Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crunchy-topped Cocoa Cake

I surprised my family with a mid-week dessert one day this past week.   They were thrilled!   This is the first time I've made this cake, and I'll surely make it again.

This is a Hershey recipe which I found in a mini cookbook.  I refer to this little cookbook quite often when in need of a quick chocolatey recipe.   I adapted the recipe just a little bit to suit my tastes and what I had on hand.  

Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan.
Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; beat with spoon or whisk just until batter is smooth and ingredients are well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Meanwhile, prepare topping.  Spread on warm cake. Set oven to broil; place pan about 4 inches from heat. Broil 3 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted nuts
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
3 tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk

Stir together all ingredients in small bowl until well blended. About 1 cup topping.

A few notes about this recipe:
I made it with pecans, but next time I plan to make it with slivered almonds.  I think it will then taste like a Mounds candy bar!  I also plan to add some mini chocolate chips to the batter to enhance the chocolatey flavor.  Mmmmmm.
I made it in a 9 inch square pan.  Use an 8 inch square pan if you'd like a thicker cake.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWD: Whole Wheat Loaves

I have a few friends who bake ALL their bread from scratch, every week.  Amazing, eh?  Well, with a recipe this simple, I have vowed to bake bread for my family way more frequently.

The recipe for this week of Tuesday With Dorie is Whole Wheat Loaves.  Our hosts are Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together.  Please go visit their lovely blogs!  You'll find the recipe there.

The recipe for Whole Wheat Loaves began with a dough of whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, yeast, honey, salt, and water.  It called for malt extract, but my pantry lacks that ingredient, so I omitted it.   With the help of my awesome Kitchenaid, the dough was kneaded for 10 minutes.

The dough was placed in a greased bowl and covered in plastic wrap for an hour or two of rising. 



Then the dough was punched down and divided in two and flattened by hand into a rough rectangle.

For one of my loaves, I topped the dough with cheddar, parmesan, garlic and herbs, then rolled it up.  (It was a perfect accompaniment to our pasta fagioli soup last night!)

The dough was placed in buttered loaf pans, and then covered with plastic wrap for the second rise.

After the second rise, the dough was plump and ready for some time in a hot oven.

Look at the gorgeous color of the loaves after baking!

The texture of this bread is soft yet slightly chewy, and it is so delicious.  There's a hint of sweetness from the wheat and honey. 

We gobbled up the cheesy loaf last night (no picture---sorry!!) and this morning we enjoyed a slice with butter and jelly.   This recipe is surely a keeper!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Elephant Baby Shower Cake

What a sweet little elephant with his blankie, bottle, and paci!

The elephant, blanket, bottle, paci, bows, strips, and dots are all made with rolled fondant. 

Jeremiah 1:5  Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.......

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Caramel Pecan Popcorn

Oh my.  Crunchy sweet caramel popcorn must be one of the best treats in the whole world!   

This recipe is one from one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks.  I've been making this for years, and we enjoy changing it up a little bit now and then!!

The original recipe, posted below, calls for Chex cereal, pretzels, pecans, and popcorn.  When I make it I typically omit the Chex, and add additional popcorn and pretzels.  I've made it with peanuts or cashews instead of pecans.  I've added Cheerios and other cereals instead of Chex.  I've added M&Ms or chocolate chips to the popcorn after it's cooled.

This time I added Autumn Mix Candy Corn!

I've made this treat for the Desserts For The Deserving campaign, whose purpose is to bring a little bit of joy and encouragement to others......with sweet treats!  

This cute bag of Caramel Pecan Popcorn is on it's way to West Yellowstone, Montana!

Caramel Pecan Popcorn

8 cups popped popcorn (one regular sized bag of microwave popcorn is about 8 cups.  Reduced fat works best.)
4 cups rice chex cereal
2 cups pretzel twists
1 cup pecan halves

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking soda

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  On the stove top stir together brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes without stirring.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in vanilla and baking soda.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir gently to coat.  Pour into your 9 x 13 stoneware baker (or onto a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan).  Bake at 275 for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time.  Remove from the oven and pour onto a long sheet or parchment paper or waxed paper to cool. Gently break into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.

*If you would like to adapt the recipe and switch around the ingredients, just measure cup-for-cup.  In other words, substitute a cup of additional popcorn for a cup of Chex, etc.  If adding candy corn or other candy tidbits, allow caramel corn to cool completely first.*

Amazing Pumpkin Cookies

This has become my family's most favorite pumpkin recipe.  These cookies are soft and melt in your mouth.  They are absolutely delicious, and you MUST make them!

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting

Cookie dough

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl beat together sugar and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add dry ingredients and beat on low until blended.  Stir in nuts.  Drop by tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Cool on pan one minute the remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Yield:  3 to 4 dozen cookies.


3 Tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup milk
¾ tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan melt together butter, brown sugar, and milk over medium low heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil gently for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  Cool completely.  Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar to make a thin frosting.  If too thin, add additional powdered sugar to yield a spreading consistency.  Spread on cooled cookies.  If desired, top with chopped nuts or fall-themed sprinkles! 

I baked these sweet treats yesterday for the Desserts For The Deserving campaign.  Oh, what a blessing it is to participate, and to (hopefully) bring some joy to others!    

