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

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

(psst... it's a video ☝🏼)

I have formed this dumb awful habit of allowing myself to stay awake in bed. It happens either late at night when I should be falling asleep or at 3am when I wake up and suddenly everything of minor importance appears to be super urgent. The smart thing to do of course is to try to fall asleep just by brute force or by reading one of Eggboy’s books about economics but the thing about having an amorphous work schedule is that at 3am if I suddenly happen upon the need to do some bridesmaid up-do research I can push my alarm back by 30 minutes and dive right down into Instagram. The problem with all of this is that a) I’m exhausted the next day and b) my brain is so mushy at 3am that all of my decisions made at that hour are just bad. Last month I ordered $400 worth of raincoats from my phone just in case the one that Alana got me for Alaska didn’t fit around my thicker than average arms. They were returnable, I reasoned. And in the end it didn’t rain at all on our trip. Last week I made a hair appointment, saved a dozen inspirational photos of ombré balayage, and made a vocabulary list of hair styles to tell my stylist at my appointment, but then woke up and decided to just go full on brunette and then cancelled my appointment. And of course, 100% of my buttercream flower video watching was also in bed when I should have been asleep. 

I am going to get better at this as soon as I understand everything there is to know about butter based cake. 

That’s what keeps me up the most at night lately.

With the exception of sprinkle cake, pretty much all of my go-to cakes have been oil-based. They’re very easy, reliable, adaptable, and most importantly, moist. I had no reason to stray from them other than that I woke up a few months ago feeling funny that I wasn’t very familiar with butter cakes, and I also just wanted butter. And some change. So I put my stand mixer to work and tinkered with ratios and different ingredients and sat in the parking lot of the gym googling things that i thought of on the way there like “is there a reason that you shouldn’t use heavy cream in cakes” and made a spreadsheet of every single vanilla cake that I could find. I thought about acidity of sour cream and wrangled with our new oven heating elements that took a few days to even out… It was like being back in music school again, trying to learn a new excerpt. I felt like Rob with his spreadsheets which he used to track every single tempo of every single recording of every single important percussion excerpt.

And I went so crazy that I had to finally download that app where you grow trees if you avoid using your phone for long portions of time. 

You know how you’re not supposed to change a door knob? (Because if you change your door knob you’ll soon feel like you’ll have to re-paint your door and if you re-paint your door you’ll have to paint the room and if you paint the room you’ll have to paint the rest of your house, pretty soon you’re demolishing and building a new home? Or something.) That’s what I feel like I’ve just done. I’ve switched from oil to butter and now because I’ve done that I’ve needed to adjust moisture levels and because I’ve adjusted moisture levels I’ve needed to adjust dry ingredients and eggs and cooking time and approach and vision and values, etc. 

I’m aware that about ten thousand vanilla cupcake recipes exist.

But I also have this hunch that my ideal moisture level of a cake is on the very high side, and that’s what’s shaping my every move. I want a moist cake that has been lifting some weights. Moist, dense, soft cake. Like if these slipper socks were a cake. Not some airy light dainty pantyhose situation. There’s a time and a place for pantyhose cake, and in my life, that’s Passover in the 90s. 

So the name of the game became cramming fat into every possible orifice of this thing, without it deflating. Too much fat will destroy a cake’s structure, it will deflate. Too much liquid will also make it deflate. But of course not enough fat will make it dry. So I drew the conclusion that a moist enough cake will deflate just slightly when it comes out of the oven, making it have a flat top or just a slight divot when it’s cooled. It does not need to have a nice dome. It does not need to be pretty, it just needs to be moist. 

So I collected all of the fats:

butter (for flavor, duh)

and it’s european style butter (which has 2% more fat than traditional butter, cha-ching)

refined coconut oil (for additional moisture)*

heavy cream (fat and liquid)**

sour cream (for more richness)***

*since the coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it gives it slightly more structure than canola oil. You can use unrefined if you like a hint of coconut flavor. And if you don’t have coconut oil, using canola oil will indeed work.

**heavy cream adds tons of fat and richness, which is what we’re going for. But it adds so much fat that it makes the structure a little on the edge of stability. There’s enough stability in this batter for cupcakes, but not so much for full layer cakes. We’re going to talk about layered butter cakes in a later post. This recipe will also work with whole milk! Using heavy cream will make it richer, but if whole milk is what you have, that's ok. 

***I wouldn’t make you clear out the dairy aisle if it weren’t for a good reason. The difference that sour cream makes in this cake is like the difference between the flannel-lined duck boots and the shearling-lined duck boots. You are reading the blog of a shearling-lined duck boot owner. (You could sub this for plain whole milk yogurt. It will be just slightly less rich than using sour cream.)

