Category Archives: Cakes + Frostings

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Fresh produce always reminds me of Spring. The crispness in the air is just enough for a light sweater or blazer, and a welcome change from that horribly bulky winter jacket you were forced to carry around. You switch from hot coffee (or hot chocolate) to a delicious iced latte or a cold press. And the trees start blooming! This is probably my favorite part. I love walking or driving down the same streets that were so stark and dreary, and are now bright and deliciously green. That brings me to this gorgeous batch of carrots I picked up. Originally I thought I’d roast them with some butter and herbs to go with some chicken. But then I remembered I’d been meaning to make some carrot cake. On a whim I went with the cake option (obv).
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Now “by a whim” I meant I decided on it and life got in the way for an extra week. I had to search for a recipe that wouldn’t fail me. My husband is a big carrot cake fan and a half ass cake wouldn’t do. I didn’t want it to be too sweet, and I wanted the crumb to have some weight to it, but not be dense like a pound cake. In the end I was debating between the recipe by Faux Martha and Smitten Kitchen. What pushed me over the edge is that the Faux Martha recipe used some whole wheat flour as well. I loved the idea and felt that it would give the cake a good amount of heft. Plus I had some whole wheat pastry flour that was going to expire in a month so…. Qismat!
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Easy Chocolate Frosting

ChocFrosting2 I just need things to be simple. For a little while at least. I need things to flow, be easy, and just work. I need to start being on time to work, have a handle on my kids, actually get projects and work DONE, and be able to post a bit more regularly. But I feel like I’m failing at just about all of these things. I feel like I’m just playing catchup and each day I slip a little further back on the path no matter how fast I think I’m running towards my goal. I know in my head that I’m not alone in this feeling. Most people feel like they aren’t accomplishing as much as they could. But the problem with this whole feeling inadequate feeling is that it isolates you. In those moments it makes you feel like you are the only one who just can’t get their act together. ChocFrosting6 Continue reading

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Chocolate Peppermint Cake So it’s holiday season. One of my favorite flavors that comes up around now is peppermint chocolate. You can find it in truffles, or cookie exchanges, or that addictive peppermint chocolate bark that is sold at Williams Sonoma. I’m a fan of mint chocolate no matter what time of year, but there’s just something more festive about it now. There’s a special sort of magic in the air when houses and stores sparkle with twinkle lights, and when people are a bit more ready with a smile. It’s the time of year where soup kitchens are overrun with volunteers, donations to charity organizations go through the roof, and everyone is a little bit more willing to lend a hand to a stranger. Or at least that is what I hope for.  Chocolate Peppermint Cake We are also living in a world where mistrust seems to be running high. Political heads and community leaders are counting on this and rallying people into a frenzy. “If you see something, say something” has honestly run amok. My three year old daughter has had to deal with more racist encounters then I think I ever had to deal with in my entire childhood. Why should she ever have to? What the hell is wrong with people where they feel it’s open season on babies? Chocolate Peppermint Cake Chocolate Peppermint Cake Chocolate Peppermint Cake Today there were additional peaceful protests by the Black Lives Matter movement. They marched to the airport, and the whole thing dissipated in no time. We need movements like this to wake people up. To get them at least thinking about the world we live in. There have been so many cases where, even with video evidence, the victims get no justice. As a person of color, how do you not support something like this? But there are also so many communities and individuals who just don’t want to get caught up in “the drama”. They think that by being a model minority, they and their families will be safe. I can’t buy into that. Thank God, my family hasn’t been involved in anything as scary as what happened to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, or Sandra Bland, but there is always the chance. And even if we were safe, I’d like to think that my privilege wouldn’t blind me from the realities of other communities. Chocolate Peppermint Cake So I’m asking you to just take a moment and think about your neighbor this holiday season. Whether they are a person of color, or Muslim, or part of the LGBT community, or just something that is just different than what you know or recognize, take a minute to think about them and support them. That’s what I feel like the holidays should really be about. There is so much potential for goodness right now. Please don’t squander it by passing it out only to your own.

