I recommend practicing Mise en Place or “putting in place.”  Having all of your ingredients pre-measured not only helps things move smoothly and stay organized, but it also lets you know if you are missing something.  Have you ever pre-heated the oven and started creaming your butter and sugar just to realize you are short an egg or cup of milk? Yup, I've been there, so don’t let that happen to you.

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes.

9.  Be Mindful of the Temperature of Your Ingredients
Similar to having ingredients pre-measured, the ingredients should be the correct temperature before getting started as well.  You will find the temperature when you read over the recipe (see #10).  Why does temperature matter?  Using room temperature butter, eggs, and dairy will create a more homogenous, smooth cake batter.  Butter needs to be softened in order to cream with sugar properly (see #2) and combine with butter or meringue to create luscious frostings.  In other recipes like pie dough, butter must be very cold in order to for it to stay “chunky” and not totally combine with the flour.  This way, when the pie dough hits the oven, the butter melts, steams, and creates air pockets as it bakes, resulting in tender, flakey crusts.

8.  Be Mindful of the ACTUAL Temperature of Your Oven
Speaking of temperature, get to know the ACTUAL temperature of your oven.  Unless your oven is calibrated often or you just happen to have the best oven ever (we are all super jealous), then there is a good chance that the temperature gauge on the outside does not accurately reflect what’s really going on inside.  For me, my oven runs ridiculously cold and takes forever to pre-heat.  How do I know this?  I keep an internal thermometer in my oven at all times and adjust accordingly.  My thermometer is nothing fancy - something I quickly picked up just at the grocery store when we moved.  My last oven was an inferno!  Your oven might also have hot/cold spots, so it’s wise to get to know it.  Either adjust the temperature dial or bake times to fit your needs.

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes.

7.  Properly Prepare Your Cake Pans
Is there anything worse than preparing a cake from scratch, patiently waiting for it to bake and cool, then being so frustrated because you can’t get the cake out of the pan?  Heartbreaking, I tell you.  I’ve been there too many times myself.  A good cake recipe will tell you how to properly prepare your pans, but I usually stick to grease and flour with most of my butter cakes.  Using either baking spray, butter, or vegetable oil and a pastry brush, coat the inside of your baking pan.  Add a few tablespoons of flour and shake around until the bottom and sides of the pan are covered.  Turn the pan upside down and tap out the excess.  Some cake recipes call for uncreased pans (like Angel food cake), but when in doubt, just line the bottom with parchment!

6.  Checking for Doneness Beyond the Clock
Since all ovens operate differently (see #8) and there are a multitude of other variables that can alter baking times, it best to know what a cake looks/feels like when it is done instead of solely relying on the clock.  For most layer cakes and cupcakes, I use the toothpick test.  Within the bake time (there should still be a window given), insert a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs, then the cake/cupcake is typically done baking.  Here are a few other clues to looks for to indicate that a cake is done:  A yellow or butter cake should be slightly browned on top when done; a sponge cake should spring back if gently pressed with a fingertip; the sides of the cake will start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
 

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes.

5.  Completely Cool Before Cutting
Want to know a secret for creating perfectly smooth frosting and even cake layers?  Never frost or cut a cake that isn’t completely cool!  I know how tempting a warm cake fresh from the oven can be, but trying to cut a warm cake may result in tears, cracks, and lots of crumbs.  Try to ice it too soon?  The heat from a warm cake can even melt the frosting right off the top.  So, have some patience, my dears!  And if you have the time, chill the cake wrapped well in plastic for even fewer crumbs and an easier cake-cutting experience.  In the fridge, the cake will firm up a bit, making it a little sturdier to slice!

4.  Use the Correct Consistency for Frosting Success
You might see a range of confectioner’s sugar and milk/cream in recipes for American Buttercream and fudge frosting.  Why, you ask?  For one, everyone’s room temperature butter may be a different temperature - making some frosting firmer or softer.  Second, a person’s desired consistency may very.  While some might like their cream cheese frosting super thick and others might want to keep it less sweet, be mindful of the consistency when trying to fill and frost a cake.  As you can imagine, a too runny frosting will slip and slide out from between the layers and down the edge of the cake, while a too stiff frosting will be difficult to spread and may cause the cake to tear and crumble.  So what do you look for?  With meringue-based buttercream, I look for thick, mayonnaise texture (just keep beating until you get there).  Ganache usually works as soon at is spreadable and stays on the offset spatula when you go to apply it, like a really soft peanut butter.  For American buttercream, I like to really whip it to add in some air to make it nice and fluffy.  I like it soft, airy, not to sweet, and not at all runny.

The TOP 10 Best Baking Tips for Layer Cakes.

3.  Know When to Splurge on High Quality Ingredients
I try to keep organic dairy and eggs in the house at all times for my toddler, but I understand that high quality ingredients can add up fast.  In my humble opinion, there are certain times to splurge and other times you can totally get away with generic brands.  Thankfully, my regular grocery store's cake and all-purpose flour is even more awesome than anything I can find at a specialty store and Costco sugar bakes up wonderfully.  As a rule of thumb, I tend to splurge on unbaked items (think real vanilla bean in buttercream and high quality chocolate and cocoa in fudge frosting) where the flavours will really shine and keep conservative when I know some of the flavours will be baked away or muted by buttercream.  Plain but pure vanilla extract is always good idea in my book when it comes to chocolate or red velvet cake, but if you want a superior butter cake, go for the bean!  Likewise a culinary-grade matcha is just fine for being baked in a cake compared to premium brands used for sipping.  There’s usually no need to splurge on spices, just make sure they are fresh!

