You guys. Break out the streamers and balloons.
Brooklyn Homemaker turns two today!
It has been exactly two years since I started this whole adventure, and I gotta say that I’m really proud of myself and my humble little blog. I think a celebration is in order.
When Brooklyn Homemaker was born I had no idea how far I would come, or could come, or how much I’d learn, or grow, or how many friends I’d make, how many people’s lives I’d touch, or how many people’s lives would touch my own. Day by day, post by post, little by little; I’ve forged new relationships, met new people, tried new things, experimented with new recipes and ingredients, grown as a photographer and recipe developer, and slowly developed a dessert plate hoarding problem that’s beginning to concern my husband. I’ve also learned that while the blogging world is competitive place, it’s also a warm and welcoming place with a strong sense of community. It’s filled with genuinely lovely, charitable, supportive individuals who love to help each other out whenever and however they can.
Over the past two years I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what I want for and from Brooklyn Homemaker. I’ve learned to accept that what I like and what I don’t like is more important to me than what the blogging powers-that-be tell me is important. Lately I’m trying to take a quality over quantity approach when it comes to my posting schedule, and focus on what makes me happy rather than what I’m told will get me more re-pins and likes. I gotta be me. What else can I be?
When my first anniversary rolled around last year I decided to recreate the cake that started it all, the cake that launched 1,000 posts (well, 142 and counting), the incomparable Aunt Sassy cake. While this pistachio dream cake is seriously amazing, I couldn’t do it again because, well you know, been there done that. Twice.
This year I was looking for the perfect way to represent myself and my blog, in big fancy cake form. I wanted something both festive and elegant at the same time. Something refined and adult, but with a bit of fun and nostalgia thrown in for good measure. Being that it’s Fall and all, and being that Fall is the best season ever invented, I also wanted to do something seasonally appropriate. Something with apples…
Is there any better way to add fun and nostalgia to a dessert than to base it on something we ate as kids? I don’t think so. Luckily when I was growing up there were plenty of harvest festivals and county fairs for me to get nostalgic about. Upstate New York is just lousy with them this time of year! There’s the Lafayette Apple Festival, Tomatofest (hosted in my own hometown), the Jordan Fall Festival, countless county fairs, and the great New York State Fair (dat butter sculpture doe), just to name
a few several…
Of course the best part of these fairs and festivals is always the food! There’s the staples like fried dough, funnel cakes, and corn dogs; but upstate we have our own regional specialties like salt potatoes, chicken spiedies, and steaming cups of fresh pressed warm apple cider. When it comes to fall festival foods though, my all time favorite is and always will be sweet little apple cider doughnuts fresh and warm from the fryer, sparkling with sugar and cinnamon.
As soon as those chubby little doughnuts crossed my mind I KNEW I had my idea.
Now, you may think that to really translate the essence of a doughnut into cake form it should be round, like a bundt cake. While I’d normally agree with you, I do plenty of bundt cakes around here. This occasion called for a true celebration cake. Something with layers. Something tall.
I’m not usually a huge fan of naked cakes. They can feel a little too hip and trendy for me, but I guess I live in Brooklyn so I should probably just get over that. I also feel like the whole point of icing a cake is to seal it under a thick delicious layer of sugar and fat to keep it from drying out or going stale. This time around though, I had this whole big bright idea to coat the cake layers in cinnamon and sugar rather than icing to really drive home the cider doughnut point.
We all make mistakes.
Even me. Even after two years of blogging.
I was really stuck on this idea of coating the cake layers in sparkly cinnamon sugar, so I brushed each one with some melted butter and pressed the sugar into it. Then I stacked away and sandwiched a thick blanket of icing between each layer. The icing squeezed out the sides a little as I stacked, and at first looked imperfect and rustic in a charming sort of way. Once I went ahead with the caramel drizzle though, I had a disaster on my hands.
Rather than drizzling evenly and elegantly down the sides of the cake, as soon as the caramel reached the icing it pooled and dripped and ran all over the place. I did my best to control the way I drizzled and poured to get the look I wanted, but to no avail. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it looked really terrible. Even Russell, who generally knows to bite his tongue when I’m in the kitchen, had to admit that it wasn’t my best work. I mean, it’d still taste great but it certainly wasn’t going to photograph well, and this is a special occasion!
