Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake…

My life has been chaotic for the last six months and now that the dust has started to settle I’m trying to get myself back on track. One of the ways I see myself doing that is trying to post more often on my blog. I missed not doing my regular posts but dealing with health care issues was so much more important. Now I am trying to put one foot in front of the other in an attempt to establish my new normal and begin to incorporate some of the things that brought joy into my life before everything started. This blog is certainly one what to do that.

I made this recipe the other day and posted some pictures on Instagram and Facebook and got so many comments about sharing the recipe that I felt compelled to blog it faster than I thought I would. I made this recipe mainly because I had a ton of blueberries that I needed to use (Lord only knows why I bought so many) and I also had several bars of cream cheese.

I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised at the outcome. What I liked the best about this coffee cake is the addition of the cream cheese layer. It provides a nice moistness to the cake and really kicks the cake over the top. So let’s talk blueberry cream cheese coffee cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – This cake requires you to be organized: This cake has 3 separate processes, that being making the cream cheese filling, making the cake batter and making the streusel topping. It requires a little more equipment to get the coffee cake put together. I recommend you use a separate hand mixer and bowl to make the cream cheese filling. Then I recommend making the streusel topping so you are ready to top the cake once you’ve assembled the layers. Use your stand mixer to make the cake batter. Try to measure everything out for all three processes before you begin. That way the processes will run smoothly. It really isn’t a hard cake to make. It just has a few more steps than most.

Lesson Learned 2 – The cake batter is thick: This batter creates a nicely dense cake that is balanced out by the cream cheese layer. But a dense batter can be a challenge to spread around when it comes time to put it in a pan. I’ve learned over time that when you work with a dense batter it’s better to drop it in the pan in spoonfuls all around the pan. That way when it comes time to spread the layer most of the batter is already in place and you can spread the batter around more easily.

Lesson Learned 3 – Vanilla bean paste versus vanilla extract: When I’m making a recipe where I want to really kick up the vanilla flavor I use vanilla bean paste. The paste has a syrup-like consistency and it measures out the same way as vanilla extract. Vanilla bean paste is richer and more flavorful. It is also much more expensive. But if you can afford it I highly recommend using it. But only use it for special recipes. Using it in things like cookies doesn’t really make a difference. But using it in something like this recipe or a creme brulee really enhances the flavor of the dish.

Lesson Learned 4 – Arranging the blueberries in the layers: This cake requires two blueberry layers, one on top of the cake batter layer and one on top of the cream cheese layer. When putting in both layers be careful to not let any of the blueberries touch the sides of your spring form pan. If you do you’ll find it difficult to clean the sides of the pan after baking. If you don’t you can still clean the sides of your pan, it’s just a little more difficult even though the pan has been greased.

Lesson Learned 5 – Depending upon your oven, you may have to cook the cake longer than the allotted time: Now as you know I live in high altitude so everything tends to have to cook for longer periods of time and/or higher temperatures. This recipe calls for the cake to cook for 45 minutes. I had to cook mine for 1 hour. Just keep an eye on it after 45 minutes and you should be fine.

Lesson Learned 6 – Someone asked me if you could substitute raspberries for blueberries: I don’t see why not. Raspberries tend to cook just like blueberries. They release their juices in a similar way. So try it with raspberries. I bet it will be delicious.

And that’s it. I guarantee you will love this cake. Try it and let me know what you think…

Cake Layer

First Layer Of Blueberries

Cream Cheese Layer

Second Layer of Blueberries

Cake With Streusel Topping

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Cream Cheese Filling:

1/4 sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (you can substitute vanilla extract)

1 1/4 cup blueberries, divided

Coffee Cake:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. table salt

5 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

3 Tbs. butter, very cold and cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven for 350. Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of pan. Set the pan aside.

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until creamy. Add egg white and mix just until combined. Set aside.

For the streusel topping combine sugar, flour and chilled butter in a bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and and the crumbles are pea sized. Set aside.

For the cake batter, stir together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly mix in the flour mixture alternating it with the cream cheese finishing with the flour mixture. Take a spoon and transfer the batter in spoonfuls around the base of the pan. Smooth the batter around the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of blueberries over the batter. Spread the cream cheese filling on top of the blueberries (drop in spoonfuls just like the cake batter and spread) and top with the remaining blueberries. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the blueberries. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top starts browning too quickly cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Put the pan on a cooling rack and run a knife around the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes and then loosen the ring of the spring form pan. Remove the ring and let the cake continue to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in remaining cake in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

Lemon Ricotta Cake…

No one will deny that we are currently living in unprecedented times. With the country being ravaged by the coronavirus and people scrambling to figure out how to shelter at home without losing their minds, it comes as no surprise that many people are turning to cooking. Cooking (and eating) has always been associated with comfort. And at this point in time we need all the comfort we can get.

We are under a stay at home order here in Colorado so venturing outside can only be done for essential things, like going to the grocery store. When I last visited my grocery store I found it fascinating that the baking isles were heavily picked over. It was hard to find flour or eggs. I laughed when I saw there were hardly any boxed cake mixes on the shelves. And try to find flour tortillas – well I guess people are indulging their taste for Mexican food during quarantine.

I’ve been trying to limit my trips to the store as much as possible so sometimes I buy larger containers of things that will last a longer period of time. The other day I was planning on making some stuffed shells (that recipe soon to be posted) and so I purchased a large container of ricotta cheese. I did not anticipate the amount I would have left and began thinking about how I could use the remaining ricotta. And this is how I used it…

So let’s talk lemon ricotta cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Beat the ricotta into the butter/sugar mixture really well: Ricotta is rather thick and when using it in baking it can cause lumps unless you beat it well. I found that using whole milk ricotta is the best for this cake. Make sure you beat the mixture for at least 3 minutes or until you see the mixture is smooth and creamy. Also make sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the the mixing bowl. I found when using a stand mixer that a very small portion of ingredients tends to clump right at the very base of the beater. Don’t forget to scrape there as well.

What the ricotta batter should look like

Well Mixed Ricotta Batter

Lesson Learned 2 – Grease the sides and bottom of a spring form pan with butter and dust it with powdered sugar: I read about this trick online and it is a great way to add some additional sweetness to the outside of the cake. Even though you use 1 1/2 cups of sugar in this recipe the cake does not taste overly sweet. The lemon juice and zest balance out the sweetness quite nicely.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t make the mistake I made: Every cook makes mistakes, even the most adept ones. I went about making this cake the way I normally bake or cook, prepping all of the ingredients first and then following the process. I did really well until I put the batter in the prepared pan and then realized I didn’t incorporate the baking soda into the batter. UGHHH!

In my mind I had three choices – 1: Start all over again (which I did not want to do) 2: Bake the cake without the baking soda (baking soda is a leavening agent that makes the cake rise so I didn’t want to do that) or 3: Figure out a way to incorporate the baking soda (it was only a half of a teaspoon so I sprinkled it all over the top of the batter and mixed it in with a spoon stirring it well but being careful not to touch the sides or bottom of the prepared pan. To my amazement it worked beautifully). So keep in mind that even the best of cooks need to improvise when they make a mistake. Not all fixes turn out as well as this one did. I was lucky this time.

Lesson Learned 4 – Try using vanilla bean paste: I was made aware of vanilla bean paste during a cooking class and I love it. I don’t use it all the time as a jar can be quite expensive ($20 or so) but in dishes where I want a richer vanilla flavor I use the paste. I wouldn’t use it for making cookies but for cakes or custards it adds much more depth of flavor. It measures just like vanilla extract (a teaspoon for a teaspoon) but it gives a much richer vanilla flavor than extract. If you can afford it try it sometime.

And that’s it. Making the cake is very easy. The cake is creamy and not overly sweet. It’s great as a dessert or a breakfast treat. I know you will enjoy this one…

Lemon Ricotta Cake...

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

1 large lemon, juiced and zested

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups flour

Powdered sugar for dusting the pan and the top of the cake

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a spring form pan with butter and dust the bottom and sides with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese and mix until smooth and creamy, at least 3 minutes or more.

Mix the eggs in one at a time. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix to combine. Stir in the baking soda and salt. Add the flour and mix until just combined (you can add all the flour in at once).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let the cake cool completely before dusting it with powdered sugar.

Right Out Of The Oven

Blueberry Muffin Breakfast Cake…

I had a large container of blueberries just sitting in my refrigerator. Isn’t it funny how what we have in our refrigerators and don’t want to waste often drives what we make? I had blueberries and I had to find a way to put them to great use.

I don’t know about you but I find making cakes in springform pans to be much easier. I like the idea that once the cake first begins to cool you can simply unhook the pan and the cake is released. I also like the fact that you can firmly attach a piece of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan before you add the batter and once the cake has cooled you simply pull the paper out from under the cake and it is safely on whatever plate you want it to be. I find this all very convenient.

But above and beyond the convenience of a springform pan, this cake is delightful and I can tell you having a piece of it with your morning coffee is utter heaven. So let’s talk blueberry muffin breakfast cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – My quest for the perfect crumble: I have to admit I’ve struggled with making a crumble that I truly enjoyed. I found most suggestions for making crumbles to be, for lack of a better term, yucky. More often than not I’ve felt that the crumble tasted too much like dried out lumps of flour. Have you experienced that as well? Well, no more. This combination for a crumble topping is the best yet. In my mind it balances the right amount of fat, sugar, flavoring and flour to give a sweet, but not overly sweet, topping for the cake that in no way tastes like flour. I suggest you use it on other cakes that you make with crumble toppings. I think I’ve finally found the right combination of ingredients for a crumble.

Lesson Learned 2 – The secret to making glaze: The secret to making glaze is there is no secret. I was watching the Pioneer Woman the other day and she and while she was making a glaze she admitted that there is no hard and fast recipe for one. It’s all done by eyeballing and consistency. The important thing to keep in mind is you can’t ruin glaze. Just remember if the glaze is too thick you add a little more liquid and if the glaze is too thin you add a little more powdered sugar. For this particular recipe I opted for a somewhat thicker glaze.

The other thing to remember with glaze is there is no correct consistency. There may be times when you want a thinner glaze and there may be times you want it thicker. And you can control that by adding less liquid for a thick glaze or more for a thin one. It’s as simple as that. So don’t fret over making glaze. It’s probably one of the most forgiving things you can make in the baking world!

Other than these few tips this recipe is pretty standard but it makes an over the top breakfast cake. Try it and let me know what you think…

Blueberry Muffin Breakfast Cake...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 extra large egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup whole milk

2 cups blueberries (approximately 1 pint)

Baking spray

Crumble Topping:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. heavy cream or whole milk

1/4 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and clasp the top part of the pan shut. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, put in all the crumble ingredients and cut together with a pastry cutter until the mixture is all combined and resembles clumps of sand. Set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and combine. Add the vanilla and combine. Add one half of the flour mixture and combine. Add the milk and combine. Add the remainder of the flour mixture and combine until totally incorporated. Gently fold in the blueberries making sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Spray the springform pan with baking spray including the bottom with the parchment paper (I use the one with flour). Pour the batter into the springform pan. Sprinkle the crumble all over the top of the batter. Use all of the crumble.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (it may have some blueberry on it, but that’s ok). Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. (Some of the crumble may seem a little wet due to the amount of butter in the crumble. That’s ok).

