Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

Sunflower Birthday Cake (Yellow Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting & Oreo Filling)

My baby celebrated her 13th birthday last week. I officially have two teenagers in my house!

She requested a yellow-themed celebration. Yellow is indeed her favorite color, but I think that it was also an excuse to have vanilla Oreos and goldfish crackers around to nibble on. 😉 Our decor included yellow mums, yellow balloons, yellow streamers, yellow tablecloths and place settings, and “yellowish” birthday cake popcorn. We also had a yellow cake with yellow (sunflower-themed) cream cheese frosting and pale yellow number cookies, our family birthday tradition. It was a solid theme!

The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake. There was enough frosting for the layer cake and 12 cupcakes- perfect.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake, generously frosted

For the Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 cups) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
  • vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
  5. With the mixture still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added.
  6. Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, about 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  9. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. (about 1 lb plus 2.5 oz per pan) Spread to the sides of the pans and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
  11. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 27 minutes. The cakes will mound slightly but will level when cooled.
  12. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  13. Run a knife around the pan perimeter to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate and reinvert onto another wire rack. Repeat for the other layer. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling & Sunflower Design:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor, plus more for the center of the cake sunflower
  • yellow and green gel food coloring
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup icing for the green leaves, set aside.
  6. Tint the remaining icing pale yellow with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Remove 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
  8. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  9. Place the second layer on top.
  10. Cover cake with a crumb coat and chill briefly, if necessary before continuing.
  11. Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the pale yellow icing.
  12. Tint the remaining icing deeper “sunflower yellow.” Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip.
  13. Tint the leaf icing deep green. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip and pipe onto 3 areas of the outside of the cake, or as desired.
  14. Then, starting at the outer edge of the cake, begin piping the dark yellow flower petals. Work in circles moving toward the center of the cake.
  15. When about 3 rows are complete, place a dollop of the dark yellow icing in the center and form the center of the flower with mini-Oreos. (It seemed easier to start by placing the first Oreo in the center.)
  16. Fill the gap between the last piped row of petals and the center by piping an additional row of petals.
  17. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

BTW- If you thought that was enough… we had another celebration that required another dessert- this time yellow cupcakes with yellow (also sunflower) frosting. We do love our celebrations and yellow cake over here!

Yellow Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. It’s just fun to dress up… and candy is involved. 🙂

She had two friends over for a Halloween themed “dinner party” a couple of weeks ago. I made these moist and delicious cupcakes for dessert. I was very pleased when she announced that they were the best cupcakes she’s ever had! ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It is part of a list named BA’s Best, a collection of essential recipes. I halved the cupcake recipe and doubled the frosting ratio.

We decorated them with candy eyes and sprinkles to make them festive for the occasion. They decorated caramel apples in the same fashion. Fun and tasty.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 T cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2 T pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla extract
  1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection. (If doubling the recipe, arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.)
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk, and oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
  5. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
  6. Add egg mixture to flour mixture in 2 additions, beating well between additions.
  7. Continue to beat on medium speed until mixture is homogenous and very thick, about 2 minutes.
  8. Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling two-thirds full (a level ⅓ cup batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake 5 minutes in the preheated 400° oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  10. Continue baking, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes have domed and spring back when touched in the center, 14 (on convection for 12 cupcakes) or up to 20-25 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Note: If doubling the cupcake recipe, use 7 egg yolks plus 1 large egg.

Do Ahead: Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature (unfrosted) or in the refrigerator (frosted).

For the Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Pipe the frosting on cupcakes.
Note: The frosting recipe can be halved if it’s going to be spread instead of piped onto the cupcakes.

Rainbow Sugar Cookies

I made these colorful sugar cookies to bring to my friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party. She is always very festive and embraces every holiday with wonderful decorations and fun crafts.

Her 12-year old daughter even made this Leprechaun appetizer for the celebration. Amazing! 🙂

These cookies were originally called “End of the Rainbow” cookies in Martha Stewart Living. They had little candy “pots of gold” attached with icing. I preferred them plain! I added the colored sanding sugar on the outside of the cookie dough log instead. I also used a tried and true sugar cookie dough, from our birthday Number Cookies, but used the technique from the magazine to color and form the dough into rainbows.

