Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Marzipan Buttercream

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Can I start with a rant about Valentine’s Day?

The floor is yours, m’lady.

I’ve long been a supporter of Valentine’s Day, even—or especially—for people who aren’t in a relationship. We as a society put so much emphasis on ~romance~ and finding “The One” and the idea that if you’re not coupled up, you’re somehow less than a full person. Which is, frankly, ridiculous. There are SO MANY WAYS to be a person and only some of them involve finding a single partner, falling in love with them, and spending the rest of your life together.

I suggested cupcakes this week because I think Valentine’s Day should be about all kinds of love. Love for your friends. Love for your family. Love for your cheerful next-door neighbor and for your coworker who shares memes with you on bad days and for your dog. (Just don’t give your dog cupcakes.)

When we were growing up, for Valentine’s Day the THING in our house was to make candy  to bring to school and share with your friends/teachers/whoever you wanted. And as the sister who has been single for literally every Valentine’s Day of her life, that’s my primary association with the day.

(Except that I tend to forget about actual Valentine’s Day, because February 14th is also the day that Oregon became a state and I’m very pumped about that every year. Happy Birthday Oregon!)

To me—and, I suspect, to Kitra too—there aren’t many better ways to show you care than by making something. I loved making handmade Valentines in elementary school, and when I was in college I would send Kitra Valentine’s Day care packages covered in stickers and filled with silly things.

And I love making cookies shaped like Oregon, and a banner… shaped like Oregon. But also yes, bringing food for my friends and laughing at whatever Jordan came up with that year.

These cupcakes are made to be shared, both because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s nice to share things, but also because they’re delicious. We made this almond cake as a sheet cake back in the pre-blog days, and it’s just as good in a smaller form.

And because we love a good themed decoration, we added raspberries for taste and color. Even though nothing says love like sprinkles—the glitter of the food world—we went with crushed raspberries stenciled into hearts on top because hot damn it’s cute. And tasty.

The frosting is an almond buttercream, and it all works very well together. Make these cupcakes for whoever you love this week, or any week.

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Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Marzipan Buttercream

Adapted from Food52, Genius Kitchen, and Molly Yeh

Makes 18 cupcakes

Notes

If you’re looking for a specific cupcake height, we recommend doing a test cupcake to figure out just how much batter you need in each. We filled these about ⅔ full for a relatively flat cake or ¾ full for a slightly domed cake.

We found that the frosting could be made entirely in a food processor, which is what we did here. If you think your food processor might be overheating, or if you have a very small one, you can follow Molly Yeh’s original directions and move to a mixer after you make the nut butter. If you don’t have a food processor at all (or if yours isn’t very powerful), you can try using store-bought almond butter (or, to keep the light color and cleaner taste, almond paste and a smaller amount of powdered sugar) and doing the whole thing in an electric mixer.

The frosting recipe will make more than you need (unless you are a VERY enthusiastic cupcake-froster) but a standard-sized food processor will have trouble making nut butter out of a smaller batch. If you have a small food processor, or are doing the whole thing in a mixer, feel free to make a two-thirds batch.

If you want to stencil hearts like we did, just cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard. Frost each cupcake with a very smooth layer of frosting, place the stencil on top, and dust crushed raspberries over top in as even a layer as possible. Remove the stencil very carefully so that you don’t dump the excess powder back on the cupcake.

Cupcakes

2 ¼ cups (270g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup (1 stick, 4 oz) butter, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups (267g) sugar
3 eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup milk
⅓ cup (35g) almond flour or meal

Preheat your oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, followed by the almond extract.

Add ¼ cup of milk and mix to combine, followed by a third of the flour mixture; repeat until you’ve added all of the milk and flour and the batter is cohesive. Mix in the almond flour.

Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ to ¾ of the way with batter, smoothing the top of each with the back of a spoon. Bake cupcakes 20-22 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Once they are cool enough to handle, move cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Filling

6 oz (about 1 ½ cups) frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and crushing raspberries with the back of your spoon or spatula to help them break them down. Cook until the sauce has thickened; it should thickly coat the back of a spoon, and when you scrape down the middle of the pan, you should see the bottom of the pan for a second or so before the sauce has a chance to fill back in. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before filling cupcakes.

