Tessa Huff’s Milk and Cookies Cake

Our youngest son turned THREE this month. Where has the time gone?! I knew I wanted his birthday cake to be something super special and we looked at lots of kids cakes together on Pinterest at bedtime to see which he liked the best. And since he loves Sesame Street, this Cookie Monster cake was the winner.

But the look of the cake is only one aspect of a good birthday cake – it has to taste incredible. And so trying to work out the flavors ends up taking a lot longer. Until I remembered that there was Tessa Huff’s Milk and Cookies cake that if we made a few small adjustments to, could easily be adapted to look like Cookie Monster. I thoroughly enjoyed sending people the recipe because her cake looks NOTHING like our Cookie Monster cake. But they truly are the same.

The cake is a basic white cake with a whipped vanilla frosting and a cookie dough filling which is to die for. I spent over an hour piping melted chocolate chips into a mini version because I wanted the texture of the chocolate chips in the filling to be just right. I am super pleased with the result.

To Cookie Monster it, I simply added blue food coloring to the frosting, found some packaged miniature Oreos and chocolate chip cookies to line the bottom, made the chocolate drip from another Tessa Huff cake recipe, and constructed the eyes with halved full size Oreos, brown M&Ms, 2 wooden skewers and some melted chocolate.

The birthday boy was very pleased with his Cookie Monster cake and I made sure he had a nice helping of “brown and white” ice creams to eat it with.

Four birthday cakes down for the year, two more to go!

Throwback Thursday: Black Forest Torte from Classic German Baking

Aaron is predictable when it comes to birthday cakes. Black Forest Cake. Same cake, every year. For the longest time I refused to make them because I thought the ingredients would cost more than just buying the cake at the shops. Until I found Luisa Weiss’s recipe in Classic German Baking when Food52 Baking Club was going through it back in June 2017 and saw just how easy it was. So now, when his birthday rolls around, I know exactly what I’m making.

The recipe is actually quite straight forward. It’s a chocolate sponge cake, reminiscent of a proper English sponge, with lots of eggs in the batter. You start off by whisking egg whites with salt and sugar and then when it becomes nice and frothy you beat in the egg yolks and then fold in the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa and cornflour. You put this into a 9 inch cake pan and bake it for 25 minutes.

And now for the razzle dazzle – the cherries are a jar of pitted sour cherries that you heat in saucepan with some cornflour to thicken the juice into more of a cherry pie filling. You need to whip some cream with a bit of sugar to ice the cake, and I bought a lot of chocolate flakes that I crumbled apart to cover the cake.

To assemble you cut the cake into thirds horizontally and brush eat layer with some kirsch. Then you begin the layering process with cake layer, whipped cream, cherries, cake layer, whipped cream, cherries, cake layer and whipped cream over the entire outside of the cake. Then you simply cover it in the chocolate flake crumbs and add a few reserved cherries to decorate the top.

Don’t tell Aaron but this is one of the easiest cakes I make! And the results are always spectacular. Happy birthday, Ay-ay-ron!

Tessa Huff’s Sweet Tea Cake from Layered

My birthday feels like it was so long ago now and yet I’ve still not posted about my birthday cake – shame on me! I’ve mentioned before about my love for Tessa Huff and her cake baking prowess, and I really ummed and ahhed about what I wanted this year for my birthday. Last year my family made me her awesome Cherry Chocolate Chip cake which has been my favorite birthday cake of all time, but I knew I’d be baking this year so kind of wanted it to be different from the one they made me. I narrowed it down to two cakes – the Arnold Palmer cake by Momofuku that I’d found online or the Sweet Tea Cake in Tessa Huff’s book Layered. I ended up deciding on the Tessa Huff cake because the Momofuku one had some ingredients I’d never heard of before, let alone purchased. (I will be looking to source them at some stage though, because I’m determined to make that cake one day.)

There were things that I loved about this cake and things that just didn’t work. I decided to use my giant cupcake pan that had been sitting in my cupboard for at least a year and that was an epic fail. I cooked the two portions separately because the top is so much smaller than the bottom and I didn’t want the top to be overcooked or the bottom to be undercooked. For some reason though, the cakes were concave! I still have no explanation for how this occurred, but I had to spackle it quite a bit with buttercream, hence no internal shots because it’s just one big blob of frosting. Oh well, live and learn, I guess. The cake itself was pretty good, not the best lemon cake I’ve had, but not the worst either.

The candied lemons were amazing. They reminded me of sherbet lemons. Delicious.  The vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream was spectacular as usual. Nothing to report there.

But then…the tea component…it was a disaster. It became a hard toffee rather than a tea syrup and there was no way to rescue it. I was so disappointed. So instead of turning a portion of the buttercream into sweet tea cream, I simply brushed the layers of the cake with some strong black tea that I had brewed. But because of the competing flavors in the cake and in the buttercream, it just got lost.

I’m glad I tried this cake and my giant cupcake pan. It was certainly fun and challenging learning how to decorate this cake. June is coming soon and that’s a big month for us cake wise because it’s my baby boy’s 3rd birthday and Aaron’s birthday not long after. He’s pretty predictable with birthday cake choice so that’ll be easy, the fun is going to be finding a cake that makes my 3 year old’s eyes light up. I have some ideas and can’t wait to try them!

Tessa Huff’s Apple Toffee Crunch Cake

My 12 year old is the King of Apples. He must go through a kilo of apples a day, and he eats everything but the seeds and the stem. I know this because I constantly find stems and seeds in couch cushions, under desk chairs, in the car…you could track him quite easily by the trail he leaves behind. I remember a few years back finding a hoard of apple stickers under a ledge on our entryway wall, not sure where he’s currently hiding his stickers these days, but I’m sure they’re somewhere. And so it’s no surprise that regardless that it’s the middle of summer, his birthday cake flavour choice is ALWAYS apple.

I’m not a huge fan of apple cakes so I’ve tried a lot of different recipes in an effort to find the perfect one and Tessa Huff’s Apple Toffee Crunch Cake is the closest we’ve gotten thus far. (To be honest there hasn’t been a Tessa Huff layer cake recipe I haven’t loved, so she’s become my go to when it comes to cake recipes.) Layers of apple cake with a honey brown sugar oat and pecan crunch, cinnamon buttercream and a toffee sauce drip…this cake looks and sounds like comfort food heaven. Her cake decorating is always so perfect, and her flavour combinations blow my mind (I’m still dreaming of the day I have the excuse to revisit her London Fog Cake or the Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake).

The cake we made turned out great, the crunch, the toffee sauce and the Swiss meringue buttercream (that I’ve perfected having made it probably a dozen times by now) but it’s the decorating part that is always the gamble, especially in the middle of summer. But the cake sat up perfectly, I iced it so smoothly, I actually thought this might be the best looking cake I’ve ever made. Poured the toffee sauce on carefully, still good…that is until I put rosettes of leftover buttercream on top. The toffee sauce became a slide and the next thing I knew the rosettes were migrating slowly down the side of the cake. I was devastated. We tried really hard to get them back up without wrecking the drip but it was no use. So some quick thinking and we’ve got a toffee swirl buttercream instead. We did get some rosettes on top eventually (I think on the third or fourth try), with lengthy refrigeration times in between.  I really have no idea how she managed to get her cake to look so perfect.

Regardless of the drip look, we all agreed it was the best apple cake I’ve made for our boy. And the leftovers didn’t last very long either. It might actually be the cake I make for him next year too, just need to work out what to do next time I’m faced with a toffee sauce drip!