I pre-cut the dough into semi-circles prior to baking but had to trim the bottom after baking to create a straight edge. Next time, I would bake them in full circles and cut them in half immediately after removing them from the oven instead. We did get to sample the cookies by eating all of the trimmed edges! 😉

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (10.6 oz)
  • gel food coloring (I used blue, yellow, and pink)
  • 1 large egg, yolk and white separated
  • colored sanding sugar (I used yellow)
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined.
  3. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.
  4. Divide dough in half, about 1 pound each.
  5. Divide one half into 2 pieces, about 3/4 cup each. (I used a kitchen scale to divide it evenly.) Flatten one piece into a 3-by-5-inch rectangle; wrap tightly with plastic. Roll out other piece into an 8-inch rod shape, about 1 inch thick; wrap tightly with plastic.
  6. Divide remaining half of dough into 3 pieces, about 1/2 cup or about 5.8-6oz each. Tint each with one of the gel colors, as desired, stirring color in with a knife or spatula.
  7. Flatten each tinted piece into a 3-by-5-inch rectangle; wrap each tightly with plastic.
  8. Refrigerate all dough until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days (or freeze up to 1 month).
  9. In a small bowl, whisk egg white with a fork.
  10. Between sheets of plastic wrap, or on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the blue dough into a 4 or 5-by-8-inch rectangle, a scant 1/4 inch thick.
  11. While still enveloped in the plastic wrap, make sure that the edges meet after wrapping the log in the tinted dough; adjust if necessary.
  12. Unwrap and brush the top with egg white. Place dough rod on long edge of rolled-out dough, then roll rod inside it; seal at edges where dough meets by pinching and pressing gently. Freeze 10 minutes.
  13. Repeat with remaining dough, rolling yellow dough out to 5 or 6-by-8 inches, pink dough to 6 by 8 inches (1/8 inch thick), and un-tinted dough to 7 or 8-by-8 inches.
  14. Roll log in plastic wrap; twist ends closed. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.
  15. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  16. Let log soften at room temperature about 10 minutes; remove plastic wrap.
  17. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk with a fork. Coat the outside of the log with the egg yolk and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
  18. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice 1/4 inch thick, rotating log slightly after every slice to maintain even circles.
  19. Place slices on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until firm and just golden around edges, about 9 to 12 minutes.
  20. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, cut each cookie in half with a sharp knife to form two rainbows.
  21. Let cool on sheet 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

“Line Friends” Red Velvet Birthday Cake

My daughter absolutely loves the “Line Friends” store in Times Square. The store features adorable plush versions of the characters from a Japanese and Korean messaging app called Line. Most center around a bear named “Brown.” As a pig enthusiast, my daughter owns two “Piggy Brown” plush in her personal collection. She requested a red velvet version of “Piggy Brown” to celebrate her 12th birthday! She also requested an Oreo-cream cheese frosting filling. The results were super cute and delicious.

Both of my kids have winter birthdays. Because my son decided to celebrate his with a gold standard household favorite, a Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, I am combining their “birthday posts” by sharing their number cookie photos at the same time. For those of you who don’t know, my kids always have birthday sugar cookies to celebrate their age. 🙂 This year, my son celebrated his 14th birthday and my daughter celebrated her 12th. ❤

I thought that it was the perfect time to share this cake because a red velvet layer cake would also be a fabulous Valentine’s Day dessert. ❤ The cake recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living, the cream cheese frosting adapted from various sources. I used a single vanilla cupcake for the pig snout and bear nose, recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The pig ears were made with reserved number cookie dough.

To Make the Red Velvet Layers:

  • unsalted butter, for cake pans
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp red gel food coloring plus 3 1/2 T water OR 1/4 cup red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper; butter the paper. Sprinkle with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk cake flour, salt, and sifted cocoa; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and oil, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  7. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  8. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar until combined. Add to batter, and beat for 10 seconds.
  9. Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans. (I use a kitchen scale to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed.)
  10. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack to cool completely before frosting/decorating.

For the Vanilla Cupcake Pig Snout & Bear Nose:

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 T milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat 2 wells of a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with 2 liners.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and sugar until combined.
  4. Stir in the vanilla, melted butter, and milk.
  5. Add flour and baking powder and mix everything together well.
  6. Divide the batter between two muffin pan wells and bake for 10-14 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely before frosting/decorating as desired.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting and to Decorate the Cake:

Yield: enough to generously frost one 9-inch layer cake (plus 1 cupcake)