As fate would have it, Russell had friends visiting from LA and of course they rang the buzzer almost at the exact moment that I realized things weren’t going my way. I was already getting frustrated, and with guests coming through the kitchen with suitcases I started to get really embarrassed too. I try to project an image of domestic perfection through my blog, so when things don’t turn out perfectly I feel like it reflects poorly on me and my abilities as a baker and blogger. I was so upset and embarrassed by my cake that I actually just stood in front of it as our guests were coming in, trying to block it from view as they were getting settled. I knew I was being ridiculous, but that just made me feel even worse and I could feel my temper getting away from me. Rather than risk a blowout in front of people I barely knew, I put the cake in the fridge for a few minutes and went to sit and chat with our guests. Once I’d calmed down a little I felt brave enough to take the cake back out of the fridge and see what I could do with it. Luckily I had a bit of icing and caramel left over, so I scraped the mess off the sides and set to work with an icing spatula. Once the sides were nice and smooth, the caramel poured down the cake like a dream!
Phew! Crisis (and tantrum) averted.
This cake. Oh boy. This cake.
What can I say?
This cake is out of control. It’s a true celebration cake in every sense.
The cake itself is unbelievably moist and tender and springy, just like a fresh apple cider doughnut. It’s rich, subtly spiced, and just sweet enough; and just like an apple cider doughnut it has a delicate yet distinct apple-y flavor.
To add an adult, elegant touch I opted for a mascarpone cream icing rather than whipped cream or cream cheese. This was a new recipe to me, which can sometimes be risky, but in this case the risk really paid off. I think this might seriously be my new favorite icing, and it’s the absolute perfect compliment to this cake. Thick, creamy, rich, and just sweet enough. It has a texture almost like whipped cream, but somehow richer and thicker and more decadent (and certainly more stable at room temperature)
Then of course, there’s the caramel sauce. I don’t have words for just how good this stuff is. It’s insane, like eating a caramel apple, in sweet buttery sauce form. It’s made by reducing and reducing and reducing apple cider until thick and syrupy; then adding butter, cream, brown sugar, a bit of spice, and a touch of salt. I should have guessed this, but with this sauce the lost cinnamon sugar coating wasn’t even missed.
The sugary chubby little doughnuts on top aren’t absolutely necessary, but they sure are cute, and I really think they make this cake sing.
I couldn’t have asked for a better cake to celebrate my second anniversary. Here’s to many more to come, and here’s to you guys! Thanks for reading, and commenting, and thanks for coming along for the ride!
Apple Cider Doughnut Layer Cake with Spiced Mascarpone Icing and Apple Cider Caramel Drizzle
(adapted from Serious Eats)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature (plus more for pans)
2 medium cooking apples like Cortland or MacIntosh, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
2 cups apple cider
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pans)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Additional for assembly:
3 fresh apple cider doughnuts (optional)
For the Cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the bottoms of 3 eight inch cake pans with butter. Place 8″ circles of parchment in the pans, and generously brush pans all over with butter and coat with flour, tapping out any excess.
In medium saucepan, bring chopped apple and cider to boil over medium-high heat. As apple begins to fall apart, stir and whisk with a fork to try to mash and break it up as much as possible. Reduce heat slightly and simmer and reduce, stirring frequently, until mixture measures exactly 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes or so. Cool at least 5 minutes in a large measuring cup before mixing in buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add oil and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with apple mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, about 30 seconds.
Evenly divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean, rotating cakes halfway through baking, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling rack for about 20 or 30 minutes, before carefully removing the cakes from the pans to cool the rest of the way.
Cool completely, about 1 hour, before assembly. Just before assembly, remove parchment if still stuck to the cakes.
Apple Cider Caramel Sauce:
(adapted from Café Sucre Farine)
2 cups apple cider
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place apple cider in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a high simmer, and cook until cider is reduced to ¼ cup. It should get a bit thick and syrupy. The thicker it gets the closer you need to watch it to be sure it doesn’t dry out or burn.
Add butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the sugar, cream, salt and spices and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, stirring to combine.
Mixture will thicken as it cools.
You’ll likely have more sauce than you need for this cake. Any extra should be kept in the refrigerator to be eaten with a spoon at midnight.
Spiced Mascarpone Cream Icing:
(adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 lb. (16 oz) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken and form soft peaks. In a separate bowl, stir together the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt until smooth and well combined. Transfer mascarpone mixture to bowl with thickened cream and beat on low speed until almost smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Scrape down the sides and fold to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Do NOT overbeat or the frosting will become grainy.
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. If necessary, trim the top with a cake leveler or sharp serrated knife to create a flat surface. Top with about 1/3 of the mascarpone cream icing and evenly smooth out with an icing spatula. Add the next layer, trim and ice with the same amount of icing, then add the third layer and trim flat as necessary. Top the third layer with about half of the remaining icing, and smooth it out as flat as possible. Spread the remaining icing in a very thin smooth layer over the sides of the cake, and put it in the refrigerator to firm up for about 30 minutes.
Top the cake with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the cooled caramel sauce, carefully and evenly drizzling some down the sides.
If desired, top the finished cake with 3 small fresh apple cider doughnuts.
This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.