Checkerboard Cake How-To

Originally posted April 9, 2012

So, remember that lovely Easter Bunny Cake Topper? I had the cake topper prepared, but I needed a cake for it to top. What I settled on was a checkerboard cake. This was a 3 layer, 9″ round cake that, when cut, looks like a checkerboard on the inside. It looks pretty neat, and is much simpler to make than many would care to believe, so today I’d like to share with you how it’s done!

The first thing you’ll need is cake. I used a simple vanilla cake recipe and then coloured half of it pink, and the other half light yellow, after separating the batter into two separate bowls. You can also use two cake batters, such as vanilla and chocolate, or whatever suits your fancy. Keep in mind, however, that when using two different batters you’ll have to pay attention – not every cake has the same baking temperature or baking time, which could be problematic. For simplicity’s sake, that is why I chose to simply colour my cake batter. Given that it was for Easter, I thought the pastel colours looked nice together and suited the occasion nicely.

The next thing you’ll need is a checkerboard cake pan set. I’m sure that if you can’t find one of these handy sets (I found mine at a local Michael’s), or if you just don’t want to pay for one (I found mine on sale), there is probably a way to do this in some makeshift fashion – I found an alternative to the pan set, which you can see here. Let me know if it works!

Now that you have the batter, and the necessary equipment, what you’re going to do next is actually quite simple:

1. Grease cake pans (or flour them, or prepare them in some way so that the cakes don’t stick)
2. Place the dividing rings in the first cake pan, and fill the center ring with cake batter. I used pink first, and found it was easiest to fill the pans using a large serving spoon.
3. Fill the middle ring next, holding the divider in place, with the second colour of batter (yellow, in my case).
4. Fill the outer ring with the first colour (pink), still holding the divider in place. Once the third and final ring has been filled, pull the dividing ring out of the cake pan, being sure to lift it straight up so as not to disrupt your cake batter.
5. Rinse the dividing ring thoroughly and dry it, before placing it in the next cake pan. Then, proceed to fill the second cake pan in the same way that  you did the first. Use the same colour pattern, which in my case was pink in the center and outer rings, with yellow in the middle. These two layers, which are now the exact same, will be the top and bottom layers of the cake.
6. For the middle layer of the cake, again rinse the divider and then position it in the third pan. This pan is going to be filled in the opposite way of the first two. In my case, I filled the center with yellow, then proceeded to fill the middle with pink batter, and then the outer ring with yellow batter.
7. Bake and cool the cakes as directed according to the recipes.8. Level the layers as necessary, and then frost and layer the cake. Begin with one of your two matching layers, as it will be the bottom. Layer icing over the top (I used vanilla buttercream) and then position the opposite cake layer on top. Again, ice the top and then position the third layer.
9. Now, ice the cake as desired, cut, and serve!

When you cut into the cake, you should find that you have achieved a checkerboard appearance! This cake has always been a hit for me, and it can be done in so many ways! Once  you get the hang of the dividing ring, feel free to change up the colours, add more in, change batters, etc! I have made several checkerboard cakes, and a few of my favourites included:

– A vanilla and chocolate checkerboard cake with raspberry buttercream icing
– A chocolate and banana checkerboard cake with cream cheese icing, and
– A vanilla checkerboard cake that I coloured using red, green, and white for christmas

Try out some of your own combinations and please feel free to share them either in the comments below or on the Facebook and Twitter pages! Feel free to subscribe the blog, and enjoy your checkerboard cakes until next time!

DIY Cake Topper

Originally posted April 5, 2012 (This is an Easter themed post, but the same idea would apply for any cake topper you wanted to make)

Happy Easter! With Easter looming on the horizon, I needed a cake for the big family dinner – and no ordinary cake, mind you. Something special. After seeing a video on Youtube, I knew just what my cake needed – a white chocolate Easter bunny topper.

