Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My first cake "job"

A friend of mine has twin boys that have some pretty serious allergies (one can't have egg whites the other gluten, among many other things).  She called me the night before their birthday party wondering if I could decorate a cake for them.  She said she always felt awful that she had to make a separate cake for them and that they couldn't eat the "pretty" cake she ordered for everyone else.  She said "Just once I want them to have the pretty cake!"  She wondered if she brought over a pre-baked diet-specific cake if I would decorate it for them.  How could I not? 

So, here is the result.  I used a basic white frosting and purchased pre-colored fondant for the circles and ropes.  The boys were so excited when they saw their cake!  They couldn't stay away and kept asking if they could have more.  Poor things, I'm sure it tasted awful, but they were happy with the decorating job!  

Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes

I can't believe how behind I am with my blogging!  I swear, I have been baking and (occasionally taking pictures!) but just haven't been able to find 10 seconds to get it written down.  I hope no one has forgotten about me.  :)

I made these cupcakes for a Halloween party (yes, it was that long ago!) but they're great for any fall baking event.  Not too gingery, great flavor, and perfect as mini bite-sized cupcakes.  When I make them I occasionally do a spider web design on the top using concentric circles and a toothpick to drag through them, but this time I decided to go plain.  


1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick butter
6 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 scant teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons milk 

For cupcakes
  • Preheat oven to 325.  Line muffin tins with liners or spray with Pam.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
  • Using paddle attachment beat melted butter, sugar, and pumpkin until smooth.  Mix in eggs.  On low speed add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
  • Fill each liner about 1/2-3/4 full.  Bake about 25 minutes.  For mini cupcakes bake about 19 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and then remove.
For frosting
  • Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth.  Add sugar and beat about 1 minute on medium speed after incorporated.  If you want to do spider webs, reserve 1/4 cup of frosting.  Stir in cinnamon and add enough milk to make it pourable but still thick. 
  • Frost cupcakes.  If doing a spider web, frost the white icing smooth.  Pipe 3-4 concentric circles of cinnamon icing on top.  Starting in center, drag a toothpick outwards through the circles in 5 places, equally spaced.

Recipe from Cupcakes!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Decorated Sugar Cookies

This week on my online mom's group was the Cookie challenge, which I hosted.  The group vote was for fall decorated cookies (the Peanut Butter Sandwiches came in second).  This is my recipe, which I've had for years and slowly tweaked.  It's perfect for cut outs.  It doesn't spread or fluff up too much and it's not particularly sweet, which is nice because the royal icing is.  


2 sticks butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
2 1/2 cups flour
Pinch salt

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 juiced lemon
milk for thinning to flow consistency 

  • Preheat to 325
  • Whisk flour and salt.  Set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and milk.  Beat until combined.  Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  • Roll out thick on powdered sugar covered surface.  Use cookie cutter.  Re-roll any scraps.
  • Bake until edges are pale golden, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool.
Royal Icing
  • Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Mix in sugar and lemon.  Beat 1 minute.
  • Color (I use Wilton gel colors)
  • Outline first, thin icing, then fill in using a toothpick to push into corners.  
  • Let dry overnight before stacking.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I saw this recipe on Martha last week and just couldn't pass it up.  It's from 'Wichcraft (one of Tom Colicchio's restaurants) and they looked so tasty.  They were!  The oatmeal gives them a nice and different crunch.  And I loved the turbanado sugar.  

The recipe states it makes a dozen sandwiches but I got close to 30, and that's with half of them being thicker than called for.  The filling amount was perfect for all of those though.  When I make them again I'll roll thicker and cut the filling in half.  It's just not good for my rear to have that many cookies sitting around eying me up.


