Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? šŸ™‚

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) šŸ˜‰

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!


Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.)Ā 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

Click here for a printable version.

Spring Cleaning, Blue Plate Style

At our house, spring means that it’s time to clean out the freezer. I don’t mean “clean” in the “get a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush” sense, but in the “eat up last year’s produce to make room for this summer’s bounty” sense. When I first fill the freezer with garden-fresh goodness, I tend to be a little stingy overprotective cautious about using my frozen fruits and veggies. After all, it’s a lot of work to process / put up produce! I don’t want an empty freezer by Christmas. (Andy does not understand my logic.”Didn’t we pick this stuff so we could eat it?” Yes, of course. But not all at once!)

By the time March and April roll around though, I am all about the frozen fruit. Strawberries in my lunch? Every day! Blueberries in my oatmeal? Yes please, and can you drizzle some maple syrup on top? Cherry pie with crumb topping? Don’t mind if I do! (Of course, this all backfiring, as Andy just informed me that we’re down to two packages of cherries and one package of strawberries. And June is still a long ways away. Eeek!)Ā 

Back when I was planning my Easter dinner, I knew I wanted an easy dessert. I figured I’d have my hands full enough with the main course. A quick survey of the freezer, fridge and pantry confirmed that I had everything on hand for this cake. Plus, it’s made in a bundt pan, which gives you maximum impact for minimum effort. Win-win!

I realize that cranberries are technically a fall crop, but fresh, tart flavor says spring to me, especially when it’s paired with lemon. So, if you had the foresight to throw fresh cranberries in your freezer last fall, then you’re set. And then you’ll have some room for the rhubarb that’s coming soon. šŸ™‚


Cranberry Lemon Cake

For the cake:
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks or 6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (reserved from above lemons)

Preheat oven to 350Ā°.

Generously butter a bundt pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar in an even layer over the bottom of the bundt pan and then spread the cranberries in an even layer on top of the sugar. Set aside.

InĀ  medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Next, combine the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and zest together until the sugar is fragrant. Add the 12 tablespoons of butter to the lemon sugar and beat on medium-high until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between.

Pour the buttermilk into a measuring cup and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until the flour is incorporated into the batter.

Spread the batter in an even layer on top of the cranberries. Bake until the cake tests done with a toothpick and is golden brown on top and just set, about 50-55 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Place a serving plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow the glaze to set before slicing and serving.

Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature, with the cut ends covered in plastic wrap. (Ours was gone in under 48 hours, so I am not sure how long it keeps!)

As seen on Annie’s Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma

Click here for a printable version.

My Kind of Cake

I know I said I’d try to keep things balanced around here, but it’s birthday month, which means that it’s all about the chocolate. Being the birthday girl AND the baker means that you get what you want for a birthday treat. šŸ˜€

For as long as I can remember, chocolate (cake or pie) has been my birthday go-to. So, when this recipe popped up in my Facebook feed,Ā I knew that I had to try it. I’m sure glad I did!

I was surprised to discoverĀ that this recipe is very similar to my standard chocolate cake recipe.Ā It uses buttermilk and coffee instead of regular milk and hot water. I also really liked the fact that Sally provided the weights for the ingredients, so I’m including them as well. It’s SO much easier to weigh out ingredients than it is to scoop with a measuring cup. And it’s more accurate. And there’s fewer dishes to wash. I did use the volume measurements for the liquid ingredients, since I figure there’s less room for error there. Plus, my scale only goes from ounces to grams, not milliliters. (Don’t worry, I’m including the volume measurements too, but seriously. Go buy a scale.)

The cake was fudgy and super-chocolately. It had a great texture (not too dense, but not so delicate that it would fall apart), and it stayed nice and moist from the day that I baked it (Thursday morning) until the last crumb was gone (Monday night).Ā Hmm. Guess that means we need another cake around here. After all, there’s still a couple weeks left in birthday month!

