Guest Post: Refreshing Orange Pound Cake

21 Apr

Guest Recipe: Refreshing Orange Pound Cake

21 Apr

Rose Cake Tutorial Review: “I Am Baker” Blog

7 Apr

So…a beautiful set of photos and accompanying tutorial has been floating around cyberspace for while now, and I wanted to offer up a review of the method described by Amanda over at “I Am Baker” for creating a beautiful cake with cabbage-rose-style adornments.

Here is Amanda’s version of this cake, provided in her tutorial:




Here is the cake I created from her blog post tips (and shot with an automatic camera in terrible lighting at 10:00 p.m. in a nearly dark room!):




I can attest that this was a very easy cake to produce, and quick to boot. I had two rambunctious little boys underfoot and still the whole thing frosted in under ten minutes. Threw on a little aerosal food coloring and some sparkle petal dust (which you can’t really see in my photo but looked very cool and fancy in real life) and the whole thing was done! I probably spent more time *making* the frosting than I did icing that cake; that’s how fast it was.


Jamie wanted to touch this so badly while I was making it. His whole little four-year-old body was just quivering in temptation. Hilarious.


I’d recommend you go take a look at her tutorial, but to sum up, here’s what you do:

  • Bake a 2-layer round cake and level it
  • Give it a quick layer of frosting all around to serve as a crumb coat
  • Let it rest for a few minutes to crust over
  • Go back with a piping bag and a 1M tip (the giant cupcake star tip) and swoop some roses all over the cake
  • Fill in any “holes” with swoops of frosting going in the same direction as what’s beside it
  • Spray it down with a light blast of food colorings (optional)

And that’s all there is to it. Really. I agree with my mom that the finished cake looks sort of like a vintage pill box hat (very cute), but if you stick it on a vintage pedestal cake stand, it much more resembles those balled-up floral arrangements that are all the rage in home magazines these days. If you wanted, you could even bake a domed cake instead of layers, and create that snowball floral effect easily. Very shabby chic, either way. 🙂

And very simple. Go read Amanda’s tutorial, and make it yourself. It’s good, quick fun!

Happy decorating!


Soup Recipe: Creamy Southwestern Chowder

4 Apr

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law put a pot of soup on the stove while we were on the road coming to visit. A wicked snowstorm had just hit central Illinois, and she wasn’t entirely sure what time of day we’d finally materialize on her doorstep. She’d clipped a soup recipe from a magazine recently and decided it would simmer away nicely until we arrived ready to eat that day.


Chop up plenty of green onions.


Lordy, was that good soup. I was thrilled she’d made too big a batch, and I proceeded, over the course of the next three days, to completely liberate her refrigerator of all the leftovers.


Add the green onions when meat is about 2/3 browned.


Ever since that snowy week, I’ve been “marinating” over how to recreate it at home, since I forgot to copy down the recipe while we were there. And after three months’ worth of thinking about it, I think I’ve nailed it. I attempted the recreation for Hubby and the kids last weekend, and am pleased to say it was pretty darn close to my memory of M-I-L’s soup. 🙂

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (I used turkey in mine, and it was not quite the same. I’ll use real beef from now on.)
  • 5 green onion stalks, chopped
  • taco seasoning packet


    Be sure to use all of that spicy liquid in the canned Ro-Tel for extra hotness in your soup!


  • 2 (regular-sized) cans, undrained, of Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes with green chiles)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of beef broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of whole kernel sweet corn, undrained
  • 3/4 cup of whole milk
  • 12 ounces (1-1/2 regular containers) cream cheese, cubed

In a large pot, brown the ground beef over medium heat, adding the chopped green onions when meat is *almost* completely browned. Drain cooked meat and sprinkle the contents of a taco seasoning packet over the mixture. Stir well.


Reduce simmer BEFORE adding any dairy products to avoid separation or curdling.


Pour beef broth into the mixture; stir in the Ro-Tel and canned corn. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes before reducing heat to LOW. Add milk and cream cheese, stirring constantly until cheese is completely melted into the mixture.

(Never add dairy products to a rolling boil — they can easily separate, curd up and turn the soup grainy. Always reduce heat just before lacing with any creamy ingredients.)




Remove from heat and serve immediately. Colby cheese or additional chopped green onions make a nice garnish. Round taco chips are great for dipping.