Not only did this cake topper look great, it was so simple to make! Much simpler than your friends and family will care to believe, trust me! In fact, I’m going to tell you exactly how you can do it yourself (or any other topper you wish, really).  The steps are as easy as can be:

1. The first thing you’ll need to do for this bunny cake topper is find a relatively simple bunny image (Google Images works wonders for this) and print it.
2. Tape the image to a cookie sheet, making sure that it is laying perfectly flat and will not be moving around on you.
3. Tape a layer of waxed paper over the image (this is going to be your working surface, so make sure it’s secure). You’ll want to use waxed paper because you can see through it to see the outline of your image.
4. Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.
5. Let the chocolate cool just slightly – you want it to still be liquid, but you don’t want to burn yourself if it’s too hot.
6. Prepare a decorating bag with a small round tip, and then fill the icing bag with the white chocolate.
7. Follow the outline of your bunny, tracing it with the white chocolate.
8. Fill in the remainder of the bunny (once I’d done this, I also used a spoon to smooth out the chocolate a bit. I still wanted some texture, but not quite as much as filling in the bunny left)
9. Decorate if desired – I added some mini marshmallows for a fluffy tail, and a butterscotch chip for an eye
10. Allow to cool and harden (I put it in the freezer – it doesn’t take long, and will keep overnight for use later if desired)
11. Position on the cake, and voila (I stood it up in icing and found that it remained quite stable).

Easy as can be, right? And it looks pretty nice on that cake! (Which I’ll be telling you about in a couple of days, once I have photos of the inside, because there is quite a surprise in there awaiting you! You can subscribe to the RSS feed to find out about that post ASAP) This can be done in smaller versions for cupcakes, and of course you can use any image for any time of year. This process can also be done with buttercream icing to make an icing transfer by simply allowing each colour and layer of buttercream to freeze entirely before moving on to the next layer of colour.

Try out your own cake toppers and leave a comment about how it works!

Bacon Blueberry Pancake Cupcakes

Originally posted March 30, 2012 (Looking at this post again makes me wish I hadn’t become vegetarian in July, the cupcakes were AMAZING!)

While flipping through The Cupcake Diaries early this week, a recipe caught my eye – Bacon Blueberry Pancake Cupcakes. I wasn’t sure whether to cringe or not because I’d never considered bacon as a cupcake ingredient. My curiosity got the better of me though, and I knew that I had to try these cupcakes, if for no other reason than to discover whether or not they were as gross as a little part of me imagined they could be (for the record, they were most definitely not gross).

I was not exactly sure what to expect with these. They had the potential to go one of two ways – delicious, or disgusting. They fared on the delicious side, as I was pleasantly surprised to find. The flavours go surprisingly well together, the cupcakes stay moist due to the maple syrup in them, and the salty bacon is offset nicely by the sweet blueberries. I highly recommend that you all give these a try! And, in hindsight, considering my love of breakfast foods, I’m not sure how I could have doubted these little gems.

This recipe will make you 24 cupcakes, for which you’ll need:
6 slices maple bacon
1 3/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or an additional 1-2 tsp vanilla)
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Maple Cream Cheese Icing:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 oz cream cheese (1 1/2 sticks)
8 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line muffin pans with baking cups or grease them to avoid sticking. Fry the bacon until very crunchy, sprinkle with the 1tsp of sugar, and then remove from the heat, strain the grease, and chop up into fine bits. Set the bacon aside for use later. Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set it aside as well.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each. Combine the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds (if using) and milk in a liquid measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour and milk mixtures, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Mix slowly until just combined. Add the maple syrup, mixing slowly. Then, using a spatula, gently fold the bacon bits and blueberries into the batter.

Scoop the batter into baking cups and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool entirely.

For the frosting, combine all the ingredients in the stand mixer and beat until smooth and well combined. Turn the mixer to high speed for a couple of minutes at the end to get a light, whipped icing. Ice the cooled cupcakes as desired, and voila!

Let me know what you think of these cupcakes! The great thing about them is that, you could conceivably legitimize eating them for breakfast. Bacon, blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, cream cheese – all legitimate breakfast foods. And what could be better for breakfast than dessert? I have yet to discover an answer to that. Maybe you could make these into your Sunday morning family breakfast. I’m sure they’ll thank you for it!

