cakes

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt #bundtbakers

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t baked a bundt cake since April.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

This has been one hell of a year, both personally with the Maxwell’s build out and opening, and for the country as a whole. This election cycle really has consumed me, chewed me up and spit me out, and just when I thought it would all finally be over, it seems like we’re in for even more struggle and strife.

While things may feel a little disheartening right now, life must go on, and getting back into the kitchen and revving up the ol’ stand mixer certainly helps me feel centered and whole again.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so so thrilled that Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook chose pears as our inspiration for the #bundtbakers this month. Thank you so much Lauren! Not only do I absolutely love pears on their own, there’s also something especially cozy and satisfying about baking with fall fruit pear-ed (har har) with warm homey spices.

With Thanksgiving only a week away, a pear bundt cake is just what the doctor ordered.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a confession to make though.
I haven’t always liked pears.

My grandfather has always had several fruit and nut trees on his property, and when I was little I thought pears were absolutely disgusting. I don’t know if it was the grainy texture, or the thick sandy skin, or what, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t care for a lot of the bounty of grandpa’s garden.

I was truly a child of the 80’s, and a lot of my culinary influence during my formative years came from spending time in my grandmother’s kitchen. She is a product of her generation, and Grandma’s food philosophy came from the atomic-age desire for shiny, new, packaged convenience foods rather than the back-to-earth approach many of us prefer today. As a kid in Grandma’s kitchen, packaged food was celophane-wrapped, sterilized heaven to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Give me a box of doughnuts, a bag of chips, a can of soup, a bottle of soda, and a grilled cheese sandwich made with plastic-wrapped processed “cheese food”, bagged sliced white bread, and margarine from a tub.
Who wants to have to pick and wash fresh fruits and vegetables from outside with all the dirt and bees and bugs, when the fridge is stocked with Cool Whip and Velveeta that’s clean and delicious and ready to eat?

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not me.
That’s who.

I did like Grandpa’s strawberries and plums, but even the strawberries had to be scrubbed and sliced and covered in sugar before I deemed them edible.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Obviously my tastes have changed over the years, and as an adult I’ll take a ripe juicy pear, still warm from the sun, over a tub of chemically Cool Whip any day of the week.

As a kid, trips to my grandparents house filled me with excitement because I knew the cupboards were bursting with store-bought chips and cookies and doughnuts. These days I still get excited when I get to visit my grandparents, but now it’s because I know grandpa will load me up with sagging grocery bags filled with dirty bell peppers, lopsided butternut squash, fuzzy warm peaches, or sun-ripened tomatoes when I get ready to leave.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was planning my bundt for this month, I knew that I really wanted the pears to be the stars of the show. My first instinct was to chop or cube or grate them just like apples into a traditional spice cake for flavor and added moisture, but somehow that didn’t seem like it was “enough”. My pears deserved better than playing second fiddle to cinnamon.

Determined to leave the pears whole (or at least halved) inside the cake, I decided to poach them in a bourbon ginger syrup. They smelled like heaven in the poaching liquid and I couldn’t help myself from sneaking spoonfuls of batter from the pan before it went into the oven. I was congratulating myself on a job well done before the cake even started to rise, and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the oven and see the autumnal perfection I’d come up with.

Aaaaaaand…

It was an absolute disaster.

The pears soaked up too much moisture in the poaching liquid, releasing it back into the cake to create a jiggly bundt with the weirdest almost blubbery texture I’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth. As the cake cooled it sagged and the cake separated from the pears and slumped into a wobbly mess on the plate.

So, back to the drawing board. I knew I’d need a thicker, denser batter, and I obviously needed to find a way to pull moisture out of the pears before baking them into the cake. With poaching out of the question, I decided to try dry roasting the pears so they’d be tender but slightly dried out before going into the batter. Thankfully, it worked out beautifully and I think the pears are almost as happy about it as I am.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll want to use the smallest pears you can find for this recipe, because if they’re too big or tall they’ll take up too much room in the pan. They might cause the batter to run over in the oven, or could stick out the top of the cake and cause it to sit unevenly when plated. I also think that Bosc pears are the only variety firm and sturdy enough to stand up to being roasted, handled, and baked in this way without turning to mush or falling apart.

