Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting

I’m not much of a recipe repeater. Of course, I have a few perennial favorites. Like my pumpkin gooey butter cake, and these salted caramel chocolate chip cookies. I make those once a year, without fail.

But most the time, I try new things. I even have the data to prove it: In 2019, 84% of the things I baked were new to me.

It’s not that I don’t have favorites. I just get so intrigued by flavor combos and ideas, and HAVE to try them. And since I don’t really bake thaaaat often, I have to pick and choose.

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It turns out these rules don’t apply when someone else is doing the baking. When I go home to visit my family, I pretty much expect to have all the same things I had growing up. That means zucchini and applesauce bread at Thanksgiving. Banana chocolate chip muffins for New Year’s. And DEFINITELY this Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting for any and all birthdays.

My mom made this every year for as long as I can remember. Once, when I was about 25, she swapped in orange extract for mint to surprise me. Orange/chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combos. But… I didn’t want it in this cake! It was technically delicious, but nostalgically, just not the same. It’s gotta be chocolate mint, or not at all.

I haven’t been home for a birthday in years so it’d been a while since I had this cake. And during the first month of quarantine, I just couldn’t stop craving it! So I made one.

The recipe comes from an old cookbook based around ideas for your Cuisinart food processor. I’ve never tried making this in a mixer, but you probably could. The cookbook makes you use a food processor for everything, even when it’s not totally necessary. I guess they had to fill a whole book, ya know?

My mom came up with the mint extract addition herself, and I highly recommend it if you’ve got extract on your hands. If you don’t, plain chocolate frosting would also be swell. It’s got a great richness and texture so it really adds something special to the fluffy yellow cake. Yellow cake isn’t so much a “flavor” as it is a texture and richness. It gets that richness from butter and whole eggs. It’s a lot simpler than some of the other cakes I’ve posted here. But just so. darn. good.

Yellow Cake with Mint Chocolate Frosting

Original recipe: Cuisinart Classroom, by Abby Mandel. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: This recipe technically yields 3 cake layers, but the frosting is only enough to cover 2 layers. If you want to frost all 3, multiply the frosting ingredients by 1.5x and you should be set. That’s what my mom does 🙂 The original recipe claims that this makes 12 servings, but that obviously will depend on how you cut the cake!

Suggested equipment: Food processor. You could probably just use a mixer, too.

Total Time: A few hours or so. You want to let those layers really cool before you frost them!

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup minus 1 tbsp buttermilk (so measure a cup, then measure 1 tablespoon and pour it out)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 4-5 tbsp sour cream

Instructions

Make your cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Put your sugar and eggs in the food processor, and process until it’s thick and lightly colored. This should take a minute or so, using the metal blade attachment.
  4. Scrape the sides of your bowl, then turn it back on.
  5. Add your butter, and process the machine for about a minute. It should look fluffy! You might want to stop and scrape down your bowl halfway through.
  6. With the machine running, pour the vanilla and buttermilk through the feed tube.
  7. Stop the machine, remove the cover and pour in your dry ingredients. Then blend the batter by turning your machine on and off until the flour disappears. This should take 4-6 pulses.
  8. Line 3 cake pans with parchment, then grease them. Divide your batter among the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then flip them onto a wire rack to cool completely. You gotta let them sit for a while before you frost them, or your frosting will get too runny!

Make your frosting

  1. Put your cocoa, sugar and salt in your processor work bowl. Using the metal blade, process them for 5 seconds.
  2. Add the vanilla, butter, mint extract and 4 tablespoons of your sour cream. Process until it gets a thick, spreadable consistency. You can add the remaining sour cream if you need it for a spreadable texture.

Frost your cake 

My cakes will never win a prize for their looks. I take a super lazy approach to frosting. Put one layer on a sturdy surface, and slather the top with frosting. Plop another layer on top, and repeat as needed with your layers. Then, use a spatula or angled spatula to spread more frosting on the very top and all around the sides. Smooth it out the best you possibly can. But don’t stress too much. It’s cake, and it’s gonna taste great no matter what.

