caramel apple cake with cream cheese frosting

Confession time: I’m not lifting a finger this Thanksgiving! Not even a toe. There will be no cooking, no bird basting, no celery chopping, just the sweet sound of Broadway tunes from the parade on the TV. And then I’ll be waddling down to the beach. That’s it! I’m so excited. I can’t take credit for this idea, it’s all the brainchild of my mom’s side of the family who has been organizing an epic Thanksgiving weekend Florida family reunion that I have been looking forward to for months. 

My dream is that I’ll somehow be able to acquire a turkey and cranberry on rye on the beach, and I’m loosely tempted to bring boxes of pre-made stuffing for all of my relatives to hydrate in their hotel coffee pots. (Certainly weirder things have been done, no?) But if my options are poolside chicken fingers and fries with honey mustard, I won’t be mad. Because 1) we already had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner during filming for the Girl Meets Farm Thanksgiving episode, and 2) I’ll be with my awesome cool fam for the first time since cousin Ellie’s Bat Mitzvah! And that’s really what Thanksgiving is all about, right??? Being with your loved ones?? WOW, this got mushy fast. 

The one main kitchen thing that I will really miss this year is watching Eggboy make his pumpkin pie. He really hit his stride last year and, I don’t know, there is something so warm and fuzzy about seeing someone who you love so much getting excited about a thing that you love so much. Eggboy in the kitchen is truly somethin rad. Maybe he’ll make his pie for Chrismukkah…

Our plans to go to Florida reminded me of one of the last times I spent Thanksgiving in Florida, in my college days. For a few good years in a row, we all got together and cooked a feast at my cousin Jamie’s house. It was always a super solid classic Thanksgiving meal and for dessert there were definitely a few pies, but there was also this caramel apple loaf cake that looked pretty ugly but, oh goodness, it was soo good. It had a deeply caramelized flavor and it was wildly dense, but it was broken up by big chunks of crisp tart apples. It was the kind of cake that you just couldn’t walk by without shaving off *one* more sliver. A hot contender for winning the honor of Ending Bite, indeed.

This cake is inspired by that cake, which holds a place in our family cookbook. I’ve swapped in some whole wheat flour to add nuttiness and given it a not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting that adds the correct amount of tang and creaminess. Also, I screwed something up so that you don’t have to: I tried making this with the gala apples from our trees and honeycrisp apples from the store. They were both too moist and the batter, as thick as it was when it went into the pan, just didn’t reach the right consistency during baking. So use Granny smiths because they are super starchy and firm and they won’t add too much moisture to the batter. But past that, this cake is very unfussy and can totally be made a day in advance. If you, like me, are not lifting a finger this Thanksgiving, or maybe you’ve got your pie lineup set in stone already, keep this cake on hand for later in the season because its warmth and coziness is perfect for any winter occasion. 

And I am using Our Family ingredients in this cake! I find I use Our Family products even more during the holidays, when time is usually tight to buy a lot of groceries for all of my holiday parties and I just need easy to find, inexpensive, very reliable ingredients. They are the perfect party planning helpers! Thanks for sponsoring this post, Our Family


caramel apple cake with cream cheese frosting

makes one loaf

Ingredients

2 1/4 c (292g) all-purpose flour

3/4 c (98g) whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking soda 

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

A pinch of ground cardamom

1 c (200g) brown sugar

1 c (200g) sugar

3/4 c (150g) flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 large granny smith apples, chopped into 1/4”-1/2” pieces (4 c (368g) chopped)

Cream cheese frosting:

8 oz (226g) Our Family cream cheese, softened

1 c (120g) powdered sugar

1/4 c heavy cream

A pinch of kosher salt

Caramel:

15 storebought caramels

3 tb whole milk

a big pinch of salt

Flaky salt

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line a Pullman Loaf pan (8 1/2” X 4”, or similar) with parchment paper, allowing 1” wings to come up on two of the sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each, and then add the vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and then fold in the apples. It will be very thick! Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, begin checking for doneness after an hour, but it could take up to 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan and then transfer to a serving plate. (You can totally bake this a day in advance and let it cool overnight, uncovered.)

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the heavy cream and salt until combined. Spread it over the cake.

To make caramel, melt ingredients together over low heat in a saucepan while stirring (or in a microwave), and let cool slightly.

Just before serving, drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with flaky salt. Enjoy!


