Sweet Treats

Red, White, + Blue Chocolate Layer Cake

I never was much of a baker. I could whip together a mean chocolate chip cookie when the mood struck and I do like an occasional sweet, but until lately, I never did a lot of baking. If I did bake, and didn’t send what I made with Scott to work, it would just sit in the cupboard or in the fridge, forgotten.

Then pregnancy came along. And lately, you guys, it has been All. About. Sugar. Lately, I’ve developed one heck of a sweet tooth, and I can’t get enough of making sweet treats to enjoy. I was a little bit worried about that, given the way your body processes {or doesn’t!} process sugar during pregnancy, but my blood pressure is good and I passed my one-hour glucose test without issue.

That doesn’t set me up for a free-for-all on sweets, but it does let me know that baking the occasional sugary treat and having a snack now and then won’t send me into sugar shock. Besides, if our Baby Bean stays in there to his full term, I only have eight weeks left to enjoy snacking before I’m on the healthy eating wagon, balancing producing milk and getting back down to game weight for the fitness test next spring.

I’ve made a few treats that are worth keeping in my inventory and whipping up occasionally, even when it’s back to all things healthy. And, my friends, this delicious cake with buttercream and fresh fruit has earned it’s place in my rotation. I made this one for Flag Day and Scott has asked that I make another one when his folks come to visit us for the Fourth of July.

The foundation of the cake is simple – it’s an only very slightly modified version of the amazing one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from Zainab at A Classic Twist, who is pretty much my inspiration for all things awesome when it comes to baking. Did I mention that she’s also a neuroscientist, a world traveler, and an awesome mom? Is my girlcrush showing much? Holy moly.

On top of that, you get a really simple but decadent buttercream frosting that I use on just about everything I bake, with or without flavoring, with or without food coloring, depending on what I want to do. For this one, I left it plain and simple. And then I added slices of fresh fruit and cute little flags on toothpicks.

Yes, my decorating techniques still need plenty of work. But I managed to get the entire thing frosted, added some buttercream details on top {which wasn’t easy, as my hands are still swollen and cramping a little and had a hard time pressing the icing tube}. Even though in time, I’m hoping my skills come along to the point where I shake my head at it, I’m proud of this cake. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s freaking delicious. Thanks for the inspiration and for our house’s new favorite sweet treat, Zainab!

Red, White, + Blue {and Chocolate!} Layer Cake with Classic Buttercream

What You’ll Need:

For the cake {again, a heavy hat tip to A Classic Twist}:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
  • 1 cup black coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream frosting:

  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup {2 sticks} high quality butter at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. heavy cream
  • sliced strawberries
  • blueberries

1. Start by preheating your oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round pans and set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of your electric mixer {or into a large bowl if you’re going to mix by hand or with a hand mixer}.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, coffee, oil, and vanilla.

4. Set the bowl of the mixer in place and, using your paddle attachment, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients gradually and let the mixer combine them on medium speed. Stop the mixer after a couple of minutes and scrape the bowl. Mix again until fully combined, about 1 minute.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Set the cakes to cool on a wire rack, and let cool completely.

7. To make the icing, clean out the bowl of your mixer and clean off your paddle attachment. Then add the butter to the mixing bowl and cream the butter on low speed until it’s smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and mix on low to combine.

8. Add the powdered sugar a cupful at a time, mixing on low until each of the cups is fully incorporated. When the icing has reached the consistency you want, increase the mixing speed to medium until the mixture is once again smooth and fluffy.

9. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until the icing is smooth enough to work with.

10. Spread a little bit of icing on the center of a cardboard cake round to hold the lower layer in place. Set the lower layer, trimmed as needed, in place, and coat the top with frosting. Add the second layer into place. Frost as desired. Garnish with the sliced strawberries and blueberries!

11. Let chill in the refrigerator at least an hour to firm up the icing. Then serve and enjoy!

Something tells me that when my family gets a hold of this recipe, a little Amarula might make its way into the frosting along with vanilla and cream. This South African liqueur has been a family favorite ever since my sister sent a batch back after one of her internships in Capetown. I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy it again!

What are you guys planning on serving up for your Fourth of July?

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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