Ok so first off.. I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in so long. It’s been a crazy few weeks and I’m still playing catch up. The thing is… I started a new job 🙂 It’s kind of a big deal actually. It’s the first time I’ve been leaving my daughter for extended periods of time, the first time I’ve been back at work after nearly a year and a half, and the first time in a long time where I’m actually reading / studying / feeling the need to prove my skills (daily) in quite some time.
Now as some of you know, I’m a DBA. That’s a Database Administrator. I work with a platform called SQL Server… Ok I can seriously HEAR you dozing off. I work with computers ok? Anyways, being in IT has been pretty good to me so far. I normally used to work a solid 9ish hour day except for the odd weekend / weeknight maintenance or code release window. This new place has me churning out 10-11 hour days regularly! Add a two hour commute daily and that leaves me with barely two hours to see my daughter, much less bake.
But I miss baking. I missed hearing the whirling sound of my mixer. The feel of scooping out flour. The smell of butter and sugar being creamed together. The give and push back on a perfectly baked vanilla cake. Of just letting myself concentrate on a recipe, and then enjoying the delicious results. Or learning from catastrophic mistakes. I thought just having a kid was hard, but being a working mom is a whole other ballgame. It’s so easy to just fall into a routine of getting up, getting ready, commuting, working, commuting again, feeding my daughter dinner, bathing her, eating dinner myself while my husband puts her down for the night, hanging out (ie discussing bills and other house stuff) with my husband and passing out myself.
Where’s the time for me? How do I find time in a day… heck a WEEK… where I can define myself based on just me and not as an extension of a another person or a job? It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job… I do… I honestly love it. And it’s not that I don’t love being a mom. It’s that I don’t want to wake up one day a few months or years down the line and realize that I spent all my time being a someone to everyone else that I forgot to be a someone for me. It’s hard to keep up this blog right now… but I’m going to stick with it… because it means something to me… and it’s one of the ways I define myself.
So there you are. No fancy reason for choosing this recipe out of the dozens I have saved. No homesickness, no birthday, no specific craving, no dire need to use up over a dozen eggs before they expire… just a little bit of comfort in the actual act of baking and then enjoying the results of this marble loaf. I love that it’s just barely sweet. That the vanilla is complemented so well with the dark chocolate. And that there’s no bells and whistles in a glaze or a frosting. No matter how you slice it… you always know what you’re in for. Just like I wish my was.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature (original recipe called for buttermilk but I didn't have any so I used whole milk)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Add milk and mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Set aside 1/3 of the batter.
- In a bowl, mix cocoa and boiling water with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the reserved cake batter; stir until well combined.
- Spoon batters into the prepared pan in 2 layers, alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate to simulate a checkerboard. To create marbling, run a table knife (or wooden skewer) through the batters in a swirling motion.
- Bake, until a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
* I've made this recipe twice - once using the 'make your own cake flour method' of adding cornstarch to all purpose flour and sifting, and once using store bought (King Arthur flour) cake flour. The results are definitely lighter and fluffier with store bought flour.
I have a thing for chocolate souffles. It’s embarrassing really. And creme brulees. I think I visibly salivate at the sight of either one of these desserts. A souffle is just so magical. The intensity of the chocolate, but the lightness of it’s texture… you can finish an individual serving and feel so satisfied but not like you are about to slide into food coma. You know?
But here’s the thing about souffles – I can only manage to serve individual servings. The idea of one huge souffle terrifies me. I already hover around the oven when my little babies are rising, I don’t think I’d survive watching a large souffle deflate. But I was craving some of that chocolate cloud magic, and I had a ton of eggs to use up (remember we talked about this last time?), AND I had a get together to go to so I needed to whip up a party friendly dessert.
That’s where this guy comes in. A baked chocolate mousse cake. Who thinks up these things? It’s crazy brilliant I tell you! It’s got a similar technique to my usual individual souffles – melt chocolate, mix with egg yolks, fold in whipped egg whites, bake, take a bite, sit on the couch (or slide to the floor) and have yourself a satisfying foodgasm – but there’s no fear of it deflating. Why you ask? Because you chill it. Yea. Wrap your head around that for a second. You chill the whole cake for hours and you are left with this super dense looking, but oh so light tasting chocolate goodness.
