Wednesday, March 31, 2010

red velvet cake

March 27th was my husbands 35th birthday!  This day was suppose to be the perfect 35th birthday.  A day filled with fun, friends, sunshine, red velvet cake, UK winning the basketball game and advancing to the final four.  Hubby was set to go to the final four and championship game to watch his beloved UK team.  The day was a close success but, the Cats lost!  It was a heart breaker for him.  I was even going to do a blue velvet cake if they won in honor of his trip.  Luckily cake was not made before the game so, I shifted gears and went back to red.  No salt needed in the wounds.  I was surprised when hubby requested a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting as this does not fall under any of the brownie, chocolate chip cookie, or peanut butter categories.  The red velvet cake is going to be my daughters signature birthday cake as I had an enormous slice minutes before I went into labor with her.  She came out sweet!  I did a lot of research on the red velvet cake.  I had cookbooks with recipes.  Some used a little cocoa powder, some used a lot.  There was the split between oil and butter and then was it colored by gel or by food coloring.  I decided to go the little cocoa, butter and food coloring route.  I came to realize that I will have to make several attempts in order to find my recipe which will in turn be my daughters go to birthday cake (hope she likes red velvet)!  The cake came out great.  It was very moist and had a very subtle cocoa flavor.  Due to our big day at the sports bar my cake decorating skills were not at an all time high ... sorry honey.  Despite the cake not looking perfect and the Cats losing I hope you had a great 35th!

Red Velvet Cake 
Source: Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott 

Please note the recipe in the cookbook calls from a cooked pecan frosting but, the hubby required a cream cheese frosting so, I used my go to frosting which has evolved and is constantly being tweaked.

2½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp white vinegar    

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with waxed paper to kitchen parchment. Grease the paper and flour the pans.

Prepare three separate mixtures for the batter. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and use a fork to mix them together well. Combine the cocoa powder and the red food colouring in a small bowl, mashing and stirring them together to make a thick smooth paste.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute until creamy and soft. Add the sugar and then beat well for 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl now and then. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one until the mixture is creamy, fluffy and smooth. Scrape the cocoa-food colouring paste into the batter and beat to mix it in evenly.

Add a third of the flour mixture and then about half the milk, beating the batter with a mixer at low speed. Mix only enough to make the flour or liquid disappear into the batter. Mix in another third of the flour, the rest of the milk and then the last of the flour in the same way.

In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar and stir well. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to quickly mix this last mixture into the red batter, folding it in gently by hand. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until the layers are spring back when touched lightly in the centre and are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 15 minutes. Then turn them out onto the racks, remove the paper and turn top side up again to cool completely.

12 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Inspiration/motivation provided by Monica at Lick The Bowl Good 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

zucchini orange bread

We eat a lot of breakfast for dinner and weekend brunch.  I love making a quick bread with some fruit or veggies added because I feel as if it is a source of these for my hubby and son.  I know the amount is small but, it is more then the nothing they would consume if not baked up in yummy goodness.  This bread is very easy and produces a dense sweet bread.  The dough is a bit unusual as it is more like a cookie dough then a thinner quick bread batter I am used to.  The recipe makes 2 loaves which can be frozen.  My mom was in town so, I sent her home with one which I have heard my niece and dad enjoyed as well.

Zucchini Orange Bread
Adapted: Cooking Light


  • 3  cups  all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces)
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  cup  granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3  cup  canola oil
  • 1  tablespoon  grated orange rind
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh orange juice
  • 2  cups  shredded zucchini (about 1 large)
  • 1/2  cup  coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray

  • 1/2  cup  powdered sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh orange juice