2.  Understand that Cream is More Than Just a Dairy Product
In my humble opinion, one of the most important steps to making a tender cake is in the cream.  Not the dairy product, but the act of mixing butter with sugar!  This step is usually first or second when it comes to baking a butter cake and shouldn’t be ignored, rushed, or skimped.  Using an electric mixer, beat softened butter with sugar until it is fluffy and pale in color.  This usually takes about 3 to 5 minutes.  During this process, the sugar granules cut into the butter to incorporate small pockets of air.  The friction helps the sugar start dissolving and the butter to soften even more.  Creamed butter and sugar distribute throughout the batter more evenly for a smooth batter.  Most importantly, the batter is more aerated and provides lift resulting in a tender crumb. Lastly, once you move on and add the next ingredient, you can’t go back, so be sure not to rush!

1.  Respect but Don’t Fear the Science Part of Baking
Baking doesn’t have to be scary, but there must be some amount of order and organization.  Unlike cooking, where recipes are likely more flexible and tossing in different ingredients now and then is more forgiving, there is some science involved with baking.  Too much sugar and your cake may crumble, not enough and it won’t be tender.  Likewise, things like flour are responsible for structure, but too much gluten formation will result in tough, dry baked goods.  That being said, respect but don’t fear the science part.  Once you begin to understand how different ingredients behave and what doughs/batters are supposed to look/feel/smell like, you start to figure out where you need to stick straight to the recipe and where you can change things up.  Cake recipes typically follow a ratio of ingredients (I like this explanation), but you can push those limits and change things up a bit.  Push too far, and you might have a baking flop, but keep within a certain distance and you can start to adapt a recipe to your own personal liking.  

If you have any other tips or tricks of your own, please be sure to share in the comments below!

Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles

Welcome to #Popsicleweek!!  Creamy, non-dairy kiwi lime popsicles with a graham "crust" and torched meringue topping.

Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles with torched meringue.  Non-dairy

You know you are an adult/mom when you go out and buy yourself a blender for Mother's Day.  It's not because Brett forgot to get me a gift nor am I complaining for the seemingly" unromantic" gift, it was something I requested months in advance.  My very first Vitamix!!  You guys, I am so in love.  Now I get it.  It's magical.  I was never really living before now.

It's easier to "justify" the hefty price tag on kitchen appliances when you work with food for a living.  But dang those blenders are pretty expensive.  Sure I use my Kitchen Aid mixer(s) daily (the two I have are still going strong after surviving my bakery days), but a blender?  I wasn't sure...

What I do know is how much this toddler of mine loves smoothies and how it's nearly impossible to get any type of vegetable into his growing body unless in liquid form.  So the questions was, how many green smoothies do we need to make with the new blender to cancel out all the $8 Caribbean Dreams from Whole Foods he pounds?  I didn't actually do the math, but I felt pretty good throwing the new "smoothie maker" (because that's really what it's for, right?) into the Costco cart.

Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles with torched meringue.  Non-dairy

Okay, obviously a high-powered blender is much more than just a smoothie maker.  It makes popsicles too!  Especially these Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles that I made with soaked cashews.  Soooo good, guys!

The inspiration behind these popsicles comes from an old Friends episode – the one where Ross mistakes Monica's Kiwi Lime Pie for regular Key Lime Pie and ends up in the hospital with an allergic reaction.  He's afraid of needles and asks the doc if they could use the needle like a squirt gun to administer the meds.  Does anyone else remember this?  Are Brett and I the only couple that watches Friends on Netflix on a loop?  Like, when the last episode finishes, we just start over again?  Admittedly, we might have a problem.... even Everett knows when to clap during the intro...

Anyways, Kiwi Lime Pie Pops!!  The problem I always have when making homemade popsicles, as well as muffins, is that I always try to make them too healthy.  As a result, my pops are usually icy from not using enough sugar and my muffins are always dry and bland.  But not this time, folks!  I decided to blend soaked cashews with coconut milk to make the pops extra creamy.  Can you believe my non-dairy pops turned out creamier than any other milk or yogurt-based popsicles I've made in the past?  I was afraid the coconut flavor would overpower nearly any other ingredient, so I decided to add sweet yet tart kiwis and loads of fresh lime juice.  After pouring the blend into the molds and chilling for a couple hours, I simply crushed up some cinnamon graham crackers and sprinkled them into the bottom of the pops as the "crust."

Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles with torched meringue.  Non-dairy
Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles with torched meringue.  Non-dairy

I think I first saw torched meringue on a fudgesicle to make the ultimate s'more pop done by Donna Hay last year.  I chickened out on making my own then, but have since seen tons of different variations around the web.  This year, I wanted to give it a try.  Even though the idea is not totally new, I can't ever seem to pass up using my culinary torch.  The meringue is actually super easy to add onto the frozen pops and stays soft and chewy in the freezer.  Just torch and place them back on a sheet pan in the freezer and cover until ready to eat.

