Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve been in such a baking mood lately. I am behind on fall gardening chores, need to start on making Christmas tags, have two quilt tops to finish, but I seem to be spending all my spare time in the kitchen. I love fall baking. Not only do I enjoy eating and sharing the baked goods, but the aroma of the spices  as they are baking is heavenly. Who needs to buy scented candles? Just bake something with cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger and your house will smell good for hours!

This spice cake has all the above-mentioned spices, plus the less commonly used, cardamom.  Neither spice overpowers the other, it all blends together so nicely. Sour cream in the batter makes for a moist and tender cake. There is a little bit of orange rind in the cake, complimented by the addition of rind in the cream cheese frosting. Everyone loved this cake!

Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter three 9-inch round cake pans.  Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper.  Butter and flour pans; tap out excess flour (or use baking spray). Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and milk. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with the sour cream-milk mixture. Divide batter among prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Place one cake layer on platter.  Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second layer.  Spread 2/3 cup frosting over.  Top with third cake layer.  Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

To make the frosting, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until well blended.  Beat in sugar, then orange peel and vanilla. 

I had leftover decorations from making gingerbread houses, they added a little fall festivity to the cake!

Monday, October 16, 2017


Many years ago, when our children were little, we made a road trip to southern California and Disneyland.  Along the way, we stopped at the little Danish town of Solvang.  It's full of quaint gift shops, art galleries, and bakeries. Most notable of the baked goods was ebelskivers, a round Danish pancake.  We tried some and were hooked!  Around the same time, a restaurant opened in our area that served a breakfast called "1-2-3"; 3 ebelskivers, 2 slices of bacon and 1 egg.  We would go there often, mostly to get the ebelskivers. My family kept telling me I should learn how to make them.  At the time, finding an ebelskiver pan was not easy (no Amazon back then!) I finally found a cast-iron one at a small cookware store.  The owner of the store gave me a recipe for them, which was nice because the recipes were hard to find, too! Well, I discovered that ebelskivers are very easy to make and it's become a family-favorite breakfast ever since!

Due to the sour cream, this recipe produces a very rich and tender batter.  We love them best dusted with powdered sugar and served with homemade strawberry jam to dip them in.  I have an ebelskiver cookbook full of various recipes for sweet and savory ebleskivers, as well as ebelskivers filled with apple filling and other fruit mixtures.  I keep saying I'm going to try something different, but each time I pull out my pans I find myself making our favorite.

Recently my Hubbers and I had a long weekend get-away and found ourselves in Solvang one afternoon.  We ordered a batch of ebelskivers and were so disappointed.  Theirs were drenched in a berry syrup and the ebelskivers were very grainy.  They were definitely not as good as we remembered them to be (maybe another bakery would have been different?) Ever since then I've been craving them and finally got around to making them one day for breakfast.  My Hubbers and granddaughter were quite happy! I shared with my next-door neighbors, much to their delight.  The ebelskivers are such a wonderful morning treat!

An ebelskiver pan has hemispherical indentations for the dough to cook in. Once turned, you have a round pancake! My drag racing friends can appreciate the irony of me baking with a "hemi" pan!


1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sour cream

Sift dry ingredients into bowl, add eggs and sour cream and mix until smooth (batter will be thick).

Brush ebelskiver mold indentations with melted butter, then fill half-full with batter. When light brown turn with skewer or fork and brown other side. Use rather low heat so inside of ebelskiver will be done, use a toothpick or skewer to check for doneness.

Serve with jam or syrup.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pear Streusel Pie

In just a short week it is starting to feel like fall. The mornings are a little cooler, I need a sweater in the evenings, the sky is darkening earlier. The trees are slowly starting to change color and some leaves are falling (it will be time to rake soon! Heavy sigh!) I love being able to leave the windows open during the day instead of having to rely on air conditioning. 

With the changing season comes fall food.  The foods most associated with fall are apples and pumpkins.  But there are other fruits and vegetables that shine this time of year that are often overlooked, one of which is pears. Pears can be used numerous ways; sliced up in a grilled cheese sandwich, added to a fall salad, an easy appetizer is pear slices with cheese and crackers (baked brie is really good!) Hot biscuits with this pear jam is especially nice on a cool morning.  But baking with pears is my favorite.  I love pear crisps and pies. This pie, with its streusel crust and flavorful nutmeg, is especially good. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  For an extra-decadent treat top it with some caramel sauce. This is a great autumn pie to have with or, in addition to, an apple pie after the Thanksgiving meal.

Pear Streusel Pie

1 unbaked single pie crust
5 cups peeled and sliced pears (5-6 medium), cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare pie crust and line the bottom of a pie dish with it; flute edges.

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the streusel topping and stir to combine. Set aside.

Peel and slice the pears and add them to a large bowl.  Add the sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt; gently toss to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes so juices can form.  Arrange the pear filling in the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the pear filling.