It’s birthday season around here. Sprinkles are mandatory.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate FrostingĀ 

For the cake:
220 grams (1-3/4 cup) AP flour
350 grams (1-3/4 cup) sugar
65 grams (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
240 milliliters (1 cup) buttermilk
120 milliliters (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 milliliters (1 cup) hot coffee

For the frosting:
290 grams (or 1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
360 –Ā  480 grams (3-4 cups) powdered sugar
65 grams (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
45-75 milliliters (3-5 tablespoons) heavy cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Sprinkles, for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350Ā°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans and then line the pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Mix in the coffee. The batter will be very thin.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until cakes test done with a toothpick, between 25-30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.Ā Beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Turn the mixer off and add the cocoa powder and 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to the bowl. Turn the mixer on to low and mix until the cocoa powder and sugar are absorbed by the butter. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla, half-and-half and salt. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for another 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar if you’d like a stiffer frosting.

To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on a cake stand (or serving plate, or cardboard cake round). Spread a layer of frosting on top of the cake, then place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. For a smooth finish, cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and then place the cake in the refrigerator. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the refrigerator and frost with the rest of the frosting. Garnish with sprinkles as desired.

Store cake covered, at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

From Sally’s Baking Addiction, originallyĀ adapted from Ina Garten

Click here for a printable version.

One Worth Getting Up For

Last weekend, we got up at the crack of dawn just so we could pick some strawberries. (OK, 5:30 A.M. Not quite the crack of dawn here in June, but still.) As I’ve mentioned before, we lack self-control when it comes to fresh fruit, which meant that we came home with more than 60 pounds of fresh, sweet, ruby-red strawberries. We froze 40 pounds (perfect for off-season snacking), and I made a batch of strawberry-vanilla jam. I also tried a couple more desserts (popsicles, ice cream and ice cream pie, if you must know), but that still left a lot for eating.

I put them on salads for dinner. We ate them at breakfast and with lunch. They just seemed so snackable. All was well, until the strawberries were almost gone, and I realized that I still had so many things I wanted to make. Scones! Cake! Biscuits! Shortcake! I was trying to decide which recipe was worthy of the final few berries, when Andy caught wind of my plans.

“You’re going to BAKE WITH ALL OF THEM?! What about eating them? There are never enough to eat!”

“ALLĀ you want to do is eat them! I’ve only made ONE batch of shortcake this year!”

So, naturally, we did what any rational person would do. We got up at the crack of dawn (again) and picked 25 MOREĀ pounds of strawberries. After filling my largest Pryex bowl with sliced berries for snacking, I went right to work, checking recipes off of my strawberry bucket list.

Scones in the freezer, check. Biscuits in the freezer, check. Strawberry vinaigrette dressing for dinner, check. Strawberry cake for immediate enjoyment, check.

Immediate enjoyment for sure. This cake was amazing. The batter mixed up in no time (all pantry staples),Ā which is perfect for a busy summer Saturday. After pouring the batter into the prepared pan, you cover the batter with an entire pound of strawberries, giving you an incredible berry-to-batter ratio. The batter puffs up and around the berries, which get soft and jam-like in the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool before cutting into it.

The cake is supposed to be baked in either a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or a 10″ standard pie pan. Since my largest pie pan is only 9.5″, I opted for my 10″ cast-iron skillet. (Plus, I love serving food out of the skillet. It just looks so pretty.) šŸ™‚ I think the skillet helped speed up the baking time too, as my cake tested “done” with about 12 minutes left on the timer.

Andy gave this a 6 out of 5, so it’s safe to say that he won’t mind if the last few berries wind up in another cake. After all, we won’t be picking any more berries… right?

Strawberry Summer Cake

Strawberry Summer Cake

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound of strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10″ cake pan or cast-iron skillet. Set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk theĀ flour, baking powder and salt together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and one cup of sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk, and then add the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the berries, cut side down, in an even layer on the top of the batter. (I did have a few berries that overlapped.) Sprinkle the reserved sugar over the berries.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until the cake is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick, anywhere from 38-60 more minutes. (Deb’s recipe said 60 minutes; mine was done at about 38.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

Click here for a printable version.


