Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Celebration Cake

I made this cake for Rach's April Baking Challenge. The theme for this month is Spring! When I think of Spring, I think of warmer weather, pastel colors, and new growth. It also makes me think of my sister because I make this cake for her every year on her birthday. This cake officially marks the start of spring for me.

This strawberry cake comes out of my favorite cookbook: Favorite Recipes For Our Friends. My grandmother gave me this cookbook over 10 years ago. It may have been the only cookbook she owned and she got it from The First National Bank in my hometown back in 1975! In the book are recipes contributed from the towns people for a community fundraiser. I have made several recipes from this book including my all time favorite- Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake (Yoohoo! Food Librarian, this one is for you!)

I have adapted this recipe from the original by cutting down the amount of oil and upping the strawberry factor. Some may turn their nose up to the fact that it has strawberry jello in it that gives it it's color and adds flavor, but it's perfect everytime, and I'm okay with that. Over the years I have made this cake in may forms- loaf pans, in cupcakes, with and without frosting, making homemade cream cheese frosting and with the canned stuff. This by far is my favorite way. Whatever frosting you choose, be sure to add freshly sliced strawberries on the top in a concentric pattern and jaws will drop. This cake is extremely moist, flavorful, and easy and everyone always comments on how beautiful it is.

This would be perfect for Mother's Day. I hope you enjoy!

Strawberry Cake adapted from Favorite Recipes
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 small box strawberry Jello
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, dissolve Jello in hot water. Set aside and let cool while mixing the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs, and thawed strawberries. Thoroughly mix in the gelatin mixture. Pour into 2 9-inch cake pans and bake for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely in pans before inverting onto a cooling rack or cake platter. Cover in frosting of your choice.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Meringue Buttercream from Cafe Johnsonia

  • 1 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Chill until cold.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Turn mixer on medium speed until egg whites are foamy. While the mixer is running start preparing the sugar syrup.

In a small saucepan, stir together sugar and water. Bring to a boil and let cook, without stirring, until it reaches 235 degrees (sea level) or 230 degrees (high altitude) on a candy thermometer. At this point, turn the mixer on high and beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry.

Continue to cook the syrup until the syrup reaches 240 degrees (sea level) or 234 degrees (high altitude)** (see NOTE). Remove it from heat and carefully pour the syrup against the side of the bowl into the egg whites while the mixer is still running. Continue beating on high for 3-5 minutes, or until steam stops rising from the mixing bowl.

Turn the mixer down a bit and add the chilled butter and cream cheese mixture a spoonful at a time. Don't worry if it becomes curdled. Just keep beating it and it will come back together. When all the butter/cream cheese has been added, add the extracts, beat well again. Then add the strawberry puree. It will separate a bit--keep beating and it will come back together.

Use it immediately, or keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. It will also freeze well for about a month or so.

Arrange sliced strawberries on top of the cake, starting from the outside and working your way in. Place a whole strawberry in the center.

**NOTE: I live at sea level and cooked my sugar syrup til it reached 240 degrees F. It continued to heat in the pan even after I took it off the flame and crept up several degrees, reaching the Hard Ball Stage. I added it to the egg whites and the sugar syrup turned stringy and clung to the side of my bowl. I continued to whip it and it had chunks of sugar in it. I dumped it and had to start over :-( The second time around, I heated the sugar syrup to just over 230 degrees F (sea level) and it rose up to 240F off the flame and it was perfect. Keep this in mind when making this so you don't overcook your syrup.

Visit Rachel to see her Spring creation!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Craving & The Winners!

This recipe was inspired by a craving for all things cinnamon sugar. I couldn't decide if I wanted to make cinnamon sugar donut muffins, or snickerdoodle muffins, or french breakfast puffs. But then I started to feel guilty about eating such decadent things so early in the day so I decided to adapt my favorite coffee cake recipe from Ina and add my version of cinnamon sugar in two ways.

These were very decadent. I don't know what I was thinking, but I certainly didn't lighten anything up :-) The muffin itself is wonderful , light and moist and best the day they're made. It's a perfect basic muffin to eat plain or with other add-ins like Ina's blueberry coffee cake muffin version I made last year. We had two each (one with sugared tops and the other plain) with breakfast sausage and a tall cuppa. It made a nice leisurely weekend breakfast.

Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake Muffins
adapted from Ina
~makes 10 muffins
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) sour cream
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Filling

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Sugar Topping (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 10 paper liners in muffin pans or spray muffin pans with non stick spray.

In a small bowl combine your brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix and set aside. In another small bowl combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Mix and set aside. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed.

Scoop a tablespoon of the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Evenly spoon the brown sugar mixture into the muffin cups, being sure to keep the sugar in the center of the batter and not touching the sides of the pan. (This will help them release from the pans, but if you use paper liners, it's not much of an issue.)

Spoon the remaining batter over the brown sugar mixture, filling each cup just to the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Melt the butter in a small dish and set aside.

Allow the muffins to cool a bit before removing them from the pan. Dip the muffin tops in the melted butter and roll them in the cinnamon sugar, or sprinkle them generously with the granulated sugar blend. Enjoy with a cuppa hot coffee.

Dawn, this cinnamon coffee cake sausage muffin, is just for you!

And the winners of the baking liners are...

Congratulations Kathy of Three On Food and Ingrid of 3 B's- Baseball, Baking and Books! I hope you'll share your baking with us. Save a cupcake for me!

Ladies email me with your addresses so I can get these out to you in time for Mother's Day!

Thank you all for participating. I hope you'll come back and visit me even though I don't always have giveaways. For those interested in purchasing the baking liners, they can be found at Hobby Lobby in their party planning aisle.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits and A Giveaway!

Thank you for all the biscuit recipe suggestions. I spent the day making biscuits. I decided to go with a "plain" biscuit instead of something more savory. Michelle submitted a recipe for Cheesy Garlic Biscuits. I did not make them today, but I have made them before and they are delicious.

About 4 others recommended I try Cook's Illustrated Drop Biscuits. Kristen posted her Baking Powder biscuits in the comment section, but it was very similar to CI's recipe with the exception of butter/margarine and milk/buttermilk.

Also, Maria said she had a few really good ones so I headed to her blog to check them out. She wasn't kidding. Through her blog I found a couple others. So, I decided to make a drop biscuit, a fluffy buttermilk and a flaky buttermilk biscuit. I'll tempt you with a picture of my baked goods, but I'll post the recipes later.

And as promised I have a giveaway for you! This may be my first giveaway on this blog, I'm not sure because I've given things away to bloggers in the past and on my other blog....hmmm. Anyway, this is what I have for you:

Baking Liners!!!

In order to enter just leave me a comment on this post and 1). Tell me what you're making for Mother's Day and 2). Tell me what you plan on baking in these baking liners. You have until Sunday, April 26th at midnight Central Time to enter.

There will be 2 winners- your name will be chosen out of a hat by my hubby. Both people will get all 5 designs of baking cups- (50 of each design, a total of 250 liners). I'll reveal the winners on Monday. Good luck!

**Giveaway open to US residents only**

-Giveaway Closed-

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Biscuit. A Basket.

I need help with a recipe for Mother's Day brunch. You game?

I need a REALLY GOOD recipe for BISCUITS. They can be fluffy, flaky, sweet, savory, buttermilk, yeast, whatever. They just have to be good with salted butter and/or jam and be borderline extraordinary :-) I'm not asking for too much am I?

I have a recipe for a basic buttermilk biscuits and it's good, but I want the best recipe you have in your little treasure chest. Please only submit recipes that are tried and true.

Can you help me out? Please! Lurkers, it's time for you to come out of the closet.

I'll reward you with a giveaway later in the week :-)

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm So Excited!

And I just can't hide it! I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!

Wanna know why I'm so excited? Because I just joined The Cake Slice Bakers blogging group and this is my first cake! See, I told you it was exciting :-)

"Our goal is to bake one recipe every month from a single book." The baking book we (that's right, I said "we") are baking from is Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman. I got this book a couple months ago because I kept seeing these luscious looking cakes all over the blogosphere, so hubby got it for me for Valentine's Day. Isn't he sweet? Actually, he was already making a purchase through Amazon, and I just added it to the shopping cart...hee hee. If you'll remember, I made the Vanilla Buttermilk Cake last November. The recipe for that cake is also in this book. It's fabulous and the sheer height of the cakes are drool worthy. Get it if you haven't already.