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 Oreos, crushed in a food processor
  • pink gel food coloring
  • cocoa
  • brown m&m’s and pink tic tac’s for eyes and noses
  • 1-2 T semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Remove and place in separate bowls: 3/4 to 1 cup of icing for the bear face, 2-3 T icing for the top of the pig snout, 2-3 T icing for the bear nose, and 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling.
  6. Tint the remaining icing light pink with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  8. Place the second layer on top.
  9. Insert the cookie pig ears in between the cake layers until securely in place.
  10. Tint the 3/4 to 1 cup of reserved bear face icing with 1 T sifted cocoa, or until desired color is achieved.
  11. Tint the reserved 2-3 T of bear nose icing with pinches of sifted cocoa until desired color is achieved.
  12. Tint the reserved 2-3 T of pig snout icing with pink food coloring until desired color is achieved.
  13. Make a paper or parchment template to outline the edge of the bear face on top of the cake. Place on top of the second cake layer.
  14. Spread and swirl the light pink frosting around the sides and top of the cake, outside of the bear face template.
  15. Spread and swirl the reserved chocolate-brown frosting circle to form the bear face.
  16. Remove the domed top of the vanilla cupcake and trim to form the bear nose. Coat with reserved light brown icing and place on the bear face.
  17. Invert the cupcake bottom and coat the sides with light pink icing. Spread dark pink icing over the top. Place the snout in place on top of the cake.
  18. Use the m&m’s and tic tacs to form the noses and eyes.
  19. Place melted chocolate chips in a small ziplock bag. (I melted the chocolate in the microwave.) Cut the corner of the bag and pipe the bear’s mouth onto the cake.
  20. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours. (I stored it overnight.) Bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m bringing my red velvet Piggy Brown to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #262, co-hosted by Angie and Jhuls @The Not so Creative Cook. Enjoy! 🙂

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I was featured

11th Birthday Rainbow Sprinkle “Fluffy” the Unicorn Cake

We try to be as fair as possible in our house…

So, while I’m sharing birthday treats, I am going to have to share my daughter’s 11th birthday cake too. Her birthday was in November! (I’m very behind on my posts…)

The bright side of having my daughter turn 11-years old was that she was mature enough to choose going to a Broadway show over having a birthday party. 🙂 We saw Aladdin!

The down side of having my daughter turn 11-years old was that she was mature enough to browse Pinterest for birthday cake ideas. 😉

Her Pinterest search resulted in another Universal Studios inspired birthday dessert. (We actually celebrated her birthday before having my son’s Harry Potter World Butterbeer Cupcakes, so maybe she actually inspired his dessert choice!) It was a very unicorn-themed day, complete with unicorn pajamas, unicorn slippers, and many horn “accessories” for other animals. 🙂

I used the Rainbow Sprinkle Cake recipe that we enjoyed last year on her birthday to create a “Fluffy” the Unicorn cake. It just makes sense that a unicorn cake involve rainbows in some way. For those of you who don’t know, this unicorn is from the Despicable Me and Minions movies. I doubled the recipe to make 2 1-pound loaves of cake for the head and body. I also made 4 cupcakes for the legs using the same batter.

The eyes, ears, and tongue were made using dough from my batch of unicorn and “11” Number Cookies. The horn was made with molded rice krispie treats. I also used rice krispie treats to support the position of the head. Rainbow candy was used for the mane and tail- this was a subtle but fun deviation from the actual unicorn from the movies. Pretty cute! 🙂

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup/220 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), slightly softened, more for pans
  • 3 cups/380 grams all-purpose flour, more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/3 cups/316 ml whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups/400 grams sugar
  • 2 whole eggs plus 4 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup rainbow sprinkles (not pastel, or naturally colored)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 24 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 1 1/2 cups/330 grams unsalted butter (3 sticks), slightly softened
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 9 cups/900 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted, more to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Decorations:

  • sugar cookie eyes, ears, and tongue
  • rice krispie treats (store-bought or homemade)
  • gold sprinkles
  • “air head” rainbow candy
  • red gel food coloring
  • chocolate chips

