Monday, April 23, 2018

Strawberry Country Cake

As my son says, he always knows tax season is behind us when I have a Sunday family dinner and serve a strawberry dessert!  My favorite strawberry patch opens up right around April 15, perfect timing! I drove out early in the morning and got some just-picked berries from the field.  Over the last few weeks we have had some spring storms; lots of rain, wind, and even hail, which wrecked havoc on the patch, the berries aren't as big as in past years.  But they are still so juicy and flavorful!  I will return to the strawberry patch soon as it's time to make my annual batches of strawberry jam for my grandchildren.

This cake is adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook. She makes two 8-inch cakes.  I decided to get fancy and make a four-layer cake.  It's all in the presentation, you know! The cake is a cross between a traditional biscuit-type shortcake and a fluffy cake.  It's a dense cake with lots of flavor, due to the addition of lemon and orange zest in the batter. If you're only using one of the cakes, the second cake can be frozen and used on another occasion.

I can cook, bake, sew, garden, drive a race car, but my photography skills are minimal, at best. They were even worse on this occasion as I tried to take pictures before serving our dessert.  My family wanted their cake and they were laughing as we joked about how we can't eat until I get a food pic! My little blog depicts my real life, nothing fancy, including my pictures!

The aftermath!

Strawberry Country Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Filling for EACH cake:
 1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar**
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract**
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (or use baking spray) two 8-inch cake pans.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix well.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda.  On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth. 

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream in a mixer until soft peaks form; add the sugar and vanilla and mix until firm. Combine strawberries with sugar, let sit about 10 minutes for juices to form.

Slice one of the cakes in half with a long serated knife.  Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter and spread with half the whipped cream. Using a slotted spoon, scatter the the sliced strawberries over the cream. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream.  Decorate with strawberries.

I doubled the filling recipe and decorated the top with the sliced strawberries.

** I used vanilla sugar.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lemon Pound Cake

My little blog has been very quiet the last 6 weeks! Tax Season 2018 took over my life. We did good to have groceries in the house and dinners were very basic. Most days we had big lunches and no dinner. My work load started to lighten up last week and I managed to get in the kitchen one evening and bake. I was exhausted but it felt so great to be back in my kitchen and not working with numbers!

I didn’t have much in the way of exotic baking ingredients, not even a bag of chocolate chips, but I had lemons withering away on the counter.  My Hubbers likes the lemon loaf cake slices at Starbucks so it was an easy decision to bake a cake for him.  This small pound cake has lots of lemon flavor, first with lemon-infused sugar and later with a lemon syrup that is brushed over the cake.  Finally, a glaze flavored with lemon juice adds even more lemony flavor.  It went fast at the office!

We have one more day of tax season, then I’m back to a part-time work schedule.  I have so many projects planned at home, I’m almost overwhelmed with what I should tackle first. Getting in the kitchen, and baking again, is high on the list!

Lemon Pound Cake

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sour cream
1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten

¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup lemon juice


½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream and lemon juice.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the lemon zest and sugar. Rub together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter to the bowl and beat the butter/sugar mixture on medium speed until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the eggs in 3 additions, beating well after each addition until the mixture is smooth (stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary).  With the mixer on low, alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the sour cream in 2 additions, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Once all the ingredients have been added, scrape down the bowl then beat on low for another 30 seconds to fully combine. Use a rubber spatula, if necessary, to make sure the batter at the bottom of the bowl is fully mixed.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top then tap the pan on your work surface to release any air bubbles. Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted near the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow to simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

After removing cake from the pan, brush the tops and sides with the lemon syrup.  Let the cake cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir until smooth, adding more lemon juice, if necessary, to get a thick glaze.  Pour over the top of the cake.  Let the glaze set for at least 15 minutes before serving.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bundt Cake