Back to the cake: Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream. Let me hear you all say mmm! I was so excited about baking my first cake, but then I saw it had tea and ginger. Not on my favorite foods list. But I chugged along, made half the recipe and took it to my Mom's for Easter dinner. It was a hit! My sister who is not a dessert eater ate a huge slice, raved about how good it was, took pictures of it and took the leftover slice home with her.

If you like spice cake, this one is for you. I didn't have cardamon so I subbed it with nutmeg (another non-favorite). I would have like it more if I had just used cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. But the flavor of the chai was really nice and the cream topping (I left out the ginger) was, well...creamy and luscious and SO smooth.

I did have one minor disaster. I baked my cakes in my cereal bowls because they have straight sides. It was a good idea, but I filled the bowls a little too full and they rose up to the very edge and threatened to spill over. They didn't, but they followed the curve of the lip of the bowl and they looked like sombreros so I trimmed off the edges. Because I'm so obsessive I wanted to remake this cake just so my pictures looked nicer, but I am admitting fault and I now know better. It may have affected the looks of the cake but surely not the taste.

Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream from Sky High Cakes

For the printer friendly version, click here.

Chai Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 6 chai tea bags (without added sweetener, such as Tazo)
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour*
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp

*1 cup of cake flour is equal to 3/4 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

**Cardamom substitute is an equal amount of brown cardamom OR equal parts ground nutmeg and cinnamon OR equal parts ground cloves and cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper as well.

In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over low med-low heat. Add the tea bags, careful not to let the paper tag fall into the milk. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and squeeze out the milk. Let the chai milk cool completely.

In a medium bowl mix the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Whisk together. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining chai milk, on med-low speed. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions scraping the sides of the bowl between additions. Divide the batter evenly among the pans.

Bake the cakes for 26-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes an 8-inch 3-layer cake.

NOTE: Don't skip the parchment paper step! Because you have to remove the cakes from the pans while they're still warm you need the parchment paper to help with the release. If you don't use parchment your cakes may break and stick to the pan.

Honey-Ginger Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup honey (any kind as long as liquid)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to blend together, then scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until smooth.

To assemble the cake place one layer flat side down a serving plate and top with 2/3 cup of icing. Spread to the edge and repeat with second layer. Place third layer on top and spread the remaining ginger cream on top allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the cake like icicles.

I topped mine with Springtime Almond M&M's.

Check out all the other Cake Slice Bakers !

ETA: I broke down and treated myself to 3 new Wilton 6-inch pans (I got mine from Wal-Mart for less than $5/pan), so I can further avoid any more baking disasters :-) Yay for me!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red and Lavender

There's a restaurant, a little French cafe, of sorts here in Texas called La Madeleine. I puffy heart them. Big time. My mom takes me there for my birthday every year for lunch. Sometimes I meet my friends there for dessert and a cappuccino. It's just so homey (if I had a home in the French countryside) and comforting.

One of their signature items on the menu is Strawberries Romanoff. When my husband and I go there we usually split a goblet of whole plump strawberries covered in a brown sugar, sour cream sauce laced with brandy. I've seen some recipes that involve whipping cream and cointreau, and orange zest, but it's not the same. I asked the chefs how they make their sauce and this is how they do it. So it's how I do it.

They also make Crepe Romanoff, which are crepes topped with strawberries and this sauce- yum! How good would that be?

Strawberries Romanoff
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. brandy

Rinse and hull the strawberries. Place in 3 bowls. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream, brown sugar and brandy. Stir til combined and pour over strawberries.

*Makes 3 servings*

NOTE: This sauce would be perfect over any berries or over a mixed fruit salad. Can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

I got a dozen lavender roses after Easter for $5. They're called Ocean Breeze. The lady who sold them to me said, "They should be $5, they're half dead". I beg to differ.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Assembly Required

I made these yummy homemade hamburger buns and the next day, I topped them with these even yummier burgers.

Everyone likes their burger a certain way. I prefer mine with mustard on the bottom bun and ketchup on the top bun next to the tomato. The lettuce goes under the meat patty because if it's next to the tomato it slides around and that drives me nuts. It must also have melted stringy cheese (Sharp Cheddar or Muenster) on it. I like my pickles crisp, so they stay off to the side. I absolutely not, under no circumstances put mayo or miracle whip on my hamburgers. Eww! I don't like the warm mayo taste with the ground beef- gag me. (Donna, do you like to be gagged?)

