The Classics: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

I had an undying love for boxed yellow cake mix when I was a kid. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one out there with the same love affair. If I’m being perfectly honest I still have a soft spot for it (shh, don’t tell anyone). I have been known to buy a box, make it and eat it all in one evening. What can I say? Some days are harder than others, and the only medicine is to make cake from a mix. Let’s not talk about it. It has been a while though, so I think that should allow me a bit of forgiveness. When I was younger, I actually made boxed cake all the time and sometimes, more like all the time, I’d act like I had my own cooking show. I’d go through the making of my boxed cake as if I was talking to an audience that wasn’t there, through an invisible camera. “And now we add 1 cup water, 1/3 cup oil and 3 large eggs to our mix and stir it until combined.” It was all pretty legit. Why anyone would want to watch a cooking show where someone was making cake from a box mix, was beyond me. I didn’t even think about that as a kid. I just had the most popular cooking show in my imagination, and everyone wanted to watch it. Humble brag. 

Those days are long gone, and although I sometimes crave a boxed cake mix every now and then, I do actually more often than not, just make my own version at home, from scratch without all of the guilt. Although, I still want to eat the entire thing in one sitting so I guess not much as changed in that respect. Who doesn’t like a classic recipe though? That one go-to “fill in the blank” recipe that you can count on to always come out right. I think this post is the epitome of “The Classics” series, and it’s what I had in mind when I first started it a few months ago. It’s my childhood. It has been a while since I created and posted a TCA Classics recipe so I’ll refresh your memory on the concept and the recipes that have gone before. 

We kicked things off with The Classics: Buttermilk Fried Chicken, where I introduced to you the idea of simpler posts with less images of recipes we all know and love. Plus, I shared with you our fancy hashtag (#TCAclassics) so that when you give these recipes a try, you can share and tag them so we can all have a look. We’re always searching for that one classic cookie recipe or classic apple pie recipe, so I wanted The Classics to be just that. The recipes you’re looking for. The recipes you love. Things took a savory turn when the second installment brought us, The Classics: Bacon Cheeseburger. Everyone needs a really great All-American burger recipe. Even if you think you don’t, believe me you do. The third round, The Classics: Cinnamon Rolls was where we learned a very important lesson that cinnamon rolls should always be the size of your head. If they’re not, you’re doing it all wrong. The last classics we had was the mother of all American classic recipes, The Classics: Apple Pie. Here I enticed you with large slices of pie topped with ice cream, and I regret nothing. This time around, The Classics: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream is bringing you a classic birthday or party cake to entice you and your guests. Not having party or your birthday is still a year away, this makes for the best anytime cake. I just cleaned the house, cake! I took out the trash, cake! I didn’t get a parking ticket, cake CAKE! Bottom line is that cake is the answer to everything. 

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Carrot Cake Scones

I’ve been making scones for as long as I can remember. I used to sell homemade baked goods out of my tiny kitchen when I was in college, to help my mom with my tuition. She had already put my two sisters through college, by the time I got around to it, so I wanted to help out any way I could. I’m sure it was illegal and it inconvenienced my family because I’d be in the kitchen for hours and hours, but I did it anyway because I was a rebel like that and I actually enjoyed it most days. It was a nice break from all the homework and studying. Really it was just a way for me to procrastinate the things I had to get done. There were two items that I had to make on a daily basis because people ordered them a lot, scones and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made so many batches of both that I now have the recipes permanently engraved in my brain. It’s helpful. It got to the point where I refused to bake scones because I got tired of making them. At the time I offered the classic flavors, cranberry, blueberry, (and my all time personal favorite) cherry dark chocolate chunk. My family has since then made it a point to relentlessly try and coerce me into baking scones for them or their coworkers, and sometimes I do it. Other times, they’re not as successful. Sorry family.

I’ve taken a break from my scone strike, however, to bring you these Carrot Cake Scones. I think it’s worth breaking my promise to never make scones again, but let’s not get used to it. It’s a phase that will pass. I grate fresh carrots and mix them into my go-to scone recipe, with a few other twists, like a blend of spices, raisins and cream cheese frosting on top with chopped pecans make them taste just like a classic carrot cake. Which happens to be one of my favorite cake flavors. So if you like carrot cake and you like scones, then I don’t think I need to say anything more to try and convince you to make them. They can speak for themselves. “Make me. Make me. Eat me. Eat me.” Can you hear it? 