-yeh!

thank you, our family, for sponsoring this post

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

fresh mint olive oil cake with labneh and honey

This color is real!!! And, no, Kermit was not harmed in the making of this. This is really just a basic olive oil cake that simply has a bunch of fresh mint purée mixed in to give it the most delightfully fresh herbal flavor and of course this bright natural color. It’s inspired by a dessert that Lily, Alana, and I had at The Exchange Restaurant last month that was basically a bowl of crumbled bright green cake topped with yogurt sorbet, a lemony drizzle, and baklava crumble. We ordered it expecting a regular yellow olive oil cake but when it arrived and we saw the color we were like omgomgomg and immediately did that thing where all three of us suddenly block out everything that’s going on around us in order to decipher what’s happening in our mouths and in front of our eyes. We poked at it, snooped around its every nook and cranny, and took very deliberate tastes in order to figure it all out. It’s so good eating with them. The only thing that could have improved such a moment is if one of us had raised up a monocle or magnifying glass. We figured it must have been a few different herbs in there, basil maybe, or parsley even, and then we got on the subject of spinach cupcakes (ew?), and finally had a chat with the server about what all was happening. And it turned out that it was just mint! Which is wild because it didn’t taste specifically minty, the most minty thing about it was that it had a faint version of that fresh feeling you have after brushing your teeth. Past that it was sort of generically herbal, which was cool because it allowed the yogurt sorbet and pistachio baklava crumble to shine through. And above all it was delicious. One of the best most inspiring desserts I’ve ever had. I turned around faster than I’ve ever turned around in my life and flew home and started experimenting with olive oil mint cakes. 

And I came up with this one! It’s a riff on the grapefruit olive oil cake from Yogurt book and it is really fun to make. You might think that the mint purée color would fade in the oven but it stays so bright. Sorry I am like one month late for St. Patrick’s Day, but actually I’m just 11 months early. 

I originally intended to slather this in a classic sweet cream cheese frosting but at the last minute before bringing it to Mackenzie’s birthday party I decided to go deeper into my nod to The Exchange dessert and just use labneh with a honey drizzle and pistachios. I loved it because it was so aggressively not sweet. It was definitely not your typical happy birthday sugary cake though so because of this I was trying really hard to figure out what all of my friends thought of it. The thing about being surrounded by so many nice Midwest people however is that they will not tell you if your cake is bad!! Emily said it tasted *fancy* so there is that?? I’ll leave you with this: when it comes to assembling this cake, choose your own adventure. If you’re hankering for a classic sweet frosting use a standard cream cheese frosting. But if you’re celebrating a sophisticated 30-year-old birthday party then try out the labneh option (as written below)! You can always add more honey drizzles. If you can’t decide, use some of the cake scraps as test bites and concoct your frosting accordingly.  


Fresh Mint Olive Oil Cake with Labneh and Honey

Makes one 2-layer 6” cake

Ingredients

Cake:

1 c (50g) firmly packed fresh mint leaves

1/2 c (118g) whole milk or unsweetened almond milk

1 1/2 c (190g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c (56g) almond meal

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

Zest of 1 lemon

3/4 c (150g) extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 c (250g) sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Assembly:

About 1 1/2 c (338g) labneh

crushed pistachios

honey and/or turbinado sugar

lemon zest

sliced kumquats, optional

Clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line the bottoms of two 6” pans with parchment and set aside.

Rinse the mint leaves and then ring them out very well. In a high powered blender like a vitamix, blend the mint and milk together until very smooth. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sugar until combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking very well after each, and then add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mint mixture in three alternating additions, whisking after each until just combined. Pour into the pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely. Level off the tops.

Spread half of the labneh on one of the layers and top with pistachios, honey or turbinado, and a little bit of lemon zest, and then place the other cake layer on top and spread on remaining labneh. Decorate as desired with pistachios, honey or turbinado, lemon zest, and sliced kumquats, if using. Enjoy! 


-yeh!

Cookies N Cream Cupcakes

Here is my new blog column called “Bait n Switch” where I draw you in with cupcakes and then only talk about ice skating for an hour. From here on out if you see cookies n cream just know that it’s a post about ice skating, cookies n cream is the code word. It’s the beginning of what will probably, by Beijing 2022, be a full blown figure skating blog. I am deeply excited about this career transition, and if you are Nike and would like to sponsor my six-part mini series on Ashley Wagner’s smoldering hot off-ice warm-up looks, the answer is yes. And can I get a team USA podium outfit set.

Here were my top four moments of this weekend’s U.S. championships:

Gold: When Mirai landed her final jump, the triple loop, and did booya arms. 4:35, here, and then at 4:41 you can see her coach in the background jumping up and down and cheering. It was the sight of her gliding onto the olympic team and now I’m crying and completely verklempt.

