Mojito Cake with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

mojito cake side

For Ellie’s birthday, I needed to find something citrus-y per her request (which she begrudgingly revealed only after I insisted she tell me her favorite flavor). Since I’ve never been a big fan of citrus flavors in baked goods, I tend to avoid these types of recipes. This was an excellent opportunity to branch out, and I’m quite glad I did: this cake rocks! A sort of cross between key lime and mojito, it’s bursting with flavor and surprisingly rich. Cut smaller slices than you think you’ll need, close your eyes, and enjoy all the delicious flavors of a mojito with significantly less of the alcohol. Which makes this cake perfectly acceptable to bring to group meeting in the middle of the day, right? Santé!

mojito cake slice

See the darker parts of the cake? Aka the best, most flavorful parts? That’s where the rum syrup seeped in. I was nervous about adding too much of the syrup, so I only used about half. Big mistake. Use lots of syrup, it’s delicious!

The cake, rum syrup, and lime cream cheese frosting recipes are only slightly adapted from Two Peas‘ recipe for adorable mojito cupcakes; the whipped cream recipe came from Bakerella‘s recipe for a stunningly gorgeous key lime cake.

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MOJITO CAKE

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp. rum (Captain Morgan’s Spice Rum if possible)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

3 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

Directions to make the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the sides and bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper circles, and grease the top of the paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until well-mixed. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, rum, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in an electric stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

5. Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically throughout this process: Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, and mix well. Add ½ of the buttermilk mixture and beat for one minute. Add another 1/3 of the dry mixture; beat until combined. Add the rest of the buttermilk mixture; beat for one minute. Add the rest of the dry mixture; beat for one minute until the batter is smooth. Beat in the chopped mint last.

6. Pour into cake pans, dividing the batter evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Make the rum syrup (below) during the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

7. Let cool for 5 minutes and then poke holes all over the surface with a skewer, toothpick, or fork. Spoon the rum syrup evenly over the warm cakes and let cool completely before frosting. Or, carefully level off the tops of the cakes. The “exposed” cakes will much more easily absorb the syrup.

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RUM SYRUP

1 cup sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter

¼ cup rum

zest of 1 lime

3 sprigs fresh mint

Directions to make the syrup:

Combine the sugar, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat once the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Carefully mix in the rum. Add the lime zest and fresh mint, and let the syrup infuse for 5 minutes before using to spoon over the cakes. It’s going to seem like a lot of syrup, but use at least 3/4 if not all of it, because it makes this cake amazingly moist!

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LIME CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

12 ounces cream cheese

~8 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp. lime juice

½ tbsp. rum

optional: green food coloring (gel, not liquid)

Directions to make the frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, lime juice, and rum. Carefully blend in the powdered sugar until you are satisfied with the consistency. Add green food coloring as desired. Scrape the sides of the bowl regularly and mix until well-blended. Spread on cooled cakes (refrigerate the cakes first to make them much easier to work with).

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WHIPPED CREAM

16 oz. heavy whipping cream

3 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

optional: fresh mint sprigs

Directions to make the whipped cream:

Chill metal bowl and beaters in freezer for about 20 minutes. When ready to whip, add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl and beat at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Pipe onto your frosted cake, and decorate with fresh mint.

Store cake in the refrigerator until about an hour before you want to serve it.

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mojito cake top

Fortunately, my graduate student stipend isn’t contingent on my cake decorating skills. If it were, they’d have kicked me, jobless, out in the snow already! (Also: snow? In mid-March? REALLY?? As if I didn’t miss California enough already…)

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Chocolate Mint Hearts

chocolate mint hearts

In case you don’t have a bunch of friends posting pictures of the recent blizzard that attacked New England, let me bring you up to speed: Nemo found us. He left piles and piles and piles of snow EVERYWHERE. It’s a winter wonderland out there! It’s gorgeous and fairytale-like, perfect for playing and exploring and gawking at the whiteness that covers absolutely everything. That said, something about bundled up people treading slowly down the center of car-less streets (the cars are all completely covered in snow, not to mention there was a travel ban) with huge mountains of snow everywhere lends a bit of an eerie, post-apocalytpic vibe to the wonder. It’s a strange world, my friends, and a bit disconcerting in all its magnificence. What better way to bring back some normalcy than with homemade treats?

