Gingerbread Cake

(Here is an old favorite I made again last night. Its been 7 years since the original post, so I thought I would dust it off and bring it out for a run around the internet world before retiring again.)

So, what was your first cookbook? The one you got for your wedding, or Christmas, maybe when you first moved out? Mine was a Christmas gift from my dear mother. The “Betty Crocker Cookbook”  which is now missing it’s spine, is yellowed and stained with the ripply pages of a book that has had flour and egg wiped off with a wet towel. I still refer to it on occasion. Its the “new and revised” edition from 1978. (gosh, before lots of you were born!) Continue reading “Gingerbread Cake”

Strawberry Yogurt Pie

That title is kind of loosie-goosie. Its more like cream cheese Cool Whip pie with a bit of strawberry.

It’s like the one I remember grandma making way back in the day, only last time I tried to remake it, I didn’t use any strawberries. I found an old recipe of hers that was just cream cheese pie, with Cool Whip and sour cream.

So I did some research and found recipes using strawberry jello. But I just ended up making my own version. Its’ easy enough and a great cool dessert for hot days in the desert.

Its kind of like what I put in the strawberry cream trifle of excellence.

Only instead of cream cheese pudding mix, I used a brick of cream cheese.

And no pound cake. Mores the pity.

Here ya go…

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Yes, that is a store bought graham cracker crust. I was doing this the grandma way.

Continue reading “Strawberry Yogurt Pie”

Caramel Cake

Apparently caramel cake is a southern thang. I had been collecting recipes for this cake for a while, always a bit wistfully, waiting for an excuse to make it.

I finally tried it out for our church bake sale, selling it by the slice. It became my new BFF and I even made it myself for my birthday last November. (I couldn’t trust anyone else to get the frosting just right, don’t ya’ know.) And if I am deadnburied, feel free to make this on my birthday and remember me with fondness, while biting in to the soft caramely goodness.

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here it is with a few slices left to it. Enough for me and you.

Continue reading “Caramel Cake”

Cake Strips

Just a quick note for you cake maker out there, or cake makers to be.

Over 20 years ago, yes, I must have been an infant, I took a cake decorating class. I learned 2 things. One, that you really should use cake strips around your cake pans and 2, I dont like decorating cakes! I don’t like the mess of cleaning up all the random icing that gets stuck every darn where and can’t go down the sink, lest it clogs the drain. Of course, it is easier with disposable frosting bags, but still…

Cake strips, I’m not exactly sure thats what they are called, are strips of something that you soak in hot water, run between two fingers to get out some of the excess water, leaving it wet still and, using a safety pin, pin it around your cake pan.

Why?

So you dont get a huge dome for a cake.

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Here we go-tops flat as a pancake. (Like most of us gals until we are 13, 14, 15 or so). If you look close, the strips are the same color as the pans. Now you can get them in cool colors. This set is very, very old. They still work great though. No domes crowning in the middle of my  cakes! Just flat plains.  This particular cake is getting ready to be made into Caramel Cake. (I will try to post this recipe for you soon. It is from a “Best of” book by Americas Test Kitchen.)

Adios amigos!

French Kings Cake (Galette des Rois)

Epiphany. The Magi. Feasting. Cakes with little plastic babies in them. Or not.

We were invited to a friends home for a lovely Epiphany party a few days after Epiphany and I was in charge with bringing the kings cake.Which is fine and I looked up recipes. I just needed to make a sweet dough, use an almond filling, roll it up, etc.

No.

Not even close. Nope.

What was required was a FRENCH kings cake made with puff pastry.

And so I did more research and came up with several recipes and it was fun to make. I also learned new things working with this kind of pastry.

Such as, when you do not crimp the edges, you get lots of puff, as in this…

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What starts like this…
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Turns into this! Mon Dieu!

While, if you crimp the edges, say with a fork, sealing the edges together, you go from this…(notice all the crimping marks on edges)

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To this…

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Not nearly as puffed.

It tasted the same, just looked a little different.

I did not have any baby Jesus to put in the cake, nor any fava beans, which is tradition. (Whoever gets the slice with the bean or baby in it is king/queen for the party…or has to bring the Kings cake next year, whichever tradition you like best).

I wrapped a dime in foil and inserted that into the round cake. Thats what I learned from the Greek New Years cake I made. These other countries have these great old traditions I just love, especially if it involves desserts.

Here is the recipe for kings cake. It makes 2.

Galette des Rois

  • 2 pkgs or puff pastry sheets, thawed, but cold
  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 1 cup of ground almonds (you can grind yourself if you have them)
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of almond extract
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • egg yolk mixed with water for an egg wash (I use a whole egg mixed with a tbsp of water or so)

directions:

preheat oven to 450 degrees.

with an electric mixer (I used hand mixer as opposed to my kitchen aid), mix the first 7 ingredients (after the puff pastry) together. That was pretty easy, oui?