After it has cooled for 15 minutes, slide a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the outside of the springform pan. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing the parchment paper underneath the cake.

When the cake is completely cooled you can remove the bottom parchment paper and slide the cake onto a serving plate. Combine all of the glaze ingredients together and drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.

Serve or store in an air tight container.

 

 

Raspberry Riccota Coffee Cake…

Rasberry Cheese Coffee Cake

There’s nothing like the taste of a good coffee cake with your morning cup of Jo, or at least that’s how I feel. And I am particularly fond of baking with raspberries. Not only are they colorful but I also like their tartness which I feel balances the sweetness of a cake batter beautifully.

My husband is a sweets fanatic. He’s one of those that can eat sweets and not put on a pound, although I have to say he’s also very good at moderating what he eats. So I guess I can’t fault him for being good about what he eats and still including sweets in his diet.

Because of his sweet tooth, I like experimenting with things I bake to see what will interest him the most. This recipe got a thumbs up from him (with qualifications regarding the amount of raspberries which I will explain in lessons learned) and will definitely be something that I make again and again.

So let’s talk Raspberry Ricotta Coffee Cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The batter in this recipe is thick: And I mean VERY THICK. I have to say I was a little surprised at how thick the batter was. I feared the cake would be a dried out mess, but I was wrong. I think the ricotta cheese, the cheese used in this recipe, makes the batter thicker but also makes the cake light and moist. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Thick Batter

Working with batter like this can be a challenge. This is the kind of recipe where you layer part of the batter in the pan, add the raspberries and then cover them with the remaining batter. I recommend you make this division close to half and half and here’s why. I had a hard time smoothing out the batter, especially the top layer. You will need as much batter as possible to get the job done. Dividing the batter in half did the trick.

I recommend taking the batter for the top layer and putting it in clumps all over as seen in the picture below:

That way it will help in the spreading out process. But even with this, spreading was still a little bit of a challenge. The raspberries underneath did not want to stay in place while I was attempting to smooth out the batter. Finally I just decided to wash my hands thoroughly and use my hands to press the batter down and out. That seemed to work a little better. Once the top was sufficiently covered I used my frosting spreader tool and smoothed out the top as seen below:

It really helped to start off with the clumps of batter spread out as much as possible over the top. I highly recommend you do that. Although getting it spread out was a little bit of a challenge it was much easier with the batter in various places versus trying to work from just one place.

Also make sure you use a stand mixer for the recipe. A hand mixer won’t work with the thickness of this batter. And mix the batter on low, otherwise you might face burning out the motor on your mixer. Yes, the batter is that thick, but no problem when you mix it on low.

Lesson Learned 2 – Really cover the center of the cake with raspberries: The recipe I based this on called for a heaping cup of raspberries, using 2/3 for the center and 1/3 for the top. In doing that the center of the cake looked like the picture below:

The Center Of The Cake

This was not nearly enough raspberries. Once the cake was baked it seemed like there were only a few raspberries in the center. Some slices did have a few more, but some seemed to have hardly any. Next time I make this I will add even more raspberries – so at this point I will recommend a heaping cup and quarter of raspberries with the greater majority being placed in the middle layer of the cake. The raspberries are what give the cake a special taste – that great balance of tart and sweet –  and I felt they should be more predominant in the cake. Baking it this way the cake turned out fine – but I will definitely add more raspberries the next time.

Lesson Learned 3 – Try adding a dollop of Cool Whip on the cake: My husband discovered this on his own. He thought the Cool Whip was a great addition to the cake. And yes, of course, you could always make some fresh whipped cream, but if you’re in a hurry a little Cool Whip will do just fine and will send the flavor over the top.

Lesson Learned 4 – The valuable lessons I’ve learned: Since the very beginning of writing this blog I’ve used the tag line “From The Cook Who Never Could…” and that, for a long time time, was so very true of me. I never had success in the kitchen because, first of all, I had no frame of reference. My mother was not a cook. Her idea of a meal was to overcook meat, have some kind of potato with it and open a can of corn or peas. Mind you, I am not knocking my mother here. She was a working mom at a time when most women were still staying at home and she had to figure out how to balance a job on the night shift with a husband and two children at a time when hardly anyone else was doing it. My dad helped a little, but his specialty was making bacon and eggs and oatmeal (he normally was in charge of the breakfast detail). So there was not a lot of opportunities for me to learn about cooking at home.

Once I became interested in cooking I found the hardest thing for me was bouncing back after my failures. I always expected things to turn out perfectly the first time and when they didn’t I blamed it on my lack of skills and became very disheartened. It’s only as I got older and began to really learn about the art and science of cooking and baking that I became much more forgiving of myself when things did not turn out as planned.

There is always something you can learn when you cook or bake something. And I hope you know that even the best of cooks don’t always get it perfect the first time around. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.  So even with this recipe, when the concentration of raspberries was not what I would have wanted, I realized the cake in itself was still quite good and not a failure. It just needed, in my estimation, a little improvement.

Don’t make my mistake and blame yourself or your skills if something does not turn out the way you planned the first time.  And certainly don’t give up on yourself. Use what you learn and continue to improve your skills. It’s all part of the process.

So I hope you make this one – and I will write the recipe adding more raspberries. It’s a lesson I learned making this cake – one of many lessons I am sure I’ll continue to learn in the future. Enjoy!

Raspberry Ricotta Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Coffee Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/4 heaping cups of frozen raspberries

15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese

Baking spray with flour

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

1 – 2 Tbs. milk or water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325  (350 for high altitude). Line the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the ricotta and blend until smooth. Add another 1/3 of the flour and beat on low until incorporated (due to the thickness of the batter it is important to only beat this on low). Add the remaining ricotta and blend until combined. Beat in the remaining flour on low until incorporated. Make sure the batter is well mixed.

Spray the springform pan with the baking spray. Pour in 1/2 of the batter and smooth out around the pan. Add 1 heaping cup of frozen raspberries and arrange evenly over the top. (If the top doesn’t look sufficiently full of raspberries add a little more from what you have remaining).

Spoon out the remaining batter in clumps over the top of the raspberries. Spread the batter out to cover the top. (NOTE: If using a spreader becomes too difficult, thoroughly wash your hands and use them to press the batter down and out). Smooth out the batter to evenly cover the top of the pan.

Take the remaining frozen raspberries and using your hands press them down across the batter on top.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool at least 20 minutes before removing the cake from the pan.

Once cooled drizzle the glaze over the top. Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar with the almond extract and milk or water. Use one tablespoon of liquid initially and check the consistency of the glaze. If the glaze it too thick add more liquid.

Cake Right Out Of The Oven

Rasberry Cheese Coffee Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Crumble Cupcakes…

Recently we experienced quite a blizzard here in Colorado. Knowing that this storm was coming I decided to use the day I would be trapped in my house to get some serious cooking and baking done. I did three recipes in my test kitchen that day, and this was one of them.

I always like to have a few draft recipes in the queue so that I can maintain my goal for posting a new recipe every week – sometimes every other week but no longer than that. So this recipe was one I had in the back of my mind that I was waiting to try. After I made it my only thought was what the heck was I waiting for?

There are two main reasons why I really like this recipe. First and foremost the cupcakes taste divine – and isn’t that always the best reason The sour cream gives these cupcakes a luxurious texture. Second and equally as important to me, this is a smaller portion recipe yielding approximately 8 cupcakes and since there is only my husband and myself, I like recipes that cater to smaller portions – less waste, if any.

So let’s talk lemon crumble cupcakes…

Lesson Learned 1: Making the crumble: I’ve found that many recipes really overdo it when it comes to the amount of flour used in making a crumble. In my opinion, when there is too much flour it overpowers the sugar and butter and you’re left with a flavorless crumble. So when I make a crumble I tend to err on the side of a little less flour. So keep in mind that’s what I am including in this recipe. So if you’re anything like me, my advice is don’t mess with the flour proportion – it has already been adjusted to the lighter side.

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t expect the crumble to get overly browned: You want a nice beige color to the crumble. If it gets too brown the crumble gets too hard. The picture below shows the way the crumble should look when you take the cupcakes out of the oven.

Lesson learned 3 – Always used fresh squeezed lemon juice when you’re baking: If a recipe calls for lemon juice, please freshly squeeze it. There is a noticeable difference in flavor between the juice of a fresh lemon and lemon juice you get in a bottle. Take a few extra seconds and get your juice from fresh lemons. In a pinch you can always used the bottled stuff, but I believe in using clean ingredients as much as possible when I cook and bake. It pays off in flavor, and in the long run it pays off in your health. And don’t forget to zest the lemon before getting the juice.

Other than these few tips this recipe is pretty standard. But I can assure you, there is nothing standard about the taste of these cupcakes. And if you want more than eight, simply double the recipe. Anyway you make them they will be a hit!

Lemon Crumble Cupcakes...

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Crumble

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup flour

2 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. brown sugar

Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 lemon, zested

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp. high altitude)

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sour cream

Glaze

6 Tbs. powdered sugar

1 – 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 (365 for high altitude). Line a cupcake pan with 8 liners and set aside.

Make the crumble by first melting the butter. Whisk together the dry ingredients and add the melted butter. Use a fork to blend together until small pieces remain. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (I recommend using a hand mixture for such a small amount but if you double the recipe you can certainly use a stand mixer). Add the egg and fully combine. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and mix until fully combined.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. By hand, fold in the sour cream until no streaks of sour cream can be seen.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with the batter. Generously coat the top of each cupcake with the crumble.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for about 10 minutes and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cupcakes are cool, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Start with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and determine from there if more juice is needed. You want your glaze to be on the thicker side.

Store the cupcakes not immediately eaten in a airtight container.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full

Generously cover each cupcake with crumble

Double Chocolate Sour Cream Sheet Cake…

What can I say – my husband loves chocolate. Whether it be truffles, cookies, pies, cheese cake or simply semi-sweet morsels right out of the bag, if something contains chocolate chances are he’ll love it. So that means I’m always looking for variations on chocolate sweets, especially cakes and sweet breads.

So here is another chocolate cake recipe. I like this recipe for a variety of reasons. First it’s very simple and quick to make. Second adding the semi sweet morsels sends the cake over the top. Third the frosting is not overly sweet and so it compliments the cake beautifully.

