Checkerboard Layer Cake

Checkerboard Cake1

One year ago today, I thought that I was absolutely crazy.

I had tried to talk myself out of it for months, giving all kinds of excuses as to why the idea in my head was a bad, terrible, even abysmal one that would never lead to anything.

I didn’t know anything about blogging. I mean ANYTHING.

WordPress or Blogroll? How should I know? Wait. What’s the difference between them anyway? (This was a serious, actual conversation I had with myself at the time, I kid you not.)

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I didn’t know anything about photography.  I got my first real digital camera for my 24th birthday, and I knew virtually nothing about operating it besides pressing the button that would actually take the pictures. Food styling? Natural Lighting? Props? What were those things? I sure as heck didn’t know.

There were literally millions of other food blogs out there; what reason did  I have to think that anyone out there would take any notice of it? Not a single one.

Despite all of those misgivings and factors working against me, a year ago today I pressed the ‘Publish’ button. A year ago today, I published the very first blog post on Cooking is My Sport.

My tiny blog baby is one year old, guys. I can’t believe it. When I first started this thing, it was purely an experiment- I told myself that if no one showed interest in my posts, I could always just quit and delete the whole thing, with the world being none the wiser. And for some strange, but wonderful reason, that didn’t happen.

And it’s all because of you people.

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I’ve said it before, but today on my blog’s anniversary I can’t help but say it once again: to every single person who has ever visited CIMS, liked a post, commented on one, or followed my blog- you have my immense gratitude.

Thank you. Thank you. And THANK YOU.

Most of all, thank you all to the wonderful new friends and buddies I’ve made through blogging. Thanks for sharing your wonderful blogs with me and always showing mad support ❤

This has been such a wild ride of a year. I feel like I’ve learned so much- not just about blogging, but photography as well. Check back to my first posts if you don’t believe me.

Wait no, don’t do that. My photography is horrifyingly God-awful on several dishes.

Eh, whatever.  You’re welcome to look if you’re brave enough. And regardless of poor pictures, the food is still spot on, so there’s that.

I knew I wanted to make a special cake to celebrate my blogs’s birthday, and this one certainly is special. The checkerboard layer cake is one of those things that for a lot of people that haven’t made it before, is a real mystery. They just can’t figure out how it gets done. I used to be one of them myself. Then, earlier this year, my grandma and grandpa remodeled their kitchen. While emptying it out for the contractor, my grandma decided to get rid of a good number of her old appliances and cookware- fortunately, most of them got passed on to yours truly. One of the things I got was her checkerboard cake pan set. When I was trying to think of what type of layer cake to make for the blog anniversary, I thought of the set and immediately decided that this would be the one.

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Now, if you don’t have a checkerboard cake pan set, have no fear: you can still make this cake. All you really need are 8″ or 9″ layer cake pans, and bowls/cookie cutters that measure 4-5″ and 2-3″ inches. You also don’t have to automatically go with white and chocolate cake as your flavors: as long as they’re different colors to create the checkerboard pattern, it’s fine. I will say this though: try to use cake recipes that aren’t overly moist. Since this cake requires multiple steps of assembly, super moist cakes can have the tendency to be really fragile and crack with too much handling. The cake shouldn’t be as dense as pound cake, but not as soft as a twinkie either- a perfect medium is what you’re looking for.

I didn’t think I would like this cake a much as I did. Chocolate cake isn’t my favorite, and I’m honestly more of a yellow cake lover than a straight white one. However, I found this to be VERY good. There’s just something about the blending of flavors that creates the perfect blend between the sweetness of the white cake and the slight bitterness of the chocolate cake that just really works together. The vanilla butter cream is delicious enough to eat by itself on a spoon- straight up.

So, I know what you’re thinking: there’s a crap load of frosting on this cake. I know. And I can explain. See the original plan was to use the butter cream to make these lovely, artistic peaks with a spoon, and  needed a rather thick layer of frosting to do so. I just forgot one thing:

I am not artistic by any stretch of the imagination. It took me about 5-7 minutes of attempting this elaborate, peak design to figure out that it just wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t making peaks- more like craters. And no one wants to see craters on a layer cake. So, I just smoothed it all out and called it a night. Yeah, it’s thick, but so what? You get extra vanilla butter cream to eat- who’s gonna complain about that? Not I, said the Jessica.