Frosting

1 cup (128g) blanched almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
¼ cup heavy cream

Add almonds to a food processor and process on high until they become a soft, creamy nut butter, about 5 minutes. You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides every so often.

Add butter to food processor and blend until the butter and almonds are smooth and well combined. Add powdered sugar in two batches, processing until smooth and creamy. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts, and heavy cream and continue blending until the frosting is light and fluffy. You may need to but the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes at this point if it’s too soft to handle, but we didn’t find it to be unmanageable.

Assembly

Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut a circle out of the top of each cupcake and set it aside. Use a small spoon (we used a ¾ teaspoon) to scoop out a bit of the center. You want the hole to go about halfway down and be about ¾ of an inch wide.

Use a small spoon or piping bag to fill the hole most of the way with raspberry filling and replace the cake circle you removed earlier. (This gives you an even surface to frost on.) Top with frosting and crushed freeze-dried raspberries, if desired.

Classic Cake Day: Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Black Currant Whipped Cream

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[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake for Valentine’s Day 2018.]

Jordan: This cake was delicious. Kitra also broke a chair taking pictures of it.

Kitra: I forgot that a screw was loose and wanted to get this cake from all the angles because it’s. just. so. pretty.

When we were in New York to see a musical a while back (Come From Away, go see it, it’s amazing), we stopped by Kalustyan’s to browse the truly absurd amount of spices, herbs, and miscellaneous flavorings they have there.

We picked up a couple of things, but the first one to see use was the black currant juice powder, because it is truly the most remarkable color and tastes great.

Plus it’s the king of berries!

Or so they said. I buy it.

Literally. We bought it. And it was delicious—bright and fruity, and when folded into whipped cream made a delightful replacement for the heavy buttercream you might expect from a Valentine’s Day cake.

While we’d hoped it would stay hot pink in the cream, it turned into a lovely shade of purple and we’re not mad about it.

We paired it here with a vanilla buttermilk cake, which was moist and dense in the best senses of both of those words.

When we looked back to write this post, the first though both of us had was “my coworkers loved this cake,” so it’s clearly also a crowd-pleaser. Which is good, because this makes a lot of cake.

You could easily scale down the recipe and do this as a single layer cake with a thick layer of frosting and it would be a great afternoon snack… But if you make the full thing, we don’t think your coworkers will mind.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Black Currant Whipped Cream

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sky High

Notes

We recognize that black currant juice powder is kind of a niche product, so don’t feel obliged to track it down. This cake would also pair well with any fruit whipped cream made with freeze-dried berries, like the blueberry one we made over the summer. Strawberries or raspberries would be nice and festive for Valentine’s Day.

Since this is a whipped cream topping, be sure to keep the cake in the fridge once frosted.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

Ingredients

3 3/4 cups (450g) cake flour
2 1/2 cups (500g) sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk (divided)
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

Combine dry ingredients, including sugar, in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and 1¼ cup buttermilk and beat on low until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk. In three additions, fold the egg mixture into the rest of the batter.

Divide batter into pans; there should be about 3 cups of batter per pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Allow to cool fully before frosting with black currant whipped cream between each layer and on top. If desired, dust top of frosted cake with additional black currant powder.

Black Currant Whipped Cream

Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
black currant powder, to taste

Directions

Using an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar together until thick and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to fold in black currant powder, tasting as you go, until the flavor is to your liking.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

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Kitra: There was a time in my youth(ish) where I lived in a place deep, deep within the archives of Better Homes and Gardens. I made their Rosemary Lemon Cupcakes at least once a month, and everything else I tried came from there. Enter this cake. It was always… Almost right. A dense chocolate cake that tasted barely healthy, with a truly inadequate dollop of blueberry infused Cool Whip. It’s been on my list of things to fix up for a while, so I brought the idea to Jordan.