The bit of extra effort in roasting the pears and toasting the walnuts really pays off when you slice down into the cake to reveal a perfect cross-section of a whole pear (depending on where you slice).
And the flavor? Fuggitaboudit. Warm spices, tender roasted pears, crunchy toasted walnuts, buttery tender brown sugar spice cake, and a thick and tangy cream cheese glaze.
I mean. Come on.

This is basically THE perfect fall cake, and it would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving spread to boot. If you’re looking for even more fall inspiration and pear-y wonderfulness, make sure you scroll down past the recipe to see what the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasted Pear and Walnut Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 12-ish
  • Print
4 to 5 small firm Bosc pears, depending on the size of your pan
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan, refrigerate.

Peel pears, slice in half, and scoop out seeds with a melon baller or spoon. Place cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Spread walnuts in an even layer on a small baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty. Do not let them burn. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & spices together in a bowl. Set aside. Mix vanilla into buttermilk and set aside.
In a the bowl of and electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
Alternate additions of flour and buttermilk, mixing on low just until combined, and scraping the bowl between each addition. Start and end with flour so there are 3 additions of flour and 2 of buttermilk. Stir in 1 cup walnuts until evenly distributed.

Pour about 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan, and tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Push pear halves into the batter, top side facing down into the bottom of the pan, arranging them so the cut halves face each other as a whole pear. Arrange pears so they’re evenly spaced around the pan. Spread remaining batter over the top, leaving at least half an inch of room for the cake to rise so it doesn’t overflow in the oven. It’s okay if the pears stick out of the batter a bit, as the cake should rise around them. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of thick melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with toasted walnuts.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 2 days, or longer in the fridge. Just make sure to serve it at room temperature if you refrigerate it.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

The bundt bakers really outdid themselves this month, and all these perfect pear cakes have my mouth watering like crazy!

BundtBakers
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You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.
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butter pecan layer cake

I can’t even believe it friends.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns three years old this weekend!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

They grow up so fast!
Sniff.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year has been sort of crazy with the whole Maxwell’s thing and all the time I’ve had to spend away from Brooklyn Homemaker, and I’m so thrilled to finally be getting back into the swing of things just in time to celebrate my anniversary!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I probably said this last year too, but I never would have believed you if you’d told me three years ago that I would have started doing this and kept with it for three whole years.
When I first started I didn’t even have a real camera, and for the first few months I shot all of my photos on my iPhone in my dimly lit kitchen at weird, unflattering angles. If you’d told me three years ago that I would not only get a real camera, but also get pretty good at figuring out how to use it, I definitely would have had my doubts.
If you’d have told me that some of my photos would be even half as good as the ones I spent hours drooling over on Pinterest, or that people would actually want to pin my photos and recipes for themselves, I probably would have laughed in your face!
If you’d have told me that people would actually want to cook my recipes, and would enjoy them enough to share with their friends and families, I’d have been absolutely floored!
Naaahhhhhh! No friggin’ way!!!

I still wake up sometimes and want to pinch myself.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It seems like I start having these thoughts around the same time every year, as my blog anniversary approaches, about all the things I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. The friendships and bonds I’ve built, the skills I’ve gained, and how my goals and priorities have changed over these past few years.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is definitely a time to for reflection, a time for appreciation, and a time to be grateful. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s a time for cake!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea of this cake was a bit of a throw back to the very first cake that inspired this whole blogging adventure, the Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked.

I knew I wanted to make another big ass fancy celebration cake filled with nuts and covered in a velvety icing, but I didn’t want to just make the same cake all over again.
I did that already! haha!

I thought that a play on the Aunt Sassy Cake with a fun, autumnal twist would be a great way to pay homage to the cake that started it all, while also making it feel little more seasonally appropriate this time of year.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I played with a few ideas in my head, but the inspiration really came when I was flipping through the channels one day and happened to catch a few minutes of Jeopardy.

When my sister and I were little, we used to spend a lot of time at our grandmother’s house. If we’d stay after dinner, we’d sit next to grandma on the couch and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and if we were good, grandma would fix us a bowl of ice cream.