So let’s talk double chocolate sour cream cheese cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Never stray from the basics on this: By that I mean a couple of things. First, make sure whenever you bake your eggs are at room temperature. The reason is simple. Room temperature eggs blend more completely in the batter which results in a better texture for the cake. Don’t have the time to do this? Oh yes, you do – just follow my simple tips and tricks. Second, coat the semi-sweet morsels with a teaspoon of flour. By that I mean put the morsels in a bowl, pour the flour on top and mix the flour into the morsels until they are all lightly coated. When you add chocolate morsels or fruit like blueberries to cake batter they all sink to the bottom of the cake when it is baking. This little trick will help you get your morsels more evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Lesson Learned 2 – Less is more when making the frosting: Always be aware that if you add too much liquid up front when making frosting it can become too runny. With this recipe I would add 1 Tbs. of milk at a time until you get the desired consistency. Be aware that you will really need to mix this frosting well after you add any liquid. I used a stiff whisk and at first I did not think the frosting would achieve the consistency I wanted. But as I kept whisking I found that it turned out great. I only used 2 Tbs. of milk but with frosting you never know. The main point here is to make sure you mix the frosting ingredients thoroughly before adding any additional milk.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

I wish I could say I had a ton of lessons learned about this recipe but bottom line it’s a very traditional method of making a sheet cake so other than following the basics as I’ve listed above the rest is just a matter for following the directions.

Out Of The Oven

This is a great cake to make when you need something quick. It’s easy but totally decadent. You can serve it with sliced strawberries or if you really want to take it over the top add a little whipped cream or ice cream. This is a great cake to make for a party or just simply for the family. If you’re like me and want a go-to cake recipe, this is the one for you. Try it and tell me what you think…

Double Chocolate Sour Cream Sheet Cake...

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

CAKE:

3/4 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup dark cocoa powder

3/4 cup water

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs, room temperature

1 3/4 cups flour + 1 tsp.

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda (1 tsp. high altitude)

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sour cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

FROSTING:

6 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 – 3 Tbs. milk

Baking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the butter, cocoa and water into a medium size saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the cocoa is dissolved and the butter melted. Pour into a mixing bowl and let it cool slightly.

Once slightly cooled mix in the sugar, the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. With your mixer (you can use a hand mixer) on low beat in the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix.

Fold in the sour cream and chocolate morsels by hand.

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray (the one with flour). Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes (check the cake at 30 minutes). The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frosting: In a small saucepan melt together the cocoa powder and butter. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and let it cool slightly. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with a tablespoon of milk until the desired consistency is reached. Frost the cooled cake.

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry Upside Down Cake…

There’s nothing that screams the holidays like cranberries. Did you know that 20% of cranberries grown are consumed over the holidays? The fresh ones are only around this time of year and their bright red color makes you want to burst into a Christmas song. And because I love them so much, I’m always looking for new ways to cook or bake with them. This particular recipe hits the jackpot as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve seen various iterations of upside down cakes but this one, in my estimation, surpasses them all. It is so much fun to take this cake out of the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes, and then turn it over and see this gorgeous burst of holiday color decorating the top of the cake. This cake will stand out on any holiday dessert table. And besides looking fabulous, it tastes fabulous! And it isn’t that difficult to make. You just need to follow a few tips and the cake will turn out perfectly. This is the very first time I made this cake and just look at it – holiday perfection! So let’s talk cranberry upside down cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Grease the bottom and sides of the pan generously: If you don’t do this you’re dead in the water. The cake will never come out clean. Now by generously I don’t mean you need a build up of grease in the pan.  Just make sure your pan (and this recipe calls for one 9 inch round cake pan) is thoroughly greased on the bottom and the sides. And make sure you only use butter to grease the pan, nothing else.

Lesson Learned 2 – Can you make this in an 8 inch round pan: The answer is yes and no. This recipe makes a lot of batter and really calls for a 9 inch pan that is at least two inches high up the sides. Once you put the cranberries in the entire batter will come close to the top if you use it all. I wound up leaving a small amount of batter out as I was afraid the cake would spill over the sides of the pan. I left a little less than 1/2 inch of space along the sides.

I’m glad I did. The picture below shows what the cake looked like right out of the oven. You can see the cake is all the way up to the top of the sides of the pan. Next time I make the cake I may add a few less cranberries (the original recipe called for 12 ounces of cranberries – I did not use that either. I used about 10 ounces of the 12 ounce bag). The key to getting a nice top is making sure the cranberries are evenly spread over the brown sugar and butter base. Piling the cranberries slightly on top of each other also results in a few cranberries rising with the cake and creating some nice color throughout the cake, which I liked.

I think you could use an 8 inch pan but keep in mind you will need less cranberries and you will have more batter left over. Either way, leave yourself a little less than 1/2 inch of space along the sides so your cake does not flow over the sides of the pan.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t let the cake cool in the pan longer than 10 minutes: You want the cake to rest for a short time when it comes out of the oven. But you also want to make sure you can get the cake out of the pan. Remember what you have on the bottom is really sticky. Cool the cake for no longer than 10 minutes. Then take a butter knife and run it all along the sides of the pan. If you do this, your cake will come out easily. Mine did and it looked gorgeous. Let the cake cool in it’s “upside down” form.

If you follow these simple lessons you should have no problem making this cake. And as always I will include sea level and high altitude amounts for the baking powder. I know you will love this one!

Cranberry Upside Down Cake...

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Base:

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

10 ounces of fresh cranberries (you will not use an entire 12 ounce bag)

Cake:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp. for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Very small pinch of ground cloves

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

1 Tbs. orange zest (the zest of a large orange)

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and brown sugar for the base. Make sure they are mixed well. Pour this mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.

Spread the cranberries evenly over the butter/brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

In another bowl beat the butter for the cake until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs in one at a time and mix until combined. Stir in the orange zest.

Mix 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture. Once combined beat in 1/2 of the sour cream until combined. Beat in the next third of the dry mixture until combined. Add the remaining half of the sour cream and beat until combined. Add the last third of the dry ingredients and beat until combined. Finally add the milk and beat until combined.

Pour the batter over the cranberries making making sure to leave a little less than 1/2 inch of room from the top of the pan.

Place in preheated oven and lower the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake anywhere from 55 minutes to 70 minutes. (mine took 70 minutes – it will depend on your oven and your altitude). Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife all around the edges of the pan. Place a plate on top of the pan and invert it. Let the inverted cake cool on the plate.

 

 

Cranberry Orange Cake Topped With Fresh Plums…

Those of you who followed my blog over the years know that early on in my cooking/baking days I was heavily influenced by the Food Network. The early shows they produced were more about learning to cook and less about cooking contests and road shows. I miss those days. Remember Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee? I really liked that show. I felt Sandra showed people how to take a few simple ingredients, add it to something store bought and make it into something special without all the muss and fuss. In today’s world that is such a gift for the busy cook.

Well, that is what this recipe is all about. I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. I was at the grocery store looking for something to make, like a quick bread or muffins and I picked up this box of Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Muffin Mix. I looked on the back of the box to see if I could use this to make a quick bread and lo and behold on the bottom right hand corner was the recipe for this cake. All it required was a few extra ingredients, namely almond extract and fresh plums. The picture of the cake looked so good I just had to try it. Needless to say, it was fabulous and very easy to make so I felt I had to share it with all of you. Nobody has to know that this cake is semi-homemade.

So let’s talk Cranberry Orange Cake Topped With Fresh Plums…

Lesson Learned 1 – Pick plums that are not overly ripe: You want plums that are hard. Hard plums are easier to slice and cook beautifully in the oven. It’s very difficult to get good slices with soft plums, even if you have a very sharp knife. The pieces tend to get mushy. So be aware of that.

Also when you cut the plums, cut them like you would an avocado. I found it very hard to get the stones out of the plums. But if you cut the plum all around at the center and twist the two halves in the opposite direction, just like you do with an avocado, the plum halves will separate easily. You may have to dig a little with a sharp knife to get the stone out of the one half (be careful) but the harder the plum the easier that will be.

Lesson Learned 2 – Create the plum arrangement you want on top of the cake on a paper plate first: I found I had to play with the plums a little to create the arrangement I wanted. You don’t want to be doing that on top of the batter. I took a dinner size paper plate and created my plum arrangement on that. When it came time to put the plums on top of the batter I simply moved them from the plate to the cake just like I arranged them. It was a piece of cake, no pun intended!

Lesson Learned 3 – You could also add chopped nuts to this recipe: I did not make it with nuts this time but you could add 1/2 cup chopped nuts to this cake as well. It’s all up to you!

And the rest is easy. Just follow the directions on the box. I’ll write out the recipe here just in case the packaging gets changed. This is a quick, impressive and delicious semi-homemade recipe. I will definitely make this one again. Enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Cake Topped With Fresh Plums...

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 box Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Muffin Mix

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup water (plus 2 Tbs for high altitude)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 can cranberries (included in the box), undrained

2 under ripe plums, sliced

baking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350. Mix well the muffin mix, eggs, water, vegetable oil and almond extract. Fold in the cranberries.

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with baking spray. Spoon the batter into the pan. Arrange the plum slices evenly over the batter.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing.

 

 

Apple Cake With Praline Glaze…

There are many reasons why Fall is my favorite time of year. First, I love the crisp Fall air with its milder temperatures. Second, I love the spectacular bursts of colors the trees and bushes provide.  And third, I love Fall cooking and baking. The aromas in the kitchen at this time of year are like no other, from the smell of the first pot roast braising in the oven to the sweet smell of baked apples providing that warm feeling of comfort and home. Fall is definitely the best season of the year.

So let’s start out the season by focusing on Fall baking! I chose this particular recipe because it embodies everything I love about Fall – apples, cinnamon, cream cheese, vanilla… need I go any further. The ingredients scream Fall and the smell of this cake when it’s baking in the oven beats any apples and cinnamon air freshener you could ever buy.

So let’s talk apple cake with praline glaze…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be organized when you make this recipe. This recipe has several components and the best way to make it is to be organized. First, that means reading the recipe thoroughly. Second, and I know this may sound silly, is to create a strategy for putting everything together. When I made this I did things in stages to stay on track and to keep the kitchen from being turned upside down.

The first thing I did was shred the carrots. (If you can find carrots already shredded at your local store you can certainly use them). I used my food processor for that. Make sure you used the shredding disc as shown below.

Cut the carrots and put them into the processor’s feeding tube.

With the processor on, push the carrots down the feeding tube using the round plastic tool that comes with the processor. You will wind up with shredded carrots as seen below.

I am going into such detail about this for a couple of reasons. First to show the correct disc to use to get shredded carrots. You don’t want to use the processor’s main blade for this. Second because this step takes up time and space. I found the best way to stay organized when making a recipe is to see if there are any components that require a machine other than a mixer and determine how using that machine may affect your work space.

Once I shredded the carrots I put them in a bowl, washed my food processor and put it away. If you’ve ever worked with a food processor you know it’s comprised of several pieces and all those pieces needed to be washed. Washing them, reassembling the food processor and putting it away freed up a lot of work space for me – space that I could use to comfortably assemble the other components of the cake.

After using the food processor I put together the cream cheese filling and set it aside, assembled the wet and dry ingredients, greased and floured the bundt cake pan, measured out the pecans (I purchased pecan pieces so I didn’t have to worry about chopping them) and lastly I cut up the apples. I saved the apples for last because I wanted as short of a period of time between when they were chopped and when they were incorporated into the batter. Apples, when cut, will oxidize meaning they will start to turn brown the longer they are exposed to the open air. By cutting them last I still had nice light green apple pieces to put into the batter. There are altogether seven major components of this cake and so the more organized you are the smoother the process of making the cake will go.