1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (I used light and threw in about a tablespoon of molasses)
1/2 cup peanut butter
Turbanado sugar for sprinkling 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Line baking sheets with parchment. Preheat to 350.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add oats and cook until toasted, stirring, about 5 minutes.  Cool.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  • With paddle attachment, cream 1/2 cup butter and both sugars.  Add peanut butter and mix well.
  • Add oat mixture and flour mixture.  Mix on low until combined.  Roll dough between two sheets of parchment about 1/4 inch thick (I did thicker and liked it better).  Refrigerate until chilled.
  • Cut out using 2 inch round cookie cutter.  Sprinkle with turbanado.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool on sheets.
  • Mix all ingredients together with paddle attachment on medium until smooth.  Use a disposable pasty bag to cover half of cookies.  Top with other half.
I got the recipe from Martha.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes

First, I must apologize to my 3 faithful readers.  I have been gone too long.  I have been baking, but have managed to forget to take pictures of the final product.  I've also been working on a side project.  My friends on my on-line mom's group have helped me start up a cookie business of sorts.  So I've been busy making about 1,117 thousand cookies for trials and pictures.  Take a look!  Sugar on Top orders.  

Anyway, these cupcakes I made for my coffee meet-up, which is where most of my baked goods end up.  They get treats, I get free coffee.  Win-win.  They're a nice, moist cupcake with a cinnamon icing that has a nice kick to it.  And they go wonderfully with coffee!

I halved this recipe and got 9 perfect cupcakes out.  I accidently kept the icing recipe full scale, but it's a good thing because I used it all on those 9.  If I had made the full cupcake recipe I would have had some pretty skimpily frosted cakes!


Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes
 1 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Heavy 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Heavy 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Heavy 1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
Heavy 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 300.  Line cupcake pan.
  • Put chocolate in hot coffee, stirring occasionally, until fully melted.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • In bowl of electric mixer beat the eggs until slightly thickened and a light color.
  • Slowly add oil, buttermilk, and vanilla to eggs.  Then add melted chocolate mixture.
  • Add the sugar mixture until well combined.
  • Pour into liner about 3/4 of the way full and bake for about 35 minutes.
Cinnamon Buttercream Icing

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups powdered sugar

  • Beat butter until light and fluffy.  
  • Add vanilla.
  • Slowly add sugar and cinnamon.  Beat on high for about 5 minutes.

This recipe was slightly adapted from Ice Cream Before Dinner

Thursday, September 11, 2008

THE Brownies

That's it, the search is over.  I have found THE BEST BROWNIES EVER.  That's right, EVER.  I have been searching for years for the perfect fudgy, thick, chocolaty brownies and these are it.  They are phenomenal.  After finishing the last one today at lunch my husband said after dinner "You know, if feels kind of empty without the brownies here".  That's how good they are.  

The recipe calls for Dutch cocoa, which I was out of and the grocery store nearby doesn't have, so I used Hershey's and it was still fine.  I'm making a run to Whole Foods this week to pick up the Dutch cocoa as well as some Schaffen Berger chocolate.  I figure it can only make them better!


Deep Chocolate Brownies

2 sticks of unsalted butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa 
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 13x9 inch pan with parchment.
  • Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.  Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
  • Whisk in eggs one at a time until glossy and smooth.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt.  Whisk into chocolate mixture.
  • Spread in pan and bake until center comes out with crumbs, 25-35 minutes.  I like my brownies on the undercooked side so I stopped right at 25.  

My son and sous chef also enjoyed them!

I found this recipe in Gourmet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

I haven't made an everyday chocolate cupcake in a long time so I figured I was due.  This is a pretty typical chocolate chocolate cupcake.  The frosting was bit fluffy for my taste as I tend to prefer a dense frosting, but it was tasty.  The cake itself was nice and moist.  Overall a good chocolate cupcake.


2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

For cupcake:
  • Heat oven to 350.  Line a 12 cup cupcake tin.
  • Sift together flour and baking soda in small bowl.
  • With mixer, cream butter and sugars together.  Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add chocolate and beat until well combined. 
  • Alternately add buttermilk/vanilla and dry ingredients.  Do not over mix.
  • Scoop into liners about 2/3 full.  Bake 20-24 minutes.  
For frosting:
  • Beat butter until creamy.  Add milk and beat to combine.  Add chocolate and vanilla and mix until smooth.  
  • Slowly add sugar.  Once all is added beat on medium high until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  
I found both these recipes in More From Magnolia.