Lemon Clove Cookies

Today’s topic: Lemon math.

Baking with produce can be tricky since quantities vary so wildly. One person’s “medium” lemon could be another person’s “small.” And sometimes a piece of produce just doesn’t produce the quantity of juice or zest or whatever that your recipe calls for.

There are all kinds of tables telling you how to convert pieces of produce to volumes of juice. But I usually just over-buy whatever the ingredient is. Recipe calls for 2 lemons? I’m getting 4. Recipe says 3 zucchini? You know I’m buying 5.

A couple weeks ago I found myself with some extra pesky lemon math. I had odd amounts of juice and zest based on the first lemon recipe I made. I started pulling out all my cookbooks to find a solution… and behold! These Lemon Clove Cookies were the answer.

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And wow—what an answer! I never would have thought to pair lemon with cloves. It really, really works! They’ve got a great citrus base with a hint of sweetness and the perfect bit of spiciness. The cloves make these cookies extra comforting—they’re really the perfect tough-day snack.

I froze my batch planning to take them to work, but haven’t managed to do that… so I’m just eating them one-by-one from my freezer. Stick ’em in the microwave for a bit and you’ve got comfort on a plate.

Lemon Clove Cookies

Original recipe: Celebrating the Midwestern Table. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: 24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor or a blender, mixer

Total Time: ~ 2 hours

Cook Time: 9-12 minutes

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp grated zest. That’s roughly 2 large lemons but… buy extra just in case!
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg

Glaze

  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

Make your cookies

  1. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cloves and salt. Set aside.
  2. If you’re using a food processor, fit it with the metal blade. You can also use your blender for this step. Pour in your lemon zest and sugar, and mince the two together until the zest becomes small specks. Now you have lemon sugar!
  3. Use your mixer to cream the butter and lemon sugar together until fluffy.
  4. Add your egg, and mix until smooth.
  5. Add in your flour combo and mix well.
  6. Wrap the dough airtight and place in your fridge to chill for about 45 minutes.

Glaze and bake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Get your glaze ready. Use a fork to froth the egg and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Shape your dough into 1 tablespoon balls and place them onto prepared cookie sheets. Press each ball lightly with your fingers to flatten it, then lightly brush glaze over each cookie.
  4. Bake the cookies about 9-12 minutes. Mine took 9 to hit the perfect chewy texture.
  5. Let the cookies cool on their sheets for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

These keep extremely well. Just put them in an airtight container, or pop them in your freezer.

The 2019 Baking Roundup

If I had to summarize my 2019 in baking, I’d go with “Impulse Ingredients.”

I threw practicality to the wind last year and made tons of impulse ingredient buys. Think raspberry powder, peanut butter cups, toffee chips, rye flour. All things I wanted to try baking with… but not exactly pantry staples.

Which means I spent a lot of time researching recipes with very specific ingredients. made multiple rounds of rye chocolate chip cookies, tried toffee in all kinds of things and went nuts with Nutter Butters.

In between experiments, I also made time for some classics. I used my trusty caramel chocolate chip cookies for a thank you gift. Cinnamon chocolate chip bread helped sweeten a Monday morning. And I made my annual batch of pumpkin gooey butter cake, which is one of my all-time favorite recipes on this site.

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Overall stats
In all, I baked 38 recipes last year. 84% were new-to-me for 2019. My baking always skews to easy-to-transport treats, so it isn’t shocking that cookies dominated my recipe list. Still, I was surprised to see brownies so low on the list. Don’t worry though: I’ve already made one batch of brownies in 2020 and need to use up baking bars soooo there’s many more brownies in my immediate future.

Where it went
38 recipes may not sound like much over the course of a year. But unlike cooking a meal, my baking isn’t necessarily for survival or particularly “useful” for everyday life.  In fact, I only categorized one recipe as a “meal” in all of 2019. (It was blueberry banana pancakes. I stink at making pancakes. Please send help.)

So that means that most my baking was for pure, unadulterated fun. And within that context, 38 recipes can feel much more meaningful.

