Archive for the ‘Cake’ Category

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For the first several years of my training as a cake decorator, I used an icing composed primarily of Crisco and powdered sugar. And I’ve gotta admit, for someone decorating 1-2 practice cakes (and in later years, simply styrofoam cake forms) every month, there was nothing better: it’s snow white, doesn’t take long to bring to room temperature, holds it’s shape¬† and consistency even as it gets warm in the piping bag, and seemingly never spoils.

That icing served me well for a long time. But as I grew older I started to grow wary of the mysterious ingredients in Crisco, and the gritty texture of the powdered sugar irritated me more and more. I started to think perhaps it was time to up my game in the icing department. And it only took a teensy bit of digging around the cake-baking community to know that I needed to learn, above all other things, the art of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

The very best buttercream
And boy am I glad I did. Each batch I make reaffirms my obsession with this icing: impossibly smooth and creamy, light and airy, shiny and stable, and delicately sweet. It freezes well, so it can be made in large batches even if you only have a small cake to bake. Because the sugar is dissolved, there is no grittiness whatsoever. It’s stable once applied, gives strength to your cakes, and is gorgeous enough to be used as an outer icing with no need for fondant. Plus, it can be adapted to just about any flavor you want.

I’ve now used this buttercream for two wedding cakes, a birthday cake, cookie icing, cupcake icing, and dinner party cakes. It’s extremely versatile and soooo tasty.

So today, I want to share it with you. And it’s not scary! Though it is a bit time-consuming, it’s pretty straight-forward to make. So let’s dive in and make some SMBC!

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Chocolate & Strawberry Cream Cake

A little over two months ago (gah, has it already been that long?) one of Brad’s friends from law school invited us over for a dinner with him and his wife, and we were asked to bring dessert. I had a busy week at work, so Brad volunteered to make our contribution. How kind of him to volunteer to prepare a dish to represent us at a dinner with his friends, yes?

*twitch* *baking-control-twitch*

It really was very nice of him. But you see I have this slight love of baking cakes, and the night before the dinner, I my control-freak-baking-nature took hold. I wanted to make something easy, tasty, and pretty, and I wanted to make it now.

Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake

This cake, you guys, is all of the above.

To be honest, I put this combo together the weekend before when testing a final batch of recipes for Scott & Crystal’s wedding cake. Enrobed in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream was a favorite and made it into the ceremony cake.

But it’s far too good to reserve only for wedding cake. This version is doable in less than 2 hours and doesn’t require the effort of icing the exterior. The cream and berries are icing enough, and it makes a stunning, seasonal dessert for dinner parties, summer barbecues, or birthdays.

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Flat Cakes

I’ve been coaxing cakes out of cake pans for a long time now, and in that time I’ve had a number of really epic failures. Many a tear was shed over ruined Super Mario cakes, layers torn in half and plucked out of pans with a fork… there’s a reason that many of my decorated practice and competition cakes were actually beautifully-iced styrofoam cylinders.

To this day, I still experience a thrill of fear each time I flip a cake out onto a cooling rack. But that fear is rarely founded. Because in spite of the occasional disaster, I learned a few tricks early in my cake decorating days that I swear by for ensuring that cakes cake out of the pan, cleanly and level, every single time.

Here’s how to do it!

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A little forest of yum

As we move into the final days before Christmas, I imagine that your holiday baking agendas are already full. That’s cool. Mine certainly was for my holiday party. Every year, I like to make a mix of old, traditional Horvath holiday favorites and new recipes. One of my favorites from this season are these possibly-overly-cutesy-but-outrageously-delicious vanilla Christmas tree cupcakes.

Aerial shot

The reallybeautiful thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t have to happen at Christmas AT ALL. It’s simply a vanilla cupcake with whipped cream icing, and therefore is appropriate in all scenarios in the universe. What, you say, another vanilla cupcake? Doesn’t the world have enough of those?

No.

Never.

And these vanilla cupcakes are a step above any I’ve had before. They are the softest, fluffiest, smoothest, vanilla-y-est cupcakes, and the clouds of simple whipped cream atop them offer just the right touch. What makes these cupcakes better than anything else? A secret ingredient: whipped cream, folded into the batter ITSELF, in addition to the icing that will finish these little bites of heaven.

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I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.

Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.

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Spring (though it’s actually starting to feel more like summer here in NC) has officially begun. It seems like the trees were, just moments ago, blossoming in delicate flowers and poking little green buds into the cool air, but they are suddenly enrobed in lush, green leaves still blinking in their new-found sunshine. The daffodils and tulips have come and gone, and the light lingers a few moments more every evening.

But just in case there was any doubt:

The berries have arrived.

Glistening, ruby-red, and more photogenic than any berry I know, strawberries are the first fruit of the season to reach the farmers market in Durham. They’re the first float of the summer produce parade; it’s definitely cause for celebration.

And what better way to celebrate than with a classic, fresh, and simple strawberry shortcake?


Okay, okay, I know you might be skeptical about my use of the word “simple” when discussing a six-layer cake, but I promise, it’s really rather easy AND is so totally worth it once you have your first bite.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17 is a day of much celebration in my family. Twenty-eight years ago today, my parents tied the knot at an old stone church in my Colorado hometown.

And as if adding a wedding anniversary to an already festive holiday, four years later, my fabulous little sister was born on St. Paddy’s, as well. Needless to say, she’s been given more shamrock paraphernalia than any other person I know.

I over-compensate by wearing copious amounts of green.

As has been the case for several years, I rarely get to celebrate these festivities with my family… I live 2 hours from the Atlantic Ocean, my sister is even closer to the Pacific, and my parents live in our mountain paradise somewhere in between. I’m actually pretty sure this shot from my senior year of high school (Kelli’s sweet sixteen!) was the last time I had that opportunity.

But geographic separation is no reason not to bake cake.

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Here’s the thing.

Most of my choices of meals to make revolve around what I want for dinner, what features a local ingredient at the peak of its season, or what has been leering at me the strongest from my list of recipes to try.

But sometimes I just want to make cake. Unnecessary, frivolous, decadent, indulgent, cake.

I don’t often make desserts, partially because we rarely have more than the two of us at dinner. But when I threw my pizza party a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make something fancy.


Both the recipes and the inspiration for this cake came from a blog I recently stumbled across (and have subsequently become obsessed with) called Sweetapolita. These cakes are something. else. Miracles of butter and sugar. They are simple yet stunning, classic yet unique.

And the best part? This particular chocolate cake recipe is, hands down, the easiest cake recipe I have ever made. Many cakes recipes have intricate patterns of adding dry ingredients, folding in damp ones, carefully mixing until consistency is just so… not this one.

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