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the filling is bubble and the crust and topping are golden brown. (If crust is browning too quickly, cover edges with foil).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fall In The Courtyard

The seasons change slowly in my area of California.  We are still having temperatures in the high-80's, yet the pumpkin patches and corn mazes are open. I have a hard time getting into decorating for fall when I'm still in my summer clothes! I've not done much interior decorating, we are going to be in and out the last few weeks of the month so I know I won't get too carried away with this year's decorating. I did do some fall decorating of our courtyard.  It was time to replace the summer annuals with flowers that will last through the winter; pansies and snapdragons are my favorites for that. We dragged out some old crocks from storage and I filled them with colorful mums.  A few pumpkins and we're fall festive!  I can't quite let go of summer so left my sunflower wreath on the door for a few more weeks.

When we bought our home in 1984, the courtyard area consisted of a small grassy patch and flowerbeds on each side.  It was hard to maintain and was really a waste of space.  I told my Hubbers many years ago that I wanted a brick courtyard.  Well, we had kids to raise, college to pay for, so that project got put on the back burner.  About five years ago we were finally able to complete that project.  I love our courtyard and spend a lot of time in it, especially in the late afternoons.  It's shaded by then, I sit out in one of the chairs and stitch or read.  I'm entertained by the hummingbirds coming to feed at the feeder or play in the fountain.  The fountain is also used by the finches and sparrows that frequent our yard.  Every now and then we even get a hawk that comes to take a water break! It's a very peaceful spot for me. Decorated for fall, it's even more special!

This morning my Hubbers and I watched a hummingbird taking his morning bath in the fountain!

I got my cat, Krisha, in 1981.  She lived 21 years.  I adored her.  She loved to curl up in this spot so her ashes are buried under the figurine.

My Hubbers lost two of his brothers to lung cancer last year.  One of his clients bought us this rose bush as a remembrance. It's growing like crazy!

My old guy, Harley, wanted his picture taken, too!  He will be 15 in January.  He loves to sit out in the courtyard with me!

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 Halloween Gingerbread Houses!

Another year has come and gone, and the calendar reminded me that it was time for the annual gingerbread house decorating with my grandchildren.  This year marked the 8th year I've done this as well as the most ambitious and exhaustive. I'm a planner, a fairly organized person.  I've been buying candy and supplies for weeks but, due to two parties and a long weekend away, I was not able to begin the baking and assembling of the houses and accessories until the week of our event. Gosh, did that make for a crazy week!  Each night I would come home from work and make dough and/or cut and bake.  Friday night my Hubbers and I put the houses together and we made the licorice trees the night before that.  I spent most of Friday decorating cookies, making fences, and doing the "glass" windows. Saturday I organized the table for the girls.  My almost-three year old grandson is too young to participate, but I made him his own house Sunday morning. By the time my three granddaughters left that afternoon and I cleaned the kitchen (I swear I will be cleaning up sprinkles and gingerbread crumbs for weeks!), it was after 5 on Sunday.  I made my Hubbers take me out to dinner AND a drink!

Oh, but I enjoy this day.  It's a day that I get to selfishly spend with my granddaughters, with no other happenings or people to take their time.  I love how their coordination and imagination grows each year. I especially saw that with the youngest girl.  In prior years she tended to copy her older cousins.  This year she had her own ideas.  My oldest granddaughter needed very little help from me this year, she had her own ideas and knew how to do it!

For whatever reason, my creative side was in full force with this year's endeavor.  I decided to do a little witch theme so spent an afternoon playing with fondant; making witches' hats, shoes and cauldrons. Each time I would shop for candy or sprinkles I would see something that I just knew would work.  Trust me, the girls had no lack of supplies to choose from! I learned how to use Isomalt, which is a liquid sugar, to make the windows. My Hubbers bought battery-powered lights and we put them inside the houses.  The girls loved this!

It was fun, I'm glad it's over, I'm glad my kitchen is no longer consumed with all things gingerbread.  But we had a few discussions yesterday about next year's houses and I'm already making notes!

This post is heavy on pics, there are so many fun elements to share!

Each girl was given an identical house, tree, fence and props.  After that it was up to their imagination and the supplies we had!

I love our cauldrons with the bubbling mixture boiling away.  Oops, looks like a witch crashed and fell into the brew!


Such concentration!


I'm linking up to Inspire Me Tuesday 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mini-Skillet Breakfast Tarts

My Hubbers and I recently returned home from a long weekend along the central California coast. Our "home" for the getaway was our 38-foot motorhome. We love traveling in our RV, taking our bed and creature comforts with us, and the flexibility it gives us to stop and stay wherever we decide. We were lucky enough this trip to grab a spot on a little bluff overlooking Avila Beach and the pier. What a view! Each morning I would drink my latte and watch the fishing boats head out to sea, as well as the kayakers and paddle boarders cruising around the bay.  We spotted some otters and the sea lions were always making noise.  The Harbor Patrol deputy told us whales had been spotted but we were never fortunate enough to see any of those majestic creatures.

Life slows down when we're in the RV.  On a regular day at home we are rushing to go to the gym, to work, to run errands, so breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal or toast.  In the RV we eat late leisurely breakfasts, usually no lunch, and early dinners. We play cards, go for long walks or bike rides, drink wine and watch the views.  It's a great pace for relaxing.