The Seven Major Components Of The Apple Cake

Lesson Learned 2 – Check each egg before putting it into the batter: There are four eggs in this recipe and each one should be checked separately by cracking it into a small dish before adding it to the batter. You don’t want to add them all at once just to find you have one bad egg and then have to throw out all the batter. It only takes a few seconds to ensure that all the eggs you’re using are good.

Lesson Learned 3 – For high altitude baking decrease the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon. The baking soda amount can stay the same.

The major point to consider when making this recipe is being organized. Otherwise everything is relatively simple. I can assure you this cake is delicious. I gave some to a neighbor who said it was so delicious that she wanted the recipe. I’m sure you’ll want to print this recipe and keep it as part of your Fall lineup of baking…

Apple Cake With Praline Glaze...

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy To Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups sugar, divided

4 eggs, divided

1 cup canola oil

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 generous tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 cups green apples, peeled and chopped (2 medium size granny smith apples)

1 cup shredded carrots (2 large carrots)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

PRALINE GLAZE

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup butter, cubed

2 Tbs. milk

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 inch fluted bundt pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Beat in 1 egg. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together the oil with the remaining sugar and eggs until well blended. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the oil mixture until blended. Fold in the apples, carrots, and pecans.

Put half of the better evenly around the bundt pan. Put the cream cheese mixture on top. Add the remaining batter on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the bundt pan before removing the cake from the pan.

To make the glaze – in a large saucepan bring the brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake. Sprinkle with pecans.

 

 

Frosted Blueberry Muffins…

This time of year brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to your table. Sometimes its hard to pass them up, especially when the prices are low and the quality is high. And because of that, sometimes I find I buy more than I can actually use. Or sometimes I’m positive I don’t have what I want at home only to find after I buy it I have more than enough in the refrigerator already.

Such was the case the other day when I looked in my refrigerator and found and I had pints of blueberries – way too much for me to use by myself before they spoiled. My solution was to make frosted blueberry muffins…

I have to say I really like this recipe. The muffins are just the right texture and the cream cheese frosting is the perfect compliment to the tart blueberries. So let’s not waste any time and start talking about blueberry muffins…

Muffin Ingredients

Lesson Learned 1 – This recipe make A LOT of muffins: If you’re making muffins for a crowd or have large family the proportions in this recipe will be perfect for you. This recipe can make anywhere from 36-40 muffins, which for me with only two people in my household, was way too much. I didn’t realize how much the recipe made until I started filling the muffin cups. OOOPS!

But the good news is you can easily cut the recipe in half and have a more manageable amount of muffins for a smaller family. Either way, they will still come out tasting delicious.

Lesson Learned 2 – This recipe would also be good using fresh cherries: I chose blueberries for this recipe because they are more readily available during the course of a year and I had some I need to use. But you could also use fresh cherries. All you would need to do is make sure the cherries are pitted and chopped. For the full recipe I would add 4 cups of cherries.

Lesson Learned 3 – I recommend frosting these muffins: The frosting is a great compliment to the tartness of the blueberries. And although you can leave them plain the frosting, in my opinion, takes them over the top.

Lesson Learned 4 – You can also make jumbo muffins: If you’re worried about the amount of muffins this recipe makes try making jumbo muffins. You can make approximately 18-24 jumbo muffins from this recipe. The only difference will be in the baking time. Bake the jumbo muffins for approximately 25-30 minutes.

Other than that this recipe is pretty standard in terms of how it is structured. As always you need to use less leavening for high altitude (cut the baking powder by 1/2 Tbs.) but other than that you mix the ingredients, fill the muffin cups three quarters full and bake.

Since I had so many of these I brought some to hour community happy hour that we have each week. People raved about them. One person told me she only took one home with her and in retrospect she wished she had taken many more. I guarantee this will be a hit when you serve it. Or better yet, just keep them to yourself as a guilty pleasure. Enjoy!

Blueberry Muffins...

  • Servings: 36-40 muffins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Muffins:

4 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbs. baking powder (1 1/2 Tbs. for high altitude)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

4 eggs

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

3/4 cups milk

2 cups sour cream

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and drained

Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 – 8 oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups confectioners sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. Put paper liners into the muffin tins.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk until combined. Set aside.

Put butter, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, lemon zest, lemon juice, milk and sour cream into a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until blended. (You can use a hand mixer for this).

Add the dry ingredients and mix by hand until combined. Fold in the nuts and blueberries. Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 full. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Let muffins cool on a rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Gradually add the sugar beating until smooth.

 

 

 

Easy Chocolate Ganache…

My husband has an incurable sweet tooth. The other day he informed me we had nothing sweet in the house to eat and I was not in the mood to whip up something from scratch. I looked in the pantry and found a box of Duncan Hines decadent chocolate cake mix and told him I would make that. Unfortunately I opened my mouth before carefully reading the outside of the box. Staring me right in the face in clear letters on the front of the box were the words “frosting not included”. Now what… Luckily I thought I might have the ingredients for making chocolate ganache (which I did) so I thought ok, now’s the time to tackle your fears and make it. I had not other choice.

I’m not quite sure why I was afraid to make ganache but I always thought it was difficult and tricky. To my surprise it was unbelievably easy. So I thought I would dedicate this blog to a very simple way of making ganache that turns out silky, luscious and ever so decadent looking, not to mention absolutely incredibly delicious.

So let’s talk making chocolate ganache…

Lesson Learned 1 – There are many ways to make ganache: I am going to share with you the simplest way. The ratio is easy to remember 1:1. Use as many ounces of heavy cream as semi-sweet chocolate. It couldn’t be easier.

Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the chocolate squares into very small pieces: I used a 4 ounce box of Bakers semi-sweet chocolate. With my chef’s knife I cut off pieces and chopped them into small bits. If you decide to go the chip route, I would use the mini semi-sweet chips. You need the hot cream to melt the chocolate and if the pieces are too big that won’t happen.

Chocolate Covered In Hot Heavy Cream

Lesson Learned 2 – You can warm your heavy cream in the microwave: In order to get the desired consistency of the ganache, the cream has to melt the chocolate. So you have to get the cream hot enough to do that but you don’t want to scald the cream. That won’t work either.

Many recipes that I looked at recommended warming the cream on the stove. You can certainly do that especially since it gives you slightly more control in determining when the cream is hot enough. And you can certainly do that with this recipe, although I didn’t. I heated my cream (4 ounces) in the microwave for 45 seconds. After that time I found it still wasn’t hot enough. I heated it for an additional 15 seconds and it was bubbling. I was worried that I’d scalded the cream but I think what happened was the cream had just started to bubble, so I was still ok. The next time I think I’ll just nuke it for 50 seconds straight and go from there.

If you use a larger 1:1 ratio you will need to nuke the cream for a longer period of time. With this you’ll simply have to keep checking it. With 4 ounces I recommend 50 seconds. For larger amounts I would start checking at 1 minute and go from there.

Lesson Learned 3 – Let the chocolate and heavy cream sit for at least 3 minutes: Once you add the hot heavy cream you may be tempted to start whisking the mixture right away. Don’t. The cream has to melt the chocolate in order for you to get the desired consistency of the ganache. Be patient and let the cream do it’s work. I guarantee you it’s worth it.

This recipe makes enough to generously frost one bundt cake, one 9 x 13 sheet cake or one 9 inch round layer cake. So next time you need some frosting try this instead of buying the canned stuff. It looks impressive and it tastes divine!

Easy Chocolate Ganache...

  • Servings: 1 Bundt Cake
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate squares cut into small pieces

4 ounces heavy cream, heated

DIRECTIONS

Chop up the chocolate into very small pieces. Heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe dish for approximately 50 seconds. Test with your finger to make sure it is sufficiently hot to melt the chocolate. If not, microwave at additional 5 second intervals until cream is hot but not scalded.

Pour cream over chocolate pieces. Let the hot mixture sit for at least 3 minutes. Whisk mixture until cream is incorporated and the chocolate is dark and smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the top of your bundt cake. Let ganache set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake…

What can I say about this one. It is simply over the top. Not only does it taste divine but it’s gorgeous. What more can you ask for from a cake? Now I’ll admit this cake takes a little more work than most but the result is breathtaking. This is possibly the most professional looking cake I’ve ever made. And we know looks are important but bottom line it has to taste good. Well let me tell you in the taste department I would consider this to be divine. I mean what’s not to love – chocolate, flavorful cream cheese, cherry pie filling, vanilla glaze – it just doesn’t get much better than that.

So let’s talk chocolate cherry cream cheese cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be organized when you make this cake: Really you should be organized when you make any cake but this one has so many components to it that your experience making it will be so much more delightful if you plan this out before you make it. Think about this one in stages.

  1. Get everything out in plenty of time that needs to be room temperature. In this recipe that means the eggs and sour cream. No need to worry about the butter because you melt that.
  2. Get the oven preheating. I believe it is better for your oven not only to be preheated but to be at the desired temperature for at least 5-10 minutes so that once you pop the cake pan in you can count on the oven truly being the correct temperature all throughout.
  3. Put together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, kosher salt and baking soda) and set them aside.
  4. Measure out all of the remaining ingredients. I use little bowls to organize what needs to be measured. That way when you come to a certain juncture in the process you are all ready to go. This includes opening up the can of cherry pie filling and measuring out the amount needed. As you do that, try to opt for more cherries than filling as some fillings tend to be more juice and less cherries.
  5. Count out, drain and rinse your maraschino cherries. For my pan I needed 16 cherries, so a small jar of cherries will work just fine.
  6. Assemble the chocolate mixture.
  7. Make the batter by combining the chocolate mixture with the dry ingredients. Now you’re ready to go.
  8. Wait to spray your bundt pan until the very end. For this recipe I recommend using a baking spray with flour. Coat the bundt pan liberally. You want it to be glistening all over before you begin assembling the cake.

Because there are so many components to this recipe I guarantee you will be a lot happier and have more fun making this cake if you organize yourself.

Lesson Learned 2 – Making the glaze: Making glaze for any type of cake or pastry couldn’t be easier. All it requires is some confectioners sugar, some liquid and perhaps some sort of additional flavoring. You can use water, milk, or heavy cream for your liquid and you can use a little extract, juice or zest to enhance the flavor of the glaze. More often than not I use milk as the liquid and in this particular recipe I used a little vanilla extract to enhance the flavor.

Keep in mind you need very little liquid to create a glaze. Normally it works out to about 1 cup of confectioners sugar to about a tablespoon or so of liquid and then, if using a liquid extract, only about 1/8 teaspoon of that. But don’t get bogged down in the measurements. If your glaze is too thick just add a little more liquid to thin it out. If it becomes too runny, add a little more confectioners sugar. Glaze is very forgiving and can be made to the correct consistency with some easy minor adjustments.

One caveat – don’t use the additional flavoring to thin out a glaze. The flavor can become overpowering if you do that. And lastly, I don’t always have heavy cream around the house, but when I do I use it as my liquid. That is when you get the richest flavor. I just can’t convince myself to buy a pint of heavy cream for the needed tablespoon I will use in a glaze. But it’s all up to you.