I ate so many bowls of this over the weekend, I lost count. 🙂


Note: For a milder version of this spicy soup, you can drain the Ro-Tel and replace the can liquid with water, or just use diced tomatoes instead


Cheap Recipe: Honey Mustard Salmon with Dill

29 Mar

Here’s an easy one for salmon purists who aren’t likely to drown their fish steaks in spicy teriyaki sauce anytime soon. (Although I do really, really love the teriyaki version and think everyone should try it, I know some folks like their fish to still “taste like fish” through and through when it’s served. Understandable enough.) Continue reading


24 Mar

Sorry folks…that last subscriber link should’ve been:

I apologize if you got a 404 error…that’s what happens when I try to schedule things in advance and it spans to the next date. Whoops!

Sweet Recipe: Better-Than-Buttercream Cake Frosting

23 Mar

This recipe is second nature to some folks and a completely foreign concept to others. For me, it represents dozens upon dozens of afternoons spent standing on a milk stool beside my mother, watching her pipe the perfectly whipped icing from masking-tape-covered parchment bags…waiting, longing, PRAYING for that highly coveted phrase to pass her lips: “Okay…stick your finger out.”

The best thing about this recipe is that unlike buttercream, which becomes too sweet and rich almost from the first bite, this frosting has just exactly the perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, “shortness”, and flavor. (Which means you can eat like a pint of it without blinking. Gluttons rejoice!)

Vegetable shortening makes the best frosting EVER.

Based on vegetable shortening, this simple creamy icing is a breeze to whip up, spreads beautifully as a crumb coat, and pipes beautifully from decorators’ tips. It can also stop bullets, cure cancer, and even come between Brooke Shields and her Calvins. (Probably. I’m not sure.)

Better taste it. For quality control.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons water

In a mixing bowl, combine shortening, milk, vanilla and salt. Beat until creamy.

A wee bit of food coloring gel goes a long way.

Gradually add confectioners’ sugar (about 2 cups at a time), beating well between additions. Once all of the powdered sugar is in corporated, you may need a small amount (1-3 tablespoons) of water beat in to reach a perfect consistency, depending on your needs.

Add any desired food coloring or extract flavoring and beat until well mixed. Refrigerate unused frosting with plastic wrap plastered down right on the top layer of the frosting in the bowl, or cover piping tip and store chilled in parchment bag for up to a week or so.

You might want to make some extra. Just because.

Easy Recipe: Basic Homemade Birthday Cake (White Butter Cake)

21 Mar

Several years ago, when we were celebrating Jamie’s first birthday, I decided to bake him an upright, teddy-bear-shaped cake. How hard could it be? “Takes one standard cake mix” — if your bear doesn’t mind being a deformed mutant with a missing arse. Sadly, I was still living in the “cake-comes-from-a-box” phase of my life, and didn’t realize that store-bought cake mixes have gotten smaller over the years. So, when my thirty-year-old cake pan (and directions) called for one cake mix, I stupidly filled the pan with one modern, store-bought mix and assumed oven-rising would take care of the gap left over in the pan. An hour later, I had guests already on their way to my house when I unmolded the vanilla-flavored beast only to discover he was missing an entire left butt cheek. To this day, the legend of the “Half-Assed Bear of ‘Ought-Seven” lives in infamy at the Red Kitchen. And ever since then, I’ve made sure I had real cake flour on hand for emergency homemade batter. This particular recipe makes 7+ cups of batter, which is generous enough to fill most cake pans, or (2) thick 9″ rounds. And because it’s made from simple ingredients, you can always whip up a little bit extra if you want to be on the safe side. After all, excess batter can be poured into cupcake tins for lovely sidecars, and I’m here to tell you — better safe than sorry! Cake flour: so worth it. ***Chef’s Note: Cake flour is one of those staples that’s great to have around, even if you can’t get it at your local ALDI or Save-A-Lot. It’s worth picking up on your next trip to a regular grocer, and keeping it in plain sight in your cabinet or pantry will likely inspire the baker in you more often than you know. Cake flour is more than 20x-finer in texture than regular flour, so it comes in very handy with airy, delicate baked goodies. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe: 2-1/2 cups cake flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 4 egg whites 1 cup milk Cream butter and sugar. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease/flour cake pan(s) or line with sprayed parchment paper. Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until grainy in texture. Add milk and vanilla, mix well. Batter will be thick. Yum! Add the egg whites one at a time to the sugar mixture, beating lightly between additions. Milk and butter make a denser cake batter than oil and water. Once all egg whites have been incorporated, gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until batter is uniformly mixed. The batter’s texture may look slightly more coarse than boxed cake mix batter, which is perfectly fine. Pour the batter into prepared pan(s) and bake at 375 degrees. Two 9-inch round pans will bake 15-18 minutes; a solid 9×13 rectangle may take a few additional minutes. Start checking shortly after the heavenly smell fills your kitchen. Beautiful. Cake is done when inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire rack before frosting and decorating. Happy Birthday to you!