  1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection, and place a rack in the center.
  2. Butter and line the bottoms of two 1-pound loaf pans with parchment paper. Butter the parchment. Flour the pans, coating the bottom and sides, then tap out any excess flour. Coat 4 muffin pan wells with cooking oil spray.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together milk and vanilla.
  5. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add egg and whites and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.
  7. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating to blend after each addition.
  8. Scrape down bowl and blend once more.
  9. Remove bowl and use a spatula or spoon to fold in sprinkles by hand.
  10. Fill the 4 prepared muffin pan wells about 2/3 full. Bake until the a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 16 minutes.
  11. Divide remaining batter evenly between the pans (approximately 1190 g per pan), and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
  12. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 2 to 4 hours, before turning out.
  13. Make the frosting: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter and salt together at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  14. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add sugar and beat until smooth.
  15. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated.
  16. Taste frosting; you should be able to taste the cream cheese and a little bit of saltiness, as well as the sweetness. If desired, add more salt or sugar. Keep refrigerated.
  17. Turn cooled cakes out of pans.
  18. Slice loaves in half and spread icing between the layers.
  19. Place cakes on a platter positioned as a head and body. (I made a support ramp with rice krispie treats.)
  20. Using an offset spatula, frost the top surface as a crumb coat.
  21. Form the horn with one rice krispie treat, ice and cover with gold sprinkles. (I microwaved the rice krispie treat for 10 seconds to make it easier to mold. I also coated my hands with cooking spray!)
  22. Refrigerate until firm.
  23. Using a pastry bag and a star tip, place remaining frosting all over the cake.
  24. Color remaining frosting pink and ice the cupcake legs/feet. Top the cupcakes with sugar cookie and place on the cake.
  25. Decorate with cookie eyes, ears, and tongue.
  26. Pipe the pink decorative stripe on the snout.
  27. Using melted chocolate, pipe the nostrils.
  28. Using a star pastry tip, fill in the “fluffy” fur with the frosting over the head and body.
  29. Use either remaining pink frosting or rainbow candy, form the mane and tail.
  30. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes or longer to set. Serve cool.

One Year Ago: Rainbow Sprinkle Cake & a Festive “Candy Shop” Themed Birthday Party

Two Years Ago: Pig Party!

Three Years Ago: Birthday Red Velvet “Owl” Cupcakes

Four Years Ago: The Best Birthday Cupcakes  &  Apple Layer Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

Five Years Ago: Birthday Cake Gallery

Butterbeer Cupcakes

My son was blessed with a snow day on his 13th birthday! We were able to load him up with his favorite meals all day long. 🙂

After having Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins for breakfast, some sort of meaty concoction involving kielbasa, sliced sourdough baguette, melted cheese and garlic powder prepared by my husband for lunch, and his ultimate favorite, Thai One-Pot, for dinner, we topped off the day with these Butterbeer Cupcakes. ❤

He is such a Harry Potter fan; he has read the series over fourteen times, now losing count. After visiting both Harry Potter Worlds at Universal Studios in Orlando, he is a HUGE butter beer fan as well. (We tried every version available. 🙂 )

This recipe is from PastryAffair.com, adapted from Amy Bites. I added cream to the frosting and halved the ganache recipe. I halved the recipe below with success; I weighed one beaten egg to use “half” of an egg.

I can’t believe that I have a teenager in my house! So sad to make “13” Number Cookies

Yield: 18 cupcakes

For the Butterbeer Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • generous pinch of coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cream soda (I used Dr. Brown’s)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract and butter flavoring.
  6. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour mixture, cream soda, and then the remaining flour. Mix just until incorporated. Do not over mix!
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15 minutes one tin at a time, or 16 minutes for 2 trays (rotating halfway through baking), or until the cupcakes are golden and spring back when touched.
  8. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Butterscotch Ganache:

  • 5.5 ounces (1/2 package) butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the butterscotch chips into the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

For the Butterscotch Buttercream:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T heavy cream (as needed)
  1. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt.
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2 to 3 minutes, until incorporated.
  4. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved (I used 4 tablespoons).
  5. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

To Assemble:

  1. Pour butterscotch ganache into a plastic squeeze bottle. Stab the tip of the bottle into each cupcake, completely immersing the tip, and fill with butterscotch ganache until it starts to overflow.
  2. Fill a pastry bag with butterscotch buttercream and pipe onto the top of each cupcake.
  3. Drizzle on the butterscotch ganache, as desired.

Notes:

  • If you have any leftover butterscotch ganache, it can be used as ice cream topping.
  • Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m sharing my birthday treats at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #207 this week, co-hosted by my friends Judi @Cooking with Aunt Juju and Lily @Little Sweet Baker. I also brought these cupcakes to What’s for Dinner Sunday! Enjoy! 🙂

One Year Ago: Crème Brûlée

Two Years Ago: Eleventh Birthday Longboard Cake!

Three Years Ago: Black Hole Birthday Cake

Four Years Ago: Minecraft Enderman Cake

Five Years Ago: Birthday Cake Gallery

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