celebration cake

triple blueberry layer cake

Well look at me, another fancy ass layer cake!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I generally try to reserve these “celebration” cakes for special occasions, namely my blogging anniversary or my birthday or Russell’s, mostly because they’re a whole mess more complicated than bundts or simpler “everyday” cakes, but also because I really don’t need all this cake in my house on the regular.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Only about a month after my own birthday though, another special occasion came up that was a huge deal and really called for a seriously fancy ass cake.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Last week my grandfather turned 90 years old!!!

To celebrate, we had a little reunion with 4 generations of grandpa’s family and it could not have been a more perfect day. It was so great to see everyone, especially some cousins I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade or more. There was even a sidewalk snail race thanks to the tupperware full of snails my little nephew found in my sister’s garden the day before.

Of course, it being my family, we definitely overdid it with the food. We did a pot-luck style bbq with all the traditional sides; bratwurst, hot dogs & burgers, German potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, veggies, cheese & crackers, deviled eggs, watermelon & a fruit tray. My grandma spent the better part of the day going around telling everyone to eat more because we’d never get through everything. I brought my favorite coleslaw, and of course, I was in charge of dessert.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

To be honest, I can’t even imagine living to 90 years old, especially looking as great and remaining as active as grandpa is at his age.

Although he definitely needs more help around the house than he used to, he and my grandma still live in the country on their own and he still keeps a garden and a small fruit orchard.

A few years ago he had to give up on the gigantic strawberry patch he used to have because he couldn’t bend down to pick them all, but since then he’s planted a couple dozen blueberry bushes, all different varieties so they ripen at different points in the summer, and now blueberries are his favorite!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, I knew blueberry cake was the way to go for grandpa’s 90th!

Grandpa loves blueberry pie, so I made a fresh blueberry jam/pie filling to use between the layers of cake, and then for a brighter, fresher blueberry flavor, I decided to use freeze dried blueberries in the actual cake recipe. When you use freeze dried fruit, it retains much of the freshness of actual fresh fruit, but it’s completely dry so it doesn’t water down your batter. I ground the berries into a powder in the food processor and then mixed that into part of the batter, swirling that in to the remaining plain batter like marble cake.

At first I considered adding lemon zest to the icing, but opted for simple vanilla to avoid competing with the blueberry flavor. Last but not least, the cake was topped with a mound of fresh blueberries, both for flavor, and so that people could tell it was a berry cake even though the icing was solid white.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The cake was a HUGE hit. Usually a quiet, stoic German man, complements don’t come super easily from my grandpa, but he must have come over to compliment and thank me for this cake at least 5 times. Nice and moist and not to sweet. His cousin even came over to shake my hand because he liked it so much!

This cake is SUPER blueberry-y. The freeze dried blueberries really come through, and just like grandpa said, the cake is moist and tender and just sweet enough. The blueberry filling tastes just like blueberry pie filling or homemade jam, and the vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream is delicately sweet, smooth and silky, and definitely lets the blueberry filling shine without anything competing with it.

If you love blueberries, you HAVE to make this cake y’all!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Triple Blueberry Layer Cake

  • Servings: 12 to 16-ish
  • Print
Blueberry Vanilla Swirl Yellow Cake
makes three 8-inch layers

3 1/3 cups all purpose flour (plus 1 tablespoon for blueberries)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1.2 oz bag freeze dried blueberries (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottoms of three 8″ cake pans with parchment paper. No need to butter and flour the pans. *see note
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on high for about 3 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add oil, then the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla until just combined.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk), fully incorporating after each addition.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour & freeze dried blueberries to a food processor and pulse into a fine powder. Its okay if there are a few small chunks left, but get it as fine as possible.
Divide about 1/2 to 2/3 of the batter evenly between the three pans. Mix the freeze dried blueberry powder into the remaining 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter and fold in to combine. Divide blueberry batter between the three pans by dotting the tops of the cakes, then use a small spatula or knife to swirl it in.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If using bake-even strips, they may need a few additional minutes.
Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
If the cakes domed in the oven, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level for a more professional look. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.
If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks. You may want to consider brushing the layers with simple syrup if you’re refrigerating or freezing them.

