Mini Vanilla & Red Velvet Layer Cake

My daughter and I are obsessed with mini cakes. My mom gave me 6-inch cake pans for Christmas and we have been waiting for the perfect occasion to use them. Yay for Valentine’s Day! 🙂 ❤ I will admit that I’m not sure if a 3-layer cake is truly “mini”…. but it was really cute.

Some math is involved in order to adapt a recipe to make a mini cake. In this case, the vanilla cake recipe, originally for an 8-inch layer cake, was reduced to 57%. I made the red velvet cake, originally for 12 cupcakes, in its entirety in order to make additional cupcakes. The icing recipe makes enough to generously frost the layer cake as well as the cupcakes.

The vanilla cake recipe was adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics by Sarah Kieffer. The red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting recipes were adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

For the Vanilla Cake Layers:

Yield: Two 6-inch cakes

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 1/2 T sour cream
  • scant 2 T buttermilk
  • 162 g all-purpose flour
  • 169 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp plus generous 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp plus generous 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp plus generous 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 9 T (129 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the Red Velvet Cake Layer:

Yield: One 6-inch cake and 5 standard cupcakes (Alternatively, 57% of the recipe can be made to just make a single cake layer, if desired.)

  • 148 g (1 1/4 cups) cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (can put in a bowl of warm water to quickly change the temperature)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

To Make the Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter two 6-inch cake pans and then line them with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and then flour the pans. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  4. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined.
  5. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  6. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  7. With the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  8. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds. (The batter may still look a little bumpy.)
  9. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
  10. Divide the batter between the cake pans. Each well should be about halfway full. (I weigh them to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed. Each pan had about 360 g of batter.)
  11. Using an offset spatula, smooth the tops. Tap the pan gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles.
  12. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  13. Let cool for 30 minutes in the pan. Then, remove from pan, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely before frosting.

To Make the Red Velvet Cake Layer & Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Place 5 cupcake liners in a standard muffin pan. Butter one 6-inch cake pan and then line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and then flour the pan. Set aside.
  2. Sift together cake flour, and cocoa; add salt and whisk to combine.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined.
  4. Add the egg, beating until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  5. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  6. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each.
  7. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter; mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  8. Place 350 g to 360 g batter in the prepared cake pan, about halfway full. Divide the remaining batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about three-quarters full.
  9. Bake the cake pan, rotating halfway through, about 23 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely.
  10. Bake the cupcakes in the center of the oven for about 17 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Yield: 4 cups, enough to frost 1 6-inch cake and 5 cupcakes

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring, if desired
  • decorative sprinkles, if desired
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  2. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth. (I sifted 1 cup of sugar at a time prior to adding it to the butter-cream cheese mixture.)
  3. Tint the frosting with food coloring, if desired.
  4. Fill between the cake layers and the frost the top and sides of the cake. Using a pastry bag with a large fluted tip, pipe onto cupcakes in a circular motion, starting on the outer rim.
  5. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
  6. Refrigerate the cake (and cupcakes) prior to serving.

Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts

My kids haven’t had a snow day in a couple of years, but today we had our second snow day of the season. We were very happy for the break from reality. 🙂 Everyone slept in this morning and then my daughter made this special breakfast. ❤

These baked donuts were quite a treat- I had to post them right away. The recipe was adapted from bunsinmyoven.com. They were very light, tender, and moist. The batter would also be great to bake in mini-bundt pans. Next time!

I’m looking forward to another indulgent breakfast tomorrow morning… We just found out that my kids have another snow day! 🙂

Yield: 12 mini donuts

For the Donuts:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt

To Make the Donuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Coat two mini-donut pans with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk in the mini chocolate chips.
  4. In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat together the vanilla, egg, sour cream, milk, and oil.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, distribute the dough into two greased mini-donut pans.
  7. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
  8. Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
  9. Let the donuts cool completely before glazing.
To Make the Glaze:
  1. Place a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, or newspaper under a wire rack to catch drips of glaze.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  3. Dunk the donuts in the glaze to fully coat and place on the wire rack to set, about 5 minutes.

Flourless Cocoa Cookies

Yes! More cookies and ice cream. In fact, I have several cookie drafts waiting to be shared. All of a sudden, it just feels like it’s finally time. 🙂

These cookies are a fabulous hybrid of a fudgy brownie and a cookie. This recipe was adapted from The Fearless Baker by Erin Jeanne McDowell via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I weighed the dry ingredients, included the cinnamon, and used 70% cacao dark chocolate chopped into chunks. Great.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups/340 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ cup/106 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/140 grams bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used 70% cacao dark chocolate)
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Fleur de Sel)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.
  3. In another large bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Whisk into eggs, changing to a spatula when the batter becomes too thick to whisk.
  5. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chunks.
  6. Use a large 2-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop cookies onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches between them. (I baked 9 on each baking sheet.) Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Bake, rotating front to back, and top to bottom, halfway through, until set around the edges, cracked on top and slightly underbaked in the middle, 10 to 13 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely on the baking sheets. Store carefully in an airtight container.

Fudge Brownies with Oreos

These classic brownies are absolutely perfect. We baked every variation! I have made them with and without adding Oreos- both perfect. I have also made them allowing the chocolate chips to melt and allowing the chocolate chips to stay partially intact (adding a little texural contrast). Both delicious. Yes, we’ve “suffered” through many batches. 😉

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. The website describes them as having the perfect balance between a fudgy and cakey brownie- I completely agree. They are incredibly moist, have a good rise, and have a lighter-colored and shiny top crust. Superb.

