he turned eleven

cookies and cream cake | the merry gourmet

I don’t know of anyone who takes the selection of his or her birthday cake so seriously, but I respect my son for this trait. It’s a big decision, to be sure. Chocolate or vanilla? Buttercream frosting or cream cheese? Ice cream on the side or not at all? Or perhaps an ice cream cake? So many choices to choose from.

We’ve been in birthday cake negotiations for weeks now. I offered up the easy-for-Mom and always-crowd-pleasing Publix birthday cake. Publix cake is usually a no brainer. Everyone loves that cake. Oliver, though, thinks it’s too sweet. He’s right. It is too sweet, but this usually isn’t a problem for most of us. We eat it, feel guilty, maybe add in an extra workout or neighborhood walk, then sneak a second slice when no one is looking. Oliver never finishes a slice. He’s the smart one in this household.

The weekend before we were to celebrate his birthday, I offered up three of my baking books for him to peruse and make a selection from. One had few pictures, so he wasted minimal time on that book. In the other two books, he placed sticky notes on the photos he thought looked interesting and “not too sweet,” though I’m not sure how he made this judgement based on photos. Ultimately, he walked away with one cake in mind – the cookies and cream cake from page 107 of Tessa Huff’s Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes. His only condition was that he wanted the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting from page 41 rather than the white chocolate-cream cheese frosting the recipe called for. He definitely wanted the Oreos in it, though.

I warned him, “You’ll probably think it’s too sweet.” He was insistent, though, that this was the cake he wanted.

I made the three chocolate cake layers one night after getting home from work, and I stored them, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer until the night before I assembled the cake. On the morning of Oliver’s birthday sleepover, I made the frosting and assembled the cake.

Oliver had a couple of boys over for a sleepover that night, boys he’s known for years – and one since preschool. After a dinner of hamburgers, tater tots, and fresh fruit, it was time for cake. I stuck eleven striped candles into the top of the cake, lit them, and carefully set the cake in front of Oliver. We began singing, and at the end of the song, he blew out all of the candles in one big breath.

Watching him experience such joy – the joy of being with his friends and his family on his almost-birthday, with homemade cake and no bedtime – was such a gift to me. Almost as much of a gift as he was to me on October 4th eleven years ago.

Later, after all the dishes were done and the boys were getting ready to go upstairs to watch a movie or play video games, I asked him how the cake tasted.

He shrugged. “I’m not the biggest fan,” he said.

It was too sweet. Imagine that.

Yield: Serves 12-15

Cookies and Cream Cake

The components of this recipe come from the Layered cookbook by Tessa Huff. In her book, the recipe for Cookies and Cream Cake is made with cream cheese frosting. Somehow, I have a son who doesn't like cream cheese frosting (is he really mine?), so I've used her recipe for Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting instead. I also made the cake with 8-inch cake pans rather than 6-inch pans.

This recipe makes one 3-layer cake, and there will be frosting leftover.


For Chocolate Cakes:
2 ½ cups (315 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (95 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 mL) canola oil
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ cups (360 mL) whole milk
1 cup (240 mL) hot coffee

For a large batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1 cup (240 mL) large egg whites
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
3 cups (6 sticks/675 g) unsalted butter at room temp, cubed
1 tablespoon vanilla
10 Oreo cookies, crushed


Prepare Cakes:
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cakes pans and set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the oil and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on, add the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, stream in the coffee. Mix on medium-low for no more than 30 seconds, or until combined.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Prepare Frosting:
Place egg whites and sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place it over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. The bottom of the water should not touch the water.

Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer or is hot to the touch. Once hot, carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer.
With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. When done, the outside of the mixer bowl should return to room temperature and no residual heat should be escaping out of the top of the bowl. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3-5 minutes.

May store frosting in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 10 days. Bring to room temperature before remixing.

Assemble Cake:

To frost cakes, place 1 layer on a cake plate. With an offset spatula, spread top with 1/2 cup frosting. Repeat with second layer. Stir the crushed Oreo cookies into the remaining frosting until well-combined. Place the third layer on top of cake, centering it, and spread the remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. You will have extra frosting, so reserve it for another use.

    Pin It

25 Responses to “not in season: blueberry apple crisp”

  1. Lana — February 13, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

    Just like you, I try to cook with locally grown produce as much as I can (when I had a garden, it was heaven!), but the most important thing to me is how it tastes. It could be grown in my neighbor’s yard, organically, coddled and caressed every day, if it tastes bland – it’s out.
    I know that I can not find wild blueberries here in SoCal, and those are really the best – nothing can come even close. But I agree, when my kids ask for fruit and veggies, I indulge them.
    I have never made a crisp, or a cobbler, or a fool, even though I really like warm fruity desserts that are easy to make. Maybe yours is going to inspire me enough (I’ll just have to double up on those crunches:)
    Have a great Valentine’s Day!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 13th, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

      Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, Lana!