Thing is, at the time I hated the ice cream flavors she tended to keep in the house. All I wanted was chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip, but grandma usually only had maple walnut or butter pecan. Garbage ice creams in the eyes of a child, and ones that i lovingly referred to as old lady flavors in my teen years.
As I got a little older I finally learned to appreciate those “old lady” flavors, and eventually I even learned to love them.
These days I can’t get enough of them, and even get into trouble with Russell when I come home from the store with a pint of butter pecan, when he’d have preferred chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

With butter pecan in mind, I decided to go for a tender pecan layer cake, and I opted to brown the butter to amp up the nutty flavor. Browning butter only takes about 10 minutes with some stirring and a watchful eye, and it adds an incredibly rich, earthy, nutty flavor to regular everyday unsalted butter. It has such an amazing flavor that I decided to brown a little extra to mix into some silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream I wanted to use to ice the cake.

To make things even richer, and fancier, and prettier, I went ahead and drizzled the whole kit and kaboodle in some heavenly homemade caramel with a splash of (optional) bourbon.

This cake is the freakin bomb. Perfect for fall. It could even work as an elegant alternative to pecan pie at Thanksgiving!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been a wild ride so far, and hopefully this is just the beginning.

I’m so honored and grateful for all of you guys out there. I’m so so luck to have so many amazing friends out there in the world who have been so encouraging and engaging through everything that I’ve done so far. I’m looking forward to many more recipes and posts and years ahead, and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride too!

Love you guys! Thanks for everything!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Brown Butter
(Make ahead if possible)

4 sticks of unsalted butter

Melt butter in a large stainless steel (or light colored) sauce pan over low to medium heat. As the water cooks out, the butter will sizzle a lot. Stir frequently with a silicone spatula.

Once the butter starts to foam, usually about 5 minutes in, you want to watch it very carefully so it doesn’t burn. You’ll also want to use your spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan often. This will promote even browning and help prevent the milk solids from sticking to the pan as they brown. They’re delicious so you want them in your finished butter, and if they do stick they’ll be a pain in the butt to clean.

The foam may make it hard to see, but as you stir you’ll begin to see the milk solids in the butter begin to turn brown. Once the milk solids are brown and the butter smells toasty and nutty, you’re done! Immediately pour the butter, milk solids & all, into a heatproof dish to prevent it from further cooking. The milk solids can go from nutty and golden to black and burnt in less than a minute!

For the recipes below, you want the butter to be soft, but you don’t want to use the butter while it’s still hot and melted. Refrigerate the butter until solid, then let it soften at room temperature. If you want to make it ahead, it’ll keep for a long time if stored in an airtight container.
Butter contains a good amount of water which cooks off when you brown it, so after browning your 4 sticks of butter won’t measure 2 cups. Since the cake and the icing require the same amount of butter, I just say 1/2 the brown butter in each recipe for simplicities sake.


Brown Butter Pecan Cake
Adapted from Cooking Classy

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup whole pecan pieces for decorating (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1/4 cup peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for icing)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, toss to coat, and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or dish to stop cooking and set aside to cool. If using whole pieces for decorating, separate them from the chopped pecans and reserve for later.

Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, butter parchment paper and then lightly dust pans with flour shaking out excess. Set pans aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butters and sugars together until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, adding in vanilla with the last egg.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined, then add in 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Repeat alternating flour and buttermilk, ending with the final 1/3 of the flour. Remove the bowl from your mixer and fold in pecans until they’re evenly distributed. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared baking pans, using a kitchen scale for accuracy if desired.
Bake in preheated oven 25 – 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around edges of the pans to ensure the cakes are loosened, and invert them onto the racks to cool completely.


Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons, or 1/2 stick)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat, gently swirling the pan (not stirring) to combine. Simmer (not stirring) for about 15 minutes or until a rich amber color is reached. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slightly toasty aroma. Once the sugar starts to go from clear to golden, watch it very closely as it can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute. If you want to use a thermometer, cook until the sugar reaches 350 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir or whisk in the butter. It will bubble up a lot so be careful. Once the butter is combined, repeat the process with the cream. Then add the bourbon and salt stir or whisk to combine.
Place the pan back over the heat and simmer for another minute or two while stirring continuously.
Remove from heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes before pouring into a heat-safe dish or jar to cool to the touch. Then close or cover the container and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely before use. Any leftover caramel (I didn’t have much) can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several weeks.


Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

6 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
remaining 1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and a small amount lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of fat or grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Place egg whites, sugars, and salt into the bowl and whisk gently but continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites reach between 150 and 160 degrees F.
Attach the bowl to your mixer and use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. The meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added, don’t worry. Once all the butter is added, beat until the icing is smooth and silky, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and beat on low just until combined.

If the buttercream curdles, don’t worry! Just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth.
If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate the bowl for about 15 or 20 minutes before mixing again with the paddle attachment until it comes together.


Assemble cake:

Remove parchment from each layer, and trim the domed tops off with a cake leveler or sharp bread knife if necessary. Flat layers will definitely result in a much prettier & more professional looking finished cake. My cakes didn’t dome much, so you may not need to do this step. Make sure the layers are completely cool (or cold) before you proceed.

If you’re not serving the cake the same day it’s baked, I recommend you brush each layer of cake with two or three tablespoons of simple syrup before assembly to keep it nice and moist for days. Just heat 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water together until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place first layer on a cake stand, serving platter, or cardboard cake round. Top with roughly 1/4 of your icing (about one generous cup), and spread the icing out with an offset icing spatula, in as even and level a layer as possible. Place the next layer on top and check from above and from multiple angles to make sure it’s stacked perfectly centered with the layer below, and that it’s flat and level. Adjust if necessary.
Add another 1/4 of the icing, smooth it out, add the top layer, and check and adjust if necessary.

Using another 1/4 of your icing, spread a thin layer of icing over top and sides of cake with an icing spatula. I like to start at the top and slowly work my way down the sides. Be sure to fill in any gaps between layers and make the sides and top is as smooth and flat as possible. This thin layer of icing is referred to as the “crumb coat” and is meant to seal in any crumbs so they’re not seen in your final layer of icing. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to an hour to set the icing before you proceed.
Spread the remaining icing evenly over top and sides of cake, trying to get as smooth a surface as possible.

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 the optional 1/3 cup of toasted whole pecans from above.

This cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 2 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If refrigerated, you’ll need to let it come up to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes

When I was a kid, Halloween was my absolute favorite holiday.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving too, for the food of course, but as a young kid Halloween was the freakin’ best. Turkey and pumpkin pie are great and all but costumes and candy, and running around at night like a little lunatic with fake vampire teeth? Grandma’s cornbread dressing couldn’t hold a candle…

I’ve had countless costumes over the years, but I’ll never forget an especially uncomfortable year dressed as Frankenstein with tons of sticky green makeup and itchy stick-on eyebrows and neck bolts. After that, the simpler and more elegant Dracula was definitely my go to.
Each year I’d get a new costume complete with fangs, cape, and gold medallion, and as a young gay boy I already had all the crisp white button downs and black dress pants that were required but not included with the costume.  (No jeans and T-shirt for this little sissy boy!)
I think it really was the dressed up, fancy man aspect of Dracula that appealed to me most year after year, and it wasn’t until I found my grandma’s old wig in her bathroom closet that the appeal started to wear off…

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

These days I usually spend most of the month of October thinking up all sorts of witty, hysterical costumes that I could wear, but never do. The last time I dressed up was for work, about 4 years ago. I’d just started working at Whisk slinging fancy kitchen gear, and we all came up with this hilarious plan to come to work dressed as a Food Network star.
Group costumes are the best! What could go wrong?!?!

A few days later I show up to work in full Ina Garten regalia, and oops! Everyone either forgot or didn’t have time to get their costumes together.  One person, who usually works from home, loved the idea and actually did come in for an hour or two dressed as Alton Brown (essentially dressed as an older, nerdier version of himself) to take pictures, but everyone else either didn’t dress up or threw something else together at the last minute.
As I stood there working my full shift in an oversized navy blouse, huge clip on pearl earrings, lipstick, and an itchy bob wig; I vowed never again to be duped by allure of an amazing group costume idea.

I haven’t dressed up since.
Womp Womp.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even though I’m too old for trick-or-treating and haven’t put on a costume in years, I really do still have a special place in my heart for Halloween.