Jordan: And I had zero opinions on it, but also zero opinions on anything else. The world runs on apathy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So we made a cake! Apathy Cake! Or, Whole Wheat Chocolate Blueberry Cake.

Kitra suggested calling it “extra-gluten chocolate cake,” but I was pretty sure that’s not how whole wheat works.

Listen, it’s WHOLE wheat. Not just partial wheat. Extra wheat = extra gluten.

Fun fact: The internet tells me that whole wheat flour actually has less gluten. So.

Fun fact: Shut up. Bonus fact: Jordan calls blueberries “bluebs.” And also corrected my spelling of “bluebs.”

It’s the first part of the word “blueberries”! Of course it’s spelled that way! But also, blame my coworker for me saying “bluebs.” She started doing it and now I can’t stop. It’s so much fun to say. Bluebs. Bluebs. Say it with me.

I’m good.

Bluebs. Bluuuuuuebs.

The original cake is one layer, and generally close to something you’d want to eat while not quite making it. (Can I be mean to this cake?) The first change I wanted to make was modifying it to become a layer cake, which meant making the batch slightly larger. The second thing that I wanted to change was the blueberry layer. In the original recipe, there is hardly any blueberry. In fact, Jordan didn’t even realize it existed in the original recipe until it was pointed out while writing this. This is, however, the best part of the cake, so in this revision I wanted us to focus in on the blueberries labor.

Ah yes, the blueberries’ labor. [Note: Kitra is voice-typing.]

They do do most of the heavy lifting, and we thank them for their service.

Anyway, focusing in on the blueberry flavor. Swapping out the Cool Whip-blueberry concoction for  a blueberry whipped cream, we were able to get more into the cake. After making that whipped cream, we decided it wasn’t enough and ran to the store to get blueberry jam. Which is a stand-in for the moisture that the original recipe gets from a “ganache” and adds more fruit notes to the cake.

Side note: This cake was SO EASY. It took 10 minutes and 2 dishes to make the batter, and it is deeply pretty. Plus, it’s got whole wheat so I think you’re good to eat it for every meal today.

Oh good, because that was my plan. The cake itself is fudgy and delicious, and I say that as someone who doesn’t really like chocolate cake. The whipped cream tastes like a milkshake and we ate the leftovers straight from the food processor bowl with our forks while writing this.

Any last words on this cake?

Bluebs.

🤦

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens and Serious Eats. See Instagram for some behind-the-scenes shots.

Cake

1 ½ cup (180g) whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup (300g) sugar
9 tablespoons (45g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder, lightly heaped
¾ teaspoon baking soda
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup blueberries
1 whole egg plus 1 white

Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
25g freeze-dried blueberries

Assembly

Extra freeze-dried blueberries (optional)
1/3 cup blueberry jam
Blueberries to top

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg and white. Cover and blend until smooth.

Add to flour mixture. Whisk until well combined.

Divide the batter into two greased 8 inch round pans, and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting

In a food processor, blend the dried berries and sugar until powdery. Add the cream, and blend until stiff.

Assembly

Spread a thin layer of jam over each cake layer. Place the first layer, and add about half of your whipped cream. (Note: If you have leftover dried blueberries, feel free to do what we did and sprinkle some crushed berries over the whipped cream between layers.) Add the second layer and top with the remaining whipped cream. The cream will squish out a bit between the layers, so you can run an offset spatula around the cake to create the semi-frosted sides you see on our cake. We topped ours with some remaining dried blueberries (crushed) and a pile of fresh blueberries.

This cake keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Flag Cake

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Jordan: This week’s cake involved a lot of indecision. I wanted something fresh and fruity; Kitra… did not.

Kitra: It had been a long hard week and I want to eat my feelings, which is why I was thinking s’mores.

Which is fair. But I made the point that we could make s’mores cake any time, and opportunities for holiday-themed cakes only come around every so often.

Hey, flag cake was my suggestion. Nothing says USA like a sheet cake the size of a toddler.

I wanted red-white-and-blue cheesecake, which we could also make any time. I guess I just didn’t want s’mores cake. It’s 90 degrees outside and I want fruit, so sue me.

