vanilla

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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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.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail

I know it’s still very much winter out there, but I couldn’t wait to share this super easy, super summery pitcher cocktail with you all.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now that I think about it, I guess I posted another citrusy cocktail recipe pretty recently didn’t I?

I think maybe this whole kitchen project has been driving me to drink! Thankfully I’m finally able to just sit back and enjoy the benefits of all my hard work! I guess this long, cold, wet, windy, snowy, awful winter hasn’t been helping either, and might be just as much to blame for driving me to drink too.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

I always crave citrus in the winter, especially near the end. Citrus fruit is so bright and sunny and fresh that I can’t resist it when everything else is so dull and dreary and dead. Not only does this cocktail have citrus in spades, but it also has a really fresh summery feeling that I think most of us could really use plenty of right about now.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

I first came up with this recipe for our wedding back in 2013. We were married outdoors on the first of June in a big white tent overlooking the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. We were serving two signature cocktails in big drink dispensers at the bar and, while our caterer was providing the bartenders, we were in charge of supplying the booze and all the fixins. I wanted the cocktails to be so simple that all I’d need to do is give the bartenders the ingredients and a spoon, and just tell them what quantities to mix together.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the name of trying to please everyone (or mostly everyone) we served one signature cocktail with whiskey, and another with vodka for our friends and family who aren’t as crazy for the brown liquor as we are.  The first was a bourbon spiked Arnold Palmer and the other was one of my favorite summery vodka drinks, a vibrant greyhound made with pink grapefruit juice. To really make it our own, we added some vanilla to warm it up, and some rosemary for a little fresh herbal depth. In honor of Doris (this was before Betty joined our family) we called it the little grey dog.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was expecting the Arnold Palmer to be the more popular of the two drinks because most of our friends have the same penchant for whiskey that we do, but to my surprise our vanilla greyhound was a much bigger hit. In fact, despite bringing enough ingredients with us to fill our 2 1/2 gallon drink dispensers twice, we actually ran out of it before the sun went down! I think it may have had something to do with the fact that it was unbelievably hot that day, and that this greyhound is light and refreshing and oh-so-thirst-quenching.

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

The other day we were having some friends over for drinks to show off our fancy new kitchen. We wanted to serve something that might help take our minds off of the frozen muck and slush outside and I thought this would be the perfect thing for it. It’s easy to mix up in advance so you’re not stuck tending bar all night, and it’s so light and bright that you can drink a few without feeling like you’ve had a few too many!

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

The grapefruit juice really shines here so you want to make sure that you get a the best quality 100% pink grapefruit juice you can find. The addition of vanilla adds an unexpected homey warmth that doesn’t normally go along with grapefruit but somehow works really well. Despite the fact that grapefruit juice doesn’t taste all that sweet on it’s own, once it’s mixed with the vodka and vanilla it’s somehow perfectly (and surprisingly) sweet enough and doesn’t want for any additional sugar. For that reason, I’d advise against using vanilla flavored vodka for this, which tends to have artificial sweeteners already added.

Right at the end the whole thing gets just a hit of effervescent soda water to keep it feeling light and bright. If  you’re only serving a few drinks at a time I think it’s best to leave the soda water out of the pitcher and just top off each drink as they’re served, but if you want to make this in a big ol’ drink dispenser, just mix it all right in. With volume in mind by the way, this recipe is easily doubled (or quadrupled in the case of our wedding).

If you have time, I think the rosemary comes through a little better if you let it infuse with the vodka and grapefruit juice overnight. If you have lots of time (and love rosemary) you could even let it infuse in straight vodka for a couple days to really extract it’s flavor. Really though, the rosemary isn’t meant to be the star of the show here and you don’t want to overdo it, so adding to the drink just before serving is totally delicious too.

Drink up y’all!

vanilla greyhound pitcher cocktail | Brooklyn Homemaker

Vanilla Greyhound Pitcher Cocktail

  • Servings: Makes about 9 or 10 six ounce cocktails
  • Print
2 cups vodka
3 1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice
2 tbsp vanilla extract
4 to 5 rosemary sprigs
1 cup soda water

Mix vodka, grapefruit juice and vanilla in a large pitcher and stir well. If you have time, I think the cocktail benefits from letting the rosemary infuse overnight. If serving immediately, you can add the rosemary to the pitcher or use a single sprig as garnish in each glass. Just before serving you can either stir the soda water into the pitcher, or you can top off each glass with about 2 oz of soda as the cocktails are poured. In a drink dispenser or punch bowl it’s best to just stir the soda in, but if you don’t want the soda to go flat over time, it’s better to top off each glass as they’re served.
Either way top off each glass with plenty of ice.