Silver: When the vocals came in during Adam Rippon’s free program. It’s the most beautiful free program and the long build up to the vocals is so effective. Of course I was very sad when he didn’t skate his best, of course I kept waking up that night wondering is he going to make the olympic team? Now he’s made it and we get to see him skate that program again in Pyeongchang, yay!

Bronze: There’s a little hop that Nathan Chen does after the second quad in his short program that is the best tiny morsel of choreography. It was more pronounced at Skate America (2:09, here) but it’s details like that in his choreography that are the perfectly placed sprinkles on the cake. See also: the exit move out of his first jump. And his overall controlled savageness. And his new vera wang looks!!! This program has everything.

Pewter: Tie between Ashley Wagner’s La la land Dress, Ashley Wagner’s Nike looks, and when Mrs. Maisel won the Golden Globe. What? That wasn’t part of the championships. It was, however, a crucial part in getting over US champs withdrawal.

Oh! And honorable mentions: Jean-Luc Baker and Kaitlin Hawayek’s free program because I love them and they are the future, and also Mariah Bell’s short program because I also love her and she is also the future. 

Ok

Ok

 

Ok

Thank you for listening, now we can talk about these cupcakes. Do you ever think that cookies n cream is a little bit bitter that he was on track to winning gold until funfetti came along out of nowhere and stole everyone’s hearts? I would be. I had completely forgotten about cookies n cream until like two weeks ago when I was sitting on the couch being a blob and brainstorming new recipes to make. Pretty much out of nowhere all of these old memories of eating cookies n cream blizzards from the dairy queen and occasionally making a cookies n cream boxed cake instead of a funfetti boxed cake rushed back to me and made me really happy. And also made me go down a google hole. It turns out that the other Dakota, to the south, has laid claim to inventing it! That’s fun. 

Cookies n cream cake is tasty because you get all the good flavor of Oreos but all of the soft texture of cake. It’s like jeggings, you get the good fit of leggings but the nicer look of jeans. It’s not rocket science, you crush up oreos and add them to cake batter. I’m using the same batter as my funfetti cake, which gets even moister and richer thanks to those little pockets of Oreo filling scattered within, and yes I’m using homemade oreos!! It adds one extra step, 30-40 minutes, tops, since the cupcake frosting and Oreo frosting can be combined into the same step, and obviously the cookies are so much better. Which makes the whole thing so much better. But if you really just want to go the store-bought cookie route here, that is fine, adjustments are below for that! 

And p.s. these would totally be good with tahini oreos or matcha oreos or marzipan oreos, right???? Right. 


cookies n cream cupcakes

makes 14 cupcakes

ingredients

for the chocolate cookies:

1 c (128g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

A pinch of kosher salt

1/2 c + 2 tb (141g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tb (75g) sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

powdered sugar, for dusting

 

for the frosting:

14 tb (196g) unsalted butter, softened

4 oz (113g) cream cheese, softened

3 c (360g) powdered sugar

a pinch of kosher salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

for the cupcakes:

1 1/4 c (160g) all-purpose flour

2 tb constarch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c (150g) sugar

2 large egg whites

2 tb flavorless oil

1/2 tb vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

6 tb (90g) whole milk

 

sprinkles, for decorating

 

NOTE: If using store-bought oreos, use 12  cookies in the cupcake batter and 6 in the frosting. and then decrease the frosting ingredient measurements to the following: 1/2 c (113g) butter, 2 oz (56g) cream cheese, 2 1/4 c (270g) powdered sugar, a small pinch salt, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

clues

to make the cookies:

preheat the oven to 325ºf. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. mix in the vanilla extract. with the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until combined. it will still be a bit crumbly. pour the mixture onto a work surface and give it a few kneads to bring it all together.

lightly dust your surface and the top of the dough with a 1:1 mixture of cocoa powder and powdered sugar. working swiftly and carefully, roll out the dough to 1/4-to-1/2-inch thickness and cut out 1 1/2-inch rounds. transfer them to baking sheets, 1 inch apart (using a small offset spatula helps with this step). Re-roll the scraps and cut out more rounds. 

bake the cookies until the tops are no longer shiny, about 15 minutes. cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

to make the frosting: 

in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat all of the ingredients together until smooth.

scoop about 1 cup frosting into a piping bag and pipe 8 cookies with a nice big blob. Top those with 8 more cookies and then stick them in the fridge to firm up. Squeeze out any remaining frosting from the piping bag back into your frosting bowl, crush up 8 more cookies to a fine crumb (I do this in a large ziploc bag with a rolling pin) and mix them into the remaining frosting. Set aside remaining chocolate cookies for decorating. And set the frosting aside, covered, at room temperature. You'll need your stand mixer bowl to make the cake batter, so it's easiest to scoop out your frosting really well with a rubber spatula and then there's no need to wash it out, you can just go straight to the cake batter step.

for the cupcakes:

preheat the oven to 350ºf. line two cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners, spacing them out evenly between the two pans.

in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.

in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. add the oil and the extracts.

with the mixer running on low speed, add the dry mixture and the milk in two or three alternating batches and mix until just barely combined.

retrieve the 8 sandwich cookies from the fridge, chop them coarsely or break them up with your hands, and use a rubber spatula to fold them into the batter.

distribute the batter among the cupcake cups and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 20 minutes.

let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

to assemble:

Scoop the frosting onto the tops of your cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles and/or remaining chocolate cookies!

enjoy!