This cake is so good and so worth the effort. Try it – I just know you will like it!

Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup water

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 Tbs. espresso powder

3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

16 maraschino cherries, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup cherry pie filling

CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

2 – 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. flour

1 egg, room temperature

GLAZE:

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 – 2 Tbs. water, milk or heavy cream

1/8 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cream cheese filling by beating together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add the flour and egg and beat until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

In a saucepan melt the 3/4 cup butter. Add the water and stir to blend. Add the cocoa and espresso powder and whisk until there are not lumps. Add the chips and stir until they are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Add the chocolate mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until combined. Blend in the sour cream. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Spray a 10-12 cup bundt pan thoroughly with baking spray with flour. Melt the 1 1/2 tsp of butter and pour it evenly into the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the melted butter. Place two cherries on top of the brown sugar in each of the larger grooves of the bundt pan.

Fill the bundt pan with half the chocolate batter. Spoon in the cream cheese filling on top making sure not to have the filling touch the sides. Spoon the cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese, making sure the filling does not touch the sides of the pan. (You may have some leftover cream cheese and cherry pie filling). Pour the remaining batter evenly on top making sure to cover the cream cheese and the cherry pie filling completely.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Put a plate over the bottom of the pan and flip the cake out of the pan onto the plate and let cool completely.

Mix together all of the ingredients for the glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

Pour the melted butter evenly over the bottom

Put the brown sugar on top of the butter

Place the cherries in the larger grooves

Layer the ingredients

The cake right out of the oven

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Marble Pound Cake…

I love this recipe not only because it produces a moist, flavorful cake but also because it’s a ton of fun to make.  And the finished product looks as good as it tastes.

I like experimenting with different cakes and when I read about the process for this one I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve made swirl cakes before where you basically have one little cinnamon swirl going through the cake but this way of making a swirl cake is much more dramatic. You create the dramatic swirls by dividing the batter and making one half chocolate and keeping the other half as is. Then you spoon in the batter alternating the colors and use a knife or another similar object and swirl them together. It was great fun (I know I need to get a life…). And the result, as you can see from the many pictures in this blog is a more dramatic density of swirls. It is a fun cake to make and eat.

So let’s talk marble pound cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The easy way to grease and flour a bundt cake pan: If you’re like me you love the way a bundt cake looks but you dread greasing and flouring the pan. Well I’ve found a way to make that process somewhat easier. First there’s no getting around it you need to grease the pan and pay attention to getting the grease into the many crevices. I usually use shortening to do that. I think I actually use less grease with shortening than I do with butter.

Then comes the flouring part and that was always a challenge because you need to get the flour up as high as you can and with the wide opening of the pan you can get flour all over the place if you’re not careful. Well, no more. All you need do is take some good cling wrap (and I mean the stuff that really clings – we buy ours at Costco and it is restaurant quality grade). Cover the top of the pan as shown in the picture below.

Once you do this you can turn the pan completely upside down and shake it all around and spread the flour easily throughout the entire pan. See for yourself…

After that you simply turn the pan upside down on the counter and tap the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon all the way around. I would do that a couple of times. Then remove the cling wrap from the sides of the pan, lift the pan up and you’ll be left with all the excess flour all on the cling wrap as seen in the picture below…

Then all you need to do is fold up the edges of the cling wrap and toss it with the flour inside. Believe me, this little trick saves a lot of time and mess. You’ll love it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Add the eggs individually and beat each of them for a long time: There is no leavening in this recipe (baking powder, soda). Leavening is traditionally used to make a cake rise in the oven. The only leavening agent in this recipe is the eggs.

Think of an egg as basically having three qualities – fat, foam and fat & foam. The fat is the yolk which primarily serves as a binder. It helps to make batters smooth and moist. The foam is the whites. Beat them into submission on their own and you get light stiff peaks that can be used for airiness in a recipe or to make a meringue.

The particular recipe relies on the fat and the foam. When mixed with sugar (like in a cake or cookie batter), eggs help trap and hold air — not quite as well as whipped egg whites, but enough to give the finished product some lightness and lift. And that’s what you are needing in this recipe. That is why it is important to make sure each egg is blended thoroughly. Do not add all the eggs in at the same time. It never mixes as well as you think and could affect the cakes ability to rise.

Also don’t crack the eggs directly into the batter. Since you are using so many eggs you don’t want to get to the fifth or sixth one and then find out you have a bad one as it drops in. Your batter will be ruined. In order to prevent this, crack each egg into a small dish before you add it to the batter. That way you can make sure you’re not adding a bad egg. I’ve only had this happen to me a couple of times, and it’s not fun. Believe me you don’t want to put yourself into a position of having to toss out all of those ingredients and start all over because you had one bad egg.

Lesson Learned 3 – Alternating the batters in the pan: I think I had the most fun with this part of the process. Once you create the two batters you alternate them by large spoonfuls in the pan.

After that you swirl the batters together being careful not to touch the edges or the bottom of the pan. I used a skewer that I used to grill vegetables. It was long enough and thin enough to give me control and to create some great swirls. Judge for yourself…

You add another layer of alternating batters, swirl again and you’re ready to pop the cake into the oven.

Lesson Learned 4 – Use instant espresso powder to enhance the flavor of the chocolate: In any recipe that includes chocolate I’d recommend adding at least a quarter teaspoon of espresso powder. It brings out the chocolate flavor so much more. Try making a chocolate recipe without it and then make the same recipe with it. You’ll be amazed at how much it enhances the flavor of the chocolate.

What I really like about this cake is it looks as good as it tastes. And I found it fun to make. I loved making the swirls! So try this one and tell me what you think. I just know you’ll love it.

Marble Pound Cake...

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups sugar

6 large eggs, room temperature

3 cups flour

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. espresso powder

1/3 cup hot water

powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar for approximately 5 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time and combine each thoroughly. Add the vanilla and combine.

Mix together the flour and the salt. Add the flour a few large spoonfuls to the batter at a time until combined.

Whisk together the cocoa, espresso powder and hot water. Take half of the cake batter and stir it into the cocoa mixture.

Drop dollops of batter into the bundt pan alternating the chocolate and vanilla batters. Swirl the batters together being careful not to scrape the bottom or sides of the pan. Repeat the same process. (You should get two layers of alternating batter).

Bake for 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 30 minutes before inverting the cake onto a serving plate. Dust the top with powdered sugar.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Sour Cream Coffee Cake…

I belong to a book club in our condo community and at the last meeting I came across this recipe. The hostess served this cake but I didn’t eat any of it. As I was leaving she asked if I would like to bring a piece to my husband. I said sure. Well my husband raved over it so much I had to get the recipe and make it myself. OMG this has to be one of the lightest, moistest and most delicious coffee cakes you’ll ever make. I actually think this recipe is foolproof as I didn’t even need to adjust it to high altitude.

I think the cake gets its moistness from the 2 cups of sour cream you add to the batter. Regardless it is one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever made. So let’s talk sour cream coffee cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – You need a specific cake pan for this recipe: When I got a copy of this recipe it called for it to be made in a 10 cup flute pan (angel food cake pan). I did not have that but I had a 10 cup bundt pan so I used that. It worked just fine. The only difference is if you want your cinnamon and nut mixture to be on the top of your cake use a flute pan. If you use a bundt pan it will be on the bottom of your cake – I’m not sure that really matters one way or the other. It still tastes great!

If you use a flute pan you only need to grease the sides and the bottom of the pan due to its flat surfaces. If you use a bundt pan I would recommend both greasing and flouring the pan. That way the cake will release easily from all of the crevices in a bundt pan.

Lesson Learned 2 – Be systematic in how you prepare this cake: I’ve found whether in cooking or baking your results are much better if you systematically approach the recipe and organize yourself. Here’s what I recommend (and this applies to almost all baking):

  • Take your eggs and butter out of the refrigerator at least a couple of hours before you begin making the cake to get them to room temperature
  • Make sure you dust your cake pan and your mixing bowl(s) with a cloth before your begin anything – they are not immune to attracting dust and you certainly don’t want dust on your cake or in your batter
  • Take the time to thoroughly grease and flour your pan – if using a bundt pan make sure to get the flour in all the crevices but also make sure you remove as much excess flour as possible – I normally do that by holding the pan over the garbage can and banging it all over with a wooden spoon to remove the excess
  • Preheat your oven first thing – it’s always better to have your oven sit at the desired temperature for a while versus putting the cake in just as it reaches the correct temperature
  • Put together the dry ingredients and either sift them together or combine them with a whisk
  • Put together the ingredients for the topping and set them aside
  • Don’t be afraid to take some time to combine the butter and sugar (4 – 5 minutes) – the fluffier that mixture the better your cake batter will be
  • Make sure you mix your eggs in one by one – they will not combine thoroughly if you put them all in at the same time; the same applies to your dry ingredients – don’t add them all at once but in stages – this will ensure everything is thoroughly combined

Lesson Learned 3 – This cake freezes beautifully: This recipe produces a large cake that really only stays fresh for a couple of days. If you’re not making it for a party or to bring to work I suggest you take what you don’t think you’ll eat in a couple of days and freeze it. I wrapped mine in 2-slice portions. Make sure you wrap the pieces tightly in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag(s). Let as much air out of the freezer bag as you possibly can. By doing this you’ll have fresh moist cake for a month!

I’m not kidding when I say I think this cake is foolproof. It is one of the few recipes that I did not have to adjust for high altitude. My husband loves this cake and I know you will too!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups of sugar, divided

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups sour cream

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, cinnamon and 3/4 cups sugar. Set aside.

Grease a 10 cup tube pan or grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan. Set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and soda) and set aside.

Using a stand mixture, mix together the butter and 1 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add the dry ingredients in portions and beat until well combined.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture on top of the batter. Add the remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan. Cool the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake Pt 2…

This time of year with all of the Fall/Winter holidays approaching just screams to me cranberry and orange. As a matter of fact I love that flavor combination so much this is the second variety of cranberry orange coffee cake that I’ve posted on this site. To see the original post just click on “recipe”.

There are slight variations to the two of them and both are equally delicious. One you make in a spring form pan with the traditional leavening agents of baking powder and soda and that produces a taller, airier cake. This particular recipe does not use any type of leavening. Rather the eggs and sugars are beaten for an extensive period of time to create a mixture that doubles in size and provides the needed lift for the cake. This particular cake is denser and moister.

Both cakes are equally good, although my husband liked this particular recipe better. Whenever he monitors how much of a finished product I bring to work and how much I leave at home, I know the recipe is a hit. This time he made me bring much less of the cake to work than usual.

So let’s talk Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake Pt. 2…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be organized when you bake: I found the experience of baking much more pleasurable if I do it in an organized fashion. By that I first get out any ingredients that need to be room temperature in plenty of time for them to reach that desired state. Then I read the entire recipe to see what I’m up against. I preheat the oven and prep any pans that require prep. After that I figure out how to organize the assembly process (as in this recipe I recommend making the crumb topping first as you will read below). Then I get all my ingredients out and ready. That usually means getting the dry ingredients together and combined and then moving on to the wet ingredients. After that, everything seems to fall into place.