This is our second to last Easter Brunch Bonanza post/recipe and I’m a little sad about it. Sure, I’ve saved the best for last (stay tuned tomorrow to find out), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s almost over. I’ll still bring you awesome and delicious recipes that’ll get you excited though, and these springtime recipes from this week will now forever live online for all of your brunch needs so there’s no need to cry about it. Let’s get these scones started though, shall we? They wont stop calling out our names until we eat them. 

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Chunky Monkey Sticky Buns

I’d never tried Ben and Jerry’s ice cream until I met Julian a couple years ago. It’s his favorite ice cream of all time. I don’t know how I went through my entire 26 years of existence without trying this deliciously irresistible treat. I guess you can say I was missing out on something incredible, on both aspects of my life. Needless to say, when I took that first bite of Ben and Jerry’s, I became hooked, instantly. Obsessed isn’t really an appropriate word to throw around. I feel like that doesn’t adequately describe my feelings for this icy cold dessert, so I won’t call it an obsession. I change my mind. Instead, let’s refer to this newfound love affair of mine as an admiration. I think that sounds better, don’t you? I still remember that first flavor I tried, Cinnamon roll. I picked it out of the crowd because cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite desserts, so I thought to myself, “Why not try a cinnamon roll flavored ice cream, Jonathan?! That sounds like the greatest thing ever invented.” So I picked it up and never looked back. After eating the entire tub in less than five minutes, I remember thinking I found my new favorite ice cream flavor, and nothing could change my mind. Nothing. As far as I was concerned, I’d only ever have eyes for that cinnamon swirl and no other ice cream could make me think otherwise. Then one day I needed to get my fix so I took a trip to the grocery store and the most horrible thing happened. All of the cinnamon roll Ben and Jerry’s was gone. GONE. Nowhere to be found. I almost cried. Okay, I cried. After I gathered myself together, I picked up chunky monkey instead (thinking ugh, what a subpar choice) and I instantly forgot about the other one. What was it again? I can’t even name it anymore. It isn’t worth it. Chunky monkey is life.

Confession time: This is actually the first time in my life that I’ve ever made sticky buns before. I know I know, I’m over here going on and on about sticky buns as if I’m some sort of sticky bun expert or something. Is it possible to become an expert after only making something once? Yeah I think so. Maybe I’m just saying this because I wan’t to be referred to as an expert of some sort. It’s been a life goal of mine and I think with this post I’ve earned it. (Humble brag). I’ve been wanting to attempt a sticky bun recipe for a very long time now, but something kept me from it. I think it’s the whole making of the caramel and inverting of the buns that really scared me. I still get nightmares every now and then. Plus I kept reading all these scary reviews online of people and their horror stories involving dry buns. That’s tragic. I remember thinking, how can sticky buns be dry? I didn’t have the strength or the courage to overcome that fear so I just kept putting it off. Until the other day when I was trying to figure out what to make and photograph for my post, to share with you guys. I started brainstorming all sorts of different ideas and this one crazy idea just wouldn’t go away. All of a sudden I was envisioning some sort of chunky monkey dessert. Mainly because I was really craving a pint of chunky monkey, but also because I love the flavor profiles, which deserve to be showed off all day every day.

Too many sticks of butter, a couple pints of heavy cream and a lot of brown sugar later, I came upon the ultimate sticky bun recipe and still wasn’t sure if it would go over well. I shared a few photos on instagram and it’s almost like you guys read my mind because you reassured me that everything was going to be alright. Y’all went nuts over a vision I got in passing and it made me realize that I should really listen to my instincts more often. It’s like my mamma always says, “You should always go with your first choice.” And so from now on that’s what I’m going to do, although sometimes my first instinct is to deep fry everything and somehow that doesn’t seem right…or healthy. So maybe I’ll practice this new rule in moderation. One thing that I won’t censor and moderate are these Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls because I’m now convinced that this would be my last meal on earth. An entire pan right out of the oven because there’s nothing better than this in the entire world. Nothing. 

