Author: JSterbenz

Blueberry Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

It has been quite a long time since I posted. My last post was black forest cake in November. Mostly, I’ve been running around because of the holidays and trying to navigate myself through the quarter-life crisis that all 20-somethings seem to go through nowadays. […]

Strawberry Christmas Tree Tartlets

Strawberry Christmas Tree Tartlets

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! A few days ago, little strawberry Christmas tree tartlets were on the front page of Reddit. Unfortunately, they were made by a chef so there was no recipe. But they were so cute! So, I decided I […]

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake

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DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs!

It finally snowed a bit last week here, so I used it as justification to make my first holiday cookies and a black forest cake. As a fan of cherries and as a strong anti-fan of buttercream, black forest cake is one of my favorite combos. In other words, lots of cherries, no buttercream. The only downside is that you have to be gentle with the batter or it has a tendency to collapse. But, oh well, high risk-high reward right? Right. It also gave me a chance to try out piping some chocolate decorations. I’ve tried to do this in the past with, well, let’s just say varying degrees of success, but I finally got it right this time. It was mostly thanks to the fact that I learned how to properly melt chocolate instead of desperately trying to get it to melt without chunks.

black forest cake

About a year ago, I made a much bigger black forest cake, but I decided to go with a smaller 6″ cake this time. This was mostly because it makes things go faster. Alas, I still managed to mess up big time. I was pretty distracted while making the cake, as I was in the process of introducing my friend to Westworld, and made the mistake of forgetting to turn off the mixer before answering a question while it was whipping up cream. I have no idea what happened, but next thing I know, my friend asked me, very concernedly, what was going on in the kitchen, and I looked over to see a majest arch of heavy whipping cream covering everything in my kitchen in sweet dariy. Pascal could not have imagined a better turn of events. So, note of advice: do not leave your mixer running while full of liquids.

black forest cake

Making chocolate decorations can be a bit tricky. But it basically comes down to being patient. The chocolate should always be melted in a double boiler or in a microwave. This is to prevent any burning of chocolate. I prefer a double boiler, but a microwave goes much faster. Then, and this is the part I didn’t know before, you shouldn’t stir or touch the chocolate until it’s completely melted! Apparently that prevents little chunks of chocolate which kept getting stuck in my piping tips in the past and led to most of my disasters. Anyway, I ended up leaving the chocolate on the double boiler for a good 30 minutes; nothing burned and my chocolate was wonderfully smooth. You can then scoop it into a piping bag, cut a tiny hole at the bottom, and pipe any shape you want on parchment paper. Let it cool & harden, lift it with an offset spatula, and then decorate as you please.

A couple notes:

  • Make sure the cake layers are completely cooled before applying the whipped cream frosting. Whipped cream is generally pretty unstable and it will melt if the cake layers are still warm.
  • The cherry filling can be made well in advance and stored in your refrigerator.
  • If you want a 9″ cake instead of 6″, just multiply the recipe by 2.

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4.89 from 9 votes
black forest cake
Black Forest Cake


Ingredients
Chocolate Cake Layers
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cherry Filling
  • 12 oz frozen cherries
  • 1/4 cup kirsch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water for corn starch
Kirsch Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup kirsch (reserved from making cherry filling)
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 8 tsp cold water
Instructions
Bake the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease 2 6" round cake pans.

  2. Whip together eggs and sugar at high speed until very fluffy and medium peaks form (about 8 minutes). Do not use a mixer for the rest of the recipe.

  3. Sift in cocoa powder and fold into the egg mixture gently until fully incorporated. 

  4. Sift in the flour and fold into the egg mixture gently until fully incoporated.

  5. Fold in vanilla.

  6. Pour the melted butter in in a slow stream while folding into the batter. 

  7. Split the batter between the two cake pans and bake immediately for ~25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make the Cherry Filling
  1. Soak the cherries in 1/4 cup of kirsch for at least 30min.

  2. Drain the kirsch and set aside to use for the simple syrup.

  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, and 2 tbsp water.

  4. Bring to a boil.

  5. Dissolve the corn starch in the remaining 2 tbsp of water.

  6. Once the cherry mixture is at a boil, stirl in the corn starch, and turn the heat down to medium.

  7. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the filling has thickened. It takes about 12 minutes and remove from heat to cool.

Make the Kirsch Simple Syrup
  1. In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.

  2. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes then remove from heat.

  3. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cherry juice + kirsch mixture you reserved from the first step in making the cherry filling.

Make the Whipped Cream Frosting
  1. Bloom the unflavored gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes, then melt in the microwave. (approx. 10 seconds). Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whip together whipped cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

  3. Continue whipping while adding in melted gelatin in in a slow stream.

  4. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Keep cool.

Assemble the Cake
  1. Level off each cake layer and torte each in half.