The recipe makes a large batch (which I recommend) but half the recipe can be made in an 8-inch square pan. In order to keep the chocolate chips intact, the batter must cool slightly before adding them. To melt the chocolate right into the brownie, the chips are stirred into the warm batter. My family didn’t agree on a favorite version but we all enjoyed each and every one of them. 🙂

Yield: 24 brownies

  • 4 large eggs
  • 106g (1 1/4 cups) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-Process Cocoa (I used Trader Joe’s Cocoa), sifted
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 227g (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 447g (2 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
  • 177g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 340g (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 Oreo cookies, quartered,  plus 2 crumbled Oreo cookies, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan or line with parchment paper and coat with cooking oil spray. (I used a pyrex baking dish.)
  3. Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them at medium speed with the sifted cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla for about 1 minute, or until smooth. (You can do this while you’re melting your butter (next step).)
  4. In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted.
  5. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will help produce a shiny top crust on your brownies.
  6. Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
  7. Add the flour and chips, stirring until smooth. Again, adding the chips helps produce a shiny top crust. (Note: Decision time: Do you want chocolate chips that show, and add a bit of chunkiness to your brownies? Or do you want the chips to simply melt into a rich smoothness, perfectly amalgamated within the brownie? **For chips that retain their shape and add chunkiness, let the batter cool for about 20 minutes before adding the chips, stirring occasionally to hasten the process. **For brownies where the chips melt right into the brownie, add them to the hot batter immediately, stirring to combine.
  8. Incorporate the quartered Oreo cookies, if using. (Keeping the Oreos in larger pieces (quarters) made them visible in the finished brownies.)
  9. Spoon the batter into the parchment paper-lined and lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Sprinkle the crumbled Oreo cookies over the top, if using.
  10. Bake the brownies for 27 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. (Note: When making half the recipe, bake in an 8″ x 8″ pan for 20 to 25 minutes.)
  11. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Turkey Chili with White Beans

This classic recipe is going to be my new go-to chili. It was easy to prepare, a little bit lighter, using ground turkey and omitting cheese, and is only mildly spicy- a crowd-pleaser. The heat can easily be increased by adjusting the amount of chili powder to taste. It had a wonderful combination of seasonings including cinnamon and cocoa powder.

I used all white beans but this dish would be delicious with any type of beans or an interesting combination. 🙂 We ate it over brown rice with cornbread and green salad on the side. It would be perfect to serve at a Super Bowl feast!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit. It was part of a “sleeper hit recipe” collection from the magazines’ archives. The collection contains tried and true favorite recipes from back in the day that may be passed over due to blurry, low-resolution (aka unappealing!) photos. I’m happy that they brought them to my attention. I’ll have to try others. 🙂

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 4 T chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock or beef stock
  • 1 cup (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 3 15-ounce cans small white beans, such as Cannellini, rinsed, drained (or any combination of beans such as kidney and/or black beans)
  • thinly sliced red onion, for garnish
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream, for garnish
  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high.
  3. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon.
  4. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer.
  6. Discard bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired.
  7. Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro and yogurt/sour cream toppings separately.

Note: Chili be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before serving with toppings.

Chocolate Chip Streusel Brownies

My indecisiveness can be crippling- that’s why I really love recipes like this one. It’s perfect for those of us who can’t decide if we should make cookies or brownies. 😉 I am slightly more partial to brownies… and this brownie base was made even more delicious by incorporating dark chocolate.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. Rich and amazing.

Yield: Serves 16+

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)

For the Brownie Batter:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. For the Cookie Dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; line with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on long sides.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 6 minutes.
  5. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in egg. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture; beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate.
  7. For the Brownie Batter: Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
  8. Remove from heat; whisk in granulated sugar.
  9. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  10. Whisk in cocoa and salt.
  11. Fold in flour until combined.
  12. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula.
  13. Crumble cookie dough evenly over batter.
  14. Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until just set, 20 minutes.
  15. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out with moist crumbs, 27 to 30 minutes more.
  16. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brownies from pan using parchment; cut into 16 squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Chocolate-Avocado Pudding

This pudding gets its creaminess from avocados- and you would never know. It’s also made in minutes using a blender- fabulous! I love that it incorporated a vanilla bean and freshly squeezed orange juice too.

This recipe is from Gjusta in Venice, California, via Bon Appetit. Fresh and great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 large avocados, pits removed
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup (or more) fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, optional
  • ¼ cup cocoa nibs and/or chopped hazelnuts, optional
  1. Scoop avocado flesh into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Scrape in vanilla bean seeds; reserve pod for another use.
  3. Add cocoa powder, maple syrup, agave nectar, orange juice, and salt and blend to a coarse purée.
  4. With motor running, gradually stream in ¾ cup hot (but not boiling) water; blend, adding more orange juice as needed, until smooth and creamy.
  5. Divide pudding among eight 4–6 oz. ramekins or small bowls and chill (uncovered) at least 2 hours.
  6. Just before serving, whip cream in a medium bowl to soft peaks and spoon over pudding, if desired; top with cocoa nibs and/or hazelnuts.

Note: Pudding can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

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