During this crazy time of year known as "tax season", my Hubbers and I literally work 7 days a week.  Sundays have become my favorite work day. I can wear my yoga pants to work.  There are no phones ringing, no clients to talk to (I love my clients, but it's tiring explaining tax law all day long!) I turn on some music or listen to the latest drag race on audiocast and work on more complicated projects. I usually have a game plan going into the weekend, a list of projects that I want to complete. It keeps me focused and gives me a sense of accomplishment as I head into Monday and the chaos that will ensue. On a recent Sunday I finished everything on my list by 12:30, my goal had been 2:00.  I was quite happy with myself and ready to tackle some other projects, to get ahead of the game.  But first I had to upload my client's QuickBooks file that I had worked on all morning. Alas, none of my journal entries were there!  It seems I had been working in the wrong dated file! Ugh, I had to retrace my steps, re-do everything and re-do the tax return I had just finished. By the time I did that I was behind schedule. I headed for home so I could play in the kitchen a bit and de-stress.

I have been wanting to make this chocolate bundt cake for a while now, so I put the butter, eggs, milk and sour cream on the counter to come to room temperature.  While I waited for that I hunkered down in my craft room and worked on a quilt block. It seems I was ripping out more seams than I was sewing.  I don't know if it was from lack of concentration or my brain was really tired, but I just kept messing up! I'm a perfectionist, like all my seams and points to be perfect, so rip, rip, rip I went!  I finally got the block done.  I looked at the clock and it was 6pm!  Dinner hadn't been started, nor had the cake.

I worked on the cake batter while simultaneously cooking rice on the stove and getting veggies in the oven. Thankfully, my Hubbers was grilling the tri tip! The cake came together wonderfully and we sat down to eat right after I got the cake in the oven.  About 10 minutes later we started smelling some burning.  The cake was overflowing the pan! I re-read the recipe and it warned that the cake pan should only be filled 3/4 full, the extra could be used for cupcakes.  Obviously, I missed that part of the instructions! By the time the cake was done I had a nice little charred mess on the bottom of my oven , which will need to be cleaned soon!

It seemed everything I touched that day was a disaster! Despite all the miscues of my day, the cake turned out delicious.  It is tender and moist.  The chocolate and peanut butter batters compliment each other nicely.  The peanut butter glaze is amazingly good! A piece of cake and a glass of milk and all was right in my world once more!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bundt Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Peanut Butter Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3-4 tablespoons half & half (or enough to achieve thick drizzling consistency)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (or using baking spray) a bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a stand mixer beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the sugar and beat until combined until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Add half the flour mixture, then half the milk, and beat until just combined.  Add remaining flour mixture and milk and beat until just combined.

Transfer half the batter to a medium bowl. Stir in the melted chocolate. Stir the peanut butter into the other half of the batter.

Using a separate spoon for each batter, alternately dropping spoonfuls of the chocolate and peanut butter batters into the prepared bundt pan. (Fill your pan 3/4 full.  If batter remains, use it in a smaller pan or for cupcakes.  Trust me on this! See above!) Use a knife or spatula to swirl the batter together being careful not to overmix.  You want the batters marbled.

Bake for 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

To make the glaze, combine all glaze ingredients in a bowl and mix until you get the desired glaze consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Swirl the batter just enough to get a marbling of the batters.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Jamaretti Cookies

I love anything with almond paste in it, especially amaretti cookies, and any baked good made with jam.  This bar cookie combines the flavor of an amaretti with a jam filling, thus the name, jamaretti! I've had the recipe from Martha Stewart ear-marked to try for a while now.  I ran across a version that had orange zest in the cookie dough and orange juice and zest in the glaze and knew I would be baking them soon!  It's crazy tax season time in my office and I put a platter of these by the coffee pot, they didn't last long! They make a nice little treat with your morning coffee!

I made the dough the night before and got up a little early to roll out the dough and bake them. They baked while I showered, it was a great use of time! Any kind of jam can be used, I used apricot and boysenberry for this batch.  Raspberry would be good, too. They are a little chewy, not too sweet, and very tasty!