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Lemon, Poppy Seed and Blueberry Streusel Pound Cake

Okay, so the honest truth is that I had to make this cake a total of four times. Yes, you read that right. Four times before I got it right. I was ready to scream, pull out my hair, denounce pound cakes for life and give up on everything because a little ol’ pound cake was defeating me. This is why I never make pound cake by the way, because I feel like they’re always so difficult, for some unknown reason. It’s not like they require a lot of ingredients or attention for that matter. In theory, they’re kind of simple to make. Yet it’s my baking kryptonite. For those of you that think I never mess up in the kitchen, think again. Even I, with all of the baking experience I have, still make mistakes from time to time. It’s totally normal. In fact I’d be worried if I didn’t mess up because those little hiccups humble me and make me a better cook/baker. So don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t always come out right the first time. Just keep trying.  

The very first attempt of this cake, I forgot to toss the blueberries in flour so they all sank to the bottom of the loaf pan, causing a not-so-pretty wet mess at the bottom, forcing me to lose half of the cake to moisture. No good. I clapped my forehead and called myself a dummy for forgetting such a crucial step. Sure I was disappointed, but I started all over again without thinking twice about it. So off Julian went to the grocery store for me and got more blueberries and cream cheese and almonds so that I could go in for round two. I made the cake again, this time a bit faster since I didn’t have to photograph it step by step. I was thankful for that. The second time was also a failure. When I removed my precious pound cake from the oven, the center had completely caved in. I started laughing (masking the irritation) because I haven’t had a cake cave on me in many years since I started baking. I don’t know what happened, maybe I opened the door too soon or maybe there was a movement or loud bang by the oven at some point and it scared my cake into ruin? Who knows. Anyhow, I was ready to give up at this point but Julian (and my mother, through various frustrated phone calls all made by me to her) kept telling me to try again. Believe me I didn’t want to. So there I went off again to the grocery store to buy yet another box of blueberries and cream cheese and almonds and butter this time around and I got home and did it once again. Mind you it’s like 11:30 at night at this point and I’ve made this cake for a total of three times now. 

This time around I felt really confident. I told myself this was it, this time it would work. So I made it all again (with my eyes closed practically), poured the batter into the pan, topped it with the streusel and popped it into the oven. I even kiss the pan and said a little prayer before closing the oven door. I crossed my fingers and continued with some other work. I made sure to not make any sudden movements by the oven door, tip-toeing when I needed to, nor did I open it prematurely. This time around, I waited until the time was up. I open the oven door and all I saw was horror. Complete and utter horror. Low and behold, it was the biggest disaster of my entire career. Not only did the cake batter bubble over out of the pan and onto the baking sheet, but it also caved in (big time) and the blueberries sank once again. The trifecta of cake mishaps. I threw the cake away, with the pan, slammed everything shut and went to bed. I lost hope. I started looking at other jobs, getting ready to stop blogging and photographing and baking and cooking altogether—I exaggerate for the effect. Before bed Julian (and through one last phone call with my mother) convince me to not give up and just try again. Take it slower and do it carefully, they said.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I already shared some photos of the process and got you all excited about this cake on instagram, I would’ve just scratched the entire idea and done something else. I realized though, that I couldn’t just leave you guys hanging. I promised you a blueberry pound cake and by George I was going to deliver one. So I woke up super early the next morning, took one last trip to the grocery store for some more blueberries—which I single handedly have kept the blueberry growers rich—and more cream cheese and almonds and a lemon. I get home and start for the fourth time. Although this time around I changed the recipe a bit by removing an egg, adding more butter, losing the baking powder and baking soda and calling it good, making sure to toss those blueberries in flour. I poured it into the pan, topped it with streusel and put it in the oven without much hope. One hour and a half later I had the most perfect pound cake I have ever made/seen. I let it cool (in a kitchen cabinet above the sink because Napoleon has gotten into the bad habit of trying to eat anything in sight) and did the biggest celebratory dance ever known to mankind. That is the story of my adventure of making four pound cakes in less than 24 hours. I have to say though, it all paid off. This cake is pretty epic. 