I brought 50% of the baked goods to work and 32% to other people’s events. I didn’t host any events in 2019, which is super unusual for me. Let’s say I’ll throw some parties in 2020 and bake up a storm to prepare.

Flavor list

Top flavors
53% of the recipes I made last year had some kind of chocolate in them. But when it came to dominant flavors, fruit won out. I think my favorite fruit-centric recipe was apple pie-stuffed snickerdoodles.

Pumpkin popped up for 4 recipes, but one of those was my biggest fail of 2019. Yes… even worse than the pancakes! I tried to make this pumpkin spice rugelach and it did NOT go well.

2019 on Sugarsmith 
I posted 7 times in 2019, way down from previous years. I wrote more about my lack of personal writing on my other annual report, so won’t get into the details here.

The top 3 new posts for 2019 were the apple pie cookies, lemon raspberry snickerdoodles, and vegan chocolate chip cookies. Older posts that performed really well were my beloved pumpkin gooey butter cake and this lemon cucumber cake.

Best new-to-me dishes in 2019
I’m always on the hunt for fresh food finds. This year’s top picks:

  • The Grilled Artichoke at Momed in Los Angeles
  • Truffle Fettuccine at Trattoria Gabriello in Florence
  • Lamb Hummus at Shalom Y’all in Portland
  • Strawberry Balsamic Hard Shell Soft Serve at Wiz Bang in Portland
  • The Mac and Cheese at the Cheese School of San Francisco
  • Spice Drinking Chocolate at Christopher Elbow in San Francisco
  • The hazelnut/peanut butter dessert course at Mini Bar in Porto

Here’s some of my favorite food pics from 2019. And keep your eyes on this space—my first 2020 recipe post is coming soon!

Nutter Butter Oreo Bars

A couple months ago I found myself with an extra package of Nutter Butter cookies. I’d bought them for an event, then didn’t need them, and they were just sitting around in my cupboard, waiting to be baked into something.

So I started searching Pinterest for ideas. I wanted to make some kind of blondie or cookie with little bits of Nutter Butter baked right in. When I saw this Pin from Six Sisters’ Stuff, I knew I had a winner.

And then I remembered that I also had Oreos in my cupboard.

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Enter these Nutter Butter Oreo Bars. Because why stop at one mix-in when you could have two?

These have a lovely blondie base, studded with chocolate chips, Oreos and Nutter Butters. Super simple to make, and a delight in every bite.

I happened to have Chocolate Oreos but you could definitely use regular Oreos, too. I decided to use mini chocolate chips instead of standard sized because I was worried too many big mix-ins might be overpowering. I loved how my mix-in ratio turned out but you could certainly use regular chips if that’s all you’ve got.

Nutter Butter Oreo Bars

Original recipe: Based on this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Yield: ~48 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~50 minutes

Cook Time: ~30 minutes

Ingredients

For your blondies

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed into small pieces. Divide your Nutter Butte
  • 8 Oreos, crushed into small pieces

For the topping

  • 2 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed into small pieces. Divide your Nutter Butte
  • 2 Oreos, crushed into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a rolling pin or your hands to crush your Nutter Butters and Oreos into small pieces
  3. Use your mixer to cream the butter and sugar
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat until combined
  5. Add in your baking powder, salt and flour. Mix on low until it’s combined.
  6. Mix in your chocolate chips, Nutter Butters and Oreos. You can do this part with a wooden spoon if you’re worried about over-mixing your dough
  7. Grease or line a 9×13 inch pan
  8. Use your hands to press the dough into the pan. Make sure its’s an even layer. If the dough is super sticky, you can spray your hands with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to you
  9. Sprinkle your topping evenly over the batter (that’s your extra 2 Oreos and 2 Nutter Butters, combined)
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes. You want them to look slightly golden, but the center might still seem a little gooey
  11. Let the bars cool completely in the pan, then use a sharp knife to slice into squares

 

 

Confetti Cookies

IMG_6084I can’t think of a cheerier treat than these sprinkle-splattered cookies. They’re basically an amped up sugar cookie, made way better with a couple simple additions. The dough calls for both butter and cream cheese, which makes your cookies softer and cakier than most sugar cookies out there. You’re also gonna add in some almond extract, which gives the cookies a more more complex flavor than standard sugar cookie fare. Most people can’t tell there’s almond in there… but it definitely makes things tasty.

