Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake

Six layers of Classic Chocolate Cake sandwiched with sweet yet tart Raspberry Jam and covered with a lighter-than-cream-cheese-froting Raspberry Cheesecake Buttercream.  Just in time for Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!

Last week, my husband and I had a heated debate over conversation hearts.  Oh yes.  You read that correctly.  Those little pastel hearts with witty cheesey sayings on them that taste like chalk.  It actually wasn’t so much of a debate as a conversation because we were both on the same side.  In the end, the question wasn’t about if they were good or not but more about how much was too ridiculous to spend on shipping.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!
Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!
Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!

You see, for some odd reason, we’ve only been able to find the sour Sweetarts kind.  Even purchasing the off-brand packages feels like conversation heart roulette – will they be the chalky variety where the yellow tastes like delicious fake banana and the white reminiscent of those old candy cigarettes from when I was a kid or will we be met with the disappointment of yet another fruity, slightly tart bag of heartache?  And don’t get us even started on those large ones that are equivalent to those gorss pumpkins in a sea of delicious candy corn.  No thank you.  The bottom line: we take our conversation hearts seriously in the Huff household.

What’s funny is, even knowing how much my husband loves simple things like convenient store candy and a really good chocolate chip cookie, I still find myself trying to go above and beyond (with little success thus far) when it comes to Valentine’s Day desserts.  We constantly have a partially eaten cake in the fridge at all times and there is usually a container full of sub-par cookies/brownies/pastries on the counter after that week’s recipe testing.  Dessert is something we have nearly every night as it is, so when it comes to birthdays and special occasions where a “normal” person that doesn’t make several cakes a week would bake a special treat, I try to make Brett something new and exciting instead of passing off my workweek’s leftovers.

The problem is, the desserts I’ve attempted to make in the past have been questionable, at best.  Sometimes in trying to come up with something creative and original you just get garbage.  I can recall the year I attempted heart-shaped raspberry s’more macarons (what?), the homemade candy bars with soupy peanut butter mousse filling (such a nightmare), and the disaster that was my first shot at making almond Florentines while tending to a four-week old.  Why do I love to torture myself like this?!?!  LOL.

This year I am committed to just making something that I know Brett already loves – that is, of course, if I can’t track down the right kind of conversation hearts.  He’s so sweet though.  Whenever I do have time to bake for “fun” and make something like chocolate chip cookies, he asks me to just make “regular” ones since, knowing me, he knows I can’t help try to switch up the recipe for no reason.  So, “regular” chocolate chip cookies it will be!  But with an extra pinch of Maldon sea salt, because I still have principals.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!

It’s no secret that I already made this Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake a few weeks ago for The Cake Blog.  If it wasn’t cookies, then I would make this again.  They stand for the same thing – underrated, unassuming treats that (if done right) are pretty much all you could ever ask for from a dessert.  No fancy flavors.  No frills.  No unnecessary, complicated preparations.  I find that I’m constantly trying to out-do myself with the next best cake or new ingredient or elaborate decoration.  But sometimes, less really is more. 

The weekend I made this cake I also made a simple vanilla cake filled with strawberry jam for one of Everett’s pal’s 2nd birthday.  I was trying to appeal to toddler palettes and surprised even myself how tasty simple yet high-quality ingredients can be.  Or rather reminded myself.  The key was to slice each cake in half horizontally to make six layers that are then spread and sandwiched with sweet, fruity jam.  This way, the jammy goodness is more evenly distributed throughout and almost “melts” into each layer keeping them moist and flavorful.  Each bit was so good that I began questioning every thing I know about layers cakes (which is a lot) and if I should use buttercream as a filling ever again.  Mind blown.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!
Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake with jam and raspberry cheesecake buttercream.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!

Head on over to The Cake Blog for the full recipe (including the Raspberry Cheesecake Buttercream Frosting!!!), and be sure to send in any tips for where one can locate chalky conversations hearts before the 14th <3

Chocolate Caramel Valentine's Day Cake

Classic chocolate cake is with filled with luscious caramel pastry cream before being smothered in a salty caramel buttercream frosting.  Sweet, salty, and a bit sinful, this is the perfect little cake to share with a loved one!

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

Our first Valentine’s Day as new parents did not go exactly as planned - but I suppose that was what I should have actually expected.  Everett was nearly 4 weeks old, and I set out to make a fancy home-cooked dinner for two.  I love to cook just as much as I love to bake, and this was my first big meal back since the babe was born.  I hardly remember those early days, but I think there was risotto and some sort of savoury tart involved.  The dishes all finished at different times and we took turns eating and holding a restless newborn.  I think we even skipped dessert.  I know, right?!  Never again, lol. 

This year, the plan is keep things fairly low key and casual.  Cooking a multi-course meal with a 13-month old doesn’t seem particularly relaxing nor romantic - instead rather hectic with lots of dishes to tackle afterwards.  I’m not exactly sure what the rest of the day with entail, but one thing is for sure, there will be cake - this Chocolate Caramel Cake, to be exact.

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

I designed this cake with both my husband and myself in mind.  He loves everything salted caramel and I am particularly fond of anything custard-filled or containing pastry cream.  Most of the time this means that I gravitate towards pastries like eclairs or cream puffs, not necessarily my beloved cakes. 

Pastry cream is so rich and luscious, but it can be tricky to use as a filling between layers of cake.  The silky, creamy texture isn’t the most stable filling out there, but I’ve been determined to make it work.  How great would it be to put something so smooth and delicious in your favorite layer cake?  Think Boston cream pie - yum!