What you are trying to avoid is stopping to find things and taking time to mix things while other mixtures sit and wait for a long period of time. Think about how making the recipe can flow and organize yourself to make the process go that way.

Lesson Learned 2 – The importance of beating the eggs and sugar for a long time: As mentioned above this recipe does not use traditional leavening agents like baking powder or soda so you need something to provide the lift to the batter. That lift is produced by beating eggs and sugar into submission. By submission I mean you need to beat them for at least 5-7 minutes. That’s why I recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe so you’re not left with holding a hand mixer for that length of time.

I would also time the process and not leave it up to your memory. You will actually see the mixture double in size and become more thick when you beat it for that length of time. That’s what you’re looking for. Be careful. Don’t try to shortcut this part of the process. If you do you will be left with a somewhat flat coffee cake.

Lesson Learned 3 – This cake may need to bake for much longer than the recipe suggests: I was originally thinking this would take between 45-50 minutes. It actually took me 65 minutes, but then again I live in high altitude where everything takes longer to make. The key with this cake, as with all cakes, is having a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. If you have some redness from the cranberries on your toothpick that’s ok. But it should be clean of everything else.

Lesson Learned 4 – Make the crumb topping first: I found the entire process of making this cake went much more smoothly if you made the crumb topping first. Other than beating the eggs, this is the most labor intensive part of the recipe. If you make the topping first than everything else seems to go like clockwork.

As with making any type of crumb topping, use very cold butter and a pastry cutter to cut the butter into flour and sugar. The desired result is coarse crumbs as seen in the picture below.

The Desired Consistency Of The Crumb Topping

Lesson Learned 5 – The importance of room temperature eggs: In my baking recipes you will see that I always call for room temperature eggs. Why? The answer is simple. Room temperature eggs blend much more thoroughly into the batter. And that is the ideal. Quite often I hear the reason one doesn’t use room temperature eggs is they don’t have the time to get them to room temperature. Never fear, I have a quick and easy trick for you so you will always have room temperature eggs when you need them. Just click on “tips”.

Otherwise every other step of the process is what you normally expect when you make a cake. This cake, although delicious anytime, is a great recipe for the Holidays. And I guarantee you it won’t be around your kitchen for very long. Enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Cake Pt. 2...

  • Servings: 20-24
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

CRUMB TOPPING:

3/4 cup flour

6 Tbs. brown sugar, packed

6 Tbs. butter, unsalted and chilled

CAKE

3 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1- 12oz. pkg. of fresh cranberries

Zest of 1 large orange, divided into 3/4 and 1/4 portions

GLAZE:

1 cup powdered sugar

Juice from 1 orange (approx. 4 Tbs)

1/4 of the orange zest already grated for the cake

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine all the topping ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture forms into coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugars for about 5-7 minutes until thick and doubled in size. Add the butter and vanilla and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in the cranberries and the 3/4 portion of the orange zest.

Put the batter into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Spread the crumb topping on top of the batter.

Bake 45 – 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool completely.

Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cake.

 

Glazed Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies…

Lately I seem to be on a “sweets” kick with my posted recipes and even though I do have some savory ones in the queue I moved this one to the top simply because it it just too good. Many of you know that I bake a variety of cookies at Christmas time so normally during the year I don’t venture a lot into cookie making. But I had to try this one and it was so good that my husband would not even let me give any away. I had to freeze them so he could eat them all.

When I make cookies over the holidays I have an unwritten rule that I try one new recipe every year and phase out one recipe. That way I always experiment and I keep the cookie making manageable. I am definitely adding this recipe to the 2017 list but will still have to find another recipe to be the “new” one since technically this one is no longer new. But I am really excited about the recipe.

The thing that I love the most about this cookie is how the tartness of the blueberries balances out the sweetness of the cookie. I also like how simple this recipe is to make, you can do it with a hand mixer and a wooden spoon. But there are some specific things you need to be aware of when you make them that will help you be successful so let’s get right into my lessons learned…

Lesson Learned 1 – Be gentle when mixing the blueberries into the dough: You don’t want the blueberries to break. If they do you will wind up with blue cookies. So be careful when folding them into the dough. Do that at the very end. I also suggest adding the blueberries in a couple of batches. The dough is pretty dense and if you pour the blueberries in all at once chances are you won’t get them incorporated into all of the dough and wind up with some cookies without blueberries. Fold them in carefully and in a couple of batches and you should be just fine.

The Cookie Dough

Lesson Learned 2 – These cookies really spread: Don’t roll the dough in too big of a ball as these cookies really spread. And make sure you have enough room between each one so they don’t bake on top of one another. I would roll them into about a 1 inch ball and put two inches between each ball on the baking sheet.

Give the cookies room to spread

Lesson Learned 3 – Remember blueberries stain: Blueberries are wonderful but they will stain and when they do it is virtually impossible to get rid of the stain. So here are a couple of tips to prevent any staining. First line your baking sheet with parchment paper. That helps in two ways. These cookies are very gooey and will stick to your baking sheet. Not a problem with parchment paper. Also when blueberries bake they pop and the parchment paper prevents them from staining your baking sheet.

Also be careful when you are cooling the cookies and the blueberries may still be “leaking”. I cooled mine on a wire rack and then transferred them to a paper plate. That way I didn’t have to worry about staining any dishes as well.

Lesson Learned 4 – These cookies take a long time to bake: On average these cookies take about 14 minutes to bake depending upon how big you make them. In my first batch I rolled the dough into somewhat larger balls and that batch took about 20 minutes to bake (keep in mind I also live in high altitude and everything takes longer to cook here). Once I got the size of the balls down pat it took anywhere from 14-16 minutes, which is a lot for a cookie. You know the cookie is done when you see it begin to lightly brown around the edges. The center of the cookie may still look pale, but that’s ok. Don’t over bake this cookie. If you do you the cookies will be way too crunchy.

Lesson Learned 5 – Let the cookies somewhat cool on the baking sheet: These cookies will be very loose when you take them out of the oven. If you immediately try to put them on a cooling rack the cookies will break apart. Give them about 4-5 minutes to cool on the baking sheet before you put them on the cooling rack. The cookies will need to set a little before you can move them. Don’t worry about doing this. Since your baking sheet will be lined with parchment paper the cookies won’t stick and will transfer easily to the cooling rack once they’ve had a chance to set.

I can’t say enough about how delicious these cookies are. I know if you make them they will become a household staple. You’ve got to try these cookies. And as always, please let me know how they turned out for you. Enjoy!

Glazed Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies...

  • Servings: 2 Dozen
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup blueberries

GLAZE:

1 cup powdered sugar

juice of one small lemon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Beat thoroughly until very creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.

With a wooden spoon add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Add the oats and stir to combine. Last fold in the blueberries in a couple of batches being careful not to break the blueberries.

Roll the dough into one inch balls and place on the baking sheet, leaving approximately two inches between each ball.

Bake for 14 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown (the center of the cookie may still look light and that is ok). Remove the cookies from the oven and let them set on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack to finish the cooling process.

Combine the ingredients for the glaze. You may find you need a little more powdered sugar depending on how thick you want the glaze. If the glaze is too thick add a little more lemon juice until you get the desired consistency. Drizzle the glaze over completely cooled cookies and let the glaze harden. Store cookies in an air tight container or freeze them.

Glazed Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake…

One of the great things I love about the holidays is all the recipes you can make with cranberries. And when you pair them with orange juice, zest or both, well you have what I call a killer combo! But thanks to the frozen food isle, cranberries are not just for Christmas anymore. You can make great cranberry recipes all year long. And this is definitely one of them.

This recipe is a little time consuming as you basically have three separate components to prepare in order to assemble the coffee cake. But believe me, it’s worth it. Normally I give most of my baking to neighbors or co-workers, but this time my husband ate the bulk of it. He absolutely loved it, and so will you.

So let’s talk cranberry orange coffee cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – Prepare all three components first and then assemble the cake: I found this the easiest way to make this coffee cake and once all three components, the cake, the filling and the topping are made, assembling the cake is a breeze. I made the cake part first, then the topping and finished by making the cream cheese filling. I chose that order because both the cake and the topping take a little bit more time to assemble but the cream cheese filling can be made in a snap.

The cake mixture

The topping mixture

The cream cheese filling

Lesson Learned 2 – Cube the butter first and put it back into the refrigerator: The topping needs really cold butter to create the crumble and even if you start out cubing it when it’s cold it will start to warm up. I found that if you cube the butter and then put it back into the refrigerator until you need it you will have nice cold butter when it comes time to make the topping.

Lesson Learned 3 – Be patient when making the topping mixture: This is a traditional crumble topping mixture that requires you to cut cold butter into flour and sugar. I have a pastry cutter and I’m always struggling, at least initially, with the butter sticking to the pastry cutter. I find myself constantly scraping the butter off of the cutter. But don’t worry, as the butter starts to become more incorporated with the flour you will not have to do that anymore. It just takes a little time, so be patient and scrape the butter when necessary.

Lesson Learned 4 – All ovens are not created equal: I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating. For me living in a high altitude environment I find things always take longer to bake. That might not be the case for you. So normally I post sea-level cooking times, but keep in mind that this is just a gauge. Start looking at your cake at 70 – 75 minutes. The important thing is to make sure the cream cheese filling has set. If it is too jiggly the cake is not done. If you touch the center and it feels firm but slightly jiggly, you are good to go. (Do you love how technical this is?!)

Right Out Of The Oven

I think you will find this coffee cake is more than worth the work involved. And don’t let me scare you away from this, the work really isn’t that much or that complicated. Try it and let me know what you think…

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake...

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

Coffee Cake:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 egg, room temperature

1 Tbs. orange zest

3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Cream Cheese Filling:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

Topping:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cubed

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl whisk together the flour sugar baking powder and soda. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the egg, orange zest, orange juice, melted butter and vanilla until blended. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Fold in the cranberries and set aside.

For the topping mix the flour and sugar in a small bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives cut the butter into this mixture until the mixture looks crumbly. Set aside.

For the cream cheese layer, beat the cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on a low speed until just blended.

Transfer the coffee cake mixture into a greased or sprayed 9 inch springform pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the toping mixture all over the top.

Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 70-75 minutes (in high altitude it can take up to 15 minutes more) or until the top is golden brown and the cream cheese mixture set.

Cool in the springform pan for 15 minutes before removing the coffee cake. Refrigerate any leftovers.

The Moistest Banana Cake You’ll Ever Make …

There’s nothing like a cake that is so moist it melts in your mouth. But baking a cake from scratch and getting it that moist can be a challenge, especially living in high altitude like I do. Well, fear no more. I stumbled upon a baking method that produced one of the moistest cakes I’ve ever made.

Now I have a couple of different recipes for banana bread on this site, but this one hands down is the most moist and flavorful. The difference between this recipe and the others is how you bake the cake. In this recipe you preheat the oven to 350 and once you put the cake in the oven you turn the temperature down to 300 for the remainder of the baking process. I never tried a process like this before and the result was my husband saying this was the moistest cake I ever made.