Chocolate Peppermint Cake
 
The chocolate recipe is the same as this One Bowl Chocolate cake recipe - http://bakingparttime.com/one-bowl-chocolate-cake/
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR CAKE
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dutch processed like Valrhona)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 2 eggs
  • FOR FROSTING
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Instructions
  1. FOR CAKE
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  3. Whisk together all the dry ingredients
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps
  5. Divide batter across three 6 inch round cake pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. About 35-40 minutes
  6. FOR FROSTING
  7. Beat butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy
  8. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Beat for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add milk and peppermint extract. Beat for 1 minute.
  10. Add remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until thick and fluffy. 2-3 minutes.

 

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Pound Cake

Growing up I was taught I could be anything I wanted to be – an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor, an artist, and even President. School, especially elementary school, was about hope and encouragement. Dream big! Believe! Spread your wings and FLY! Hah at home, the message was a bit different. You are smart and can be anything you want to be, so long as it’s a responsible and financially sound path. No surprise my parents wanted me to be a doctor, or something ‘safe’ within the medical field. As I grew older, and my dad realized I was a girl, he switched his mind to just something short and safe within the medical field because I was supposed to have kids and a demanding career shouldn’t take away from a home life. Oh hello patriarchy!

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The idea of becoming a photographer or a journalist or an author was a pipe dream and something only ‘heroines in novels did’ according to my Mom 🙂 Never mind that I was never found without a camera in my hand since the age of 8 when I got my first one, it was something that just wasn’t done. Years rolled on, I discovered I loved Math and decided to move forward as a Computer Science and Math major. The idea of becoming a photographer became a nice alternative life career I dreamed of when I got bored at work or frustrated.

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Here’s the funny thing about this generation though, the one that follows mine; they are crazy. They have jobs like mine – fiscally responsible, stable jobs – and they just quit. Quit! Or get laid off if we are going back to 2008 – 2010. Then they become playwrights. Um. What? I can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know if it’s ballsy or if it’s ridiculous. Or in some cases (Cat cafes, Poodle hotels, very specific robot projects) a little bit of both. It reminds me of the time when I came very close to quitting my own job and joining a Photography internship. But the whole child-of-immigrant-parents-who-have-struggled-their-whole-life-to-provide-you-a-secure-future side of my brain kicked in. I’ll quit just as soon as I have the right amount of savings. Let me just get this one project under belt so I have a safe resume. And as soon as that kicked in, my doubts took center stage. Do I even have what it takes? Imagine the grueling hours and the minimal pay. Are you crazy? Just because you have this job doesn’t mean you can’t follow those dreams on the side. Be an adult Aaisha! So that’s what I did.

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Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake

Eid Mubarak loves! It was a crazy month of fasting, and now it’s time to celebrate! As you may or may not know, Muslims all around the world spent the last 30ish days fasting from sunrise to sunset. Here in the US that’s more than 15 hours of fasting, in the middle of Summer. I had been dreading it honestly. Crazy NYC summers, feeling stifled by the humidity and the heat that seems to ooze through the very concrete of this damn city. Not being able come out from the under the weight of it all with a freezing cold glass of iced coffee or chocolate milk. Dread. ChocolateStrawberryIceboxCake6 But it wasn’t too bad! The weather has been mild to say the least, and I feel truly blessed. I know this season could have been so much worse, but through the mercy of Mother Nature / God, I made it through and I feel invigorated. I was taking time to reflect, taking time to prepare food at home, and spending more time with family again. Not just, “Hey did you do the dishes? Is time to feed Razia? Ugh, more bills??” But real time with real conversations. I was spending my lunch breaks thinking about the blog and where I want it to go, or taking walks and exploring the neighborhood. There were more connections with friends, and visiting people within the community. All in all I was taking time to just make things better. I was exhausted by the end of the night, but my head felt clearer. Hah, maybe it was just the lack of caffeine 🙂

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Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. And every year, I break them 🙂 This year’s list included the usual – exercise more, eat better, read regularly, don’t waste time, grow as a person, etc etc etc. It also included blog / baking related tasks – post regularly without stressing myself out, bake a cake a week and decorate as practice, try recipes that scare me, etc. I’ve been pretty good about posting regularly in my opinion. Well, as well as can be expected 🙂

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The whole “baking a cake a week” thing sort of fell flat though. But, looking on the bright side, it’s not like I didn’t bake ANY cakes!  I ordered myself a few 6 inch pans, and have managed to tackle about one a month. Pat on the back for me. Hah, the thing is, I’ve been sticking to my staple chocolate cake and vanilla cake recipe, and have only been branching out when it comes to frostings. And it is totally dependent on the mood I’m in.

