cake

basic bundt series: spice cake

Hey guess what!
It’s finally officially fall, y’all!

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again and again).

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year. It’s clearly, obviously, indisputably the best season ever, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.
I told you it was indisputable okay?
The only negative thing I could ever say about fall, if I had to come up with something, is that it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cooler weather means we can finally turn off the air conditioner and open up the windows. It means layered clothing, and finally giving up on the “beach body” I’m never going to have. It means beautiful brightly colored foliage, falling leaves, crisp fresh air, and spending as much time outdoors as possible before it’s too late.

It also means all of my favorite foods are back in season. Squash and pumpkins and root veggies and soups and stews and braises and apples and pears and fresh sweet cider and sugar-coated cider doughnuts and everything infused with warm homey baking spices.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, I’m well aware that Martha Stewart thinks pumpkin spice is for basic bitches only, but I also happen to know that she has a thing for a well baked spice cake. And hey, this is the basic bundt series after all, so why not embrace the basic and just go for it?

Basic or not, the classic combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, & clove will never go out of style. I mean, can you think of any better flavor to usher in the best season of the year?

No.
You can’t.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyways, not to toot my own horn or anything (toot toot), but this is one seriously delicious freaking cake!

It’s tender and moist with a soft delicate crumb, a refined subtle sweetness, and the perfect amount of spice. I tested this recipe half a dozen times to get it juuuust right, and I seriously couldn’t be happier with the results. My coworkers, for that matter, couldn’t have been happier that I baked so many cakes to get the recipe just right either. The poor dears.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

My favorite thing about this recipe though, is just how versatile it is.

The whole idea behind the basic bundt series was to come up with simple and straightforward, but completely flawless, cake recipes that can either be baked and enjoyed as is, or gussied up and personalized with a few easy additions or substitutions.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I did my recipe testing this time around, I didn’t just play with the spice levels to perfect them, I also experimented with different “liquid” ingredients to change the flavor profile. I started with and perfected a simple buttermilk-based spice cake, but then I tried swapping the buttermilk for other ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, grated fresh apples, and canned pumpkin puree.

Without changing a single other ingredient, swapping out the buttermilk for something else produces an entirely new and distinctly different cake! I promise that I’ve tried and tested all of these substitutions and they’re all equally delicious and perfectly spiced.
The pumpkin version was definitely a favorite with my (decidedly basic) coworkers.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The endless variations you can put on this recipe don’t have to stop with swapping out the buttermilk either. This cake is just screaming for a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans, or a bit of buttery streusel. Even changing the glaze could make a difference in the flavor profile. I decided that a tangy cream cheese glaze would pair perfectly with any one of the buttermilk, apple, or pumpkin versions of the cake; but I think that a thick caramel glaze would be heavenly too. You could also do a bourbon glaze, or maybe even just sprinkle the cake with cinnamon and granulated sugar.

No matter what variation you choose to bake though, this perfectly spiced basic bundt is sure to satisfy the basic bitch in all of us this fall.

basic bundt series | spice cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Spice Cake Bundt

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk *see note below for alternatives

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan (or spray with a baking spray that includes flour), and refrigerate while preparing the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, & nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, & brown sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping between additions. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together oil, vanilla, & buttermilk (or substitution). In the bowl with the butter and sugars, alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures at low speed, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until combined and do not overwork the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smooth out the top, and firmly pound the pan against the countertop several times to tap out any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before turning the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Once cool, drizzle with cream cheese glaze (recipe below) if desired. Cake should keep, in an air tight container at room temperature, for about 3 or 4 days.

*baker’s note:
Changing the flavor profile of this cake couldn’t be simpler.
Just omit the buttermilk completely, and substitute with one of the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • an entire 15 oz can (1 3/4 cups) of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups grated baking apples, well packed (peeled and cored before grating)

The applesauce cake should bake for the same time, and the pumpkin and grated apple cakes may take about 5 extra minutes or so.

Cream Cheese Bundt Glaze: 
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 6 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s soft and smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 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 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, gently tapping the tray on the counter to smooth it out if necessary.

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basic bundt series: buttermilk pound cake

Hi there friends! Long time no see!

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve basically dropped off the face of the planet recently. Ever since diving head first into the renovations of Maxwell’s last summer, I’ve been posting less and less frequently and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want out of my lil’ ol blog and how much time and energy I want to put into it. Things have definitely calmed down now that Maxwell’s is up and running (and doing pretty darned well, thanks for asking), but rather than jumping from that project right back into blogging the way I used to, I’ve been taking some time for myself lately and trying to enjoy the summer.