So let’s talk about the moistest banana cake you’ll ever make…

ripe bananasLesson Learned 1: Make sure your bananas are really ripe: and by really ripe I mean the peels are really dark, dark brown as in the picture to the right. You don’t want a lot of yellow on your banana skins and you definitely don’t want any green. Most of the time the bananas you buy in the store are under ripe, mainly green and yellow. Those bananas have not reached their full peak of flavor. The skins need to look pretty dark. As the banana ripens it releases more sugar and becomes more flavorful. And as they ripen the skins turn darker. If you want the best tasting cake you need to use bananas with dark skins.

Now if you want to make this cake today but only have yellow and green bananas, there’s a way to ripen them on the spot. Just click on this link for my banana bread recipe and you’ll find a neat little trick that gives you ripe bananas anytime you want them.

Lesson Learned 2 – Beat the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla until velvety: The picture below shows the correct consistency for this standard blend of ingredients for many recipes. The more velvety these ingredients, the better the rest of the ingredients will combine with it. Most people err on doing this process way too fast. I say beat the living daylights out if it. You’ll be pleased with the end result if you do.

Creamed butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla

Lesson Learned 3 – With this recipe baking time will vary: The recipe that I based this on stated that it took 60 minutes for the cake to bake. It took my cake an hour and a half. Now I know a lot of that had to do with me living in high altitude, but this is definitely a cake you will need to keep your eye on. Not only is the atmosphere a factor in the cooking time, but also all ovens vary and your oven may take a shorter amount of time to bake this cake than mine. I started checking mine at 55 minutes and could tell right away it needed a much longer cooking time. In the end, the most sure fire way to determine if it is done is to insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. The picture below shows what the cake looks like when it is done.

completely cooked cake

Lesson Learned 4 – This recipe makes more than enough frosting: Next time I make it I’m planning on cutting the frosting amount to 75% of what I will list here. With what I list I was able to put a thick amount of frosting on the cake (as seen below) and I still had some left over. Some people don’t like a lot of frost on their cake, and you certainly don’t want to minimize the flavor of the cake by overpowering it with frosting. You need to make the frosting based on how you like a cake frosted. So use your judgement on this one.

frosted cake

I was really pleased with how this cake turned out. I shared some with my co-workers and also with my neighbors and the consensus was this recipe is a winner. So try it and let me know what you think. You betcha can make this!

The Moistest Banana Cake You'll Ever Make...

  • Servings: 20-24 Squares
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3-4 bananas)

2 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, divided

1 1/2 cups whole milk

3 cups flour

1/2 Tbs. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

FROSTING:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

zest from 1 lemon

1 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour or use cooking spray and prepare a 9 x 13 pan.

Take 1 1/2 Tbs. of lemon juice and combine with the milk. Set aside.

Mash the bananas and mix with 1 Tbs. lemon juice. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk for a minute to combine. Set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in one egg at a time. Beat in the vanilla, until the entire mixture is smooth and velvety. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over mix but make sure everything is fully incorporated. Gently fold in the bananas. Pour mixture into the prepared 9 x 13 pan.

Put in oven and reduce the temperature to 300. Bake at least 55 minutes. (Do not open the oven for any reason during the first 55 minutes). At that point check the cake for doneness. If a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it is done. If not, continue baking. The baking process could take as much as 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely before frosting. To make the frosting place all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl and beat until creamy.

Banana Cake

Moist Banana Cake

Moist Banana Cake

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake…

There’s a lot going on in my life right now so over the next few months I may not be able to meet my weekly goal of publishing a new recipe. I will try to publish as often as I can but rest assured I will get back to my weekly postings asap. I do have some time to post today and so I chose a recipe that my husband went bonkers over. When your husband turns to you and says, “Hon, this cake is really, REALLY good” you know you hit the jackpot!

I never tried making a coffee cake before so I was a little leery. But judging by the results I will certainly be making one again soon. There were a few tricks in getting this right and I’ll share them in my lessons learned. So let’s talk apple cinnamon coffee cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The hardest part of the recipe is spreading the batter in the pan: The first layer of batter you spread over the bottom of a springform pan lined with parchment paper. It was an interesting trick trying to keep the parchment paper in place while spreading the batter. What I wound up doing was dolloping the batter in various spots over the parchment paper and spreading it with my right hand while holding the parchment paper down near one of the edges of the pan with my left index finger. After a while I got the hang of it but just be warned it may be an interesting journey starting out.

Then the next hardest part is spreading the second layer of batter over the apples and crumble. My advice is to make sure you dollop batter all around the pan versus putting all the batter in the center and then trying to spread it out. Remember on the second layer you will get part of the crumble mixed in with the batter. Don’t worry about that. You can’t avoid it.

Lesson Learned 2 – A little bit of batter goes a long way: This recipe does not have a lot of batter. When you spread the batter on the bottom it creates a very thin layer. But the combination of the batter, apples and crumble creates a substantive cake. Just be forewarned that the layer of batter on the bottom will be thin so don’t worry about that.

Slice the apples in small chunksLesson Learned 2 – Cut your apples into small pieces: You want to make sure that the apples cook and so you need to slice them in small pieces. I normally do this part of the recipe first. Then in order to prevent the apples from oxidizing while I get everything else ready, I squeeze just a little bit of fresh lemon juice over them and make sure all the apples are lightly coated with the juice. By doing this the apples will retain their color until you are ready to add them into the cake.

Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paperLesson Learned 4: Make sure you prepare the pan so the cake can be easily removed once it has cooled: You need to do a couple of things to prepare the springform pan. First you need to grease the sides and the bottom. Second you need to cover the bottom with parchment paper. I start out by opening the latch on the pan and removing the bottom. I normally take a piece of parchment paper, put it over the bottom part and trace the outline of it onto the paper. Then I just cut out the what I outlined. I do that first before greasing the pan. Then I reassemble the pan, grease the bottom and sides and then put the parchment paper in place to cover the bottom.

Lesson Learned 5 – The layering of the cake is a process: Let me show you that process in the pictures below…

The first layer with the batter and diced apples

The first layer with the batter and diced apples

The first layer completed with batter, apples and crumble

The first layer completed with batter, apples and crumble

The second layer of batter on top of the crumble

The second layer of batter on top of the crumble

Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven

The finished coffee cake

The finished coffee cake

Assembling this may be a little tricky but I guarantee you the end result is worth it. Try it and tell me what you think…

APPLE CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

Crumble:

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 small granny smith apples, peeled and diced small

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup sliced almonds for the very top (not added to the crumble mixture)

The Batter:

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 extra large egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

The Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1-2 Tbs. heavy cream (use the smaller amount for a thicker glaze)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside. Peel and dice the apples. Pour the lemon juice over the diced apples and stir until all the pieces of apple are coated. Set aside.

For the crumble, whisk together all of the dry ingredients except the sliced almonds. Add the melted butter and vanilla and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the batter, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat the mixture until well combined. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix.

Dollop half the batter around the bottom of the springform pan and spread to evenly distribute. Distribute the apple chunks evenly over the batter and sprinkle about 1 cup of the crumble on top of the apples. Spread the remaining half of the batter over the top of the crumble (it will be easier if you dollop the batter around the pan before spreading). Spread the remaining crumble over the batter. Distribute the sliced almonds evenly over the crumble.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake before unlocking the springform pan.

Let the cake cool completely before adding the glaze. To make the glaze combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze all over the cake. Slice and enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake…

Sometimes when you’re grumpy the only thing that will bring you out of it is chocolate. Such was the case with me this week. For some reason I’ve had a major grump on lately and so finally I decided to do something about it – hence this recipe.

I’m a big fan of chocolate cake but I’m not a big fan of overly sweet chocolate cake. I find the cake mixes you buy in the grocery stores are borderline sickeningly sweet so I prefer to make homemade. This cake is full of chocolate flavor and not overly sweet. The flavor and texture remind me of a flourless chocolate cake. This cake is so good that once my husband and I took a bite of it we both agreed I needed to bring it to work otherwise we knew we would devour the whole thing in short measure all by ourselves. Better to let my co-workers devour it. And devour it they did.

So let’s talk chocolate sour cream cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – I found a neat trick for flouring a bundt pan: I don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled with flouring a bundt pan once I’ve greased it. And especially with bundt pans, you need to make sure that the grease and flour hug every curve of the pan otherwise you’ll never get your cake out. I used to put flour in the pan and then stand over the garbage can and rotate it while tapping the sides. I knew I had to get the flour all the way to the top of the pan and I didn’t want to get flour all over the floor.

Then I read somewhere  an easier way to flour a bundt pan. Once you grease the pan and add some flour to it, cover the pan with plastic wrap. Then you can tap away to your heart’s content, get all of the sides floured and not worry about making a big mess. It was so much easier flouring the pan this way.

Lesson Learned 2 – The chocolate mixture will be thin and runny: This recipe calls for cooking the butter, cocoa powder and salt with some water. This combination makes a very runny mixture as evidenced in the picture below. Don’t worry about that. I found that providing the chocolate component to the recipe this way resulted in a somewhat thinner batter but an extremely moist cake. People were gushing as to how moist this cake is.

IMG_0165

Lesson Learned 3 – This cake does not rise a lot so use a smaller bundt pan if you want a taller cake: I used a 12 cup bundt pan and the cake was a nice size but not as tall as some bundt cakes I’ve made in the past. The only leavening you use in this recipe is 1 teaspoon of baking soda so the cake does not rise very high. The cake was still super moist and I preferred this portion size, but if you’re a fan of a taller bundt cake you can use a 10 cup pan to achieve that effect.

IMG_0284

Lesson Learned 4 – The frosting in this recipe is to die for: I approached the frosting differently and was genuinely pleased in both the flavor and consistency. The frosting in not overly sweet and has a nice thick texture to it. This frosting does not contain any confectioners sugar. It is a combination of chocolate, corn syrup (I used an organic light corn syrup with organic vanilla flavor), heavy cream and a touch of sugar. It was fabulous!

IMG_0210

I think this will become my go-to chocolate cake recipe. My husband loved it and my co-workers devoured it. I hope it becomes your go-to chocolate cake recipe as well!

CHOCOLATE SOUR CREAM CAKE…

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

CAKE INGREDIENTS Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, plus butter to grease the pan

1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup water

2 cups flour, plus some for the pan

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

FROSTING INGREDIENTS

2 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 Tbs. corn syrup (I used organic light corn syrup with organic vanilla flavor)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 Tbs. sugar

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels, for decoration (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 or 12 cup bundt cake pan and set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt and water and melt over medium heat. Continuously stir the mixture until everything is melted and combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Add half the melted butter mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until blended. Add the remaining butter mixture and stir until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until each is completely blended. Add the sour cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes (my cake was done at 42 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then invert the pan to remove the cake. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Put the chopped chocolates and the corn syrup in a bowl and set aside. Combine the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan and, over medium heat, stir until the cream is hot and the sugar has dissolved. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Pour the frosting over the cake. Decorate the cake with the chocolate morsels.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Holiday Raspberry Walnut Bars…

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. The holidays have been crazy and I haven’t had my usual time to experiment in the kitchen. But to keep in the tradition of trying to post at least once a week, I am going to share a cookie recipe from back in the day.