And put them in with some flour (all-purpose, not cake flour because I prefer the denser texture of all-purpose), sugar, eggies (I didn’t go down the road of adding single yolks, which, yes, will add richness, but I just have this thing right now where I'm trying to avoid using only part of the egg), vanilla, and for some of the tests, almond extract, which I sometimes enjoy in a vanilla world. 

I went through dozens of tests (most of which were right before the Eggsis wedding which provided 320 taste testers and some of which are still in my deep freeze… would you like some cupcakes?) and came up with a cupcake recipe that I am so very happy with!! It has all of the moist/dense qualities that I was going for, and even after all of this taste testing, I still make audible “mmmmm” sounds when I have a bite. 

I have one major takeaway that doesn’t have to do with ingredients at all though, and that’s that you cannot let these over bake. Over-baking, even by like 30 seconds, will dry these out. So use an oven thermometer, begin checking them when I say, and when your cakes are thinking about starting to brown, and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it, take em out. 

Let them cool.

And then frost them with a good American buttercream that uses a good European style butter. Because, again, we want more fat.

Sprinkles ad infinitum.

Ok I’m done. 

For now. Because part two of this saga is that we make a layer cake.

Thank you so much, Land O' Lakes, for sponsoring this post and for providing all of the butter for the endless test batches that were required for this recipe! Land O' Lakes®’ European Style Butter has a fat content of 82%, 2% more than traditional butter in the states, so it has more flavor and a creamier texture. It makes a great moist cake and a delicious buttercream frosting!!


vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 3/4 c (222g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (180g) heavy cream, room temperature
6 tb (90g) sour cream, room temperature
1/2 c (113g) land o' lakes® european style unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c (50g) refined coconut oil, soft but not melted
1 c (200g) sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Buttercream:

1 c (225g) land o' lakes® european style unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c (360g) powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 tsp almond extract, optional
3 tb (45g) heavy cream

Clues

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Line two cupcake pans with 18 cupcake liners, spacing them out evenly between the two pans.

In a medium 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. Reduce the mixer to medium low and add the dry mixture and cream mixture in 3 alternating additions, mixing until just combined. Using an ice cream scoop, distribute the batter evenly between the 18 cupcake liners. 

Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the pans and continue to bake until the cupcakes 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 6 minutes after you rotate the pans. If the cupcakes need more time, continue to bake and check them frequently (like every 30-45 seconds). Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the buttercream: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and almond extract, if using. Once combined, beat in the heavy cream. 

Frost cupcakes as desired and enjoy. These are best enjoyed within a day or two. 


This post was sponsored by Land O' Lakes! I'm very excited to be partnering with this minnesota-based farmer owner company this year!

All photos and video by Celeste Noche

almond butter cake with chocolate frosting

i realize that tahini is my go-to alternative to peanut butter when mum or any other peanut-allergic human is around, but the last time that mum and i baked together and needed to quick whip up a cake, we used almond butter in the motr party trick cake because she always keeps almond butter around when eggboy visits since his other name is nutbutterboy. it was so good and easy that we made it again the next day. it tasted kind of earthy. 

i made it again for my contribution to the annual round robin holiday gift exchange with the extended eggfamily. (that’s the cake you see here.) i had so many random cookies and meringues lying around after a week of playing in the kitchen that i just stuck them all on. it’s half covered with leftover chrismukkah cookies, half valentine’s day cookies that i was in the middle of testing, i know, it's a bit of a mess, but i'm calling it a january cake since it’s smack in the middle of the holidays and valentine’s day. i am so excited for valentine’s day.

i also added a bit of ground mahlab because its nuttiness enhances almond flavor really nicely. if you're in a pinch and don't have any, you can omit it, but i highly recommend seeking some out if you have access to a specialty spice store or middle eastern grocery. it's expensive but you just need a little tiny bit.


almond butter cake with chocolate frosting

makes one, 4-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients

1 3/4 c sugar

2 1/4 c flour

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tb ground mahlab (optional)

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp almond extract

1 c buttermilk

1/2 c flavorless oil

3/4 c water

1 c almond butter

for the frosting:

1 c unsalted butter

3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

a pinch of kosher salt

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. grease four 6-inch, round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mahlab, if using. in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, vanilla, buttermilk, oil, water, and almond butter. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. pour into the pans.

bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

cool in the pans for 10 minutes. remove to a rack to cool completely.

for the frosting:

beat together the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. beat in the cocoa powder, and then the powdered sugar. add vanilla and salt. taste and make adjustments as desired. 

assemble:

add frosting between the layers and stack the cake. frost all over with chocolate frosting. decorate with cookies, meringues, sprinkles, or whatever goodies you have in the kitchen! enjoy!


-yeh!

p.s. i’ve announced some more events! some are molly on the range-related, some are music-related! canada, louisville, berlin, tucson, sarasota, here i come! click here for more info.