Our RV is pretty well stocked with the basic kitchen essentials but I usually bring along specialty items from home for certain dishes I want to make. I love my mini skillets and use them often, they add a little cuteness to a dish that makes it a little more special. I threw them in the motorhome as I wanted to make this breakfast dish with puff pastry.  I always have puff pastry sheets in my freezer.  They are great for last minute appetizers, desserts, and breakfast dishes.  Here the puff pastry works as a substitute for toast, muffin or biscuit. I plated with some fruit and a few pieces of bacon. The bacon could easily be crumbled into the egg dish, as well. This egg dish is very easy and so very good!

Mini-Skillet Breakfast Tarts

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Grated cheese (any kind, I used sharp cheddar)
4 medium eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll thawed sheet of puff pastry and divide into 4 equal squares. Place each square into a mini skillet and prick holes all over the bottom of each.  Bake for about 8 minutes or until barely browned and puffed.

Remove from oven and, using a spoon, make a little indentation in the puff pastry.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons cheese into the indentation and fill with a cracked egg.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and an additional 2 tablespoons of cheese.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake tarts for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the pastry has browned and egg whites are set, but yolks are still slightly runny.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hummingbird Bread

I don't know why, but ripened bananas always brings out the frugality in me.  I have this urge to save them, to bake with them.  I hate to throw away bananas!  My Hubbers and son love banana bread so I make it quite often.  It freezes well, too, so I usually have a loaf in the freezer.  But I get tired of baking the same ole thing. Every now and then I have to mix things up! This hummingbird bread is just a little variation from regular banana bread.  The addition of crushed pineapple and coconut gives it more of a tropical vibe. In fact, many breads called Hawaiian bread or tropical bread are basically this same recipe.

Hummingbird Cake is a classic southern cake.  I have no idea why it's called what it is but as a lover of hummingbirds, I approve of the name!  The cake recipe is Southern Living magazine's most requested recipe of all time; it's that popular.  I've made the cake a time or two; it's a 2-layer cake filled and topped with cream cheese frosting.  It takes an army to eat all of it!  The same ingredients, made into a loaf bread, is a little more manageable!  Of course, you can't omit the cream cheese frosting.  I swear that stuff makes anything taste good! I took this bread to the office and we all enjoyed it with our morning coffee and tea.

Hummingbird Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 3-4 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 oz. can crushed pineapple (with juice)
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chopped pecans for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (I use baking spray) a 9x5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Add to the butter mixture, stir until just combined.

Add in the pineapple, coconut and pecans; mix until combined.  Add mashed bananas and mix until combined.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester or skewer comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy.  Add in vanilla extract and mix again.  Add in powdered sugar and mix until well combined. 

Spread frosting over cooled bread and sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired.

I use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash my bananas!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Ahoy, It's a Boy!" Baby Shower

My sister is about to become a first-time grandmother.  She has 3 step-grandchildren, whom she adores, but it's a totally different experience when your daughter is about to become a mom. We hosted a baby shower for my niece and her soon-to-be born son, Connor.  The baby nursery has been decorated in a nautical theme so we decided to do the same thing for the shower. We chose the traditional nautical colors of red, white and blue and got to planning.  We spent a few hours one Sunday afternoon browsing through Pinterest and found lots of inspiration.  We spent another few hours one Sunday working on a diaper wreath (in the shape of a lifesaver ring) and decorating beverage mason jars.  My sister shopped for this 'n that and raided the baby's nursery for props, as well as making the centerpieces.  I spent time in my craft room making a paper banner for the mantle and a cloth banner with the baby's name.  My Hubbers (bless his heart, he puts up with all my crazy ideas!) spent 3 nights helping me convert our dining room table into a sailboat.  It shouldn't have taken that long but it kept falling down from the ceiling! Lots of packing tape later, we got it to stay! Of course, I had to make sugar cookies, this time little sailor-boy onesies.  I ordered the cake from my favorite local decorator, she is amazing and the cake was, too! We hosted 24 at the shower and my niece is beyond blessed with all the gifts and diapers she received.  Now to wait for baby's due date to arrive so we can shower him with kisses instead of gifts!

This post is extra-heavy with pictures, there are so many cute elements to share. Besides the joy of throwing this shower for my niece, it was nice to spend the planning time with my sister.  We both lead busy lives, don't see each other like we used to.  It was wonderful to share this special time with her.  She is beyond excited about the upcoming arrival of baby Connor!

My granddaughter colored the wrapping paper and made the tag.  Inside were 3 flannel burp cloths that she helped me sew!

The cake was amazing!

Gift from my daughter.  The wagon converts to a walker, too.  It was filled with all sorts of goodies!

Quite the haul on the Connor sailboat!

My sister and I are both avid 49ers fans.  Her grandson must have a 49ers sleeper! I love these little swings, my grandchildren enjoyed theirs so much!

My go-to baby shower gift is a bathtub that I fill with diapers and all kinds of needed supplies.

A little display of the parents-to-be baby pictures!

We made the boat out of plastic tablecloths and painters' tape.  The Connor banner was made with fabric.  My niece will use it in the nursery.