Childhood Favorites

Conventional wisdom says that it’s not a good idea to bake once the weather warms up for the summer. Especially if you aren’t running the air conditioning. (Which we almost never do. I’ll take the fresh air and a ceiling fan over the chill of the air conditioner almost any day.) Warm temps or not, sometimes you just have to bake something. Especially when it’s berry season. And while it’d be a crime to NOT eat hundreds of berries in their perfect, natural form, it’d also be a crime to let a summer slip by without making some fantastic fruit desserts.

Shortcake is near the top of the list when it comes to my favorite childhood desserts. (And that’s a longĀ list. What can I say? I have ALWAYS been a dessert girl.) When I was a kid, strawberry shortcake meant Bisquick biscuits topped with strawberries and Cool Whip. And while I’ve moved beyond Bisquick and Cool Whip in most things, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of shortcake. So, while I have tried (and enjoyed) the “cake” shortcake, I was on a mission to recreate the stuff of my childhood dreams.

I used our last two quarts of strawberries for this shortcake, almost in aĀ “farewell to strawberry season” tribute, and, rather than simply macerating the sliced berries with sugar, I pureed some of them to help create extra juice for drizzling. (“Extra juice” was the only way Andy was on board with shortcake. “No one wants a dry biscuit,” he said.) I used buttermilk instead of regular milkĀ and winged it with the strawberry mixture. The best part about this recipe, though? (Aside from things like cream and berries, obviously?) How ridiculously easy it is.

Seriously. We are talking 20 minutes, start to finish. From the time you get the mixing bowl out of the cupboard to the time you are pulling warm, delicious biscuits from the oven. There’s no rolling, no cutting, no greasing of the pan. Just mixing, dropping and baking. Totally worth preheating the oven on a summer day. šŸ™‚

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry ShortcakeĀ 

For the shortcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk

For the berries:
2 quarts of strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered if small
2-4 tablespoons of sugar, to taste

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas and the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until it is just combined.

Using a large spoon, divide the dough in eight mounds (blobs? piles? none of this sounds appetizing) on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

While the biscuits are baking, puree 1/2 cup of the strawberries with a tablespoon of sugar. Gently toss the rest of the berries with the pureed strawberry sauce. Taste the berries and add additional sugar if necessary. Cover the berries and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve the shortcake.

To make the whipped cream, combine the cream, vanilla and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. (I used a Pyrex bowl and my hand mixer, but this could be done with a stand mixer as well.) Beat/whisk on medium speed until stiff peaks form.

To serve, split the biscuits in half and fill with strawberries. Place the biscuit top on the berries, add more strawberries and top with whipped cream.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.


Putting the Fun in Fondue Night

I’ve mentioned our girls “cooking club” nights before. They’re the brainchild of my friend Emily, and they’re an excellent excuse for me to try something new. (Although, at the rate I read blogs and magazines, I’d need a cooking club night every night to get through my recipe list…) The theme for our most recent night was fondue, and we each brought something to go with a cheese fondue and something for a chocolate fondue. I brought broccoli for the cheese fondue and decided on pound cake for the chocolate. Which meant, of course, that I had to find a pound cake recipe first!

Do you know how many pound cake recipes there are on the internet? More than 13 million, according to Google. And I’m guessingĀ that most of them are probably mediocre and not worth wasting ingredients on. Especially sinceĀ most recipes call for a LOT of butter. I decided to find a recipe from a trusted source instead and ended up going with one from The Way the Cookie Crumbles. I figured it was a safe bet – after all, Bridget oftenĀ does comparison posts, and has several pound cake recipes on the blog, so clearly this wasn’t her first rodeo. Plus, she used a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so I figured that the odds were in my favor. šŸ™‚