Jamaretti Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 oz. almond paste, cubed
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2/3 cup jam (apricot, boysenberry/blackberry, raspberry)

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons milk

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Combine almond paste, orange zest, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until blended. Add butter, eggs, and almond extract, and blend until smooth. Add flour mixture and pulse just until a soft dough forms. Divide dough in half, scrape out onto two pieces of plastic wrap (dough will be sticky), shape into a disk, and wrap well.  Chill dough until firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour (dough can be made ahead).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured board, shape dough into two 14 x 3-inch logs; transfer to baking sheet. Bake logs for 15 minutes, until just set. Remove from oven and make an indentation down the center of each log with the back of a tablespoon.  Place jam in a small bowl and warm briefly in the microwave (about 10 seconds). Stir jam to loosen, then fill the center of each log with jam. Return logs to oven and continue baking 12 to 14 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, salt, orange zest, orange juice, and milk in a small bowl.  Drizzle glaze over logs, and let set before using a serrated knife to cut logs on the diagonal (like biscotti). Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Adapted from Martha Stewart and Tutti-Dolci.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Orange Mimosa Cake

The only fresh, local fruit this time of year is citrus. It seems all my friends have trees and I've been (luckily) inundated with fresh oranges and lemons. My son has an orange tree and I've gone through quite a few buckets from his tree. I'm always looking for new recipes to try and this cake, from the cookbook Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories, caught my eye. Her recipe calls for blood oranges.  I had no blood oranges and needed to use up the fresh-from-the-tree oranges I had.  Blood oranges have a pink tint to them.  The resulting pink in the glaze would make this cake a perfect dessert for a Valentine's Day celebration. It was good with traditional oranges but I am looking forward to making it with blood oranges.

This is basically a pound cake; lots of mixing of the butter and sugar.  It's got a wonderful orange flavor as orange zest is rubbed into the sugar, thus distributing the orange all throughout the cake. It gets extra moistness from the simple syrup that is poured over the baked cake. It was great for dessert and it was great for a mid-morning treat!

A bonus to making this cake is that there will be leftover champagne. A little bubbly, while baking? Why not!

Orange Mimosa Cake

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pink  Champagne
3 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup pink  Champagne
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Orange Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Heat oven to 315 degrees. Spray a 10-cup bundt pan with nonstick baking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar with the orange zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant.

Add the butter and salt to the bowl and cream together with the sugar. Beat on medium-high for 7 minutes, until butter is pale yellow and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour in two batches, mixing each time until just combined. Pour in the champagne and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Let cool to room temperature.

To make the simple syrup, in a small pot over medium heat, combine all the ingredients and cook until the mixture is reduced by about a third and thickened; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

For the glaze, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until it is a pourable consistency.

To assemble cake, poke holes all over the cooled cake with a skewer or fork. Slowly pour the simple syrup over the cake so it's absorbed. Repeat until the syrup is used up.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let it set for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sprinkle Cake (and an Anniversary!)

Today is my parents' 62nd wedding anniversary. That's quite an accomplishment in today's "throw away" society.  Like all marriages, they have had their share of ups and downs, but they've stayed committed. They raised four children, and have seven grandchildren and nine (so far!) great-grandchildren. Though they have some health issues they are still enjoying life and their family.

I usually take dinner to my parents on Sundays.  Dad has a major sweet tooth and his favorite cake is a plain white cake.  I wanted to make them a special dessert so decided to bake them a cake. I've seen so many sprinkle cakes on Instagram lately, I knew I had to make Dad's white cake a little extra-special. He loved it!

Any white cake can be used to make a sprinkle cake, it's just a matter of adding sprinkles to the batter before baking.  Heck, just use a boxed mix and throw some sprinkles in!  It's just a fun addition to a cake. You want to make sure you get the sprinkles called jimmies as the color in those sprinkles won't bleed during baking and turn your cake batter a muted color.  With "jimmies" you get bright spots of colors all throughout the cake.  Of course, kids love anything with sprinkles and my grandson enjoyed this, too!

I had big plans of doing some decorative piping on the cake so used a crusting buttercream. Time got away from me and I ended up pretty much just slathering the frosting on!  An all-butter frosting can also be used, but it doesn't hold it's shape as well as a frosting with some shortening in it.