My husband loves miracle whip and mayo so he slathers it on both sides of the bun (Donna, hush!) and fills it with a patty covered in American cheese, tomato, lettuce and pickles. Sometimes he'll even add a dollop of ketchup. However you like to assemble your burgers, be sure to start out with fresh ingredients and the final product will always be good.

Steakhouse Burgers
  • 1 lb. Lean Ground Beef (We use 90/10)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Steak Seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter

Toppings (Optional)

  • Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Bacon, Cheese, Mayo, Mustard, Ketchup, Pickles etc.

In a medium bowl, mix together ground beef, Worcestershire sauce and steak seasoning by hand. Mix until just combined but don't overwork the meat or it'll be tough. Form into 3- third (1/3) pound patties.

Place butter in pan and heat over medium-medium high heat til butter is melted. Place patties in pan, but don't overcrowd them or they won't get brown and crusty. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes per side for a medium doneness. 5-6 minutes on each side for well done burgers. Dress your burger to your liking.

NOTE: Because I use lean ground beef, I don't over cook them because they'll dry out. If you like your burgers a little more done or cooked all the way through, use a ground beef with a higher percentage of fat. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

How do you like your burgers?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Your buns are up!"

"There is also something therapeutic about making bread. I am not sure what it is. It's a strange dichotomy - the fear and the comfort." ~Kristen from Picky Cook

Yeast is intimidating...Or yeast can be intimidating. The whole process of waiting for the dough to double in size can be nerve wracking. Rise dough, rise! Rise. Rise...Is it rising? Has it doubled in volume?

The whole process of making bread can be stressful and time consuming. And there are hurdles to overcome before you can enjoy the final product. First you have to proof your yeast (pretty easy as long as your yeast is fresh), then you add the ingredients to the bowl to make the dough (still pretty easy), then you have to let it double (nerve wracking and time consuming but not hard) then comes the hard part (for me at least). You have to knead the dough, which is not difficult, but I tend to over-knead which results in a tough brick of dough**, which means it was all a waste of time, efforts and money and you don't even know it til after you've baked it!

I love how the edges curled up ever so slightly...(sigh).

You invest so much time and effort and you want it to turn out and it doesn't always. But when it does, it's so gratifying! And the aroma that the yeast creates is almost magical. Honestly, it's one of my favorite smells. Do they make a candle that smells like fresh baked bread? If they did, I'd buy a bakers dozen!

These buns were good. The original recipe holders claimed they were slightly sweet, but they didn't seem at all sweet to me. They were soft and light, but sturdy. Oddly enough, they were very similar to store bought commercial buns, only a lot fresher and without the chemicals and preservatives. They cut very easily and toasted up nicely. I froze most of them (pre-sliced) and we enjoyed them on several occasions. Hubby thought they were a nice treat.

Hamburger Buns from Busy Nothings
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pkg. instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T butter, melted, divided
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 3/4 cup bread flour

Heat milk to about 105 degrees. Mix milk, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl if not using a mixer). Let the yeast proof until foamy. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and then the egg and mix thoroughly. Then add 3 cups of the flour. Beat with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and add another 1/2 cup of flour. At this point, start kneading. Add flour as necessary to make a slightly sticky dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until soft and elastic.

Place into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down the dough and roll out until it’s about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch rounds and place onto an ungreased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until double. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When ready to bake, brush the buns with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 8-10 buns

**NOTE: When I rolled out the dough and cut the buns out (with a floured glass), I got 9 buns. But then I rerolled the dough to make more buns and it didn't work out so well. The last 2 buns (I made 11 total) were flat and saucer-like. I ate them with salted butter. Good but not appropriate for pulled pork sandwiches.

There's a burger joint in Texas called "Buns Over Texas" and when your order is ready for pick up at the counter, they call you over the intercom and say "Monica, Your buns are up!"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rubber Banded

And my favorite of all!

Aren't these fabulous !?! I had so much fun making them. I even wanted to dye the non-boiled eggs in the fridge just because they turned out so cool, but my husband shot me down :-( Here are the marbled eggs I made last year.

I promise a real post tomorrow!

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