2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups cake flour or 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken
8-ounce block cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint), very dry
3 cups raspberries (1 1/2 pints), very dry
Make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Or, you can use a nonstick cooking spray instead of butter for speed and ease.)
Beat butter and sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla extract. Place flour, cornstarch (if using), baking powder, baking soda and table salt in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and shake half of mixture into mixing bowl. (If this makes a huge mess, you can also do so onto a piece of waxed paper and use that to dump it into the mixing bowl.) Mix until just combined. Add buttermilk and stir it in slowly, because it will splash easily. The mixture might look curdled, but it will come together just fine in a moment. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Make frosting Beat cream cheese and butter together until light and very fluffy, scraping down the sides to make sure no pesky cream cheese is left unmixed. Add the vanilla. Add the first cup of powdered sugar, and beat it until combined. Add the second. I prefer my cream cheese frostings less sweet, so I stopped there. Because the frosting is just going to be a layer between the berries and cake, it doesn’t need to be terribly stiff, so you can get away with skipping the additional cup of sugar. However, if yours still seems way too soft to use as frosting or not sweet enough, add the third cup of powdered sugar.
If your cake is very domed on top and you’d rather it be flat, you can level it a bit with a small serrated knife. Spread frosting evenly over top of cake. Or not evenly. Nobody will know, which is another reason why this cake is the greatest.
Decorate away Place your powdered sugar in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer. If you’ve got an open tea strainer, this is a great time to use it, although it will only hold a spoonful at a time. The short side of the blue rectangle of an American flag – yes, I looked this up, and yes, I need a hobby — will fall at roughly half the height of the short side of your cake. The long side will fall at a little more than one-third the width of your cake. You can outline this shape with blueberries. Then, dot a few blueberries inside, spaced apart. Coat the inside berries with a dusting of powdered sugar. Then, fill the rest of the space with uncoated blueberries.
White and Dark Hearted Brownies
This recipe makes 16 2-inch square white or dark chocolate brownies. To make a pan of each and reverse the middles, you’ll need double the ingredients listed below. You will end up with 32 reversed-center brownies.
3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet or good white chocolate*, coarsely chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 1/8 ounces or 175 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
1/4 teaspoon table salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (83 grams) all-purpose flour
1-inch heart or other shaped cookie cutter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over opposite sides of pan. Repeat with second piece of foil in opposite direction. Butter foil.
Melt white or dark chocolate and butter together in a large bowl over a simmering pot of water (or in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring between each) until it is 90% melted; remove from heat and stir the mixture until it is smooth. (I do this too keep things from getting too hot.) Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Add flour and salt together, stirring until just combined. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (for the dark chocolate version) and 30 to 35 minutes (for the white chocolate version).
Repeat this recipe with the other kind of chocolate and a second 8×8-inch square pan. If you don’t have two matching square pans (understandably) simply wait until you can remove your brownies from the pan as directed in the next step, and start again.
Cool pans on a wire rack in the freezer if you’re going to make cut-outs; frozen brownies are much easier to make clean cuts from. Once solid, transfer brownies in their foil “sling” to a large cutting board and cut each pan of brownies into 16 even squares, about 2×2 inches each. Still cold (and if they warm up and soften too quickly, pop them back in the freezer for 5 minutes), carefully, slowly, gently, press your cookie cutter into the center of each brownie and set the cut-out aside. Insert the dark cut-outs into the centers of the light brownies, and vice-versa. From here, you can let them warm up to room temperature or wrap them up in the freezer until you will need them.
Happy Valentines Day—Enjoy!