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!

classic cookie salad

I’ve been watching so many '60s period dramas that dressing up to make cookie salad felt like a fun thing to do. And it totally was! I figured since we had so much fun with classic tater tot hotdish, it was also time to make another classically upper Midwestern delicacy, the cookie salad. Cookie salad blows the other upper Midwest sweet salads, like candy bar salad, out of the water. Easily. It’s not like hotdish, where wild rice and tater tot would definitely make for an edge-of-your-seat 7-game neck-and-neck series. It’s truly more like a UND hockey team versus every team in their conference situation, where they are just in an entirely different league and there are fireworks at every game. 

A typical cookie salad consists of the following things:

Fudge stripe cookies 

Canned Mandarin oranges or sliced bananas

Vanilla instant pudding mix stirred into buttermilk

frozen whip

They all get mixed together into a fluffy puddingy dessert and then topped with crushed cookies or cookies broken in half and stuck on top to look like little tombstones. This is an important distinction. Your family either crushes or breaks and there’s not a whole lot of overlap except for now because Eggmom crushes and look, I break. I just like the aesthetic, ok? Eggmom taught me both though. She also taught me that mini marshmallows and jelly beans are acceptable mix-ins (I love the textural sensation that marshmallows add).

And,

Ok,

Here is where things get a little…different: Eggmom serves this with the main course. And so does everyone else!!!!! I thought I was hearing things when she said she serves it with the ham (!!!!) but as I dug further and further it slowly became clear that this. is. actually. served. with. the. salads. and. not. the. desserts. 

This is a next level sweet/savory relationship, right???? 

If ham and cookie salad can work as a marriage then surely we aren’t all doomed.

I present to you, my audition picture for women laughing alone with salad:

On my journey to a homemade cookie salad, I did the following:

Made homemade fudge stripes! I went with a simple buttery shortbread that’s sweet and crispy and has a hint of almond. And rather than dealing with the mess of getting chocolate on the bottom, like regular fudge stripes, I gave them thicker-than-usual stripes on top. 

In place of the pudding + buttermilk combo, I experimented a bit with making homemade buttermilk pudding but found the buttermilk to be just too sour for my tastes. I don’t remember it being this sour when Eggmom made me hers. I wonder if something in the instant pudding packets offsets the sourness of buttermilk. Instead I went with a rich vanilla pastry cream.

And instead of frozen whip I obviously went with a good old fresh whip because duh. I’ve always been a sucker for fresh whip, it is the heavy cream at its best. I’m using Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream here which has a deliciously pure flavor. 

I stuck with the canned mandarins for this but you could definitely go with fresh mandarins as well. 

Lastly, here is a pro-tip: make this the day before so the cookies soak in the pudding and take on a cake-like texture. It is so satisfying. I love it forever. And of course the fact that this can be prepped a day (or even two days!) ahead of time makes this a perfect Thanksgiving dessert. I mean salad! Omg. 


Classic Cookie Salad

Serves 8

ingredients

For the pudding

3 tb (24g) all-purpose flour

6 tb (75g) sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3 egg yolks

1 1/2 c (360g) Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

 

For the cookies

1 c (130g) all-purpose flour, more for dusting

1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp vanilla extract 

1/2 tsp almond extract 

1/2 c (113g) Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter, cold and cubed

5 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

For assembly

1 1/2 c (360g) Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream

1/4 c (30g) powdered sugar

2 (11 oz) cans mandarin orange slices

Sprinkles, optional

Clues

To make the pudding, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the egg yolks and then the heavy cream. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until it’s thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, pour into a heat safe bowl, and cover with plastic wrap so that it touches the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate until cooled, about 1 hour or overnight. 

To make the cookies, combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the vanilla and almond extracts and then gradually add the butter. Mix until the mixture comes together into a dough, slowly increasing the speed once you’re confident that doing so won’t result in flour flying everywhere. Divide the dough in half, press into discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. (If you’re impatient, fine, skip this step.)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8”-1/4” thick. Cut out 2” circles with a biscuit cutter and then use a big piping tip to cut out 1/2” holes from the center. (Re-roll scraps as needed.) Place them on the baking sheets an inch apart and then bake until they’re jusssst starting to brown around the edges, start checking for doneness at 12 minutes. Let cool on the pans. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each. Let it cool slightly and then pour it into a piping bag. Snip off the tip and then pipe on 4 thick chocolate stripes. Let the chocolate harden at room temp or in the fridge.

To assemble, first make the whipped cream. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream and powdered sugar to stiff peaks. In a large bowl, fold together the whipped cream and pudding. Crush the cookies by hand or in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin or other blunt object (reserving 6-8 for the topping) and fold them in. Drain the mandarin slices and fold those in (reserve some of these for the topping too). Top with remaining cookies, mandarin slices, and sprinkles. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. 

-yeh!

thanks to land o’lakes for sponsoring this post!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

turkish coffee brownies

Ok some little life updates!