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare bread, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine granulated sugar and next 4 ingredients (through 1 tablespoon juice). Add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in zucchini and walnuts. Divide batter between 2 (8 x 4–inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans.
3. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons juice, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle evenly over warm loaves. Cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

mexican chocolate cookie

I wanted to make these cookies for a few reasons. I love a theme. I love a party, a meal, an event with a theme. We eat a lot of Mexican food and I always struggle what to serve for dessert. The meals are typically heavy so, just a little sweet bite and I have not met a flan I like. These cookies could fill that bill. The second reason is because I continue to read about the mix of chili and chocolate. I like spicy and I like sweet so I was intrigued if I would like the spicy/sweet combination. These cookies came out good despite the fact I continued to make "mistakes" along the way. These cookies and these "mistakes" made me realize how much there is to learn from mistakes in the kitchen and truly experience and experimentation is what makes a good cook. I learned if you make cookie dough with melted chocolate do not refrigerate the dough before baking. It turns into a hard mound of chocolate. It took almost 2 hours for the dough to return to room temperature. The cookies looked like they would be dry when they came out of the oven but, they weren't. They were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I like spice way more then my other family members so I had a light hand with the peppers but, wish I hadn't. The spice was good but, mild and the cookies tasted very chocolaty with a nice warmth from the cinnamon. Lots learned and lots more to try!

Mexican Chocolate Cookie
Adapted: Cooking Light

•5 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped

•3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•Dash of black pepper ( a little less then 1/8 tsp)
•Dash of ground red pepper ( a little less then 1/8 tsp)
•1 1/4 cups sugar
•1/4 cup butter, softened
•1 large egg
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•Cooking spray
•Powder sugar (dust over top when cool)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place chocolate in a double boiler and heat until melted. Cool to room temperature.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.
Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, March 19, 2010

mint chocolate delight cookies

I made a half batch of these for St. Patrick's Day.  I wish I made the whole batch because two days later and they are all gone.  They are rich, chewy, chocolaty and have just the right amount of mint.  The mint taste does not over power the cookie.  They reminded me a bit of a chewy Thin Mint girl scout cookie.  Yum!
Mint Chocolate Delights
adapted: Very Best Baking
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5oz dark chocolate chips and 5oz mint chips
PREHEAT oven to 325° F.

COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips. (Refrigerate dough for ~1hour).  Drop by well-rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. (yield 4dozen)

BAKE for 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

brown irish soda bread

I am trying to do fun things with the kids every day.  I decided to celebrate St. Patrick's day with some of our very close friends and their kids.  I have never made Irish food and I have never celebrated St. Patrick's day but, we had a blast.  Our friends even supplied an Irish mix of music for dinner!  I made corned beef, cabbage and soda bread.  I have never had soda bread so, I am not certain what to compare it to.  I am not really a fan of bread so, not sure I am the best judge but, I thought it was good and so did those at dinner.  The wheat germ and oats added nice texture and the brown sugar gave it just a hint of sweetness.  It is a moist bread.  We served it warm with the Irish Kerrygold butter.  The bean had some toasted this morning with butter and honey and it was still very good.  There were many variations out there so, I combined a few recipes to make a "healthier" version.

brown irish soda bread

  • Cooking spray
  • 1.5 cups  whole-wheat flour
  • 1.5 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashion oats 
  • 2  tablespoons  dark brown sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  wheat germ
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  cups  low-fat buttermilk
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten


1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Coat a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
3. Spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt). Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture. Stir just until combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely.When you knock on the bottom of th eloaf it should sound hollow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

heart of darkness brownies

We were invited to an Academy Award party on Sunday night and I was tasked with bringing dessert.  I thought these individual brownies would be a decedent treat.  I almost didn't make them when I started to get all of the ingredients on the counter.  There is absolutely nothing light about these.  They are perfect to bring to an event and enjoy that day rather then sitting on your counter for a few days calling out to for you to eat more ... eat more.  These brownies are sweet, rich, moist, and delicious.  They truly live up to the title of the book.

Heart of Darkness Brownies
adapted from Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
5 full size (2.07 oz each) Snickers candy bars, cut into small chunks
3 cups mini marshmallows

For the caramel drizzle:
6 oz (about 25) unwrapped caramel candies
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray two standard 12-cup muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Note I got 30 brownies filling the cups half full.  If you want to add a good amount of the marshmallow you need to fill only half way.

Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and stir in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Sift the flour and salt into the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and chunks of candy bar.
Fill each cupcake cup halfway with the batter. Bake until the surface of the brownies has a glossy, crackled surface, about 20-25 minutes depending on how full the muffin tins are. Remove the brownies from the oven and top each one with 1/4 cup of the mini marshmallows. Return the brownies to the oven and cook just until the marshmallows start to melt and puff up a bit, but not browned too much, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool just enough to handle, then remove from the cupcake cups, running a knife around the edge of each brownie to loosen it from the cup. Let cool completely on the wire rack.