If you’re considering bacon in your dessert, here are a few other options if blueberry isn’t for you (and please let me know the results if you try any of these!):
Maple Bacon Cupcakes
Maple French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes 
Bacon Cupcakes: Sunny Side Up
Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes

Gum Paste Molds – For The Lazy Girl In Us All

Originally posted March 27, 2012
With the exception of the past two days, we’ve been blessed with gorgeous spring weather recently! Taking that into consideration, I used the spring as a theme in a recent cake I made for a school celebration. The cake was my favourite chocolate cake, the recipe for which you can find mentioned a million times in various posts!

What I really wanted to talk about was how simple it was to make this cake, though some of the details look quite intricate. What you’ll take away from this post is not only a simple way to make pretty cakes, but also that I’m a bit lazy (well, not lazy per se, but I sure wouldn’t take the time to craft each flower on my own).

To start, I covered the cake in chocolate buttercream, and the followed that with a layer of fondant. This was a simple marshmallow fondant made from green mini-marshmallows.

Next, I divided gum paste into three sections, colouring them blue, pink, and brown respectively. I’ve come to find that gum paste is much nicer to work with than fondant, so I chose it for the decorations as opposed to the fondant that I’d usually used previously.

Now, here’s the real trick – gum paste molds. They are quite possibly the easiest thing to use, honestly. There are several different Wilton ones to choose from, and I chose a spring themed one. Simply dust the molds with corn starch (I’m sure icing sugar would work well too) and then push the gum paste into the molds. Carefully remove the gum paste and trim any areas that may need trimming. Voila, easy peasy.

To attach the gum paste, I used a small brush and sum water but you can of course use gum glue. Once the pieces were attached, I painted sugar dust onto the flowers for some extra dimension. The cake was a hit, and I think (despite my protest that it was much easier than it looked) I was given much more credit than necessary for this quick little cake. It really does look like spring in a cake though, and tasted alright too!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Originally posted March 25, 2012
Here it is, lovelies: a long awaited (and hopefully much anticipated) post about Pink Lemonade Cupcakes! When I say long awaited, what I mean is that this post is coming to you much later in the week than usual. For that I apologize, but let me tell you that it was completely worth my while to put this post off. I read 1055 pages, or 3 books, over the course of the last three days. That’s the entire Hunger Games trilogy. Worth every minute I put the rest of my tasks on hold.

Having said that, thank you for waiting! I hope that you enjoy these cupcakes as much as I did because they were completely fantastic! I found the original recipe via Pinterest. They stayed extremely moist (although they were a bit sticky) and the glaze was a welcomed change from the usual vast amounts of frosting. These were also a great way to welcome the warm weather we’ve been having. I’m generally against using cake mix, but for these I’ve made an exception!

For the cupcakes, you’ll need:

1 package lemon cake mix
1 package instant lemon pudding mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pink lemonade concentrate
4 drops pink food colour (optional)
Additional 1 cup pink lemonade concentrate
1/2 cup sugar

For the glaze, you’ll need:
1/4 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the cake and pudding mixes, eggs, vegetable oil, milk, food colour, and first portion (1/2 cup) of lemonade concentrate. Beat all of the ingredients together and then pour into the prepared muffin pans. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Once the cupcakes are baked, and have cooled ever so slightly, combine the second portion of lemonade concentrate and the sugar. Poke holes, using a fork, in the surface of the cupcakes and then pour the sugar and lemonade mixture over the cupcakes so that the liquid enters the holes in the cupcakes. This will keep the cupcakes extremely moist (although fair warning, they will be sticky).

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, prepare the glaze. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it is completely melted, pour the butter over the icing sugar in a large bowl. Add the cream and then beat the ingredients together until smooth, adding the vanilla if desired. Spread a thin layer of the glaze over the cupcakes.

Once the cupcakes are ready, enjoy! They are the perfect summer cupcake. They’re a little bit sweet and a little bit refreshing and a lot delicious. This was my first time making a glaze for any sort of cake so I was happy with how it turned out, and I’ll definitely be adding these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes to my recipe book!