Category Archives: Cooking: Sweet

Scones? Yes, please!

What could be better than hot scones from the oven? Not much … Maya and Nico enjoyed them in the doorway this morning … you can’t see it, but they are holding a scone each …

IMG_1722

Advertisements

Florentine Cookies

This cookie is very impressive. It looks super fancy and looks like a lot more work than it actually is. And of course, they are delicious! I’ve had store-bought florentines before, and there is no comparison! Homemade florentines rock! I made them for our July 4th party, and by the end of the night, they were all gone! Here’s the run-down:  Continue reading

Peach Cobbler

IMG_1621

My neighbor has 2 peach trees in her backyard and generously gave me a bag full the other day. We ate a few and took some camping, but there were still a lot in the bag. Some of them were starting to go brownish in our 90-100 degree Sacramento heat, so I knew I needed to do something with them quickly. One of my best friends, Kelly, gave me an apple cobbler recipe several years ago. I have used it to make apple, persimmon, and nashi (Asian pear) cobblers, so I thought, why not peach? Here’s the run-down:  Continue reading

The Most Awesomest Strawberry Tall Cake Ever

Grammar teachers cringe! I apologize, but, as much as it offends my grammar sensibilities, this cake does deserve the label “most awesomest ever!” My good friend is leaving for far-off lands in just a couple days and for her going-away party, I made this most awesome of awesome tasty treats. It’s impressive to look at, but easy to make, I swear. As with most of my baking adventures, Maya (4) was there to be my stand-in stand-mixer. Why use a machine when little muscles can get the job done?

I adapted this recipe from Sunset Magazine. I do recommend that the first time you make a recipe (especially when baking), you follow the recipe to the letter; after that, however, it’s great when you can tweak a recipe to make it your own as I have done here: a little less sugar, a bigger pan, a little more frosting … and now I make it just the way I (and all my people) like it! Here’s the run-down:

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk

Whipped Cream Frosting Ingredients

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream (1 pint = about 2 cups)
  • 8 tablespoons sugar (or a little less if you find this too sweet)

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, sliced
  • save 4 of the best-looking strawberries to cut in half (for the top of the cake)

Procedure

  1. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Combine thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  6. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean: 20-25 minutes (it takes exactly 22 minutes in my oven).
  7. Cool cakes for 5 minutes. Invert them onto a rack, remove pans, and let them cool completely before frosting.
  8. Wash and slice the strawberries.
  9. Put the heavy whipping cream and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Set the mixer on the lowest setting first so the cream doesn’t slosh out. After a minute or so, raise the speed. Whip the cream and sugar until it becomes thick – you want it to be spreadable. You will actually be able to hear the whisk slow down once it comes to the right consistency.
  10. Pick a serving plate. Once assembled, the cake will be impossible to move, so assemble on the plate you want to present it on. In addition, pick a plate that will fit in your fridge as this cake is best when cold.
  11. To assemble, use a serrated knife to slice both the cake layers in half horizontally, giving you 4 layers to work with. Pick the prettiest rounded top for the very top of your cake. Place one layer on your serving plate. Generously frost with the whipped cream, but do so gently – spreading too roughly with a knife will cause the cake to tear. Lay down one layer of strawberries. Repeat with the 2nd and 3rd layers. Place the last layer on top, again generously frosting. Decorate the top with the halved strawberries, or in any way you wish.
  12. Refrigerate until ready to eat, then enjoy!

2014-09-05 10.40.14 2014-09-05 10.37.04

2014-09-05 10.25.05 2014-09-05 10.31.35

2014-09-05 10.37.08 2014-09-05 10.39.20

2014-09-05 10.44.44 2014-09-05 11.14.31

2014-09-05 11.45.55

2014-09-05 14.49.36

2014-09-05 15.07.26

2014-09-05 14.57.32 2014-09-05 14.57.16

2014-09-05 15.07.38

2014-09-05 15.12.58

2014-09-05 15.21.06

2014-09-05 15.25.05

2014-09-05 16.19.16

2014-09-05 16.19.26

What to do with the leftover whipped cream and sliced strawberries? Hmmm … that’s a tough one! If you can’t figure it out, my husband, 4-year-old and 16-month old can help you figure it out. Enjoy!