I guess this about wraps this post up. Once again guys: thank you SO much for all the support you’ve given Cooking is My Sport over the past year- I can’ wait to see what next year holds 😉

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Checkerboard Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Hershey & Melissa@My CakeSchool

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION: Page 1, Page 2

Ingredients

For Chocolate Layer:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup, plus 6 tbsp. flour
  • 6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup veg. oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

For White Cake Layer:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted, soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 6 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

For Chocolate Layer:

1. Grease & flour 1 9-inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed in a stand mixer for 2 min.

3. Stir in boiling water and pour batter into pan (it’ll be thin). Bake for 30– 35 min, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10min, then remove to wire rack.

For White Layer:

1. Keep oven at 350°. Grease/flour 9-inch cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Combine the egg whites, milk and vanilla extract.

2. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add half of the milk mixture. Add the rest of both, continue to alternate beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 min, until cake passes toothpick test. Cool in pan for 10 min, then move to wire rack.

For Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

1. Cream shortening, butter & vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time and milk. Mix on medium speed for 8 min, scraping bowl sides & decreasing speed to slow on last two minutes.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes1

Do any of you guys watch the show ‘Cupcake Wars’ on Food Network? It gets a pretty bad rap, but I still enjoy it. Apparently there are a good amount of other people that do too, because it’s been on for a few years now. I like to see the creative ideas that the competitors come up with for crazy ingredients, then I like seeing them create 3 of their own signature cupcakes with the different fillings and flavors and frostings. Of course it’s not a perfect show: for one, the host really gets on my nerves with his lame jokes at the different time markers throughout the competition. I feel like if one of the other Food Network personalities were hosting it, the show would be stronger. Just my opinion. This may be just me and my suspicious nature, but I’m not so sure that I buy the whole “1,000 Cupcake display” that they claim to make the competitors put together at the end for a special event. Maybe it’s a few hundred cupcakes, but  from what I’ve seen in most of the episodes, it really just doesn’t look like that many.

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Before I watched the show I didn’t know that there were such things as ‘cupcakeries’ that specialize in putting out gourmet style cupcakes. I blame it on my hometown. It’s lame when it comes to Foodie Culture. But even if we did have a cupcake bakery that sold $8.00 cupcakes, I’m not so sure that I would be bum-rushing the doors to get some every week. #1, when it comes to desserts, I don’t usually have extreme cravings for regular cake- pound cake is ALWAYS welcome, but my cravings for typical, moist cake are far in between. #2, I’m a simple girl when it comes to my favored cake flavors. My favorite type of cakes are a golden yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting, and  a french vanilla cake with white frosting- both of which I think would be a waste of money to buy at a cupcake bakery. If I buy something from there, I’ll probably try to get a wacky, loaded flavor like a caramel apple pie cupcake, or a banana pudding style one, or something like that. If I want a  normal, ‘plain’ cupcake, chances are I’m just going to make it myself.

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This may sound weird, but I actually really love it when people I know specifically ask me to make them something that they’re craving to eat. It makes me feel kinda special that they’re letting me feed the craving of something that they love.  Good food  makes us happy. When I serve someone good food, I get to be apart of making somebody happy- and even if the happiness is temporary, that’s not something I think should be taken for granted. We could all use a little bit more of making somebody else happy especially when so many of us struggle (and fail) to make ourselves happy. Focusing on other people’s happiness is a lot less trouble than focusing on our own, am I right? Of course right. One of my friends recently had a birthday and she wanted some vanilla cupcakes to celebrate it, so I was happy to make these for her.

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I’m really happy with how these turned out. The cake itself is moist, soft and golden. This was also my first time making real buttercream frosting, and I think it was  a huge success. It’s not like that lardy, crap that they make in store bought cupcakes that makes you want to barf and that you just end up scraping off- no, I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of frosting that you may even like more than the cupcake itself. Yep, it’s that good. And the nonpareils? Well they’re there because I think they look pretty and cute- just like the whole idea of cupcakes themselves.

These little babies are my contribution to this week’s Fiesta Friday, hosted by Fae@Fae’s Twist and Tango and Suzanne@apuginthekitchen. Every week I get so pumped about bringing my dish to this awesome link up, as well as getting the chance to see what everyone else has been up to in the kitchen to bring. Have a good weekend guys!

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Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

Recipe Courtesy of ‘Bake’ by Edward Gee

 CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

Frosting

  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, to decorate

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan.

2. Put the butter and granulated sugar in a bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then fold in gently.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

4. To make the frosting, put the butter into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Beat in the cream and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar and continue beating until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

5. Use a small spatula to swirl the frosting over the tops of the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.