Dessert Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

18 Mar



Sometimes happiness smells a lot like chocolate.


This recipe is the product of a morning without kids in the house, and a hankering for brownies without any nuts in the house, either.

It turns out, chocolate chip cookie dough is the most excellent subsitute for nuts in the world, at least when it comes to brownie filling. Just try it and you’ll see.

I should note that this recipe makes enough batter for incredibly tall brownies (see photo) if cooked all in one 9×13 pan, or enough batter to split between two 8×8 pans if you want some brownies for home and some more to give away. 🙂

I was very pleased that despite their height, I didn’t have any trouble with a soggy middle, even with all that batter! That’s the wonder of baking powder brownies for you.


Cross-lining the pan with foil or parchment means easy lift-out later.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat desired cooking pan(s) with nonstick spray. If you like, you can cross-line the pan with parchment paper like I did, so you can lift the whole batch out as one piece to cut into formal, stand-alone squares later. (Or not.)

Here’s what you’ll need for the Brownie Batter:

  • 2-1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup  (or half a bag) chocolate chips


Brownie Batter.


In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Stir well.

In a second bowl, blend the flour, cocoa, salt & baking powder. Add dry mixture to wet mixture in 1-2 cup intervals, stirring just until all ingredients are blended. Add the chocolate chips last.

Next, prepare the Cookie Dough Batter (in a separate bowl). Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (or other half of the bag) chocolate chips


    Cookie Dough Batter.


Mix together brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, egg and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder; add to sugar mixture. It will be a bit goopy, which is good. You don’t want it to be tough like regular cookie dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.


Spoon all of the cookie dough batter over the first half of the brownie batter.


Spoon half of the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan. Smooth it out as well as you can with the back of your spoon.

Next, add all of the cookie dough batter to the pan, one spoonful at a time. Try not to disturb the brownie layer as you add the second layer. Just get it as well distributed as you can — no big deal if it’s not quite even.


Top with the remaining brownie batter.


Finally, add the remaining half of the brownie batter to the top, again trying not to disturb the lower layers. Place in the oven and bake at 350. Start checking it at 30 minutes.

It’s okay if your toothpick doesn’t come out of the center completely clean at that point — just don’t let it go so long that the edges burn. You can always pull it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for a while at room temperature to get the middle finished the rest of the way.


I love how tall they are!


When cooled, frost and slice as desired. The inner cookie layer is a wonderful contrast to the spongey brownie outside.


I loved these and will be making them again soon for the family — my husband and four-year-old have already launched a campaign for the reprise.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies on Foodista


I’d much rather make these than do my taxes. Or just about anything else.


Can’t say I blame them! (Yum.)


I just piped a little bit of store-bought ALDI chocolate frosting on top. Delicious!



Sweet Recipe: Blueberry Cheesecake Muffins

12 Mar

These muffins are much lighter in texture than regular cream cheese muffins, which can sometimes be a little much first thing in the morning. The cream cheese flavor still shines through in this version, but the muffins retain that light & fluffy weight to them because there’s not too much actual cheese and sugar weighing them down. All in all, I’d say they’re just right.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray or line 12 muffin cups. In a bowl, combine:

Combine dry ingredients.


  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly and set bowl aside.

In a separate bowl, combine:

Wet ingredients.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds and stir well. Add 1 beaten egg and 3/4 cup milk. Stir briskly and fold wet mixture into dry mixture.

See how there are still little flour pockets? That’s the level of stirring you want.


Don’t overmix muffin batter; just basically try to get the dry ingredients “mostly wet.” (Overstirring can activate the gluten in the flour too soon and lead to tough muffins, which would be sad.)

Spoon batter into muffin tins.



  • 3/4 cups (6 ounce container) fresh or thawed blueberries

Stir lightly to incorporate. Immediately spoon the mixture into sprayed muffin tin and bake 15-17 minutes.

Remove slightly golden-edged muffins from the oven and immediately butter the tops. Leave the muffins in the warm pan for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or plate.

Barely golden. Perfect.


These are delicious with a happy little pat of margarine.

Baby Ollie cramming his piehole full of muffin in the breaking dawn light.


(Baby Oliver didn’t wait for butter on his, though. He tore into the muffins like he’d never seen food before. I guess that means they’re kid-approved!)

Store leftovers in an airtight bag. They’re just as delicious on Day #2, if they survive that long!

So adorable.