  2. Take the bottom layer, and, using a pastry brush, coat it with the simple syrup.

  3. Add a layer of whipped cream.

  4. Add a layer of cherry filling.

  5. Fill in the gaps with whipped cream.

  6. Repeat for the next 3 layers.

  7. Finish the cake however you like with frosting, leftover filling, cherries, and chocolate.

 

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! It’s Fall which means that Starbucks is pushing their pumpkin spice latte (and all the other drinks they started added each year when they realized that girls on instagram was a great advertising opportunity.) Not gonna lie, […]

Mini Vegan Pumpkin Pies

Mini Vegan Pumpkin Pies

The same day I made the vegan caramel apple cheesecake bars, I also helped my friend make mini vegan pumpkin pies. I actually made 3 things that night. I felt like I had superpowers. Until the next morning when my kitchen was a disaster. Especially […]

Chocolate & Peanut Butter, Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes

Chocolate & Peanut Butter, Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes

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DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs!

I made these last week, but admittedly I was way way more excited about my Halloween bloody brain cupcakes so I fell behind posting these cheesecake filled cupcakes. These were for two coworkers’ birthdays. I swear, all my coworkers have birthdays in October, I made this cake that mashed together 2 Mediterranean desserts for another coworker a couple weeks ago as well. Anyway, of the two coworkers that had birthdays last week, I knew one of them really likes Reese’s cups, peanut butter in general, and cheesecake. I was inspired by the design of Reese’s candies and wondered if I could put peanut butter cheesecake inside chocolate cupcakes. I was wary about actually baking the cheesecake into the cupcakes — cheesecake takes so long to bake that I was worried that if I double-baked cupcakes for that long they’d get gross. But, I thought that filling cupcakes with no-bake peanut butter cheesecake and then letting them set would lead to awesome cheesecake filled cupcakes. It worked wonderfully!

cheesecake filled cupcakes

I started with plain chocolate cupcakes, and cored the center using a small knife. Then I spooned in the cheesecake mixture, and topped with a swirl of peanut butter and chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. Most no-bake cheesecake calls for Cool Whip. I really didn’t want to buy Cool Whip when I had too much heavy whipping cream at home, so I used stabilized whipped cream instead. Basically, stabilized whipped cream with unflavored gelatin mixed in so it doesn’t collapse as easily — especially when it’s folded into the cheesecake mixture.

open cheesecake stuffed cupcake

To make a swirled frosting that’s half and half peanut butter and chocolate, fill half the piping bag with one color, and the other half with the other color. When it gets piped out, both colors will come out of the tip at the same time. As a side note, I just realized I can probably make candy cane striped frosting by layering it in the bag. Maybe I’ll play around with it for the holidays! Anyway, these cupcakes are generally really quick and easy. The longest part of the process is letting it cool so that the cheesecake is set. Since I made them the night before I was bringing them into work, I just kept them in the refrigerator overnight.

cheesecake filled cupcakes

A couple notes:

  • I used an open star tip to pipe the frosting.
  • To pipe the 2-toned frosting, fill 1/2 of a piping bag with peanut butter frosting, and the other 1/2 with chocolate frosting. (Split vertically, not horizontally)
  • How to fill the cupcakes:

how to fill a cupcake

 

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5 from 7 votes
cheesecake filled cupcakes
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes filled with peanut butter cheesecakes topped with a swirl of peanut butter and chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream

Servings: 12 cupcakes
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake
  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tsp cold water
Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 2.5 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2.5 tbsp peanut butter
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 2.5 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.75 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
Instructions
Bake the Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together melted butter and sugars.

  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

  4. Add baking soda, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.

  5. Mix in cocoa powder.

  6. Add in buttermilk.

  7. Mix in flour.

  8. Pour batter into cupcake liners. They should be filled about halfway.

  9. Bake for 30-40min or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make the No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake
  1. Bloom the gelatin in 2tsp of cold water for 5 minutes.

  2. Melt the gelatin, and beat the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks.

  3. Pour the gelatin into the whipped cream while continuing to whip on high speed.

  4. Whip just until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

  5. In a separate bowl, beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar.

  6. Add in vanilla extract and peanut butter. Mix until smooth.

  7. Carefully fold in whipped cream until fully incoporated.

Fill the Cupcakes
  1. Using a small knife, core the cupcakes.

  2. Cut the tops of the cores, and set aside.

  3. Spoon cheesecake into the cupcakes.

  4. Press top back on.

Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercreams
  1. Using a double boiler, whip together all 5 egg whites and 1 cup of sugar until it reaches 140°F and forms stiff peaks.

  2. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

  3. Mix in 2tsp of vanilla extract.

  4. Separate the meringue into 2 bowls, 1/2 of the mixture in each.

  5. In one, add in peanut butter and 1 stick of softened butter and beat until it takes on a frosting texture.

  6. In the other, add in cocoa powder and 1.75 sticks of softened butter and beat until it takes on a frosting texture.

  7. Pipe onto cupcakes.

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Broken Glass Brain Injury Halloween Cupcakes

Broken Glass Brain Injury Halloween Cupcakes

  DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! Halloween is one of my least favorite holidays to celebrate (especially in a college town, when you’re invited to 100000 overlapping parties), but it is one of my favorite holidays to bake for. There aren’t really […]

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars (with a Vegan option)

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars (with a Vegan option)

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! The other day, my friend Soumi hit me up and asked me to help her bake some stuff for a department potluck. Only problem: she likes to bake vegan stuff. Vegan baking is definitely out of my […]

How to Make a Chocolate & Strawberry Hippo Cake

How to Make a Chocolate & Strawberry Hippo Cake

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DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs!