I halved the recipe and made it in a loaf pan, rather than a bundt pan. I figured we probably didn’t need an entire bundt cake for our fondue, especially when we had lots of other dippers. (Turns out, the cake was good enough where I wished I would have had a little more left over… what was I thinking again?) I was a little concerned about whether or not the cakeĀ would rise, since the recipe doesn’t have any leaveners, but it worked out all right. IĀ noticed that Bridget mentioned possibly using cake flour for some of the AP flour (although she didn’t), andĀ so I figured I’d try that.Ā I loved the almond extract and the white chocolate in this cake, especially because I feel like it’s really easy for pound cakes to be rather, well, blah. It was the perfect consistency for cubing and dunking in chocolate, and the few leftover cubes were a wonderful mid-morning snack at work. šŸ™‚


White Chocolate Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (7.2 ounces) of flour (I used a combination of AP and cake flour.)Ā 
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter a 9″ loaf pan and dust in the inside with flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,Ā mix the butter, cream cheese and salt until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the sugar to the butter mixture while the mixer is running. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes.

Add the eggs to the bowl one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the bowl and mix in. Pour the flour into the bowl and mix on low until just incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, invert the pan and turn the cake out onto the wire rack. Allow to cool completely. If serving with fondue, cut into 1″ cubes for optimal skewering. šŸ™‚

from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, who adapted it from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it fromĀ Staff Meals from Chanterelle

Click here for a printable version.

Cake. With Rhubarb. And Lemon.

I know I promised something other than dessert once our CSA started up again, but this cake is just begging to be shared. And who am I to say no to cake? Especially a lemon-rhubarb-buttermilk cake that’s baked in a bundt pan and then drizzled with a lemon glaze.

See? You’d talk about cake too, if you were me. šŸ™‚

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I wanted rhubarb cake. I also decided that it had been too long since I’d used my bundt pan, and, therefore, my rhubarb cake had to be made in said bundt pan. (You’d hate for bakeware to feel neglected, right?)Ā 

Well, when you Google “rhubarb bundt cake” this recipe from Honey and Jam is one of the first ones that pops up. It had everything I was looking for – which I guess was just rhubarb, cake and a bundt pan. It even had the added bonus of helping me use up some buttermilk that was hanging out in my fridge. Win-win, right?

Well… sort of. Let’s just say that you’re not looking at a picture of this cake the first time I made it. That was mostly operator error on my part though. I didn’t butter the bundt pan thoroughly enough, and I rushed the cooling process. Put those together, and what you have is a hot mess. Only half of the cake flipped out of the pan, and while it tasted great, I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t cut it and serve it to anyone besides Andy.

I wasn’t going to give up on the cake though. Oh no. I made it again, not only buttering the pan but flouring it too, and I let it cool the full 30 minutes before flipping it out of the pan.

Much better.


Lemon Rhubarb Buttermilk Bundt Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1 3/4 cups sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 lb. rhubarb, sliced into pieces about 1/4″ wide (I added some strawberries the second time I made this, and they worked well with the rhubarb/lemon combo.)

For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter, almost melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium-high. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scrapping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the lemon juice.

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, and stir in the buttermilk mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.Ā (In other words, add 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.)Ā Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary during this process.

Toss the rhubarb with the remaining flour and gently fold two-thirds of the fruit into the batter. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the rest of the rhubarb on top of the batter, lightly pressing it into the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and tests done (either with a cake tester or springs back when lightly touched). Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. (This may or may not feel like the longest 30 minutes ever…) After 30 minutes, flip the cake out of the pan and onto a serving plate.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Whisk the butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice together. If the glaze looks too thin, whisk in extra powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s as thick as you’d like. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.


From Honey & Jam, originally from Rustic Fruit Desserts

Click here for a printable version.

I Can Take a Hint

Last weekend, I had a $5 credit to use at Williams-Sonoma. I don’t shop there often, but it’s definitely a store I enjoy wandering through. After a great deal of indecision (Jars! Odd-size measuring spoons! Placemats! Spices! I seriously have ADD when I’m in that store.), I finally settled on some new cupcake liners. They seemed to be the best use of my $5, and they had stripes AND polka dots. The cuteness was too much.

I showed them to Andy and said, “Aren’t these the CUTEST cupcake liners you’ve EVER seen?!!”

Andy, being the supportive husband that he is, immediately responded with, “They’d be a lot cuter if you filled them with something.”