I think we missed an opportunity to toast marshmallows on my porch using nothing but the sun. Sky demon.

The sky demon will be here until October.

Fair point. So we made America a birthday cake. Even though she’s had a rough week month year always. Even bad people deserve birthday cakes.

Do they really?

No. But we deserve their cakes.

We made you a birthday cake, but you don’t get to eat it, you bitch.

#USAUSAUSA

Anyway, Kitra had made this cake before, and her recommendation held up. This is a good fluffy vanilla cake, nothing fancy. Cream cheese frosting. Fruit. All of the best things in life.

Any tips for making this?

The very tiny containers of berries you find at the farmer’s market are half-pints, not full pints. You can make it work, but you really need at least a pint and a half (3 cups) of raspberries for low-stress flag-making. Learn from my mistakes.

The original recipe recommends a tiny tea strainer to coat your berries in powdered sugar (insert Boston Tea Party joke here). Any tea strainer will do in a pinch. Ours was shaped like a duck.

Improvising: the American way.

Flag Cake

Flag Cake

Adapted, very slightly, from Smitten Kitchen. See Instagram for some behind-the-scenes shots.

Tips for making this:

  1. You can add more powdered sugar to the frosting if you like it sweeter; we prefer it less sweet, plus we only had two cups of powdered sugar left. The cake is fairly sweet, though, so a tangier frosting is good here.
  2. We used white raspberries for the stripes, but you can also use regular raspberries and coat them in powdered sugar, as we did for the blueberry stars. Alternately, if you have white raspberries, you can use them for the stars too and skip the powdered sugar altogether. If you use powdered sugar, dry your berries very thoroughly to ensure good color.
  3. If you don’t have cake flour, the original recipe suggests 2/3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup (45 grams) cornstarch.

Ingredients

Cake
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
4 cups (465 grams) cake flour (see note)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (6 grams) table salt
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml)

Frosting
8-ounce (225 gram) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar

Decoration
Powdered sugar (see note)
1 cup blueberries
2-3 cups raspberries

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9×13″ pan with parchment paper (or, if your pan is gross and rusty, line the entire thing) and coat lightly with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes), then add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift half over the butter-sugar-egg mixture. We combined these directly in a sifter, but unless you have a particularly large sifter, we recommend combining them in a bowl and then transferring them to a sifter or wire mesh sieve. Mix until just combined. Slowly add buttermilk and mix until combined, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake 40-50 minutes. When done, the cake should be golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out free of batter. Remove from oven and cool completely before decorating.

Frosting

While the cake is cooling, make your frosting. Using an electric beater, beat the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy and smooth, then mix in the vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. As noted above, you can add more powdered sugar if your frosting is especially thin or you like a very sweet frosting.

Decorations

If you like, use a serrated knife to level the top of your cake a bit. This is really up to you; we leveled ours slightly, but the frosting will hide any unevenness unless your cake is very well-domed.

Once the cake is cool, spread frosting over the top and smooth it out. No need to be finicky here, as the berries will hide most imperfections.

Outline the blue square with blueberries; the edges should fall about halfway down the short side of the cake, and about a third of the way along the long side. Scatter a handful of blueberries in the center; these will be your stars. Using a tea strainer or small mesh strainer/sifter, dust the center blueberries with powdered sugar. Fill in the rest of the square with plain blueberries.

An accurate flag cake would have 13 stripes, but as long as you start and end with a red stripe, no one will care. (That means you’ll have one more red stripe than you do white stripes.) If you’re going to powder your raspberries, lay down the white stripes first, coat them in powdered sugar, and then fill in the unpowdered berries. (Smitten Kitchen recommends just eyeballing the space you’ll need to leave for the red stripes, but we found that a few lightly placed raspberries were easy to remove without damaging the cake if needed.) If you’re using white raspberries, it’s easiest to start with the red stripes at the top and bottom and then go from there. If you bought enough berries to start with, you can go at it freestyle; we had a shortage so carefully spaced the berries out, but this is not the recommended route. Again: learn from our mistakes.