Vanilla-Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

I have had my eye on a couple of easy sheet cake recipes. My indecisiveness led me to combine them. 😉 It was a successful combination! This cake was moist and delicious.

The simple vanilla cake is from Food 52, from their book Genius Desserts, contributed by Jami Curl. It was proposed to serve it topped with strawberry compote & butterscotch whipped cream. I included these original topping recipes below- just to keep my options open.

The frosting recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It was originally from an easy sheet cake recipe with a “reverse creaming” technique. Of course, I’ll have to try this cake as well at some point. 🙂

For the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 T plus 2 tsp (20 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (227 g) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) canola oil
  • 1 T (18 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) boiling water

For the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • sprinkles, for garnish, optional

To Make the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper. Spray with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream with a fork, mixing until smooth. Add the oil and vanilla and use the fork to mix until they’re incorporated. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and continue to stir until the dry ingredients are mostly incorporated. The batter will turn very thick.
  5. Add the boiling water and stir until the batter is smooth and uniform with no traces of unmixed ingredients remaining.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners.
  7. Bake the cake for 35 (to be safe- check even earlier) to 40 minutes, until it’s golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To Make the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Make icing while cake cools.
  2. Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add powdered sugar, sifted cocoa powder, and salt and beat again, scraping down sides of bowl, until completely smooth.
  4. Add vanilla and continue to beat until fluffy and lightened in color, another minute.
  5. Smooth icing over top of cooled cake (it should not be at all warm to the touch, or else the icing will melt).
  6. Top cake with sprinkles, if desired.
  7. Cut into pieces and serve.

Do Ahead: Cake can be baked and frosted 2 days ahead. Chill until icing is solid, then cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For the Alternate Cake Toppings:

For the Strawberry Compote & Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  • 4 cups (600 grams) frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups (800 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (480 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup (72 grams) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (12 grams) pure vanilla extract

To Make the Strawberry Compote:

  1. Combine the strawberries and vinegar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is soft and has released some juice.
  2. Add the granulated sugar 1 cup (200 grams) at a time, stirring between additions until the sugar disappears.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and bring the fruit and sugar to a boil. Boil for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the compote cool before using.

To Make the Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  1. Chill a bowl and a whisk.
  2. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the brown sugar and vanilla.
  3. Whisk the cream until stiff-ish peaks form. Take care that you don’t turn it into butter by overwhipping.(You can use a mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the cream.)
  4. Use immediately.

To Serve the Vanilla Sour-Cream Cake with Compote & Whipped Cream: **Two Options:

Option 1: Spoon the Strawberry Compote over the cake. Top the compote with the Butterscotch Whipped Cream, using the back of a spoon to give it some pretty swirls.

Option 2: Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled cake out of the pan. Cut the cake into 12 equal pieces. Spoon some Strawberry Compote over each piece. Top with a generous dollop of Butterscotch Whipped Cream.

Note: The Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake will keep, tightly covered at room temperature, for several days. Once assembled with the Strawberry Compote and Butterscotch Whipped Cream, plan to enjoy this cake the day you assemble it. That said, if you cover and refrigerate it, it will not disappoint the next day or the day after that. Especially for breakfast.

Pork Chops with Lemon-Caper Sauce

After reading the printed version, I received multiple emails from The New York Times about this dish. Sam Sifton was over the moon about this recipe and the book, Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking. He described the book as “excellent and invaluable” and noted that this was his favorite recipe in it. I had to try it.

I agreed with Sam Sifton. 🙂 Lemon-caper sauce is incredible! This wonderful dish was prepared very quickly and was packed with flavor. Tipton-Martin learned the sauce technique that elevates these smothered pork chops from restaurateur B. Smith.

I added additional flour to the sauce to make it more of a gravy. We used fresh bread to mop up all of the remaining sauce on our plates. I served the pork chops with sautéed spinach and roasted red and sweet potatoes on the side.

This recipe was adapted from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking, via The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I slightly modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 4 to 5

  • 4 bone-in pork chops (about 8 ounces each) (I used 5 boneless pork chops)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 very small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 T drained capers
  • 2 T minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest, plus 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • hot sauce, optional
  1. Dry the chops with paper towels, and season aggressively with salt, pepper and the thyme.
  2. Swirl the olive oil into a large skillet, and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer.
  3. Add chops, and cook until well browned on each side and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate, and cover to keep warm.
  4. Drain most of the fat from the skillet, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat until sizzling.
  5. Add the shallot and garlic, and sauté until the aromatics soften, reducing the heat if necessary, about 1 minute.
  6. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  7. Whisk in the wine and chicken stock, raise heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and hot sauce to taste (if you’re using it)(I omitted it), and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until it’s melted and the sauce looks smooth.
  10. Nestle the pork chops into the sauce, and allow them to warm up for a couple of minutes, then serve, pouring sauce over each pork chop to taste.
  11. Garnish with more fresh parsley.

S’mores Blondies

I first made this crowd-pleasing dessert for our last summer beach day and sunset before the start of school. I’ve already made them again! Insanely delicious.

The bars are not overly sweet and they have an amazing texture. I weighed the dry ingredients to ensure perfection. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell. I modified the method. Fabulous!!

Yield: 24 blondies
  • nonstick cooking oil spray
  • 9 whole graham crackers (about 135 grams), or store-bought graham cracker crumbs (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ¼ cups/160 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 packed cup/220 grams dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces/225 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks (I used 78% cacao Lindt)
  • 2 ½ cups/150 grams mini marshmallows
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and arrange oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Coat the inside of a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of excess parchment on the long sides of the pan. (The excess will help you pull the blondies out later.)
  3. If using whole graham crackers, add them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they form a fine powder. Alternately, you could put the crackers in a large resealable plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin, then add them to the bowl. If using store-bought crumbs, add them directly to the food processor.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the crumbs, and pulse a few times to combine.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  7. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  8. Turn the mixer to low and add the graham crumb mixture and mix just to combine.
  9. Add about ¾ of the chocolate to the mixer and mix to incorporate.
  10. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Use damp hands or a small offset spatula to press the dough into an even layer.
  11. Bake on the lower rack until the bars are golden at the edges and the surface has a crackly appearance, 25 minutes on convection or about 30 minutes in a standard oven.
  12. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate on top of the marshmallows and return the pan to the top rack of the oven.
  13. Bake until the marshmallows have softened and are lightly toasted and the chocolate is melted and gooey, 10 to 14 minutes.
  14. Remove the pan from the oven. If any of the marshmallows have puffed up, use a toothpick or skewer to puncture them; they will deflate easily.
  15. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, 45 minutes.
  16. Using a thin knife, slide the blade between the blondies and the pan on the short sides of the pan, then use the parchment sling to carefully remove the blondies.
  17. Let cool another 10 minutes, then slice into 24 even pieces and serve.

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