The snow is here to stay, I believe. I keep seeing the high of 37º that’s in the forecast for the middle of the week and get very nervous that the snow will leave but Eggboy has assured me that because the ground is frozen the snow likely won’t be going anywhere.

I wear one kind of sock now. They are thick hiking socks, made by Stance, that hug my feet and will never get holes. I never thought I would feel so satisfied about finding a good sock but then again I also never thought that I’d be living in the north pole. 

It’s floor length parka weather!! 

I am in a fantasy figure skating league. I didn’t rank so well for the Cup of China but I’m hoping to be as familiar with this year’s competitors as possible so that the Olympics are that much more exciting. I’ve also obviously begun planning my Olympic party menus, which, no offense to my friends, will probably be served during all of the other sports besides figure skating because when the Shib Sibs come on I’ll need to be in silence and alone so that I can weep. 

An embarrassing amount of my time these days is spent looking for an outfit for my 10 year high school reunion. Do I wear a dress that shows that I’ve been going to the gym an average of 3.5 times a week and eating my yogurt? Or do I wear a wool romper that says that I don’t care if they care that I’ve gone to the gym an average of 3.5 times a week and et my yogurt? Or do I just wear my winter going out uniform of a dark grey turtleneck and dark jeans because it’s comfy and this is about seeing my old friendsies?????? Do they even want to see me????? Will there be name tags??? Should I wax my eyebrows?? Plz send help. But mostly Shopbop gift cards. 

Macaroni have let themselves go. It gets dark around here practically right after lunch and then doesn’t get light again until after my twelfth coffee so there is basically just enough sunlight to foster the entire Macaroni flock laying a collective one egg a day. It is so dumb!!!! The ones who lay the blue eggs have just stopped. 🙄 Come on you silly birds. 

It’s fine though cause I’ve also let myself go and went to bed at 9:50 last night. Yolo!

So in keeping with the theme of letting ourselves go, let’s make something that will be ready by the time the sun goes down. It always blows my mind how quickly and easily brownies come together and I wonder why I don’t make them more often. But easiness does not equal a lack of fanciness in this case, no way. These brownies are based off of my mom’s fudgey schnapps brownies (in Molly on the Range) but instead of schnapps, they’re taking on a flavor profile inspired by Turkish coffee, which often has cardamom mixed in. I first had a Turkish coffee brownie at Fargo’s cute little bagel shop, Bernbaum’s, and recognized its beauty right away. Coffee and chocolate are an obvious good match, but coffee and chocolate and cardamom??? That is a power trio on par with Haim, ya dig? I’ve added a bit of cinnamon as well to help drive home the warmth of the cardamom and the result is one truly fancy brownie.

And a fancy brownie needs a fancy nut!!! Here I’ve added Heirloom Walnuts, which are part of Diamond of California’s new line of Heirloom Reserve Nuts (Pecans and Marcona Almonds are the other two nuts in this line). These walnuts are a varietal that have remained unchanged for generations and have natural, beautifully rustic irregularities. They lend wonderful flavor and texture to these brownies!!


turkish coffee brownies

makes 16 brownies

ingredients

1/2 c (64g) all-purpose flour

1 c (200g) sugar

1/3 c (27g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp instant espresso powder

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, melted but not hot

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c (90g) toasted chopped diamond of california heirloom walnuts, plus more for topping

 

for the glaze:

1 c (120g) powdered sugar

3 tb (15g) cocoa powder

3 tb unsalted butter, melted

1 tb brewed coffee or 1/4 tsp espresso powder + 1 tb water

1 tb (21g) honey

1/4 tsp cardamom

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla

 

Sprinkles, for topping

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8” by 8” pan and line with parchment paper, allowing 1” wings to hang over the edges.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and espresso powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the walnuts and pour the mixture into the pan. Spread it out evenly (it will be quite a thin layer) and bake for 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Lift them out of the pan and place on the rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients until smooth. Pour the glaze on the brownies, spread it around, and top with walnuts and sprinkles. Let dry and then cut into squares. Enjoy!

-yeh!

Thank you to diamond nuts for sponsoring this post! Starting this month, their new line of Heirloom Reserve Nuts are available in the produce sections of fine grocery retailers. To learn more about Diamond of California, visit their website and follow their Instagram and Facebook.

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

pictured: plate, pan, pot, pastry cutter

YUMMY FINDS: PRETZEL ICE CREAM CONES

a few weeks ago, i found out about pretzel ice cream cones through taryn's yummy tour of north carolina and then i proceeded to order 60 of them and commission max to make boozy ice cream. for an impulse buy, i think i did pretty well because only a handful of things beat the salty & sweet (& custom ice cream) phenomenon. i'll be serving them at a little party next weekend and since there are about twice as many cones as there are guests, i think i'll also put them out for the pre-dinner pickles and nuts (a fun way to cut down on dishes without having to resort to paper plates, no? i can't take credit for this though, it was mum's idea). 

i thought about making these from scratch. but then i wanted to watch 90s movies this weekend instead.

-yay!