Caramel Apple Mini Cupcakes

How stinkin' cute are these?!?  I had a Back to School picnic to go to and brought these.  I've made the full size version in the past but figured I could get people to eat 2 or 3 minis (and I was right!).  

I apologize for the severe lack of process pictures lately.  I've been getting caught up in the baking and realize at the end that I haven't taken any.  Anyway, there's nothing tricky or odd about these so there's really no need for extra pictures.


3-4 Granny Smith apples
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider 
1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons cider
3 1/2-4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 ounces individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

For cupcakes:
  • Heat oven to 350.  Line 24 mini cupcake or 12 regular cupcake tins.
  • Rinse and core apples.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until soft.  Peel and puree.
  • Sift together flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt. 
  • Slightly beat eggs.  Add oil, cider, vanilla, and one cup of pureed apple.  Stir to combine.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Mix only until combined; do not over mix.  
  • Fill liners 2/3 full.  Bake mini cupcakes 12-14 minutes, regular cupcakes 18-20 minutes.
For frosting:
  • Melt butter in small saucepan.  Add sugar and milk and cook on low until sugar dissolves.  Stir in cider.
  • In a stand mixer on low mix butter mixture and sugar until combined.  Turn to medium-high and beat until full.  Frosting may be a little loose, even with the sugar, so chill for a few minutes if necessary.  
For drizzle:
  • Combine milk and caramels in saucepan.  Cook on low until smooth.  Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.  Drizzle over iced cupcakes.  

This recipe was adapted from Caramel Appletini Cupcakes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

S'Mores Cheesecake

I meet with a group of former colleagues each Tuesday for coffee and I've volunteered to bring treats.  It gives me a chance to make a dent in the 14,117 "to try" recipes I have sitting in various places around my house and they seem to appreciate it.  Well, this week it was canceled but only after I had made this weeks' treat: S'Mores Cheesecake.  So here I am with a whole cheesecake just waiting to be eaten.  

It's very tasty, if not a tad sweet.  I like the marshmallow topping but that's really where a big chunk of the sweetness is coming in so I may reduce the amount by half or so next time around.  And all though it's a very tasty topping I'm sure jarred Fluff would do if you don't want to make it yourself.  

Make sure you make the cheesecake portion the night before you need it so you can properly chill it overnight.


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter

9 ounces milk chocolate (I had to use chips but it worked fine)
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 eggs

1 cup sugar
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 large or 120 mini marshmallows (if using large, cut into quarters)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For crust:
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Stir all ingredients together and press into a parchment lined springform pan.  I used my square one for no other reason than that I like it.
  • Bake 12 minutes. Cool.
For filling:
  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Cool to lukewarm.
  • Blend cream cheese, sugar, and salt until smooth.  Make sure not to go crazy here.  Over beating can cause a cheesecake to crack.  More on that later...
  • Add whipping cream and mix until incorporated.
  • Add melted chocolate then eggs one at a time.  
  • Pour over crust
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes then reduce oven to 200 and continue baking for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.  Now, to that cracking issue.  I never, ever, ever crack cheesecakes. Well, except for that one time 5 years ago in a weird oven and the two other times that I've not listened to myself.   But seriously, no other time.  I don't use water baths or anything else "fancy" other than the above method - long, low heat.  I seriously think this is what helps me not crack them.  Any time I've used another method, they've cracked.  Just like this one did.  So, I'm altering the directions to my method.  And I'm never following any other baking directions for a cheesecake again.  Seriously.  
  • Once done (check for a wiggle by shaking the pan.  It shouldn't be set at this point, the center should shimmy nicely), turn off oven, crack the door and leave the cheesecake in until the oven is cool, about an hour or so.  
  • Remove and place in refrigerator overnight.  