We recently bought a car (it’s used guys, we’re not that bougie) and after 10 full years in Brooklyn, the city suddenly seems sooo much smaller and more accessible than it used to. Rather than staying home to bake and photograph fruit pies on a beautiful Summer days, we’ve been piling in the car and taking field trips to parks, beaches, stores, and points of interest that are a real pain in the arse to reach by subway or bus. We’ve even taken the dogs up to the Hudson Valley for a few little hiking trips, and went to the Adirondacks for a long weekend in Lake Placid for my birthday. Hence, for the first time ever, I didn’t post any cake recipe for my birthday this year.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m really not trying to gloat here guys, I just want to let you know that even though I haven’t been posting nearly as frequently lately, you’re still on my mind.

Like, a lot.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I got into blogging because I love food, especially baking and historic recipes and random food trivia; but as it turns out, blogging is A LOT of work and actually pretty pricey as hobbies go. Taking a little time for myself has given me some new perspective and helped me realize that I can’t keep up with the pace that I initially set for myself, and that’s okay. I need and deserve a life outside of blogging and I can’t beat myself up if I fall behind on posting. As much as I’d love to post constantly, life gets in the way. I’m sure you understand.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyway, worrying about all this actually of made me want to stay away entirely, but with every letter I type I feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders and it’s honestly helping me remember how much I loved doing this in the first place. I know I could have just made the decision to step back on my own and just quietly moved on with my life, but if I’m not oversharing can I really even call myself a blogger at all? I mean… Probably not right?

Long story short, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you’re probably going to see less of me around here going forward, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing that really helped me get back into the swing of things and re-discover my love for This Old Blog™ was baking one of my absolute favorite things in the whole wide world, the magnificent, magical bundt cake!

I’m sure that you know by now that I have an unnatural love for bundt cakes. A love that may even be illegal in certain states.
While I absolutely relish the interesting & creative challenges thrown my way by the #bundtbakers group over the past few years, I’ve been thinking lately that I’d really like to spend some time perfecting some simpler, easier, more traditional bundt cakes with a broader appeal and a more familiar flavor profile.

I still plan on getting jiggy with the #bundtbakers every now and again, but for the first time in several years I’d like to share some cakes that don’t necessarily fit in with their creative themes.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m hoping to eventually follow this post up with a an entire series of bundt cake recipes featuring simple, familiar flavors; vanilla, lemon, chocolate, spice, etc.
The basic bundt series.

Get it?

To kick the whole thing off, I thought I’d go with the simplest, and most potentially versatile cake that I could think of. The plain ol’ pound cake. Butter. Eggs. Buttermilk. Vanilla.
Heaven.

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake is delicately sweet and super buttery. Since the butter is the standout flavor in this recipe, I’d recommend springing for the best you can find. I promise it’s worth the extra buck or two.

Because I use buttermilk rather than sour cream, this recipe is a little lighter and more delicate than some other pound cakes you may have had, but I actually prefer it this way. As a cake rather than a loaf, sliced thick and served with fresh fruit, I think the lighter crumb is just the ticket.
In the Summer a big thick slice of pound cake is heaven with fresh whipped cream and macerated strawberries or fresh ripe blueberries.

If you want to kick this cake up to the next level though, feel free to experiment a little!
This recipe is the perfect base for almost any flavor you could want to pair with it. Add a few tablespoons of your favorite booze to add another layer of flavor. Toss in a cup of fresh (or frozen) berries to make a fruity, summery pound cake. Instead of fruit, why not stir in a cup of chocolate chips and some chopped walnuts? Or infuse the butter (or buttermilk) with tea leaves, lavender flowers, fresh herbs, or dried spices. You could even stir some fresh citrus zest into the sugar before creaming it into the butter.
Once you get the basics down, the skies the limit folks!

basic bundt series | buttermilk pound cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

buttermilk pound cake bundt

1 cup (2 sticks) best quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and lightly flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan. Tap out excess flour. Refrigerate pan until ready for use.

Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until very light, about a minute or two. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula and add oil and beat until smooth and combined. Add sugar and beat until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix vanilla into buttermilk.
Alternate additions of the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape the bowl after each addition. Do not over-mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan, leaving at least an inch from the top of the pan. Tap the pan on the counter several times to smooth out the batter and remove any air bubbles.
Bake for about 60 minutes, give or take 5 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before turning out of pan. Turn out onto the rack and cool completely before glazing.

Best Simple Bundt Cake Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons half & half

Mix sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons half & half together in a small bowl. Mix until completely smooth and free of lumps. You want the glaze to be very thick so it doesn’t slide right off the cake, but it does need to be liquid enough that it pours smoothly. If necessary, thin the glaze out with more half & half, adding only about 1/2 a teaspoon at a time to avoid thinning it too much.

Pour the glaze in a steady stream over the center of the cake. Place a pan under the rack just in case the glaze drips. Let the glaze harden for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Cake can be store, tightly covered at room temperature, for about 3 days.

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 .