*baker’s note: Not buttering or flouring your cake pans actually helps the cakes keep their shape better when cooling and helps prevent the outer edges of the cakes from overcooking. The parchment will allow the bottoms to release from the pans easily, but you may need to run a knife or a toothpick around the outside edge before turning out of the pans.

Blueberry “Jam” Filling:
(You may also use store bought blueberry jam)
18 oz Fresh Blueberries (about 4 cups)
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons corn starch

Reserve about 1/2 cup of the blueberries for the decoration/topping of the cake. Pulse the remaining 3 1/2 cups berries in a food processor just to break them up a bit. Don’t puree them. You can also mash them up with a potato masher instead.
Add the blueberries to a large heavy pot or sauce pan, and stir in the sugar, salt, & cornstarch. The mixture will boil up a lot so a large pot is important.
Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high to high heat, stirring occasionally, and boil for 15 minutes or until reduced and thickened.
Transfer to a heat safe bowl or container and refrigerate until ready for use. If it’s a bit thinner than normal jam, that’s fine.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:
Adapted from “Layered” by Tessa Huff
3/4 cup fresh egg whites (not pasteurized egg whites)
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into 1 tablespoon slices)
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place the egg whites, sugar, & salt in a very clean bowl of a stand mixer and whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t directly touch the water, and that the water doesn’t reach a full boil.
Heat the egg whites until they register 160F on a candy thermometer, whisking regularly to avoid cooking the whites. As soon as they’re at the correct temperature, carefully attach the mixer bowl to the stand mixer and add the whisk attachment.
Beat the egg whites on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until they hold stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle.
On low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, waiting for it to incorporate before adding more. Once all the butter is mixed in, add the vanilla extract and mix in to incorporate. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is smooth and silky, about 3 to 5 minutes.
If the mixture starts to look curdled, just keep beating. It’ll come together.
If the whites were still too warm when the butter was added and the buttercream is too thin and soupy, refrigerate the bowl in 10 minute bursts until it’s cool (but not cold) and beat again until smooth.

Assemble cake:
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Fit a piping bag with a large round or star tip and fill with a cup or two of the Swiss meringue buttercream. Pipe a thick dam of icing around the outside of the cake to contain the blueberry filling. This will ensure that the filling stays in place and doesn’t squish out when the layers are stacked.

Place about half of the filling in the center of the cake and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat the same procedure with the buttercream dam and the other half of the filling, then add the third and final layer of cake and check for straightness again. Using about half of the remaining icing, crumb coat your cake (If you have any icing left in the piping bag, empty it out and use that too). Starting with the top of the cake, spread the icing thin and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole thing in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing. It may seem like unnecessary trouble, but it really is worth it to get a smooth professional finish on the icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
Reserve about 1/4 cup of icing for decorating (optional), and spread the remaining buttercream over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly working the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. I use a long offset icing spatula. If desired, once the icing is smooth, you can use the tip of a small icing spatula or butter knife to create a swirl in the top & sides. Make a small smooth mound in the center of the top of the cake with the reserved 1/4 cup of icing, and cover the mound as completely as possible with the reserved fresh blueberries so it looks like a heaping pile of blueberries. (If you tried to just make an actual heaping pile of blueberries, they’d roll off the top of the cake) If you have some blueberries left, dot them around the mound so they look like they spilled away.

Refrigerate the cake again for at least another 30 minutes to set the icing before covering or serving.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for a day or two if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least two hours before serving.

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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.

apple cider doughnut cake

You guys. Break out the streamers and balloons.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns two today!

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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?

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing and cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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…

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

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 cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Cider Doughnut Layer Cake with Spiced Mascarpone Icing and Apple Cider Caramel Drizzle

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake:
(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.

Assemble Cake:
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.