I used to think corn starch was only used to thicken stews and gravy, but there is definitely a place for it in the pastry kitchen as well.  Mixed with sugar and egg yolks, then heated with milk, corn starch helps stabilize pastry cream - turning it to a thick, luxurious pudding that can be used to fill anything from cake to fruit tarts. When I use Fleishmann’s corn starch to make pasty cream filling, I eliminate the fear of my layer cakes falling apart.  Instead, I know that each slice will come out perfect!  Plus, the starchy taste is always cooked out - leaving only the essence of creamy vanilla (or caramel, in this case) behind.

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.
Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

This cake has it all: decadent chocolate, luscious custard, and silky caramel.  If you ask me, these are all the makings for a fancy at-home dessert - the kind you prepare for special occasions and/or for the ones you love.  The homemade caramel is fairly easy to make and is used in both the pastry cream filling and buttercream frosting.  Seriously, you are all going to love this caramel pastry cream! All of the elements can be made a few days in advanced and then assembled the day of, so there is no need to stress or rush around too much (should you want to make this cake for you valentine too).

Happy Baking and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Cake
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup hot coffee
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Mazola vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 7-inch round cake pans.  Set aside.

2.     Stir together the cocoa powder and hot coffee together until the cocoa dissolves.  Set aside.

3.     In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4.     In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk.

5.     Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

6.     Using an electric mixer, beat the batter for about 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth.

7.     With the mixer running on low speed, stream in the cocoa mixture until combined.

8.     Evenly distribute the batter between the pans and bake for about 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

9.     Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Caramel Pastry Cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Fleishmann’s cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup caramel sauce (recipe to follow)

1.     Place the butter in a heat-safe container and set aside.

2.     Gently heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it comes to a slight simmer.

3.     Meanwhile, whisk the eggs yolks together in a separate mixing bowl.  Stir in the sugar and cornstarch.

4.     Once the milk is hot, remove from the heat.  Slowly pour in about half of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. 

5.     Add in the remaining milk and whisk until smooth.

6.     Pour the milk mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.

7.     Whisking constantly, bring to a boil.

8.     Once the custard begins to “pop,” remove from heat and strain over the bowl containing the butter.  Scrape the contents on the back of the strainer into the bowl and discard any bits left behind.

9.     Add in the vanilla and stir the custard and butter together. 

10. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and chill in the refrigerator until cool and thick.

11.  Once chilled, mix in the caramel sauce.  Place back in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup caramel sauce

1.     Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Gently whisk until combined.

2.     Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.

3.     Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.

4.     Whisking occasionally, heat the egg mixture until it registers between 155 to 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

5.     Once hot, carefully return the mixing bowl to the electric mixer.

6.     Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on high until stiff, glossy peaks and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature.

7.     Turn down the mixer to medium-low, and add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.

8.     Once the butter is incorporated, stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

9.     With the mixer on medium, add the caramel sauce and beat the frosting until silky smooth.

 

Assembly

1.     Once the cakes are completely cool, trim the tops so that they are nice and flat.

2.     Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, round piping tip (about ½ to 3/4-inch in diameter) with some of the caramel buttercream and set aside.

3.     Stir the pastry cream to loosen, if necessary, and set aside.

4.     Starting with the bottom layer of cake, pipe a ring of buttercream around the top edge.  Fill the ring with half of the pastry cream and smooth out with a small off-set spatula or back of a large spoon.

5.     Top the pastry cream with the next layer of cake and repeat.

6.     Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream, then chill in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes to set (this is will make the pastry cream a bit less “wobbly” and the cake more stable and easier to frost).

7.     Frost the chilled cake with buttercream.  Use any remaining buttercream to pipe on decorative details, if desired.

8.     Chill the cake until the pastry cream sets before serving (about an hour).

 

NOTES
      Caramel sauce may be made up to one week in advanced (stored in the refrigerator).  Gently reheat so that it is fluid, but not hot, before use.
      Pastry cream may be made up to three days in advanced (stored in the refrigerator).

Disclaimer:  This post was sponsored by ACH Foods.  Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Style Sweet CA possible.

Rose and White Chocolate Cake

This heavenly cake is my ode to winter love...

I'm usually much more of a night owl, but I find that there is just something about a crisp, quiet winter morning that is so romantic.  I can get lost in the stillness before the city wakes up or the calm of a beautiful winter wonderland.  Add in a bit of sun, and I'm smitten.  With the occasional peak of sun shinning in my neck of the woods and Valentine's Day just a couple days away, love is definitely in the air.  Sure most of you might think spring and rejuvenation sing the song of love more than the cold, but being all bundled up, scarf tied, and hot tea in hand makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Complete this scene with a slice of Rose and White Chocolate Cake and it's like a dream.

Don't get me wrong, I love a nice and decadent dessert or chocolate-dipped strawberry from time to time, but this light and airy cake is a bit more feminine and romantic.  Nothing says love like petal pink and roses, right?  This cake is frosted in smooth rose-flavored buttercream.  It is silky with subtly sweet and floral accents.  The white chocolate cake is light yet velvety.  It is a butter-based cake with great depth of flavor from the white chocolate.  This cake is not dripping with caramel or smothered in crushed cookies, as the flavors really do speak for themselves.  With a smooth finish and sugar pearl accents, the design is as chic and sophisticated as the flavors.  Enjoy a slice with your morning tea or share with a loved for Valentine's Day.

Rose Buttercream
6 ounce egg whites
2 cups sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rose extract or 1 tablespoon rose water- or to taste pink food gel color (optional)

For the full recipe, head over to The Cake Blog!