While the brownies are cooling, make the caramel drizzle. Combine the caramels, cream, vanilla and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If the caramels are not completely melted, continue heating in 30 second increments, stirring until smooth.

Drizzle the brownies with melted caramel and let cool completely for the caramel to harden. Do not chill. Serve immediately, or store up to 3 days in a covered container.

Makes 24-30 brownies

Saturday, March 6, 2010

asparagus gruyere tart

We each bring an appetizer to book club. I always try to make something that looks good to me but, the boys would never touch.  I have been noticing asparagus at the market recently and it looked great so, that made the decision for me.  This was a snap to prepare and it was gone at the end of the night so, I am assuming it was also enjoyed.   

asparagus gruyere  tart 

source: everyday food

Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (defrosted)
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    versatile vanilla cake

    I love cake.  My husband loves cookies and brownies.  I let him pick the sweet treat this week and I was so surprised when he selected a vanilla cake with whipped frosting.  This cake is called a versatile vanilla cake because it can easily be changed to chocolate or lemon.  I will be making those in the future.  We all thought the vanilla cake was VERY good. The cake was moist, dense and had very little crumb to it.  When I went to make the frosting I automatically took out 2 sticks of butter before reading the directions.  I was surprised to see a frosting recipe with no butter. I was a bit skeptical because I had never made frosting this way.  The frosting was good but, I think I was fearful of over beating so, it probably was not as fluffy as it could have been.  It is light and tastes almost like a marshmallow.  I think the frosting will be really good on the chocolate version of the cake.  The frosting looks very pretty when frosted and holds shape well but, really needs to be served that day.  If you cover the cake the frosting will settle into the cake a bit due to the moisture.  If you keep the cake uncovered then it will dry out.  I covered it and the frosting did sink but, the taste was still very good the next day.  I just had a slice for breakfast!
    Vanilla Cake
    Martha Stewart Everyday Food

    Serves 12

        * 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
        * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
        * 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        * 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
        * 1 teaspoon salt
        * 1 1/2 cups sugar
        * 2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
        * 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
        * 1 cup low-fat buttermilk


    1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.
    3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
    4. Place one cake, bottom side up, on a cake stand. Tuck strips of parchment paper underneath. Using an offset-spatula or table knife, spread top with whipped frosting. Top with remaining cake; frost top, then sides. (Store unfrosted cakes at room temperature up to 1 day. Once frosted, serve within a few hours.

    Whipped Frosting


    • 3 large egg whites
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


    1. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, combine 3 large egg whites, 3/4 cup sugar, a pinch salt and 1/3 cup water. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved (or mixture registers 150 on an instant-read thermometer),~ 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high until glossy, stiff peaks form (do not overbeat); reduce speed to low, add 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and beat just until combined. Use immediately.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    carrot cake pancakes

    We are big on breakfast for dinner in our house.  It is one meal that we all really love.  It is quick and easy after work and typically I have all of the ingredients on hand.  Since I have been making batches of baby food I have been thinking about how to sneak more fruits and vegetables into our meals.  When I saw carrot cake pancakes I thought this is certainly one the picky boys will enjoy.  We all really enjoyed them.  The little guy finished off two and asked me to keep one for his breakfast.  Score!  They are not overly sweet so, we served with maple syrup but, as I was eating them I was thinking a cream cheese glaze would be devine.

    Carrot Cake Pancakes
    adapted from Cooking Light

    • 1-¼ cup Flour (~5.6 oz)
    • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
    • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoons Salt
    • ⅛ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
    • ⅛ teaspoons Ground Cloves
    • ⅛ teaspoons Ground Ginger
    • ¼ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
    • ¾ cups Lowfat Buttermilk
    • 1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
    • 1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
    • 2 whole Eggs
    • 2 cups Finely Grated Carrot (~6 large)

    Preparation Instructions

    Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in the grated carrot.
    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Spoon 4 (1/4-cup) batter mounds onto the pan, spreading with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook for 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure twice with the remaining batter.

    Notes: Would be good with cream cheese glaze, cinnamon butter or honey butter.
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