This is a reprint of a blog I did a couple of years ago. It is such a great holiday recipe that I wanted to give it some prime time, especially now that I have more readers and subscribers. I guarantee you, you cannot go wrong with this recipe. It will be a hit in your holiday cookie baking arsenal!

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

There’s a lot of reasons for this recipe being so popular. First, and probably foremost, it looks so darn delicious. Second, and not known by those requesting the recipe, it is sinfully easy to make. And third, the recipe turns out perfect first time, every time. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it was one I found a few years ago, I simply can’t remember where I found it. So up front I apologize to whomever I am not giving credit to for the actual recipe.

Lesson Learned 1: The hardest thing about this recipe is preparing the pan. The recipe calls for lining a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper allowing some overhang on both sides. Trying to keep parchment paper from popping back out of the pan when you allow for overhang can be tricky. I found the easiest way to make the parchment paper behave is to take two heavy cans of anything and weigh down the paper in the pan while making the dough. That way when it’s time to spread the dough out on the bottom the paper has been somewhat trained and doesn’t jump around as much.

Lesson Learned 2: It is important to follow the directions of using the parchment paper, having the overhang and spraying the parchment paper with cooking spray. I can’t image what you would wind up with if you didn’t. But if you take the time to do it, it comes out of the pan easily and absolutely nothing sticks to the parchment paper.

Lesson Learned 3: This recipe gives you plenty of dough so don’t worry about using it to fill up the bottom. It says to use two thirds of the dough for the crust and one third to dot the top. I found that gave me way too much dough for the top. You need a lot less dough to dot the top then you think, so don’t be afraid to use more than two thirds of the dough for the crust.

Lesson Learned 4: Avoid the temptation to use too much raspberry jam. A nice even thin coat is all you need. Stick to the amount called for in the recipe.

Lesson Learned 5: Depending on how many bars you want to give out, you may have to make this recipe a couple of times. You can make the bars big or small, but the most you’ll probably get out of this recipe is 24 small bars.

I guarantee these bars will be a hit with your family and friends. You simply must try them!

Raspberry Walnut Bars…

  • Servings: 24 Small Bars
  • Difficulty: Easy-Medium
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Non stick baking spray

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup raspberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (I do this right before I am ready to put the dough into the pan).

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. (This does take a little time, most people do not do this thoroughly enough so make sure to take the time to make the mixture fluffy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Do not over mix. Transfer two thirds of the dough into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Spread the jam on top. Crumble the remaining dough and dot it over the jam. Sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Bake until golden 35-45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. (this is very important).

Holding both sides of the parchment paper, lift out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into rectangles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

I have to admit I made this a few weeks ago, but it’s a pretty busy time of year and I made several recipes in one week so that I could keep up my goal of doing weekly posts on this blog. This is a great cake on a variety of levels. First, it’s a heck of lot easier to make than it looks, second it takes no time to put this together (most of the work involves pealing and slicing the pears) and third you wind up with a cake that looks professionally made.

So let’s talk maple pear walnut skillet cake…

PearsLesson Learned 1 – The right amount of pears to use is not an exact science: This recipe is made in a ten inch cast iron skillet. When I made it I used pears from my neighbor’s tree which were smaller than ones you buy in the store. I think I used about 6-8 pears for the decorative top. If using larger pears, I think you could get away with using no more than three. I would err on the side of too much rather than too little. If you have four pears on hand and you only need three you have one to enjoy later. And remember, if the pears look like they’re starting to oxidize and turn brown before you put them in the pan, just sprinkle a little lemon juice over them and that will help keep them looking good.

Lesson Learned 2 – Even with a seasoned cast iron pot a few pears might stick to the pot when it comes time to invert it: No worries here. Even though a couple of my pears stuck, they easily peeled off the bottom of the pan and I could place them back in the spots they’d vacated on the cake. Judging by the pictures you’d never know that happened. I just felt compelled to let you know that even the best of cooks have to make these types of adjustments from time to time. As Julia Child used to say, “Whose to know…”

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet CakeLesson Learned 3 – Always remember, cast iron retains heat for quite some time: When you go to invert the cake, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot! Remember to use oven mitts when you do this part of the process. You will not be able to handle the skillet without some type of protection from the heat at that point.

This cake couldn’t be easier, especially for how dramatic it looks. You layer the pears on the bottom of the pan, spoon the cake mixture over the pears and carefully spread it out to the sides of the pan making sure not to disturb the pears in the process. Then you bake it, flip it, (do any final fixes if you need to) and you’re done. Take a walk on the wild side and try this one. Even though it may look intimidating, it really is easy and oh so delicious!

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Pear Topping:

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup good maple syrup

Pears (3-4 large, 6-8 small)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnut pieces (this will be your preference)

Cake:

1 1/4 cup flour, plus 1 Tbs. for high altitude

1 1/2-2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup good maple syrup

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

DIRECTIONS:

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a seasoned ten inch cast iron skillet, melt the 4 Tbs. of butter. Spread the butter out to cover the skillet making sure to include the sides of the skillet. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and arrange the pears on top of the butter-sugar-syrup mixture. Sprinkle with walnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl mix together the yogurt and vanilla. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add maple syrup and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

Carefully drop the batter by large spoonfuls all over the pears. Spread batter out to the edges of the pan being careful not to disturb the pears.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly. Cool the cake for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.

Run a knife along the edges of the skillet. Carefully invert the cake on to a plate. (Be careful, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot). If any pears stick to the bottom of the pan, peel them off and place them back on top of the cake.

The Pears And Walnuts At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Pears And Walnuts Arranged At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Drop The Batter In Large Balls On Top Of The Pear Mixture

Batter Dropped In Large Clumps Over The Pear Mixture

Spread The Mixture Over The Pears

Batter Spread Over The Pear Mixture

Right Out Of The Oven

Right Out Of The Oven

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake…

Just about everyone has their favorite chocolate cake recipe. I like to experiment with various recipes, give them a spin of my own, and this time I think I really hit the jackpot. If you want an easy to make, moist – and I do mean moist – dark, luscious and oh so chocolatey cake, this is the recipe for you. And it’s perfect for your holiday table!

I can’t take credit for the frosting. I stole it from Ina Garten and want to make sure she gets full credit for it. I wanted a buttercream frosting, but I can see this cake being equally delicious with a chocolate ganache.

So let’s talk about the ultimate chocolate cake…

Lesson Learned 1 – The batter will be thin: I am used to a somewhat thicker batter and so I was surprised that this batter was thin, almost runny. Don’t let that worry you. Just bake it until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

The Cake Right Out Of The Oven...

The Cake Right Out Of The Oven…

Lesson Learned 2 – Using coffee to enhance the flavor of chocolate: I found out that just a little bit of coffee added to a chocolate recipe really enhances the flavor of the chocolate. Whether it be brewed coffee, espresso powder or instant coffee granules, using coffee as an ingredient kicks up the chocolatey flavor in baking. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of brewed coffee. Just make sure that coffee is either just slightly warm or room temperature. If you add hot coffee to the batter you’ll scramble the egg and you don’t want to do that.

Lesson Learned 3 – Baking with cocoa powder: I don’t know about you but my cocoa powder always seems to have big lumps in it making it difficult to get a smooth batter once it is incorporated This time I sifted the cocoa powder before adding it in and that did the trick. It was a lot easier to get a smooth batter.

Good quality chocolateLesson Learned 4 – Thoughts on buttercream frosting: As I mentioned earlier, I used Ina Garten’s recipe for the frosting. Ina always says the better the ingredients you use, the better the flavor. It’s so true. If you use this particular frosting recipe, make sure you use good quality semi-sweet chocolate. I used Ghirardelli chocolate in the frosting. The frosting was divine.

Also, keep in mind that the main ingredient in buttercream frosting is butter. When you make it, the frosting will be soft and smooth. If you choose to refrigerate the frosted cake, the frosting will get harder, just like butter does when it’s put back into the refrigerator. And since there is so much butter in the frosting you’re going to want to refrigerate anything that doesn’t get eaten immediately. So, if you’re planning on serving cake that has been stored in the refrigerator, you can take it out and let the frosting soften up a little. Or you can serve the frosting cold. The frosting is so good it’s delicious either way.

The Frosting...

The Frosting…

 This recipe would make great cupcakes as well. You’ll never make a more moist or chocolatey cake. Try this recipe and see what you think. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake…

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

1 extra large egg, room temperature

1 cup sugar

6 ounces vanilla greek yogurt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup brewed coffee, warm or room temperature – not hot

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup + 1 Tbs. granulated sugar

1 Tbs. instant coffee granules (I used hazelnut granules)

2 tsp. hot water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 x 9 baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl combine egg, sugar, yogurt and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and combined. Sift the cocoa powder and add it in along with the brewed coffee. Whisk until smooth and free from lumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine with the wet ingredients and whisk together until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cake cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: In a microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate on high power in 30 minute intervals, stirring until the chocolate is melted. (The chocolate will probably come out of the microwave with a few softened pieces still intact, but stirring will get them to melt. You want to be careful not to overheat the chocolate, so make sure you try to make the stirring complete the process.) Set aside to cool a little.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for an additional minute. (Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.) Add the confectioners sugar and slowly beat until combined. In a small bowl dissolve the instant coffee granules in the hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and chocolate into the butter mixture.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Cinnamon Roll Cake…

I like to dabble with baking, trying new and interesting ways of creating sweet delectable treats. And let me tell you, where that’s concerned this recipe takes the cake (pun intended)! Every bite of this cake tastes exactly like a cinnamon roll. It is unbelievably good. I took some of this to work and one of my co-workers said it was an absolutely wicked treat. You must try this one.

So let’s talk about making this cake..

Lesson Learned 1 – The ingredients for the cake are a bit untraditional: Most cake recipes use a combination of baking soda and baking powder, usually a teaspoonful or less of each, as leavening agents for the batter. This particular cake recipe uses 4 teaspoons of baking powder and no baking soda. It seems like a lot of baking powder, but what that amount actually does is create a yeasty bread-like quality for the cake. You can see in the picture below the bubbles created by using the large amount of baking powder. It was interesting to see its affect on the batter. And when you think about it, cinnamon rolls tend to have a texture that’s more like bread than cake, so using the larger amount of baking powder to create that consistency makes sense.

Bubbles In The Batter

Another somewhat non traditional aspect to making the batter is adding the melted butter. Once you’ve combined all the ingredients together, you slowly add the melted butter into the batter. It is important to add it slowly so that the butter fully incorporates. I poured a little in at a time, mixed it in, and repeated that process until all the melted butter was fully incorporated into the batter. It gave the batter the luxurious consistency you see below.

The Cake Batter

Before adding the melted butter the cake batter will look a little lumpy. As you slowly add the melted butter the lumps will disappear.

Lesson Learned 2 – The cinnamon topping will be thick in consistency: A lot of cinnamon cake recipes have more of a streusel-like mixture that you incorporate into cake batter. The topping for this cake is thicker and more frosting-like as you can see from the picture below.