I started baking after Daphne passed away. Testing new recipes kept my mind and hands busy, giving me a way to escape while helping me focus on the present. Sharing my experiments with family and friends made me happy. Baking was my substitute for grief counseling.
After we adopted the "twins" (my boys aren't true twins, but they're just two months apart), I had to take a break from baking. Baking required too much time and focus, plus it produced messes I didn't have time to clean up. I haven't baked from scratch in almost a year.
We're getting ready to put our house on the market, so I've been boxing up non-essentials. Yesterday I boxed up my cake decorating tools, so naturally, today I felt an uncontrollable urge to bake. I decided to ease back into baking by using a box mix as the foundation for a new recipe. Using ingredients I had on hand, I whipped up a White Chocolate Spice Cake and paired it with my Silky Cream Cheese Frosting. Super easy and a fun twist on a fall flavor.
White Chocolate Spice Cake
1-1/2 cups white chocolate instant pudding, prepared
1 box spice cake
1/3 cup applesauce
1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour cake pan, and set aside. (This is a very fluffy cake, so I recommend a Bundt pan, but a 9 x 13 should also work.)
2. Prepare white chocolate instant pudding according to instructions on box. Place in refrigerator to set. (I used sugar-free, fat-free Jell-O prepared with whole milk. Yep, ridiculous. But that's what I had on hand. I almost always use whole milk for baking, because it gives cakes a creamier flavor.)
3. Using a stand mixer, mix 1 box spice cake, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup applesauce, and 1-1/2 cups prepared pudding. Mix on medium speed until just blended.
4. Using a spatula, stir in 1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until test knife comes out clean. (I recommend checking the cake at 25 minutes and every 5 minutes after that to ensure you do not over bake.)
- For high altitude baking, add 1/4 cup flour to cake batter.
- Do not open oven before 20 minutes. Your cake will fall.
- If you're using a Bundt pan (as I did), spray pan with non-stick cooking spray and lightly flour to ensure that your cake comes out clean. After removing your Bundt cake from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes (set a timer). At 10 minutes, place a cooling rack over the Bundt pan. Pinch the Bundt pan and cooling rack together with both hands (wear oven mitts, if necessary), then carefully flip over the Bundt pan so that the cake is right-side-up on the cooling rack. Slowly lift the Bundt pan off the cake. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
- For an extra-moist Bundt cake, let your pan-free cake cool 5-10 minutes. Then wrap your cake in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to frost and serve.
Silky Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups (430 g) powdered sugar, sifted
2 to 4 Tbsp. milk or heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp. fine salt
1. Using a stand mixer, cream together unsalted butter and cream cheese. (Both should be room temperature. See "Helpful Hints" below for shortcuts.)
2. Add 2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract. (I prefer a strong vanilla flavor, but you can start with 1 tsp. and work up.)
3. Slowly add 3-3/4 cups (430 g) sifted powdered sugar (about 1/2 to 1 cup at a time). After each addition, mix on medium to high speed until frosting is smooth and creamy. Repeat until you have added all of the powdered sugar. Frosting may be a bit stiff after final addition.
4. Add 2 to 4 Tbsp. milk or heavy whipping cream to reach desired consistency. (Go easy on the milk. Whip well between additions.)
5. Add 1/4 tsp. of fine salt.
6. Whip until frosting is smooth and silky.
- Always use unsalted butter for baked goods and frostings. Every brand of salted butter has a slightly different salt content. Using unsalted butter and adding your own salt will give you better control over the flavor of the final product.
- If you're like me, you don't have time (or patience) to wait for butter to reach room temperature. You can cheat by placing a wrapped stick of butter in the microwave. Microwave for 7 seconds. Rotate a quarter turn; microwave for another 7 seconds. If necessary, repeat for sides three and four. Check after each 1/4 rotation. Butter should be slightly pliable but not squishy or runny. Do not over microwave! If you do, your frosting will be loose and runny.
- To bring cream cheese to room temperature, hold the unopened cream cheese pouch between your hands. Gently squeeze the pouch until the cream cheese is pliable.
- Do not use low-fat cream cheese for frosting. Fat helps frosting hold its shape. If you use a low-fat substitute, your frosting will be loose and runny.
- Sifted powdered sugar produces smooth, silky frosting. It's tempting to skip this step, but don't. Just don't.
- Add milk or heavy whipping cream slowly, one tablespoon at a time. Mix well after each addition. One tablespoon will make a big difference, so don't be too hasty. A thicker frosting will hold its shape better (better for a Bundt cake or cupcakes). A thinner frosting will spread better (better for a 9 x 13).
- It may sound strange to add salt to frosting, but a little salt will balance the sweet and zingy flavors in cream cheese frosting.
- If your frosting is runny, you may be tempted to add more powdered sugar, but that's not always the answer. Sugar holds moisture, so adding more can actually make your frosting even more runny. If you need to thicken your frosting, try adding a tablespoon or two of room temperature butter instead.