I knew I wanted to use powdered sugar in honor of the blizzard. With Valentine’s Day coming up, the heart sprinkles were a natural choice. My labmate is a wizard in the machine shop and helped me make a small heart-shaped cookie cutter last week. (Translation: he made it, I hovered around taking up space. More on that later, since the cookie cutter is actually for an upcoming project you’ll hear about soon!) Finally, I had a box of Junior Mints from Christmas that were begging to be used in some way. Some searching later, I found this Food.com recipe that looked perfect for adapting. Thus, meet these darling treats! These would be oh so cute in little cellophane bags tied up with cute pink, red, and white ribbons to give away to friends for Valentine’s Day. These hearts are somewhere between a cookie and a brownie, come in a sweet bite-sized heart shape, pack a delicious minty chocolate punch, and, according to my friend, “could put Girl Scout Thin Mints out of business.” I don’t know if I’d go that far (don’t kill me, Thin Mint fanatics!), but these are very addicting. And the best part is how easy they are to make!

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CHOCOLATE MINT HEARTS

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 package (~4oz) Junior Mints

Heart sprinkles

~1/2 cup powdered sugar

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1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray that has edges/walls (about 12×15×1-inch) with parchment paper, so that the parchment paper goes up over the edges. Do not a use flat sheet; if you don’t have a walled baking tray, use a pan or something else with walls (you might have to divide the batter between pans).

2. Stir/whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together well. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar together until soft and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs individually, beating well after each one. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet one, beating in small scoops at a time. The mixture will be fairly thick.

6. Add the Junior Mints and beat a few times so the mixer crushes up the mints and mixes them throughout the batter.

7. Spread onto the baking tray. Press the dough into a flat rectangle, leaving about a 1-inch clearance to the edges of the tray. Spread heart-shaped sprinkles all over the top and press them gently into the batter so they stick. Bake for about 16 minutes, then remove and cool on the tray.

8. When the dough is cooled, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as you can. (Oh darn, look at all those leftover pieces… You know what to do. Grab a glass of milk and you’re good to go!) Lightly dust with powdered sugar. Voilà! So cute!

NOTE: If you don’t have a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, or if you want to make something else, any cookie cutter shape would work. You could even cut them up into squares to save time. Similarly, you could use any kind of sprinkles, so these could be decorated for different holidays or just everyday fun. Have fun playing around with these!

Oreo Truffles (mint & regular)

Layers on layers on layers!

Makes about 50 truffles per type (so yes, I made 100 truffles… don’t ask how long that took). The yield will depend on how flat you press the dough and what size cookie-cutters you use. These are so cute and would be great for gifting during the holidays! Other cookie-cutter shapes and sprinkles could make them good for different seasons, too. These are soft and dense. I like both the mint and the regular equally, so pick whichever grabs your attention more.

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MINT OREO TRUFFLES

1 pack mint Oreos (green)
6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/8 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 bags of chocolate (semi-sweet, milk, white, or dark)
Peppermint candy canes (crushed)

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1. Grind whole Oreos to fine crumbs in a food processor (a blender works, but be gentle on the blender since you’re not using liquid!).

2. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric hand mixer for about 30 seconds until it’s not in a block anymore. Add peppermint extract and blend another 30 seconds, then blend in about half of the Oreo crumbs. Switch to a large spoon and stir in the rest of the Oreo crumbs and the powdered sugar.

3. Line a baking tray with wax paper and coat with a fine layer of cooking spray. Spread the dough out into a 1/2 inch-thick layer and put in the freezer for 15 minutes. This step is necessary or else the dough will be too soft and sticky to make shapes with!

4. When the dough is hard, pull it out of the freezer and punch with small cookie cutters. I used gingerbread man, tree, star, and stocking shapes from Target. You’ll have to keep pushing the dough back together to make more cut-outs. Separate them onto two trays, and put them BACK in the freezer for another 15 minutes. During this time, melt your chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute, and then stir until all the chocolate is melted. You can microwave at additional 15-second intervals to get the chocolate nice and smooth, but be careful not to burn it!

5. When the chocolate is smooth and the truffle cut-outs are done hardening, dip the truffles in the chocolate with a fork and tap off the excess chocolate. Set down on wax paper and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Repeat with all remaining truffles. You’ll have to keep melting the chocolate at 15-second intervals to keep it liquid-y enough (as it thickens, it’ll be difficult to tap off the excess chocolate). And you’ll have to keep rotating which tray of cold truffles you use, because as they warm up they’ll be too soft to dip in the chocolate without falling apart.

6. When the chocolate coating has hardened up enough (about 2 hours), use a spatula to put them back onto a wax paper-lined tray. Store in the fridge; remove ~30 minutes before you want to eat them so the chocolate softens up a little!

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REGULAR OREO TRUFFLES

1 pack Oreos (red for the holidays!)
6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 bags of chocolate (semi-sweet, milk, white, or dark)
Sprinkles

Follow the same instructions as above, but use regular Oreos, no peppermint extract, and sprinkles instead of crushed candy canes. Enjoy!