I like to imagine that some day in the future I’ll be the type of adult who’s famous among his circle of friends for hosting amazing costume parties that are talked about for years to come. Basically I dream of one day throwing Halloween parties just like the ones on Roseanne, complete with decorations so elaborate and costumes so perfectly spot-on that everyone I know will try, and fail, to one-up me year after year.
By the way, am I the only one who’s ever wondered how the lower middle class Connor family, who always seemed to have trouble paying their bills on time, came up with all the money for their costumes and decorations?
I guess it doesn’t matter, but, like, that stuff ain’t cheap!

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all my dreams of Halloween entertaining one-upmanship, the minute I saw this adorable haunted skull cakelet pan, I knew that I HAD to have it.

You all know I love Nordic Ware. I’ve told you more than once twice three times (a lady), but after finally having a chance to use this pan you’ll have to excuse me as I wax poetic once again.

Nordic Ware has been making exceptional cookware and bakeware right here in the US for 70 years now, and even after all this time they’re still a family owned company. The bundt pan is by far their most famous and most popular product, but they also specialize in all sorts of elaborate and festively shaped baking pans. No one can compare to their quality and selection, and ALL of their pans are sturdy, heavy duty, ultra-non-stick, and unbelievably durable.
I should know! I put their pans through the ringer!

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

There is so much detail in these little skulls that I was worried it wouldn’t read once the cakes were baked, or that I’d have problems getting the cakes out cleanly from all the intricate details face and teeth. At this point I should have known that I had no need to worry. These little cakes released like a dream and all that detail came across with amazing definition in the finished cakes.

There’s actually so much detail in these little cakes, that even though I tried decorating them in several ways, I found that my favorite cakes were the simplest, with just a double coat of thin sugary glaze. Of course you can decorate them however you choose, but I really think the simpler, the better. In fact, as much as I love the creepy look of the bright red chocolate candy eyes, I worry that even they take away from the scary perfection of the little cakes as they were straight out of the pan.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

The recipe below, simply adapted from my favorite chocolate bundt cake recipe, makes 12 mini skulls, or 2 pans worth. If you only have 1 pan, make sure you wash the pan really well between batches. I also recommend that you dry it well and throw it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before reapplying the butter and cocoa. Otherwise the pan will be warm from being washed and the butter will melt and make a mess when you try to dust it with cocoa.
If you don’t have this pan at all, you can get it here, or you can just make this recipe in one 10 cup bundt pan. It won’t be as scary to look at, but it’ll certainly taste just as chocolatey and delicious!

By the way, if you’ve never tried this trick before, using cocoa powder works just as well as flour to prevent the cakes from sticking to the pan, but helps the cakes look extra dark and chocolatey, rather than the dusty uneven look flour sometimes gives to the outside of chocolate cakes.

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

The flavor of these little cakes is deep dark chocolate perfect with a super tender and moist crumb. Thanks to that simple powdered sugar glaze, these little cakes almost taste like a reeeeeally good moist chocolate doughnut.

The Oreos, complete with cream (don’t use boxed crumbs!), add a really nice touch, especially if you leave some in nice big chunks so they don’t melt and disappear into the batter. Essentially you just want to put them in a plastic bag and crush ’em up with your hands or whack at them with a rolling-pin until there are no whole cookies left, but you still have lots of bigger pieces.

Now tell me, what kid (or adult) could resist a super moist chocolate cake filled with oreo cookie crumbs? Especially one in the shape of a cute-yet-terrifying little skull???

dark chocolate & oreo mini skull cakes | Brooklyn Homemaker

Dark Chocolate & Oreo Mini Skull Cakes

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups strong hot coffee
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (I used “Double Dutch Cocoa“) plus extra for pan
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup peanut oil or any neutral vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (about 1 package) roughly crushed oreos (NOT oreo cookie crumbs, you want the cream too)

For the Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For decorating (all optional):
Red M&Ms
Sanding or decorating sugar (black, red, or silver)
white mini nonpareils
More crushed Oreos

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Brush a skull cakelet pan (* see note) with softened butter, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess.