OK then. I can take a hint. Cupcakes it is. I even had some leftover frosting from a cake I’d made for a bridal shower a couple weeks earlier. Clearly, these babies were meant to be.

Since this was supposed to be a quick Sunday afternoon project, I wanted a super-basic recipe. I was out of things like buttermilk, and I knew I didn’t want to deal with separating eggs or anything like that. If I was a cake mix kind of girl, that would have been the day for it. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m NOT a cake mix kind of girl though. šŸ™‚

I pulled this recipe out of an old Woman’s Day magazine a few years ago, so I figured it was worth a try. I halved the recipe (which are the amounts I’m sharing below), as I didn’t want to waste too many ingredients if the recipe bombed. Plus, 12 cupcakes are plenty for two people. šŸ™‚ It turned out well, and I’m going to keep it in mind for those days when I need an easy cake fix.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Sprinkles + new liners = cuteness overload.

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the baking powderĀ and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for two minutes, or until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to a low, and beat in the milk and vanilla. Mix in the flour until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake wells, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Bake until cupcakes test done with a toothpick and are golden on top, about 18-20 minutes. Rotate the baking pan halfway through the cook time if your oven bakes unevenly.

Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan. Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting with your favorite frosting.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

From Woman’s Day, May 2009

Click here for a printable version.

S’mores + Cake. Oh yes.

So, apparently, I’ve developed a reputation. I’m the destroyer of good intentions. The diet-breaker. The one who shows up to Bible study with a dessert that features 3 sticks of butter and 3 cups of sugar. (Cut me SOME slack here… it was a 9″ x 13″ pan; there was fruit in it; AND I used some whole wheat pastry flour. And they were every bit as good as they sound. Moving on.) šŸ™‚

In spite of the evidence against me (allĀ circumstantial, of course), I do make some things that aren’t complete calorie-bombs. Mango pineapple salsa. Maple walnut granola. Chickpea pasta. Quinoa with mango and black beans. I do my best to make sure we’re eating our veggies, and I’m trying to get outside for a walk at lunchtime each day.

But… let’s be honest. Making fancy desserts is FUN. At least for me. Give me a Saturday in my kitchen, just me and some butter, sugar and the KitchenAid mixer, and I’m as happy as a clam. (Side note: Can anyone explain what exactly makes clams happy? They sit in the mud/sand all day, hoping they don’t end up in somebody’s chowder.)Ā 

And that brings us to the cake I made for the first cookout of the year, hosted by my partner-in-cake-decorating-crime. What’s better at a cookout than s’mores? Especially at a cookout with a bonfire! I went back and forth, trying to decide between s’mores cupcakes and an actual s’mores cake. Finally, I went with the s’mores cake… simply because I’ve made the cupcakes before, and I love to try something new. Especially when I have a willing bunch of test subjects.

Oh, and I got to play with my kitchen torch too. Best. Day. Ever. šŸ˜€


S’mores Cake

For the cake:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pans
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely processed into a powder (this takes about 14 graham crackers)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (I did the ‘add molasses to light brown sugar” trick here.)Ā 
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

For the filling:
1/2 lb. milk chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 pinches of salt

For the frosting:
4 large egg whites (save the yolks and make some ice cream!)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9″ round cake pans, and then line the cake pans with parchment paper. Then, butter your parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Once the eggs are beaten into the butter, add one-third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix briefly. Add about half of the buttermilk and mix briefly again. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and then the rest of the buttermilk, giving the batter a quick mix in between. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, scrape the sides of the bowl, and mix until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. (I channeled my inner nerd and got out my kitchen scale, weighing each pan to be sure they were even.) Smooth the batter in the pans, and then bake until the cakes test “done” with a toothpick, about 30-35 minutes. (I checked at 28 minutes, and then at 33.)Ā Remove pans from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, and peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before proceeding.

To make the filling, place the chocolate in a small, heat-proof bowl. Pour the cream and the salt into a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and then place the bowl with the chocolate in the water bath to thicken and cool, stirring occasionally.