The cookies were baked and packaged yesterday and are on their way to West Yellowstone, MT.  I sure hope the recipient enjoys them as much as my family does!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apple Crumble Cake

Fall is just about here!   And with fall comes lots of fall baking, at least in my kitchen.  Apple and pumpkin are two of my favorite ingredients for fall baking, so be prepared!   You'll be seeing lots of recipes with these two ingredients in the next few months.

This Apple Crumble Cake is so moist and delicious.  The cinnamon crumb topping is sweet and crunchy.  This is perfect for dessert, but it would also be wonderful for brunch or breakfast.  It has fruit in it, after all!  :)


1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples

Crumble Topping

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared pan, spreading out to the edges.

To prepare the crumble, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix with a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Remove sides of springform pan and cool completely.   Sprinkle with powdered sugar before slicing and serving.

The original recipe is from Emerile Lagasse, but I made a few wee changes.  Please give it a try this autumn!

Sweet 16 Butterfly Cake

*~*~*Happy 16th Birthday Lauren!!!*~*~*

The butterflies, flowers, letters, and numbers are all made with gumpaste.  The cakes are covered with fondant, and the border is buttercream.  The bottom tier is devils food cake with peanut butter buttercream filling, and the top tier is white almond cake with raspberry jam filling.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TWD: Upside-Down Nectarine Chiffon Cake

Summer is nearly finished, yet we are still enjoying the last few weeks of summer fruits!  Juicy nectarines are the highlight of this beautiful cake.

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Upside-Down Nectarine Chiffon Cake.  Our hosts are Marlise (and her adorable wee twins!) of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery.  Please visit their blogs to find the recipe, see their beautiful pictures, and read about their experiences with this recipe.

This is a chiffon cake recipe, which could be a daunting task if you've never made a cake in multiple steps before.  Meringue is involved.   Making streusel is involved.  Arranging fruit is involved.  And a sink FULL of dirty dishes is involved.

It's all worth it in the end! 

I wasn't hampered by the mixing of the batter or the arranging of the fruit.  What challenged me the most was flipping the cake out of the springform pan!!  Even with the proper cooling time and running a knife around the edge of the pan, the moist cake still stuck to the side in places.  Alas, the cake released with a rough edge.  We'll just call it rustic.  ;)

The recipe called for a 10 inch springform pan.  Instead, I used my 9 inch square springform pan, and it worked perfectly.

I loved the beauty of the nectarines, nestled into melted butter and brown sugar.

The cake did sink a little in the center as it cooled, but with a sprinkling of streusel, it looked beautiful, and ready to be served.

This corner piece was calling to me.  Sweet nectarine.  Warm cake.  Crunchy streusel.  Sticky caramel.

My family enjoyed this recipe and we all look forward to trying it again with another fruit.  Perhaps pears or plums or even apples!

Please visit Marlise and Susan and print the recipe.  Make this for your family, or invite your neighbors over for coffee and dessert!  You'll be glad you did!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Matthew's Lego Birthday Cake

My son Matthew is turning 10 this week!  How on earth is this even possible?!  Wasn't I just bringing him home from the hospital yesterday?   How can he now be Double Digits?!


The fact is, Matthew is turning into a wonderful young man, right before my eyes.  He's so smart, so sweet, and so fun to be around.  Sure, he knows how to push the right buttons with his sister to make them screech and scream and come tattling on him, but you know what?  He's the only boy with three sisters!   He's fighting for his freedom sometimes, ya know?!  ;)

We planned a Lego themed birthday party for him this year!  Our initial pool party plans had to be put aside thanks to the tropical storm Isaac which brought rain our way.  Hubby and I went to Plan B---9 boys and 3 girls inside our home----playing made-up Lego games, eating cake, and opening presents.  Whew! 

Everyone had a blast, and Birthday Boy is really enjoying all of his new Lego sets!  Go Ninjago!

In my mind, this cake was absolutely flawless, with smooth edges, perfect corners, and a lifelike Lego Minifigure.  As I've learned with these years of experience, cake, frosting, and candy are not predictable elements, and with rainy weather, things happen.    We'll pretend they didn't with this cake.  ;)

Lego Mini is made with candy melts and "cake truffle" filling.  I used a silicone minifigure pan, and worked with one color of candy at a time.  I melted, then poured and smoothed the candy into each section of the pan, leaving the middle hollow.  I refrigerated the pan on a cookie sheet to harden the candy, then repeated with the next color.  After the entire pan was coated in candy melts, I smooshed cake truffle mixture into the pan, smoothing the back with an offset spatula.  I refrigerated it for a while to make it nice and firm, them smoothed on a layer of candy melts to enclose the cake.  Back into the fridge it went to firm up.  I then said a prayer and delicately peeled the silicone pan away from the candy.  Wow, it worked!!  The result was gorgeous----a smooth Lego mini figure!

Then humidity and gravity tried to help the situation.  ;)  We'll pretend his hands didn't fall off and need to be "glued" back on with candy melts.  And we'll not pay attention to the fact that his torso was falling and smooshing his lap.  And we'll not mention how the humidity changed the color of the candy melts from being refrigerated to being in my warm kitchen while I assembled and finished the cake.  (Condensation----eek!)

Did my handsome 10 year old notice?  Nope!   And would he have even cared if he did?  Certainly not!

He and his friends LOVED the cake, and couldn't wait to bite into the minifigure.  "I want his head!"  "Can I eat his arm?"   And as I dissected the poor sweet thing, "Ewwwww!"   We had a blast.

Matthew, being the guest of honor, got to eat the head.  :)