Whisk coffee and cocoa together in a bowl together until free of lumps and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low for just one minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.
Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes more. Add the cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Finally, stir in the roughly crushed Oreos just until evenly distributed throughout. The batter will seem quite loose and liquid, it’s supposed to, don’t worry.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared cake pan, filling each cavity about 3/4 of the way up. This recipe makes two pans worth of batter. If you have two pans, you can bake them both at once, or once the first batch is out of the pan you can wash, dry, and cool the pan in the fridge before reapplying butter and cocoa and baking the remaining batter.
Bake for 20-30, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

To make the glaze:
Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until smooth and free of lumps.

To glaze and decorate:
After some trial and error I found that the easiest way to glaze the cakelets was to pick up them up by the base and dip them into the glaze like a doughnut. Remove from the glaze, let drip dry, and turn over to dry on a cooling rack. I actually liked the look of the glaze best when the cakes were glazed twice. If you want to double glaze, wait for the first coat to dry five minutes or so before dipping again.
If you’d like to decorate with sanding sugar, crushed Oreos, or mini nonpareils, sprinkle them over the cakes before your final coat of glaze has dried. If desired, add red chocolate candies in the eye sockets.

*Note: If you don’t have a skull cakelet pan this recipe makes 1 (less spooky but equally delicious) bundt cake in a 10 cup bundt pan. A bundt will need to bake for about 55 to 65 minutes .

nectarines and cream icebox cake

Why hello there friends! Remember me???

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Yes it’s me! Tux!

I’m back! (well, sort of.)

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Russell and I are still plugging away at the project I mentioned in my last post, and while we’re (hopefully) nearing the finish line, we’ve still got plenty of work to do so I’m not exactly back for good. I just happened to get a little down time recently and I couldn’t bare to stay away from you for one more second!

I’ve missed you guys SO MUCH that I jumped at the opportunity to get back in the kitchen when I finally had a moment to myself. We’ve been so completely consumed with our project in the past few months that my poor kitchen has felt almost as neglected as all of you probably have.

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

As it turns out though, my little bit of down time just happened to fall smack dab in the middle of our SECOND heat wave in the past couple months. For almost two weeks the daily weather forecast included “Excessive Heat Warnings”, and the city even set up “cooling stations” for the sick and elderly without air conditioning to be able to escape (and survive) the oppressive daytime temperatures.

To make matters even worse, unlike my brown-lawned family upstate, we’ve also had plenty of rain (and thunder and lightning) here in Brooklyn so along with the heat we’ve also had plenty of soupy, steamy, thick, and swampy humidity. In other words, we’ve just been sweating our butts off here in Brooklyn!

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

As you can imagine, that meant that turning the oven on to bake a cake has been sort of out of the question.

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

With actual baking off the table, my first thought was to make some kind of ice cream or frozen something-or-other to help cool us off and keep me as far as possible from the oven. It didn’t take me long to realize though, that I hadn’t thought far enough ahead and my ice cream maker bowl requires overnight freezing before I could even get started.
I briefly considered popsicles but I couldn’t seem to get inspired. What I really wanted to do was bakeor at least make something that felt as homey and satisfying as something fresh from the oven. I’d been out of the kitchen and away from my oven for so long that my head kept going back to the idea of a fruity crisp or crumble or skillet cake.

Then it suddenly hit me!

Icebox cake!

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re not familiar with an icebox cake, the concept is fairly simple. You layer thin crisp cookies with whipped cream and let the whole thing set up in the refrigerator (or icebox as it were). While the cake sets up, moisture is pulled from the whipped cream, softening the cookies and firming the cream until the whole thing is transformed into a dreamy, wonderful, lick-the-plate-clean dessert with a perfectly cake-like sliceable texture.

The original recipe has been around since the first world war and was most likely inspired by similar desserts like the Charlotte or the Trifle. The first icebox cakes were made with thin chocolate wafer cookies that are increasingly difficult to find (Smitten Kitchen has a recipe if you want to make your own), but these days you can basically make them with any thin, crisp cookies you like.
The filling options these days are just as limitless as the cookies, so I knew I’d find a way to make something bright and summery and satisfying.

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wish I had some sepia-colored story about the nostalgic icebox cakes my grandmother used to make me as a boy growing up in the countryside in 1764, but the truth is that I’d never even tasted icebox cake until I made one with gingersnaps and maple cream this past December.