On a lightly floured cold surface (I had a marble cutting board just for this kind of thing) roll out one of the pastry sheets to about 9-10″. Now you can either cut it into a large circle and make a round cake or just make a large rectangular cake. If making a round, for instance, you will cut a round circle out of the second pastry. Each box of pastry comes with 2 sheets.

Put one of the pastry sheets on a baking pan that is lined with parchment paper. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Spread half the frangipane cream (yes, that’s what you made earlier) over the pastry dough. AT this point you might want to hide your baby/bean/coin thingy somewhere on it.

Now place the second pastry over it, either round or square or rectangle or moon shape or stars, whatever you ended up using. Press the edges together so the filling wont ooze out. I sealed the round one with a more decorative touch, which did not seal as well. Some filling oozed out, but not much. Some leaked out of the other too, so you just never know.

Now make the second one.

With the sharp edge of a small knife, I decorated just the top of the pastry puffs, not to poke through, just to barely slice a thin layer of the top.  Mine was a feather type design I saw on the web. I then brushed the egg wash over it and put them in the oven.

Bake the galette for 15 minutes, rotating the pans if baking 2. After that, reduce the oven temp to 350 and bake another 30 minutes. During the last 5, take it out, dust with powdered sugar and put back in the oven.

“Serve warm with a gold paper crown on top”.

Oh sure, I did that-NOT. Brought it to the party, sliced it up and had 2 servings. Next time I might add some apricot jam as a bottom layer under the frangipane.

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Close up of the design I scratched into it.

Enjoy! Happy Epiphany, a little late…

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Dear friend, always opening up your home to gobs of people, feeding them delicious and organic foods. God bless you!

Cranberry Chicken in the deep south

Sweet home Alabama! It was my annual trek to visit my aunt in the good old town of Alexander City where she currently is innkeeper for the beautiful belle of the south, the Mistletoe Bough bed and breakfast.

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With the beautiful winter camellias…

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and fluffer kitties.

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And dapper doggies

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I got to visit with Mrs. Clause…

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who frequents the Inn every winter, when she is not needed at Mr. Clauses side. She is there every year for the Christmas parade, in the sleigh with Santa.

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Let us pause between photos so I can give you one of my aunts super secret recipes that only she and about a million other southerns know about. I am importing it home here, already did actually and everyone loved it. So much so that I did not even get a photo. But Aunt Jo Ann makes this a lot for her luncheons at the Inn.

CRANBERRY CHICKEN

  • either a whole chicken cut up or selected pieces of your choosing.
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 envelope of onion soup mix
  • 1 bottle of French of Catalina salad dressing

Thats it. Just mix the last 3 things together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken in a baking pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until done, about an hour for a whole chicken. While I did not do so this time, you have the option of browning in a skillet first, then putting in the pan, saucing it up and baking. My aunt baked chicken breasts and they did not need browning, just baking.

Another option is to thicken up the sauce when you are done and serve it on the side. Its pretty finger licken’ wonderful!

 

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The house is all set for Christmas. This is the biggest of the trees. There are lots of them there, upstairs and down. Even little ones in the kitchen.

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See that mistltoe hanging from the knob there? That came home with me (hee-hee). Ok, she actually did know about it. I came home with 3 sets of christmas salt and pepper shakers as well.

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Even garlands, lights and ornaments in the kitchen! This innkeeper doesn’t miss a trick.

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She did make 2 of the best darn cheesecakes I have ever, EVER had! And get this, it didn’t need a water bath!! It was not so much the kind of cheesecake. I believe they came from 2 different recipes. One was a turtle cheesecake with chopped up candy bars and I think the other was a pumpkin cheesecake. It was the cooking method that made the difference, made it the creamiest, dreamiest cheesecake ever! I will share with you, because I love you…

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The bite near the point of the piece of cake is almost like a pudding, so silky. It firms up as you eat your way to the crust. Ugg, I want a piece right now!

Here is the basic cheesecake recipe. You can use your own recipe using the baking technique here too. Or play around with this recipe, add cookie dough or chocolate chips or chopped candy bars, etc.

CREAMY CHEESECAKE

  • 3 8oz bricks of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • prepare a graham cracker crust in a 9″ springform pan

preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

With a hand mixer, blend the cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla.

1 Tbsp. at a time add the flour, mixing well, then the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Pour into the prepared crust and put right in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven another 30 minutes. Remember, do not open the oven door. It will let valuable heat escape.

This makes a cheesecake with the best texture, smooth and crack free.

For other posts from Alabama see Taco Soup here, and quiche here, and my 2012 visit with baptist pound cake,   coconut pie, and amazing caramel apple upside down pie. Here is a visit to Montgomery AL. An article here about my aunts breakfast cassarole and a post there with my apple walnut bread recipe.

Enjoy all that reading and all those recipes.  I had fun looking through them again and reliving the trip. I think its time to make Taco soup here again, yes ma’am! And coconut pie. And…

Bye!