For topping:
  • Whisk sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar, and salt in a large metal bowl.  Set over saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove from over water (but keep water simmering) and stir in marshmallows.  Let them sit and soften for about 3 minutes.  Return over water and beat until shiny medium-stiff peaks form.  Beat in vanilla.
  • Place on cheesecake.  Let stand until set, about 15 minutes.
  • Either use a torch to singe the top or a broiler for about 3 minutes.  

I varied the recipe I found in the July 2008 Bon Appetit.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rocky Road Fudge Bars

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything. Dang Olympics are eating into my blogging time!

Anyway, I've recently become an Angel Baker which is a program that sends home baked treats to our soldiers abroad. It's an amazing program and my first "assignment" was great. You should check it out.

So I made these bars as part of my package. I figured if anyone could use some sweet, layered, chocolaty goodness it was soldiers! I'm not sure if they qualify for "true" rocky road bars since I used peanuts instead of walnuts (it's normally walnuts, right?), but they're good either way. They are sweet, so small bars (which are not normally my style) are great.


1/2 cup butter
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup chopped nuts

6 oz cream cheese, soft
1/4 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

2 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup mil
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For base:
  • Preheat oven to 350. Line a 13x9 inch pan with parchment (or grease and flour, if that's your thing).
  • Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in remaining base ingredients.
  • Spread into pan

For filling:
  • Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and egg until smooth and fluffy. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
  • Spread over base.
  • Bake 25-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. On a side note, I had some issues with this since I managed to stick my toothpick into about 14 different spots before I hit an area that was chocolate chip free. So be warned, the toothpick may come out wet, but only wet with melted chocolate. Keep stabbing!
  • Top with marshmallows and cook 2 more minutes.
For frosting:
  • While the base and filling are baking, cook cream cheese, butter, milk, and chocolate on low heat until blended and smooth.
  • Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.
  • Pour over warm, puffed marshmallows and swirl with a knife to marble. Two things here: 1) I did this too early to keep the frosting from crusting a bit so I just whipped it for a second to remove the crunchy bits and 2) mine didn't marble, but they still tasted great!
  • Refrigerate until firm.
I found this recipe in Best of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookies and Bars

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I should have quit while I was ahead

It's been a LONG time since I've thrown out a dessert (I mean, really, are they ever THAT bad?) but I did today. I should have known better too. The entire process turned out to be a comedy of errors. I even thought to myself "maybe there have been one too many issues here. Turn back now? Naw." I should have listened.

But I decided to post them anyway. I figure I can't be the only one who has bad baking days!

I can't say for sure what went wrong, so for now I'm blaming the recipe. ;) I did half the original (which is posted) and thank goodness because I probably would have cried if I'd had to throw out 17 chocolate and cream cheese-based anything. I'm pretty confident in my dividing abilities, having a degree in math and all, so I don't think that was it. I under-baked by five minutes because they started looking a little scary brown for cream cheese and they still turned out dry and pretty non-chocolaty.

So, if you see a glaring error in the recipe, let me know. If not, I wouldn't bother.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

3/4 pound (one and a half 8-ounce package) cream cheese (not softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (preferably canola)
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with 18 cupcake papers

  • In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.
    • This was actually really tasty at this stage. Once cooked, not so much. I don't know if I could use it for something else. It has a raw egg in it, so I'm thinking a filling wouldn't do. Maybe leave out the egg and inject into the middle of a chocolate cupcakes?

  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the oil and sugar.
    • This is what happens when you're not careful with your cocoa scooping.
  • Add the dry ingredients into two parts, alternating with buttermilk and vanilla, and making sure all the ingredients are well blended.
    • This is when I started to really worry. This is the thickest batter I've ever seen. It's almost cookie dough.
  • Carefully spoon the cupcake batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds full. Drop a small scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) of the cream cheese filling on top of each cupcake.

  • Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
    • This is at 25 minutes.
  • Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 30 minutes. Remove the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

My chat board mommy friends and I have started a weekly recipe challenge and this week I hosted with cupcakes! These were the winners. The cupcakes are tart and sweet, not to mention adorable! If I make these again I would do them in mini form and add lemon to the batter to up the tart level. I found the cupcake recipe here and the frosting is an adaptation of the Sprinkles cream cheese frosting, which is the MOST perfect cream cheese frosting I've found.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites
1/3 cup thawed frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 or more drops red food coloring
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I have NOT tried this yet!)

4 ounces cold cream cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter, firm but not cold
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons thawed frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate

For cupcakes:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with liners.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, egg whites and lemonade concentrate. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of buttermilk, beating until just smooth. Add just enough food coloring to turn the batter a light shade of pink.
  • Scoop batter into liners (fill about three-fourths full). I got 9 perfectly flat cupcakes from this recipe. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.
For icing:
  • Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese, 2-3 minutes on med-low.
  • Reduce to low, add the sugar and beat until incorporated.
  • Add vanilla and concentrate and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  • Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time if needed for consistency.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lemon Layer Cake with Raspberry Curd

This is a fantastic, light, and airy lemon cake. And the curd is perfect! You may notice the alarming amount of butter in all three elements, but hey, that's what makes it so good.

It's a bit time intensive but I never mind that when things come out this good!

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Raspberry Curd
1 stick unsalted butter
12 ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Curd (make the day before)
  • Melt butter over medium heat.
  • Add raspberries, yolks, sugar, and salt. Mash raspberries. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Pour through a strainer, pressing to extract as much as possible.
  • Cool to room temperature then stir in lemon juice. Chill.
  • Heat oven to 350. Prepare two 8x2 round cake pans. (I did not use parchment rounds this time and I regretted it. No huge harm done, they just didn't release as nicely as I would have liked)
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with lemon zest in food processor until finely ground.
  • Beat butter and zest mixture with electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add remaining sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Add 1/4 cup milk and beat until just blended. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour and milk in 3 batches. Beat only until blended, no longer.
  • Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to stiff peaks.
  • Fold the egg whites into the batter carefully. (The point of "folding in" is to keep the air bubbles in the eggs, so do this carefully. If you're not sure how to do this, check here). This is really a very pretty batter!
  • Divide batter between the two pans and bake about 35 minutes.
  • Cool 10 minutes in pan then remove and cool completely.
  • Beat butter and zest until fluffy.
  • Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add lemon juice and beat for one minute.
  • Cut each cake into two layers.
  • Spread curd in between layers, leaving about a 1/2 inch border.
  • Frost. I used a zig-zag on the sides and smooth on top, but whatever floats your boat works.

A few tips:
  • Butter at "room temperature" does not necessarily mean YOUR room temperature. It needs to still be somewhat firm, just not solid and definitely not squishy. I usually take it out 20 minutes before I start and it's perfect. If I forget, 12 seconds on my microwave is perfect.
  • Separate eggs while they're cold, then let them come to room temp. It's easier to separate them when they're cold.
  • It's absolutely necessary to have a perfectly clean bowl when whipping egg whites. ANY fat or soap residue will make them stay flat. So, to make sure, wipe out the bowl with white vinegar then rinse with water.
I found this recipe in Luscious Berry Desserts

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

I found this recipe in my Everyday Food magazine last month but was hesitant to try it. They looked so tasty but I'm not a fan of raisins. So I decided to substitute cranberries and see how it was. I have to say, they're pretty darn tasty. Kind of like a thick oatmeal cookie. Nice and moist and chewy. Enjoy! And if you must, I'm sure they're decent with raisins too, just don't bring them to my house.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick cooking)
1 cup dried cranberries