My roommate just had her birthday and I needed an excuse to make a new elaborate cake. She loves hippos (and cows). One of the first things I noticed when she moved in was that she had a bunch of little hippo knick-knacks that she put out. It made me feel horribly un-adult-like. She generally is much better at adulting than I am. The first weekend after we moved in, she had a friend over for dinner and spent hours cooking dinner, setting the table, etc. I, on the other hand, grabbed an empty cardboard box, turnedit upside down, and proceeded to eat ramen for dinner straight out of the pot. Anyway, Tina told me that she prefers chocolate cake, and likes strawberries with her desserts, so I thought up a hippo cake with a chocolate and strawberry theme.

beagle with hippo cake

First things first, we need to prep all the components.

(1) Chocolate Cake

5 from 8 votes
Chocolate Cake


Ingredients
  • 2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp dark cocoa powder (can be replaced with regular cocoa powder)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter (melted)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 3 9" cake pans.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted butter and granulated sugar.

  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

  4. Mix in the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract.

  5. Mix 1 cup of cocoa powder.

  6. Add in the buttermilk and mix thoroughly.

  7. Mix in the remaining 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and 1 cup of sifted flour.

  8. Mix in the hot water.

  9. Add in the rest of the sifted flour.

  10. Split the batter between the three pans and bake for about 40min or until a toothpick emerges clean.

 

(2) Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 from 8 votes
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Ingredients
  • 3-4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree
Instructions
  1. Puree strawberries in a blender.

  2. On a double boiler, whip egg whites and sugar until it reaches 140-150°F.

  3. Remove from double boiler and continue whipping until it forms stiff peaks.

  4. Mix in vanilla.

  5. Beat in butter in chunks and continue mixing until it looks like frosting. It'll take ~5min or so and may curdle in between.

  6. Beat in strawberry puree.

 

(3) Purple Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Siding

5 from 8 votes
Purple SwissMeringue Buttercream
Ingredients
  • 3-4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. On a double boiler, whip together egg whites and sugar until it reaches 140-150°F.

  2. Remove from heat and continue to whip until it forms stiff peaks.

  3. Beat in vanilla extract.

  4. Beat in butter in chunks and continue mixing until it looks like frosting for ~5min. It may curdle in between.

 

(4) Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 from 8 votes
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. On a double boiler, whip together egg whites and granulated sugar until it reaches 140-150°F.

  2. Remove from heat and continue whipping until it forms stiff peaks.

  3. Beat in vanilla extract.

  4. Beat in butter in chunks until it resembles frosting. It'll take ~5min or so and may curdle in between.

Beat in cocoa powder and powdered sugar.

 

(4) Pink, Purple, and Black Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Swirls

  • Make the remaining necessary swiss meringue buttercream. Use the same recipe as for the siding but multiply all the ingredients by 1.5.
  • Set aside 1tbsp of the frosting aside for the whites of the hippo’s eyes.
  • Split it into 3 parts. One smaller one that’s about 1/2 cup, and then the remainder split into 2.
  • Color the smaller section pink
  • Color the other 2 two different shades of purple. Lighter purple for around the snout and eyes, and more saturated purple for the rest of the hippo.
  • Take 1/4 cup of the chocolate frosting and color it black.

Layer the Cake & Frost It

  1. Layer the cake with strawberry buttercream between the layers.
  2. Frost and smooth the cake with purple buttercream.
  3. Chop fresh strawberries (about 4-5) and, using the chocolate buttercream, sculpt a snout. I drew guidelines with a toothpick first.
  4. Using the white buttercream, flatten and smooth it over the whites of the eyes. Again, I used a toothpick to draw guide lines.
  5. Cover the snout with purple rosettes.
  6. Pipe more rosettes around the rest of the face, leaving space for the eyes and mouth.
  7. Using the pink buttercream, pipe rosettes into the mouth area.
  8. Using the black buttercream, pipe on nostrils and eyes.
  9. Pipe on ears with purple buttercream, and use 2 marshmallows as teeth.
  10. The hippo cake is complete!

hippo cake steps

 A couple notes:

  1. To pipe rosettes, hold the piping back with an open star tip perpendicular to the cake. Pressing evenly, begin in the center, and then move in an outward circular fashion.
  2. Make sure the cakes are completely cool before frosting or the frosting will melt.
  3. An offset spatula, and a frosting smoother are very useful for frosting cakes.
  4. I used a smaller open star tip for the nostrils and eyes but the larger tip should work just as well.

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Apple Pie Cupcakes with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for humans not dogs! It’s officially fall which means I can officially crack out my cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, apples, and pumpkins. Time to start making butternut squash everything until I can’t stand it anymore. Anyway, I decided to go with a […]