Sprinkle Cake

4 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sprinkles
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
8 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup milk
Pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350F and prep 3 9-inch round baking pans by greasing the bottom and sides (I used baking spray).
In a large bowl, whisk 4 cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt; set aside.
Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1 1/2 cups butter on medium-high speed until smooth, light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 3/4 cups sugar and beat on medium-high speed for another 5-7 minutes until very creamy (almost like whipped cream - you cannot see grains of sugar anymore), stopping frequently to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, until each one is well incorporated. Then add the 3 teaspoons of vanilla.
Switch to low speed and add a third of your flour mixture. Add half the buttermilk. Add another third of  the flour,  the last of the buttermilk, then finally the last third of the flour. Make sure each addition is mixed just until incorporated before the next one is added (do not over mix). You will notice the batter will be thick but still smooth and creamy.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the 2 egg whites  until thick and foamy.  Gently fold into your batter. Then gently fold in the 3/4 cup sprinkles.
Transfer your batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, remove from pans and let cool completely before frosting.
Trim the tops of your cakes if they are uneven, using a serrated knife. The important thing is all three cakes are of equal height.
For the frosting, place room temperature butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl.  Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and 1/2 cup milk. Turn mixer on low and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  Turn mixer up to medium-high and mix for 2-4 minutes, adding more milk, if necessary, to reach desired consistency. Add food color, if desired.
Take one cake and place on a platter or cake turntable, smooth side down (trimmed side up). Evenly cover the top with frosting. Repeat with the 2nd and 3rd layers. For your 3rd layer, remember to place it smooth side up (trimmed side down) so that you'll have an even top.
Finish the cake by also covering the sides of your cake with a thin layer of frosting.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the frosting, then cover the sides with the remaining frosting.  To help even out the frosting on top and the sides, use a bench scraper and gently scrape away excess frosting.
Decorate with sprinkles as desired.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Apple Cider (Baked) Donuts

The Food Network Channel has a new cooking show called Baking in Vermont. The subject of the show is Gesine Prado.  She and her husband live in rural Vermont and she runs a home-based baking school.  She is also the sister of the actress, Sandra Bullock.  I'm really liking the show, have earmarked many things that I want to bake. I like when the network has shows like this, where a person can learn new techniques.  I also find it interesting to see how things are done in Vermont.  They have food items and traditions that are totally foreign to this California girl!

On a recent show, she had an apple cider pressing gathering.  She recruited friends to press the apples and she made them breakfast.  One of the items were this baked donuts. After seeing the show I immediately went to Amazon and ordered some donut pans.  I am so easily influenced when it comes to baking pans!

I finally got around to making these.  They were quite yummy, especially when they were warm. They were very easy to make, I managed to make these and entertain my 3-year old grandson at the same time!

The recipe calls for the batter to be piped in one pan with another pan placed on top.  On the show she indicated that this was to get a round shape on both sides of the donut.  Well, in all honesty, mine were still flat on top! Maybe I should have added more batter?  It's not that big of a deal to me that I didn't have a fully-round donut so I instantly gave my two extra pans to my daughter-in-love!

I couldn't find any apple cider concentrate locally so bought this online.  It reminds me of molasses, so thick and the flavor is so concentrated. I think it definitely enhanced the flavor of these donuts.  I'm looking for recipes where I can use this again, it's so good!

Apple Cider (Baked) Donuts

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup apple cider concentrate (for more depth of flavor) or apple cider
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For dipping:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Special equipment: four 6-cavity donut pans (see note above)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray four 6-cavity donut pans with nonstick baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Whisk for 30 seconds to distribute the leavening.

In a liquid measure cup, combine the cider, buttermilk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Mix on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

With the mixer on low, add one-third of the flour mixture and then half of the cider mixture. Continue alternating between the two until the batter is just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, using a large rubber spatula, fold the batter a few times to make sure the ingredients are well distributed.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag or a large zip-close bag with a corner snipped off, and pipe into two of the donut pans.

Top each pan with a second, inverted pan and use clips to hold them in place. (Some pans come with clips; otherwise, use metal hardware or paper clips.)

Bake until the cake just springs back when gently touched, 15 to 20 minutes.

Turn the donuts out onto a cooling rack; immediately brush with melted butter, then dip in the cinnamon sugar.