  2. Leigh — February 13, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    Honestly, I care more about having what I want in ANY season than I do about where they were grown. That may be terrible, but I adore cooking with exotic ingredients that we just don’t HAVE around here. That being said, the Plant City strawberries that M picked up yesterday are already almost all gone. So I think it’s a balance. A delicious balance. 😉

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 13th, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

      That reminds me, I need to buy strawberries. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention not in season: blueberry apple crisp | the merry gourmet -- Topsy.com

  4. Jean — February 13, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    I love, love blueberries and I love using them in crisps like you do. I also like that you mixed in apples, another crisp favorite for me. Honestly, I don’t always have time to go to the Farmer’s Market on Sundays so I would say that some of my produce is not locally grown. I don’t mind it either.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 13th, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

      I hear you on the time issue. Our Farmer’s Market is open on Mondays from 4-7, but if you don’t get there early, all the good stuff is gone. I can rarely get their before 6:30. Sometimes the grocery store is the only option.

  5. Kim - Liv Life — February 13, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

    We try to buy local as well, but sometimes those berries just call our name. We are indeed lucky to be able to procure these out of season fruits just for that reason, and you used them well! We found some beautiful organic berries a few weeks back at Costco, and yes, ours were from Chile too. But I bought tons of them and have filled my freezer with zip bags of organic berries. Enjoy!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 13th, 2011 @ 7:20 pm

      It’s hard to pass up a good deal in these days when we all need to stretch our dollars further. I think that buying in bulk – at Costco or somewhere similar – and freezing makes good sense. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 13, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    Don’t worry, Love… we’ve all done the same thing. And it looks like you made the most of the situation with this terrific recipe. Such a comforting dish!

  7. What a perfect winter dessert! I do love locally grown produce but it is nice that Chili provides an alternative to get wonderful fruits and veggies when ours are not yet in season.

  8. Carrie Suvajdzic — February 14, 2011 @ 4:56 am

    Oh man that looks good! I love blueberries and can’t get those big sweet ones here where I am. I agree, too, that encouraging good eating habits in your kids takes precedence over a LOT of things.

    For me eating local is all about having a really big freezer and stocking up in season. You have to be on your toes during the growing season but it’s a lot cheaper that way. So when you go buy strawberries buy enough to last until next spring!

  9. Jason Phelps — February 14, 2011 @ 7:31 am

    I would have been mad as well. Luckily we had berries leftover from last year’s winemaking in the freezer. I used them a couple of times over the weekend. Made me yearn for fresh ones!


  10. Valerie Riley — February 14, 2011 @ 8:32 am

    I want to try this recipe. We are huge blueberry fans! Brent’s dad owns an organic u-pick blueberry farm in Melrose. It is a great family atmosphere and my kids love going. I will let you know when it is time and perhaps you can join us out there for picking? We usually pick enough for the year. I am down to about 5lbs left, so it can’t get here fast enough for me! They usualy open Memorial Day. Thanks for this recipe! -V

  11. Jaclyn — February 14, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    i hate getting fooled at the farmer’s market! i try to buy local produce from the farmer’s market, so it’s definitely a bit dissapointing to find out that what you thought was grown a few miles away was actually flown in. bummer indeed.

    but on the plus side, fruit crisps are probably the simplest, most delicious delivery system for fruit in the whole world! i love mine with lots and lots of freshly whipped cream on top.

  12. DessertForTwo — February 14, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

    I agree, I think you made the right call. If kids are reaching for antioxidant-rich blueberries, give ’em what they want. Maybe you could buy extra blueberries this summer and freeze them for future use? Sounds like a win-win situation!

  13. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — February 15, 2011 @ 7:03 am

    Lovely dish and thought provoking post. Do we buy organic broccoli that has been harvested 10,000 miles away or do we buy from the conventional farm across the road? Difficult choices, at least we are thinking about them. It becomes even more daunting when we realize that some producers, i.e.: disreputable olive oils, will grow their product in one country and produce it in another.

  14. Aggie — February 15, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    I buy those “winter haven” blueberries all the time! I have to go relook at my container Merry!!

    What a beautiful dessert. I can’t ever get enough blueberries. We are eating them like crazy lately since they have been on sale. We dipped them in chocolate last night, YUM!

  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — February 17, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    I have pondered the same question… Living where I do in PA, there’s very little available between November and March that is fresh or local. Around this time of year, I usually get sick of eating out of the freezer and start to crave fresh fruits and veggies. Just last week, I bought some strawberries and blueberries that I knew weren’t local, but I just needed some fresh fruit. I do my best to eat local as much as I can, but sometimes I just have to let it go.

    This blueberry apple crisp looks wonderful! Now I’m wishing that I still had some of those blueberries from last week hanging around. 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

      Jen – Sometimes we just have to give in to the beauty that lives in the produce section, right? Miss you!

  16. Joy — February 17, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

    That looks wonderful. I love love blueberries.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

      Thanks, Joy!

  17. Lucy — February 18, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    I wouldn’t stress about those blueberries, either. And I’d buy a second pint to make blueberry scones. Love this crisp – I always have vanilla yogurt on hand, so I’d put a spoonful of yogurt on top.

  18. Pingback: some days you need pie: blueberry pie | The Merry Gourmet

  19. Beth — December 20, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    Topping recipe is missing. Punted from your seasonal crisp topping recipe.

Leave a Comment