Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce

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This sauce is great for drizzling on cupcakes or ice cream; it makes any day better. I once made a Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake and covered it with this: Man, oh man. That was a good day.

Caramel sauc keeps for weeks in the fridge, so don’t worry if you can’t use it all on the first day.

Caramel Sauce
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Ingredients
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 7½ oz packed dark brown sugar — about 1 cup
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the brown sugar, salt, and heavy cream; stir the mixture until it's well blended.
  3. Bring to a boil, scraping down the sides occasionally. Lower heat and allow to bubble lightly for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Transfer sauce to a container and let cool. Once cool, store in fridge.
  5. OPTIONAL: Go crazy and add some edge: Along with the vanilla, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of liquor — bourbon, whiskey, cognac.

 

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

In the psychedelic era, simple things could blow people’s minds. Listen to Mick while you’re baking and get inspired: Vanilla cake needn’t be vanilla — it comes in colors.

My vanilla cupcake recipe is a great palette for color, and a rainbow cake is the ultimate trip: When you cut the first slice, you’ll alter reality for your party guests.

This cake takes some planning and a lot of bowls, but it’s not exactly hard: In fact, it was pretty much invented by a teenager. At bottom it’s just a vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream frosting. Beyond that it’s all about layers and logistics, so you’ll want to get comfortable with the techniques of trimming/levelling and stacking, plus the basics of crumb-coating and icing.

The recipe below fits into a 5-quart stand mixer and makes three layers for a 7- or 8-inch cake. Make a six-layer cake over a few days: Bake three layers on the first day, let them cool, wrap them in plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge. The next day bake the remaining layers, cool and chill them, and make your buttercream. On the third day (or later on the second day), level, stack, and ice.

Level each layer so it’s fairly thin: Six layers add up quickly, and this cake can turn into a tower. (On the other hand, a tower can be cute: I’ve used a single batch of this recipe to make six 3″ layers. I then sliced those in half and made two mini cakes. Fun–but tricky to slice!) You don’t want to  make the layers so thin that they’ll tear when you try to stack and ice them.

A word about colors: Butter and eggs make this cake taste great, but they also make the batter yellowish. Most colors will work fine, but your blue layer may look a bit green (because, of course, yellow + blue = green). The solution is to add some white coloring. It’s absolutely worth buying professional-quality colors: A basic set from AmeriColor, plus white, will take you far.

And how exactly do you add color? Once the batter is ready, I divide it equally (by weight) into three bowls, then fold in each color by hand using a spatula. Use as little color as possible: Start with two drops and see how it looks — adjust by adding one small drop at a time. The color of the batter is a decent guide to the final cake color. (The final color will be more vibrant but also a little darker.)

Ready? Dive in!

Vanilla Cake
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You'll need to make this recipe twice for a 7" or 8" rainbow cake; each batch will yield three layers.
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks butter, cut up into chunks
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15½ oz all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and granulated sugar and stir at low speed until butter is broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 seconds after each one, then reduce speed to low again.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add ⅓ of this to the mixer and stir until combined.
  5. Add ½ cup of the milk to the mixer and stir until incorporated.
  6. Add another ⅓ of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, then the final third of the flour mixture, stirring between each step.
  7. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then run mixer for another minute -- make sure you get the last lumps out of there.
  8. To make three layers of a rainbow cake, divide batter by weight into three bowls, add color, then scrape each color into a 7" or 8" pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

 
Vanilla Buttercream
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This yields enough to ice a six-layer cake. Decorate the top as you please; I have found that covering it completely with a smooth layer of rainbow sprinkles is simple and appealing.
Ingredients
  • 4 sticks butter, cut up
  • 3 lbs 4 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir butter on low speed until chunks are broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat until completely smooth.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, reduce the speed, and add half of the powdered sugar. Stir at low speed until combined.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla and stir again.
  5. Slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar; stir until combined.

 

 

 

 

Madagascar Vanilla Cupcakes

Madagascar Vanilla Cupcakes

These vanilla cupcakes were year-round best sellers at our bakery. When you make a recipe every single day, it must be bulletproof: Customers expect consistent deliciousness, and you must deliver it regardless of daily variations in humidity, oven performance, and the like.

This recipe took some experimentation to get just right. Vanilla cake is not always as easy as it should be, and often ends up dry. When we hit upon this formula, though, we knew we were set. The cake has a perfect balance that comes from quality ingredients — pure Madagascar vanilla extract, butter, whole milk — simply combined. It’s not hard to make, and the resulting structure is great, so it’s easy to ice as cupcakes or to use for layer cakes.

At the bakery we played up the recipe’s simplicity by icing our cupcakes with vanilla buttercream peaks, but you shouldn’t feel constrained. Vanilla cake tastes amazing with chocolate ganache, for instance — or you can use colored buttercream icing, or add sprinkles or mini chocolate chips on top.

This recipe is your foundation; the sky’s the limit on elaboration.

Madagascar Vanilla Cupcakes
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Serves: 24-29 cupcakes
 
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks butter, cut up into chunks
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15½ oz all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and granulated sugar and stir at low speed until butter is broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 seconds after each one, then reduce speed to low again.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add ⅓ of this to the mixer and stir until combined.
  5. Add ½ cup of the milk to the mixer and stir until incorporated.
  6. Add another ⅓ of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, then the final third of the flour mixture, stirring between each step.
  7. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then run mixer for another minute -- make sure you get the last lumps out of there.
  8. Scoop the batter into cupcake pans lined with baking cups.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

 
Vanilla Buttercream
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Ingredients
  • 4 sticks butter, cut up
  • 3 lbs 4 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir butter on low speed until chunks are broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat until completely smooth.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, reduce the speed, and add half of the powdered sugar. Stir at low speed until combined.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla and stir again.
  5. Slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar; stir until combined.

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