Be sure to head on over to Wit and Vinegar for the official POPSICLE WEEk round-up!  There should be like 120 participants this year.  So as Everett would say (we just taught him this), "Stay cool, my baby!"

Kiwi Lime Pie Popsicles
adapted from Minimalist Baker
makes about 10 popsicles

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 to 6 hours
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
juice from 3 large limes (about 1/3 cup)
3 ripe golden kiwis, skin removed or 4 regular kiwis
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar, or to taste

1 cup crushed graham crackers

2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar

Place the soaked cashews, coconut milk, lime juice, kiwis, and honey in a high-powered blender.    Blend on high until creamy and smooth**

Distribute evenly in the popsicle molds and freeze for about 1-2 hours,  Sprinkle in the graham cracker crumbs and press them gently into the "batter."  Insert the sticks and freeze until solid.

When ready (once the pops are frozen), place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Fill a saucepan with a few inches on water and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat and place the mixer bowl on top to create a double-boiler.  Whisking intermittently, heat the egg white mixture until 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Carefully remove the mixer bowl and place it on a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on high util stiff peaks and the mixture has returned to room temperature (about 8 minutes).  

Dip, dollop, and swirl the meringue on the frozen popsicles.  Place on a sheet pan and refreeze for 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the freezer and toast the meringue with a culinary torch!  Enjoy immediately, or place back on a sheet pan, cover and freeze.

 

**the seeds from the kiwis may make the mixture seem slightly grainy.  I ended up blending just a bit longer than normal to compensate.  You can try straining them out, but it wasn't worth the trouble for me.  Once frozen, you can hardly notice.

 

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Frills of lemony iced tea buttercream on fluffy lemon-scented buttermilk cupcakes.  It's like sunshine in every bite!

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

I know some of you are still recovering from the cupcake craze of 2004 and probably either cringed or rolled your eyes at first sight of this post.  Yes, I know... cupcakes.  But who doesn't love a cupcake?  I get.  The world went overboard between Cupcake Wars, cupcake boutiques on every corner, and the place that started it all (the tiny Magnolia Bakery in the West Village) began multiplying around the country.  But hey, don't you think we should give cupcakes another chance?

There was a time where I too snubbed the thought of adding yet another cupcake recipe to the Internet.  I even remember the feeling of my clenched jaw when my bridal clients at the bakery circa 2012 would come in and tell me how trendy cupcakes for a wedding cake were... But most trends come for a reason; the original is top notch.  And you know what?  Cupcakes are damn delicious!  And I bet 9 out of 10 of you would take a bit if I put one of these Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes down in front of you.  So who cares if the fad is long gone.  Cupcakes were tasty when we were kids, well before Sex on the City put Magnolia's on the map, and they still are now.  So let's enjoy 'em!

**on a side note, I'm totally not hating on Magnolia Bakery, BTW.  Their banana pudding is TO DIE FOR!  The cupcakes, too.  I would not turn one down if one happens to fall onto my lap.

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Anyways, these Sweet Ice Tea Lemon Cupcakes are like sunshine in every bite.  The base is a fluffy lemon buttermilk cupcake with just enough zest and zip to nearly beat the summer heat.  The frosting though...So good.  I simply reduced bottled lemon iced tea into a syrup before adding it to lemon-scented buttercream.  I have a similar recipe in my book Layered, but using bottle iced tea really cuts down some of the process.  

I posted a video of me piping the two-toned buttercream here on Instagram if you'd like to check out how I created the ruffle effect.  Using a 104 petal tip with the narrow end facing away from the center of the cupcake, I piped concentric circles of petals on the tops of each cupcake.  For the two-toned effected, I simply striped the piping bag with a bit of yellow buttercream in a line directly up from the narrow end of the piping tip before adding in the plain buttercream.  You can also pipe in the different shades like I've done here.

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes
makes about 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers and set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.  Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients.  Slowly stream in the buttermilk and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the last streaks of flour disappear.  Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds.

Evenly distribute the batter using a mechanical ice cream scoop into the lined pan.  Do not fill the cupcake liners more than about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake the cupcakes in the preheated over for 8 minutes.  At 8 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and continue to bake until done, about an additional 12 minutes (20 total minutes).  When done, they should be slightly golden on top and toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Cool cupcakes in the baking tin for 5 to 10 minutes, then continue to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Lemon Iced Tea Buttercream
small recipe Swiss meringue buttercream 
1 cup lemon iced tea
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 cup of lemon iced tea into a small saucepan.  Place on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about 1 hour, or until the tea reduces down to about 1/4 cup.  Set aside to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the buttercream.

Once the tea syrup has cooled, mix 3 to 4 tablespoons into the buttercream.  Add in the fresh lemon juice and adjust to taste.  Depending on how sweet vs lemony you'd like the buttercream, adjust the tea syrup and lemon amounts accordingly.  However, do not add too much of either liquid or the buttercream may split.