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugars, egg, salt, and cinnamon until smooth.
  • Add flour, oats, and cranberries. Fold in just until combined.
  • Spread batter in pan and bake until toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 28 minutes.
  • Cool completely and slice.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Disclaimer: I'm having some technical difficulties with my fonts (obviously!) and I apologize. It's driving me crazy but I can't figure out why they're all coming out different sizes even though they're all marked as the same size. Suggestions?
I decided I needed to do a red, white, and blue cupcake for the 4th and my husband and I are constantly on the look out for the perfect Red Velvet Cupcake so here's my newest attempt. I really liked the taste and texture of this one but my husband said it wasn't moist enough, although I question his palate! He did say this after eating an unfrosted one (which, of course, is pure craziness! Everyone KNOWS the cream cheese frosting is what makes red velvet so irresistible).

Although I was happy with the flavor, I'm not a fan of my decorating skills. I've signed up for a Wilton class that starts next week so hopefully my treats will start looking a little prettier.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder (I didn't have any on hand and used regular with no ill results)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cold cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, firm but not cold
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla

For cupcakes:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in mixer for 3 minutes on medium until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until fully incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food color.
  • Add a fourth of the dry ingredients to butter and mix, add a third of the wet. Continue adding in that pattern, ending with dry.
  • Scoop into cupcake liners about 1/2-3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting

For frosting:

  • Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese in mixer and beat on medium 2-3 minutes
  • Reduce to low and add sugar, mixing until just incorporated. DO NOT over mix. It should be thick but not really "fluffy". Think ice cream texture.
  • Add vanilla. If necessary, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time to thin.
I've taken these recipes from two different places. The cupcakes came from Simply Recipes and the frosting is from the packaging of Sprinkles cupcakes that I received as a gift. This is, as far as I'm concerned, THE BEST cream cheese frosting I've ever tasted and use it for anything that calls for it.

Key Lime Pie

My husband is a huge fan of Key Lime Pie. I've made several and this is his absolute favorite. It's tart and cool, perfect for summer. I actually cheat and use regular limes for several reasons: 1) Key Limes are expensive, 2) Key Limes are a big ol' pain in the rear to juice, yielding what seems to be around 2 drops of juice per lime, and 3) I can't taste the difference anyway.

1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 cup heaving whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and parchment a 9 inch springform pan (you could use a pie pan as well).

Combine all crust ingredients in one bowl and mix until combined (it should look like sand).

Press mixture into pan and bake until the crust is set, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

For Filling:
In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and zest at high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, about 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour into pie crust and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the filling has set (not browned). Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate.

For Topping:
Whip the cream and confectioner’s sugar until nearly stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use. I used a star tip and icing bag to decorate the pie, but you could easily just plop a big dollop on each slice as it's served.

I found this recipe while watching Food Network. It's from Joe's Stone Crab in Florida.

Random tip: Use your fingers to separate yolks from whites. It's much quicker than the back-and-forth-between-shells method. Just crack the egg into your hand and let the whites slip through your fingers.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

These are BY FAR my favorite cookies of all time. They are intensely chocolate, almost brownie like, sweet and a bit salty with the goodness of melty toffee chips and chocolate chips. I've had people tell me they were a bit "expensive" to make (there's a lot of chocolate and the toffee bits aren't cheap) but I can honestly say they are worth every single penny.

½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped (you can use semisweet, but I prefer bitter)
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
1-tablespoon vanilla
7 ounces toffee pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in double boiler until melted and smooth. Remove from over water and cool to lukewarm.

Beat sugar and eggs in separate bowl until thick
(about 5 minutes). Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and chocolate chips.

*The dough is very "wet" at this point. Almost brownie batter-like. Don't worry, it firms up.

Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

Line baking sheets with parchment and drop rounds of batter
(I use a cookie scoop for this. Mine, unfortunately, is completely void of any markings referring to it's size but it's a "medium" sized one and the only one I use for baking. I would guess it's a bit short of 2 tablespoons), spacing 2 ½ inches apart. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. Makes about 2 dozen.

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit quite a few years ago. I've adapted the size of the cookie, but other than that the recipe is the original.