I made these for a dinner party and they were a truly awesome party pick. The recipe yields tons of cookies, they’re easy to transport and they’re a crowd pleaser. They also keep well: You can store them in a container for a couple days or freeze dough for later. 

The original recipe shared two sets of instructions so you could pick between using a food processor or a mixer. I was already using my mixer for somethin’ else while I baked these, so I used my food processor this time around. If you only have a mixer, check out Smitten Kitchen’s original post for detailed instructions! 

 

Confetti Cookies

Original recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: ~ 4 dozen cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor or mixer

Total Time: ~An hour

Cook Time: ~10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt (you can swap in table salt instead)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese (1/4 of an 8 oz brick)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional, but definitely recommend using it!)
  • 1 cup sprinkles (Recommend using jimmies like this so they stick better)

Instructions

  1. Heat your oven to 375F
  2. Assemble your food processor with the metal blade.
  3. Put your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the food processor. Pulse a few times to blend.
  4. Slice your cream cheese and butter into large chunks, then put them in the processor. Blend until the mixture gets powdery.
  5. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract. Run machine until the ingredients form a dough and start to ball together. You should stop to scrape things down a couple times while you mix.
  6. Chill your dough for 20 minutes so it’s easier to roll into balls.
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop your dough into sizeable balls. Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommends using a 1.5 tablespoon scoop to make sure they’re the right size. Make sure your dough balls are about 2 inches apart on the sheet.
  8. Roll each ball in your hands to heat it up a bit. This makes the dough tackier, which makes it easier to roll in sprinkles! Then, drop your ball into the sprinkles and roll it around to coat evenly.
  9. Use the bottom of a glass to press down on each cookie so it’s about 1/4-1/2 inch tall.
  10. Bake for 9-10 minutes. They’ll look a bit underbaked on top, but golden underneath. You want them to be a bit underbaked so they stay soft over time… if you bake these all the way through to start with, they’ll crisp up faster.
  11. Let your cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them over to racks to cool completely.

 

Lemon Raspberry “Snickerdoodles”

I have a strangely vivid memory of my first snickerdoodle. Ninth grade, school cafeteria, right after class. I’d never heard of snickerdoodles before, but loved them immediately. Partly because they’re delicious… and partly because the word “snickerdoodle” is really, really fun to say.

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Snickerdoodles stand out from the pack because they’re super chewy, with a bit of a tang that complements a cinnamon top. I’ve made a ton of takes on snickerdoodles over the years, from the classics to apple butter doodles and even a rosemary version. But I’d never thought about applying their approach to a totally non-cinnamon cookie until I saw this recipe from Hummingbird High. Michelle is genius to apply that snickerdoodle style tang and texture to a lemon raspberry flavor combo.

I brought these to work and so many people asked for the recipe, I knew I had to share it here. If you make these, keep a super close eye on the cookies as they bake. The little raspberry bits seem prone to burning, so make sure to get your cookies out of the oven at just the right time!

Lemon Raspberry “Snickerdoodles”

Original recipe: Hummingbird High. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor, mixer

Total Time: About an hour, with cooling time

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Ingredients

For the cookies 

  • 1 1/2 cups, minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar (just measure 1 tablespoon out and put it back in your container!)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • Zest from one medium lemon
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (It’s important to use kosher salt instead of regular table salt! They’re totally different sizes and impart a different flavor.) 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

For the topping 

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freeze dried raspberries (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)

Instructions

Make your raspberry sugar

Use a food processor to combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the freeze dried raspberries. Pulse the processor until the raspberries get pretty small, and the mixture looks uniform throughout.