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One Bowl Chocolate Cake

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A few years ago when my husband and I were thinking about starting a family, I just couldn’t picture myself with a kid. I mean come on… a kid… that’s such a huge commitment! So much responsibility! I felt that my life would be over, and it would be all about this new baby. Hah. I know. I sound crazy. I was just so afraid of losing my sense of self. There were a lot of panic attacks, and a lot of hand holding from my husband’s end, but eventually the idea grew on me. I started to think of this future baby as someone I could be friends with, someone I could share things with, and someone who I could love.

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One of the ways I got over the fear was imagining scenarios of me and this future baby / kid doing things together. I pictured us going to the park, or sitting in our future backyard just enjoying a great late Summer / early Fall day. Flying as high as possible on a swing and feeling that moment of exhilaration when you jump off midswing. I pictured us reading together before bedtime and introducing her to all the worlds that could possibly be imagined in books. From exploring new planets, to swimming in the middle of the ocean, to befriending dragons, to scolding monkeys. There’s nothing that can’t be achieved in a good book. And, because this is me, I pictured us baking.

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Hah I know it’s so June Cleaver, but somehow it’s such a “Mommy and me” iconic imagine that I just can’t get out of my mind. Both of us in a sunshine filled kitchen, with this little munchkin standing next to me on a chair while we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (like these, or these, or these) or some cupcakes. I pictured those cupcakes coming out of the oven, and the two of us decorating them with a smear of frosting or just straight nutella and maybe some colorful sprinkles, laughing and sharing secrets, while her father sat at the kitchen table reading a book or grading papers looking up and smiling at us. “Baba look what Mama and I made! Want one?” The two of us would walk over to him, me holding glasses of milk, and her proudly but carefully carrying a plate of cupcakes. We’d sit together and share an afternoon treat while we talked about all the stuff she was learning in school and the new discoveries she’d made that week. This perfect little family moment.

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Caramel Walnut Cake

If you met me today, most of you would think that I’m an incredibly outgoing person. I like to go out, I love parties and get togethers with tons of people and I actually enjoy floating from one conversation to another in a crowd of people. Though it comes a little bit more naturally now, this was definitely not the case growing up. I was lucky enough to grow up with two sisters and a mom who’s friendliness and ability to feel at ease in nearly any circumstance provided me with a curtain I could stand behind and just observe. They initiated conversations, made friends, and I tagged along just watching and creating stories in my head.

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Books were my closest friends. I could just lose myself in a story, let myself get pulled into the characters and escape from my own life for a while. For me it was the perfect situation – I could stand just on the edges of their world and observe the inner workings of all the characters without having to interact. Without having to really look at myself. Or have to think about how the characters themselves would view me. They were real in my mind, but I took comfort in the fact that they weren’t quite alive, and as such, couldn’t stand up in the real world and judge me. Or worse, make fun of me.

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Mango Lassi cake

Growing up we were like most immigrant families – money was meant to be saved and not wasted. A trip to Roy Rogers or Pizza Hut was a special outing when we did especially well in school, there was no brand new back to school wardrobe every year, and toys were only bought on birthdays and Eid (Muslim holiday that occurs twice a year). That’s not to say that my parents didn’t do their part either. To this day I don’t think my mom has ever paid full price for anything, and a coffee from Starbucks is still an extravagant treat. The only thing that they ever really splurged on was a trip to visit family in Pakistan every other Summer.

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Now I know people have summer homes in the Hamptons or family reunions in North Carolina or trips to Disneyland, but I wouldn’t trade our Pakistan trips for anything. Sleeping under the stars trying to catch a breeze on the rooftop veranda or running around with our cousins splashing each other with buckets of water in the hot afternoon sun… these were my summer days. And if I close my eyes, the immediate taste that fills my mouth is that of mangos. Bright, sweet, incredibly cold mangos.