When you’re ready to assemble the cake, place one round on a cake stand. Spread the chocolate filling on the top of the layer and top with the second cake layer.

Next, make the frosting. (Since this is a marshmallow frosting, you’ll want to use it as soon as it’s done.) Place the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly, cooking until the sugar is dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch. Place the bowl on the stand mixer, and, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. (You’ll want to start at a low speed and gradually work your way up to a high speed.) Add the vanilla and mixture until combined.

Frost the cake with a thin coating of the marshmallow frosting, sealing in all of the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes or so, to firm up the crumb coat. Using an offset spatula, spread the rest of the frosting all over the cake in thick dollops. Take a spoon, and create swirls in the frosting with the back of the spoon (similar to this technique). When the cake is swirled to your liking, brown the frosting with a kitchen torch set on the low setting.

Serve within a few hours. (I baked the cake on a Saturday morning, then frosted about an hour or so before the cookout. We cut into the cake about four hours after it was finished, and it was still in good shape. And while the leftovers tasted great the next day, the frosting had started to melt/dissolve.)

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

Berries, Cream and Cake, All in One

A few months ago, Andy put in a request for angel food cake. Since he doesn’t request things often, I do my best to accommodate him when he does ask for something specific. (Except for meatloaf. I’m still working through my issues with that dish.) So, I added angel food cake to my “must bake” list and began looking for an occasion worthy of such a dessert.

Lucky for me (and Andy… it’s his request, after all), April rolled around with its plethora of birthdays, and I was appointed to make the dessert for our “April birthday dinner.” Perfect timing! And, to make things even better, I stumbled upon this fun version of angel food cake. (Because we know that I’m incapable of leaving well enough alone…)Ā I was a little nervous about this technique because I didn’t know if the angel food cake would be sturdy enough to handle the rolling, unrolling, filling and then re-rolling, but it worked great! No cracks in the cake, and it kept its shape in the fridge until party time.

It was a definite success. There were oohs. And aahs. And lots of mmms. And we demolished it. At the end of the night, I confiscated the one remaining piece and took a picture just so I’d have something to share with the blog world. (And then I stashed it in the fridge so I could enjoy it the next day. Cook’sĀ privilege, right?) šŸ™‚

The only downside? I strayed too far from tradition for Andy. Apparently, what he wanted was an angel food cake (in the traditional shape) with chocolate frosting. Berries and cream, tucked in a cute roll, was too much of a change for him. (Not that it stopped him from enjoying multiple slices…) So, his request for an angel food cake still stands. Looks like I need another occasion.


Strawberries and Cream Angel Food Cake Roll

For the cake:
9 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
powdered sugar, for dusting

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla (I’ll be honest; I didn’t measure this here. It’s vanilla. Can there really be TOO much?)Ā 
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
4 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Side note: be sure your mixing bowl is clean and dry before the egg whites go in.)Ā 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. Lightly spray the waxed paper with cooking oil. (Yes, waxed paper. All the rolled cake recipes I’ve seen call for it. I’d guess that you could use parchment paper if waxed paper weirds you out.)Ā 

Once your egg whites have come to room temperature, add the cream of tartar and the vanilla to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly beat in the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. As you add the sugar, increase the speed to high and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Gently fold in the flour 1/4 cup at a time.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes.

Place a clean, dry, cotton towel on the counter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Carefully flip the cake out of the pan and onto the towel. Peel the waxed paper off the cake and then roll the cake up inside of the towel, starting with the short end. Allow the rolled cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake has cooled, prepare the filling. Beat the whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl until semi-stiff peaks form. Gently fold the diced strawberries into the whipped cream.

Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the strawberries and cream mixture all over the inside of the cake. When the inside is covered in filling, re-roll the cake (not the towel this time). Place the cake on a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar. Chill until ready to serve.*

*I made this on a Saturday afternoon and served it Saturday evening, and the cake held up well in the fridge for that amount of time. The ONE lonely piece that survived until Sunday was also in pretty good shape the next day. However, since it didn’t make it past noon on Sunday, I can’t verify how long you can keep in this in the fridge. Ā 

From Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.