 

Make your dough 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and move a rack to the center of your oven.
  2. Combine your granulated sugar, brown sugar and zest in a small bowl. Use your fingers to toss it all together, then rub the zest into the sugar so it clumps and starts to smell fragrant. This helps release the oils that provide great lemony flavor. Set this aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk your flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and kosher salt.
  4. Throw your sugar mixture into your mixer, then add the butter. Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it’s light and fluffy.
  5. Reduce your mixer speed to its slowest setting, and add the eggs one at a time.
  6. Add your lemon extract, and make sure it’s fully incorporated.
  7. Keeping your mixer on its lowest speed, start adding in the flour mixture. Add it gradually until it’s just combined with the other ingredients.
  8. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop your cookie dough so it’s about two tablespoons of dough per cookie. Put them on the sheets at least a couple inches apart so they don’t meld together when they spread in the oven.
  9. Roll each cookie dough’s top in the raspberry sugar coating, then put it back on the pan. The original recipe has you roll the whole ball but I found that the raspberries burn a bit, so I found it better to just put the raspberries on top.
  10. Bake your cookies 8-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they’re not burning on the tops. Take them out of the oven when the edges look set, but the centers are puffed and gooey. If the top starts to brown, it’s time to take them out.
  11. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then flip them over to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

The 2018 Baking Roundup

Listen, I know it’s kind of late for a 2018 roundup. But let’s pretend that I picked this timing on purpose, ok? Let’s just say that I was intentionally giving you a break from all those other year-in-review pieces, and wanted to spread mine out a bit.

Playing along? Awesome. Thanks for that.

I’ve been writing personal annual reports for a while now and started doing baking roundups a few years ago. It’s fun to see my baking trends, and set baking goals for the following year. So let’s dig in, shall we?

What I made in 2018

I baked 34 times last year, and 76% of that was new recipes. As always, cookies, bars and brownies dominated my list. That’s pretty typical for me, because those kinds of things are much easier to carry around on public transit than a tray of warm cinnamon rolls or a towering layer cake. I really do love making layer cakes, and always declare that I’m going to make more the next year… but logistics tend to get in my way. Maybe this is the year!

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I baked a pretty good mix of flavors last year. Chocolate tends to dominate every year, whether that’s brownies or chocolate chip cookies or M&M bars. In 2018, 50% of the things I baked last year included some kind of chocolate. But it wasn’t always the main flavor, and I tried lots of other things, too. I made 3 types of banana bread, 7 other recipes that included a different kind of fruit and 2 recipes that starred peanut butter.

The most intriguing recipe I made last year was these pea and vanilla cupcakes. They didn’t really taste like peas—you could tell there was something distinct going on in there, but I don’t think anyone would have guessed it was peas unless I told them. My absolute favorite thing I made last year (and didn’t blog about!) was this pistachio cake from Molly Yeh. It was perfectly nutty, perfectly fluffy and topped with this lovely, tart pomegranate frosting. I actually changed my mind at 9 PM the night before a party and switched from a different pistachio cake recipe to this one. It was definitely the right choice.

Who ate it?

hosted 3 events in 2018, accounting for 10 recipes. I took another 8 recipes to other people’s events, from birthdays to holiday potlucks to tea parties. The remaining 16 recipes went to work, where I leave things in the kitchen and beg people to eat them. They tend to happily oblige.

What did people read?

I published 12 new posts in 2018. That’s down from last year, but it correlates to a specific goal to spend less time on my computer than I used to. So, I can feel pretty good about 12 posts. I try to post a mix of things, from simple cookie recipes to complicated cakes. I think my absolute favorite recipe I posted in 2018 was these pumpkin cupcakes. It’s really just a standout recipe: Great texture, great flavor and lightyears ahead of lots of other pumpkin cakes out there.

Top New Posts on Sugarsmith for 2018

My Personal Favorites for 2018

Top Posts from Previous Years 

Looking ahead

I’ve baked a few times so far in 2019, and plan to rack up a few more recipes in the next couple weeks. My resolutions for 2019 are to bake more things with yeast, make more muffins and try to use all the random ingredients I’ve accumulated in my kitchen. Stay tuned to find out if I make it happen 🙂