And if that’s not enough, get this, it has brown sugar. This way it retains this lovely moisture and gives this hint of caramely-ness (is that even a word?). It almost looks like a brownie, but melts in your mouth. God I could just keep going, but I’m going to stop now and just give you the recipe. Try it. I swear. It’s worth it. Rent yourself a RomCom, get into your comfiest pajamas, slice yourself a portion, dollop a bit of whipped cream and some berries if that’s your thing (it’s totally mine), and enjoy this cake. Then thank me 😉
So um… it’s been a while huh? I know I know… I promised a post twice a month but… life happened. More on that later. Lots to share!
Now… where were we? Oh right. Cupcakes. Of course the first post I put up after a YEAR focuses on yet another vanilla cake recipe. I had an hour to kill last week, and I was within a few blocks of Magnolia craving a red velvet cupcake, so I went in for a visit. I got myself a red velvet, a chocolate with chocolate, and a vanilla with chocolate. Don’t worry, I shared with Maheen.
That vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting was delish. Was it so extraordinary that it blew my mind? Um. Not quite. But it was still pretty good. Then things started to align – Sweetapolita had tried the recipe and given it a stamp of approval, I had two parties to go to where I wanted to bring a simple dessert, and I had quite a few eggs that needed to be used up. Hah ok the eggs thing is probably what drove this baking plan 😉
First time around I followed the recipe to the T. Well except I didn’t have self rising flour at home, so I just used some magic and made a batch at home. And my magic I mean SCIENCE :p 1 cup of all purpose + 1 tspn of baking powder = 1 cup of self rising. The cakes were ok. A little dense and bordered on pound cakey. The second time around I sifted the flour combo, was VERY careful to not overmix the batter, and added 2 tspns of baking powder. Results were better. Lighter crumb, but still a cross between a super soft cupcake and corn bread. The cupcakes from the second batch actually got a shout out on my friend Sana’s new modest fashion blog. For anyone looking for great outfit ideas, and fun writing, check her out on modHijabi.com
In conclusion, would I try this again? Eh. Probably not. I think I’m pretty satisfied with my other vanilla cake recipe so I’ll just stick to that from now. If you happen to try this recipe, let me know what you think!
Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes - Worth It?
- 1 3/4 cups (350 g) all purpose flour
- 2 tspn baking powder
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (400 g) white sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (237 ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 standard muffin tins - 24 in total. My batter actually made close to 26 cupcakes, so I used those extra as tasters 😉
- In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Be sure to try and add gradually instead of dumping all the sugar at once. I found that this made a difference in the fluffiness of the butter sugar combo.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
- Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes. I use an ice cream scoop for more uniform cupcakes.
- Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
For more behind the scenes photos, stories and discussions:
The giveaway is now closed.
February is usually a big month in the Shaikh-Zaman household, especially this year, and especially this week. First off, the Giants won the Superbowl. Maheen had set the alarm for 4:45am India time so we could wake up to watch the game. Needless to say, after a long day of running errands and only 3 hours of sleep later, I wasn’t the one waking up on time. There are only a few things in this world that Maheen is loyal to and loves beyond reason. The Giants are definitely in the top 10. Through the ups and downs, Eli’s “aw shucks” interviews, and a number of throw away mistakes, Maheen has diligently watched nearly every game and read nearly every piece of commentary available to man. And this year, they won the Superbowl for his birthday.
This one’s for you Maheen 😉
That brings us to the second reason why February is a big deal. This year was Maheen’s big 3-0! He waved goodbye to the 20s and is now an old fogie like the rest of us. Hah, this is especially sweet because I’ve been hearing 20s vs 30s jokes since last April when I turned 30. Now Maheen’s not really into birthdays; just another day like the rest of them in his book. On the flip side, I love birthdays. Heck I love any reason to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries, anything that can be made into a momentous occasion where I can bake a cake. And I love buying presents. Thinking about what a person likes, what they would never really buy for themselves but secretly want, and then wrapping the present – absolutely love it.
Years ago when Maheen and I first met, started courting, and got married, I would go through a whole slew of possible birthday presents. The full collection of Tin Tin graphic novels and accompanying “extras” to remind him of his childhood. An mp3 player preloaded with some albums from his favorite artists like Tom Petty, the Cranberries, and Cure. You know.. thoughtful presents. But through all of that, the thing that Maheen loves the most, are Amazon giftcards. Shaking head. A giftcard. What am I going to do with this guy? 🙂 Lucky for the rest of you, to help celebrate Maheen’s big 3-0 birthday, I’m giving away a $30 giftcard from Amazon.com (details below).