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See, my mom’s side of the family essentially own farms that grow grains. Whenever harvest season came around, the lot would be divided amongst family, bags to sell, and those to give away to friends. Now some of those friends own their own farms – mango farms. So when summer rolled around, my grandmother would get crates and crates full of fresh mangos just waiting to be cut into and devoured. But even after we pickled bottles and bottles, and all my aunts and uncles, cousins, and people who worked for my grandmother ate their fill… there were still hundreds of mangos left over. Those that we couldn’t finish, we froze. And those frozen mango cubes would make the BEST mango milkshakes and lassis.

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I don’t know if it was a deliberate feeling or an unconscious effort to try and recreate that taste, but somehow that’s what this cake ended up being. My mother in law had a box full of ripe beautiful mangos that needed to be used up, and I had a cake that needed a fruit filling. So I split open my vanilla cake, whipped up a batch of vanilla frosting, added in chopped up mangos, and frosted the outside in a bright ombre design. Simple and straight forward. A cake that I hope my grandmother would agree tasted like a summer day in Sindh.

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*Update* – This post can work with any of your favorite vanilla cake and vanilla frosting recipes. You can even use boxed mixed! However, I’ve included my go to vanilla cake recipe for those interested. I still haven’t found my ‘IT factor’ vanilla frosting, but for this recipe I used one from the Sweetapolita blog.

Technique – bake two round cakes and let them cool completely. Place cakes in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This helps them stiffen up a bit so it’s easier to cut. Even out the tops of the cakes by cutting off the top mound. Then slice both cakes through the middle so you are left with 4 round cakes.

In a bowl, mix a little over 1/3 of your frosting with mango chunks. For this cake I used 2 mangos. Slather 1/3 of the mango + frosting mixture onto of your bottom cake round, and top with a second cake round. Do this another 2 times so you have a total of 4 cake rounds stacked, with three layers of frosting. Place the whole cake in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes so the frosting firms up a bit, then cover the outside and top with the 2/3 frosting that we set aside. The bright coral / peach / orange colors came from food coloring that I added to the vanilla frosting that covers the cake. That’s it!

Mango Lassi cake
 
Vanilla Cake Recipe (adapted from Sweetapolita and Cook's Illustrated)
Author:
Ingredients
  • 5 large egg whites (room temp!)
  • 1 cup whole milk (room temp!)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp, cut into cubes)
Instructions
  1. Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. If you don't have the spray, butter the pans, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
  2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. If the mixture still feels cooler than room temp, microwave it for 15 seconds. Be sure not to overdo it because they eggs will start to cook.
  3. Sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into bowl of electric mixer and mix at slow speed for a few seconds. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, sort of like cornmeal or sand.
  4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to flour sugar mixture and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl.
  5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 - 32 minutes.
  6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.
  7. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked. Must be served at room temp.
Notes
This recipe makes either 2 8inch cakes, 3 6inch cakes, 2 6inch cakes and 8 cupcakes, or 24-27 cupcakes.

Nutella Frosting

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Nutella is a dangerous thing. It really is. You have these commercials telling you it’s totally ok to smear a nice thick layer on a piece of wheat bread and consider it breakfast. A healthy breakfast at that. Then there’s the fact that you can get two ginormous bottles in one go from just about any supermarket. And finally, you don’t need anything other than a spoon (or you’re finger if your desperate), to scoop out a nice big blob as a sweet snack. Dangerous.

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So what happens when you have a husband who is a Nutella addict, a wife who loves chocolate and who bakes (hint – it’s me), and a daughter who has a definity preference for chocolate AND has a first birthday coming up? You get Nutella frosting. Plain and simple. It’s Nutella, but better. Retaining that nutty chocolatey taste, but even more fluid, smooth and buttery. I’ve found it compliments vanilla cake perfectly. If you are looking for a chocolate frosting that will please both chocolate lovers and haters alike, this is for you.

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(This isn’t my daughter’s birthday cake by the way. This is a test cake that got donated to some awesomely lucky friends of ours. I may eventually post a photo of that later :p It was my first attempt at a tiered cake and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!)

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