Even though I didn’t grow up with them, they feel every bit as homey and comforting as the bundt cakes that I actually did grow up eating in grandma’s kitchen in the country. While they’re relatively new to me, I would bet that a few more icebox cakes will turn up on the pages of Brooklyn Homemaker in the years to come. They just have that folksy days-of-yore feeling that lets me wistfully imagine joyful, touching family moments that never actually happened.

Not to mention they’re also freakin’ delicious, and crazy simple to put together.
If you can whip cream and open a box of cookies, you can make an icebox cake. They’re actually much simpler than I myself would normally go for, and the last time I made one I went the extra mile and made my own gingersnaps as the base of the cake. (You know I’m a glutton for punishment.)

This time around though, I wanted to take it easy, keep it simple, and highlight the other ingredients I wanted to feature in this simple summery creation.

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Russell and I signed up for a CSA from Local Roots earlier this summer, but of course that was before we knew how busy we were about to get. We’ve been loving every ounce of fresh, local, seasonal produce, but it can sometimes be a challenge to find uses for everything without letting anything go to waste.

We’ve been getting pounds and pounds of white nectarines in the past few weeks, so I really wanted to do something special with them. What could be better than giving them the peaches and cream treatment with vanilla wafer cookies and mascarpone thickened whipped cream?

Nectarines and peaches are so similar in flavor and texture that you could substitute peaches without affecting the flavor of the recipe much at all. The white nectarines we had from our CSA though had a crisper, slightly more acidic zing to them than a standard peach, which I thought was a nice compliment to the richness of the cream. Honestly though, you could swap them out for strawberries or cherries and this cake would still be a little summery slice of heaven.

nectarines and cream icebox cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Nectarines and Cream Icebox Cake

2 lbs nectarines (or peaches), peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau (optional) *see note
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
8 oz mascarpone at room temperature
Two 11 oz packages of vanilla wafer cookies, such as Nilla Wafers

Combine roughly chopped nectarines with sugar, salt, and orange liqueur in a medium bowl. Stir to combine and macerate for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream on high just until it begins to thicken and form soft peaks. Add the mascarpone and beat on low speed until almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and fold to incorporate. Add the macerated chopped nectarines and beat on low for 30 to 60 seconds and scrape down the sides and fold again. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Do NOT over-beat or the cream can become waxy and the mascarpone can become grainy.

On an 8″ cake board, or a cake stand or serving plate, arrange a layer of vanilla wafer cookies into three tight circles. I used 19 cookies per layer, with 1 cookie in the center, then one circle of 6 cookies and another circle of 12, but that’ll depend on the size of the cookie you use. Once you’ve arranged your first layer of cookies, place about a cup of cream over them and smooth it out with an offset icing spatula. Spread the cream almost to the outer edge, leaving just a small edge of cookies showing. Arrange another layer of cookies, trying to alternate the layers so they appear staggered above one another. Repeat another layer of cream and then another layer of cookies, again and again until you have as many layers as you desire or until you run out of cookies or cream. Finish the top of the cake with a final layer of cream. My cake was 8 layers tall, but again, this may depend on the size of the cookies you use.

If you have a cookie or two left over, garnish the cake by crumbling them in the center of the top if desired.

Try to delicately tent the cake with plastic wrap or cover with a large inverted bowl or cake dome before transferring to the refrigerator to set up.
Place cake to refrigerator for an absolute minimum of 6 hours (but ideally 12 to 24 hours) before serving. This cake will continue to improve the longer you can wait. As it sets, the cream will get firmer as the cookies get softer, and the flavors will distribute more evenly. Patience is a virtue!

Once set, the cake can be sliced and served much like a regular cake. If possible, it’s best to use a sharp serrated knife with a gentle sawing motion to avoid smooshing the cake and to get the best looking slices possible. Really though, you could dish it into bowls with a spoon if you wanted, and everyone would love it just as much.
Cake can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days.

*Note:
Peach schnapps would be great too if you have it, or you could also substitute rum or bourbon for a bit of extra warmth.
If you’d prefer to keep it completely non-alcoholic, a teaspoon or two of orange blossom water or rose water would be a lovely substitution. That stuff is potent though so start with just a little and taste to see if you’d like to add more.