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The Classics: Apple Pie

It’s not autumn, so why am I posting an apple pie recipe in the middle of February you ask? This is more of a cozy comfort fall recipe, I know, but apples are always in season here in California. Sadly there isn’t a plethora of apple orchards to go apple picking on the weekends during a specific time of year. So that being said, I was craving a slice of apple pie the other day and the only logical option I had was to make one myself. So here we find ourselves with another installment of my new favorite series on the blog, The Classics! It’s been a while since one of these posts/recipes have made an appearance on the site so just in case you’ve forgotten, I’ll refresh your memory. The first round was The Classics: Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The crunchiest and juiciest and easiest and most flavorist (not a word but I needed it to sound like the other words) chicken you’ll ever make and eat. Then The Classics: Bacon Cheeseburger graced us with it’s presence and we all sort of died a little because it was a monster of a burger. And then because two savories could only be followed by an incredible sweet, The Classics: Cinnamon Rolls debuted and taught us that large cinnamon rolls the size of your face is the only way to go.  

The Classics: Apple Pie was the only logical fourth installment because I’m always looking for any excuse to make pie so that I can then go ahead and eat the entire thing by myself and not feel bad because it’s all in the name of work. I’m also always on the look out for recipes that are socially acceptable to be eaten with a giant scoop or two of ice cream. If apple pie isn’t the ultimate vehicle for large scoops of vanilla ice cream, then I don’t know what is. Thank you mamma for teaching me life’s most important lessons. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard here and there from a few sources—and by a few sources I mean I’ve been the one spreading the rumors—that pie is a breakfast food so serving yourself a slice of apple pie first thing in the morning with a large cup of coffee is totally okay in everyone’s book. There are apples in the middle, lots of apples, so it’s healthy. Don’t let anyone tell you different. 

Just in case you don’t know the whole story about The Classics series, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. These posts are quick shortened posts that focus on the simplicity of these classic dishes we’re all familiar with. Recipes we’ve grown up with and have come to love. The posts aren’t filled with tons of photos like they normally are and the recipes aren’t overly complicated with hard to find ingredients. They’re just simple and straight forward and what’s more, they’re fun to make because you don’t have to worry about hard to follow directions. Sure there are a millions recipes out there for apple pie etc., but there aren’t a million of my version of the classic and perhaps it’ll become your go to recipe as well! Sold? Well then go head and get to baking! Don’t forget to snap a few pictures during the process and share them with all of us on Instagram! Tag the photos with #TCAclassics so that we can easily find them. I’ll even share them around in the newsletter! More importantly though, you’ll have a giant apple pie all to yourself once you’re done and that’s motivation enough if you ask me. 

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Chocolate Strawberry Filled Cupcakes

When I was a little boy I was crazy about those chocolate Hostess cupcakes. The ones with the white swirl on top. Do you remember those? I’m sure you do, they’re pretty popular, or at least they were back in the early nineties when I was growing up. Well anyhow, I couldn’t get enough of them. My sister on the other hand hated them. She wasn’t (and still isn’t to this day) the biggest fan of chocolate. She was all about the twinkies, though, which I could never get down with. They weren’t my cup of tea. I secretly loved that she had her own strange tastes and that she didn’t like chocolate cupcakes because it just meant there was more for me. Those classic white swirled cupcakes have always inspired me and for the longest time I’ve wanted to make my own version of them on the site, but I never got around to it, until now. What better time to do it than on Valentine’s Day when chocolate desserts are sort of a must. 

I actually saw a photo of cupcakes with handwritten “I love you’s” on the internet, and I knew I needed to take the idea and run with it for Valentine’s Day. It just felt so right. Copying is a form of flattery after all, right? Thanks Martha Stewart for the smart idea. You’re always one step ahead of everyone else. So the design has been done, but the cupcakes? The cupcakes are all me. Rich chocolate cupcakes filled with my all-time favorite frosting, strawberry cheesecake, and then because there just wasn’t enough chocolate already, I went ahead and dipped them in a dark chocolate ganache. Melted white chocolate finishes them off. They taste like chocolate dipped strawberries and they’re the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day! 

There was a point a few years ago when cupcakes were the biggest thing on Earth and everyone who is anyone was sharing their recipes. Clearly I’m behind on the times. They might be a little taboo these days but I’m totally bringing them back. They’re a necessity on certain holidays and I’m sure no one will complain about these. So let’s forget about what we should or shouldn’t be cooking and baking. What’s in or what’s out and let’s definitely not pay attention to what people are saying because that’s not important. All that matters is that we’re happy and content in what we’re doing in life. So let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with those we love, family members, friends, significant others, and pets and stuff our faces with all of the chocolate and all of the cupcakes. 

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