-yeh!

Vanilla Butter Cake with Marzipan Buttercream

This is the layer cake version of the mega moist/buttery vanilla cupcakes that I posted this summer! I’ve altered the ratios just slightly from the cupcakes here in order to provide the stability in the batter necessary to hold up a full layer, and it took a zillion test runs, but I’m proud to say that it retains the lusciousness that I was so pleased with in those cupcakes. It’s perfectly vanilla-y and just sooo… whatever the opposite is of those wildly airy grocery store sheet cakes. (Not (!) that there isn’t a time and place for those.) But Eggpop and I share a particular love of two important things: rom coms and very dense cake.

And such a hard earned cake is worthy of an equally lush frosting, no?

Marzipan buttercream is not an idea that I can take credit for, even though I’d like to since, as we’ve already established, my body is made up of 1/2 marzipan around the holidays. Alaina, who I met at my very first Molly on the Range book tour event, made the cutest ever cake earlier this year and added the marzipan butter from MOTR (which is essentially your basic ingredients for marzipan, blanched almonds and sugar, blended into oblivion until silky and spreadable) to the frosting. Brilliant!!!!!! Right??? I immediately knew I had to try it with my favorite go-to buttercream and the results were as I expected: otherworldly. Almondy, buttery, sweet, the best. You know I love a good rustic nut butter frosting, but using a blanched nut butter here makes this frosting so smooth and dreamy. I mean, marzipan on its own is obviously the best thing ever, but how do you make the best thing ever even better? Add butter. Duhhh.

And obviously if you are going to bestow the name “marzipan” onto any type of frosting, you are going to use great butter for it. Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter is what I’m using here and its flavor is so good and pure that if there’s any butter who deserves to be mashed up with marzipan, it is this. And then, rather than making the full marzipan butter recipe (which you can find in Alaina’s post and which also makes a great little gift when put in a cute jar) before adding it to my buttercream, I’ve rearranged the ingredients a bit to make things a little more straightforward and to take it easy on your food processor since it’s already getting quite a workout making the blanched almond butter. 

The decorations here are inspired by embroidery again, just like these cookies! I referenced these awesome trees and then here is a video that goes more in depth with the decorating process:


vanilla butter cake with marzipan buttercream

Makes one 3-layer 8” cake

ingredients

3 1/2 c (450g) all-purpose flour

1 tb baking powder

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/4 c (300g) heavy cream, room temperature

1/2 c (120g) sour cream, room temperature

1 c (225g) Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter, room temperature

1/2 c (100g) refined coconut oil, soft but not melted

2 1/4 c (450g) sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 tb vanilla bean paste or extract

1/2 tsp almond extract, optional

 

Buttercream:

1 c (128g) blanched almonds

1 c (225g) Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter, room temperature

5 c (600g) powdered sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

1 tsp almond extract, optional

3 tb (45g) heavy cream

clues

To make the cake layers: preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8” cake pans with parchment and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and then lightly stir in the salt and set aside. in a large measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream and sour cream and set aside. 

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar on medium high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla and almond extract, if using. Reduce the mixer to medium low and add the dry mixture and cream mixture in 3 alternating additions, mixing until just combined. Distribute the batter evenly between the cake pans and spread it out evenly.

Bake until the  tops of the cakes are thinking about starting to turn brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes and try your darnedest not to let it overbake. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the buttercream: 

First, make the almond butter. In a high powered food processor, blend the almonds, scraping the sides occasionally, until very creamy and spreadable, about 5-10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and almond butter until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, and then mix in the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and heavy cream. Mix until creamy.

To frost the cake, level the top of the layers and then stack them up with a layer of frosting in between. Frost all over and decorate as desired (See video!)! Enjoy!


-yeh!

Thank you so much to Land O’Lakes for providing me with the butter and heavy cream for all of my cake baking adventures and for sponsoring this post. Their European style butter is so gosh darn rich and perfect for buttercream.

Videography by Paul Hoplin!