2014-09-05 15.25.57

Fudgey Saucepan Brownies

I sort of feel like I’m giving away all my trade secrets with this one (okay, okay … I felt that way about the Carrot Cake too …), but these brownies are a crowd favorite so I’m happy to share. I’m not so good at cutting them to look pretty, but these are the tastiest, gooiest brownies. Of my grandma’s 4-5 brownie recipes, this one is by far the best.  Another reason I love this recipe is because it only takes one medium-sized saucepan! Less dishes to wash! Here’s the run-down:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Grease a rectangular 13×9-inch pan or line the pan with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking cocoa, blending until smooth.

2014-08-29 14.12.20

Add the sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Beat well until combined.

2014-08-29 14.15.06

Add flour and baking powder. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and optional nuts. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

2014-08-29 14.20.58

Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is dry and the brownies are beginning to pull away from the sides.

2014-08-29 14.48.49

After they cool, cut them into squares and enjoy!

2014-08-29 18.00.40

The Carrot Cake

Hands-down, my most requested recipe is my carrot cake. It’s a cake that my mom has made several thousand times (well … that may be a slight exaggeration … or maybe not … ). My mom got the recipe from a family friend who got it from a friend. Even people who “don’t like carrot cake” say that they love this recipe. A gluten-free friend even asked for the recipe so she could try and alter it for her needs. I’m always happy to share because I also think it is the best carrot cake recipe.

The original recipe called for it to be baked in three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, making a traditional 3-layer cake. Over the years, we have changed it up a bit. For larger parties, my mom will bake it in a large cookie sheet and make a 2-layer rectangular cake. For example, here, for Maya’s second birthday party:

DSC_1302

Several times, I have made carrot cake cupcakes, which are great because there’s no cutting, plates, or forks involved. Just recently, however, a friend asked for contributions for their wedding dessert table. They want an assortment of smaller desserts, so I thought mini cupcakes would be perfect. The frosting is rich, so with an assortment of other desserts, whole cupcakes would probably be too large. Here’s the run-down:

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted flour (I use 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup wheat)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups grated carrots (4-7 carrots, depending on size)

Frosting Ingredients (full amount)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (use a cutting board and knife or the food processor)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • up to 1 pound box (about 3 1/2 cups) of powdered sugar, sifted

Prepare the carrots by wiping them down. You can peel them if you want, but I never bother anymore. You can either grate them on a box grater, chop them up by hand, or use the food processor.

2014-06-05 16.59.41

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add oil and beaten eggs.

2014-06-05 16.57.18

Curious George says, “Mmm … when can I eat that?”

2014-06-05 17.00.03

Fold in the grated carrots.

2014-06-05 17.04.17

Important: It will not come out of a pan cleanly unless it has been well-prepared with wax paper. If you want to make a traditional round cake, use the cake pans as a stencil to make 3 wax paper circles. Place these circles in the bottom of each pan and be sure to grease the pan and the wax paper, concentrating on the sides and corners. If you are using a larger cookie sheet, do the same. For cupcakes, use cupcake liners. If you want the design on the cupcake liner to show after the cupcakes have baked, then bake them in plain white cupcake liners. Then, after the cupcakes have cooled, place them into the pretty liners (without removing the paper the cupcakes were baked in). The oil in the recipe causes the designs to disappear.

When making cupcakes, either regular-sized or mini, fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes. I have found that the standard round cake, rectangular cake, cupcake, and the mini cupcake all take 35 minutes. Interesting. (Remember that all ovens are different, so you need to figure out what works for you.)

Here are my minis cooling on a rack.

2014-06-07 09.21.44

Now, on to the frosting! If you are going to make a 3-layer cake, use the full amount in the ingredients list above. If you are making cupcakes, cut the amounts in half:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (use a cutting board and knife or the food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the pecans, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Mix until the frosting comes together. I don’t add all the powdered sugar at once in case it gets too thick. If it does get too thick, though, you can always add a few drops of milk to thin it to spreading consistency.

2014-06-07 09.21.31

Frost a cake the regular way, using a knife. For cupcakes, I like to use a piping bag. Look how cute these minis are! Enjoy!

2014-06-07 09.44.21