Pioneer Womans Pot de Creme

This was our Christmas Eve dessert this year, little china tea cups half filled with a creamy, silky chocolate puddingish mousse. I don’t know what else to call it. Except perhaps, pot de creme! You can find it in her cookbook,”the Pioneer Woman Cooks, Food from my Frontier”.

You just need a food processor or good strong blender (think Ninja or Vita) and some cups or ramekins to pour it into.

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This is before adding the homemade whipped cream…
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips. I used semisweet
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 8oz very hot strong coffee

and for the whipped cream to top it:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  1. put the chocolate chips in the blender.
  2. add the eggs, vanilla and salt
  3. pulse 5-7 times or until the chips are partially pulverized
  4. turn the blender on low and slowly add the hot coffee.This will melt the chocolate and turn it into a smooth mixture.
  5. pour the mixture into small mason jars, tea cups, pretty wine glasses etc.
  6. chill them for 2-3 hours. Thats it!
  7. I know, you cant believe how easy, right?

Now for the whipped cream. I am always surprised how easy this is. I read that you should make the whipped cream right before using, as it breaks down. Hmm. I made mine Christmas eve. That was, lets see, 10 days ago and it is still doing fine. I just need something to put it on now.

  1. Whip the cream and sugar with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid mixer until it is whipped creamy-stiff peaks or so.

Serve chilled.

Voila!

PS. Yes, I did notice that this “pot de creme” did not actually have any “creme” or cream in it. But I am ok with this. Hubby says it reminds him of Trader Joe’s Belgian Chocolate Pudding that he loves so much. It is rich, so I would pour them into smaller cups next time. Serves anywhere from 6 to 12 depending on the cups used.

PPS. Thank you Ree!

Nonna’s Pie Cake

Is it a cake?

Is it a pie?

Is it a pake?

or a Cie?

Can you eat it in a house? Can you eat it with a mouse?

YES!

This is a recipe from Rita’s Grandma, (pie crust Rita)  which, in typical Italian jargon, is called Nonna. She used to make these and now Rita makes these. I am going to make these and maybe you will make these them and we will spread the pie-cake love around the world.

Blueberry Pie Cake with whipped cream and the traditional mint garnish
Blueberry Pie Cake with whipped cream and the traditional mint garnish

You can use any kind of pie filling, this just happens to be blueberry. At least I think it was. Sometimes I add berries to the pie filling I buy. Adding blueberries to this blueberry pie filling. Or adding raspberries to apple pie filling etc. Continue reading “Nonna’s Pie Cake”

Blueberry Hand Pies or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the crust”.

I am a Scorpio.

Not that it really means anything, but there is one Scorpio type characteristic that I do have and that is I can be brutally honest about myself. No illusions. Okay, some illusions. But at least I am aware they are illusions and I just like hanging on to them.

We can all use an illusion now and again to help get through the days.

But I digress.

I can bake.

I can make bread with my eyes closed. I can do cookies, beat hell out of scones, and sticky buns? Well, they dare not come out anything but gooey and soft..

But I am worthless when it comes to making pies. Or at least pie crust. I know this about myself and I can still sleep nights.

I just do crisps and crumbles.

All the while my baking buddies are snapping out pie crust like tying shoes, no worries and whats my problem anyway? Crust is soooo easy?

So I begged. There may have been groveling.

“Teach me-Teach me!”

So finally this summer, one of my friends found  some time to show me her pie crust perfection. She made me do some of the rolling out too. You know what? I found out why my pie crusts were crapola! Continue reading “Blueberry Hand Pies or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the crust”.”

Oddn n Ends with a slice of cake

Turtle fudge skillet cake, a secret recipe
Turtle fudge skillet cake, a secret recipe

So, do you keep a glass of water by your bed? I could not more sleep at night without water next to me that sleep without air. Or without a fan of some kind on as white noise. Us light sleepers would be waking up all night at every little noise if we did not have white noise in the back ground. And a snoring husband does not count as white noise. Thats more like, I dunno, black noise. Just noisy noise.

So its 2 in the morning and you need a sip of water. So you reach over, half awake, take hold of the glass and take a sideways sip, because you are leaning over toward the night stand. Ever try drinking out of a cup sideways? I have never really tried it while awake, but I somehow can manage it while asleep. Of course, sometimes a little water might not make it quite to my lips. Sometimes it escapes the cup and lands elsewhere. And depending on just how cold it is that night, and where the elsewhere is it landed on, you might suddenly find yourself VERY wide awake. And damp.

I got to see an old friend out-of-the-blue yesterday, which was a treat. Rather than looking like an “old” friend Cinda is looking younger and fitter and better than ever. Both removing all sugar from her diet 3 years ago and then moving to the middle-of-no-where in Endicott WA with all the hiking and fresh air available, well, its taken its tole on her. She looks and feels great! She even, for her brief visit, helped me weed the little garden. Nothing like having a friend to chat with while weeding. The job gets done in a snap!

So the whole not eating sugar thing is very inspiring. One side of my head knows just how bad processed sugar is, but the other side, plus the taste buds, wont come to an understanding.

I got pretty excited yesterday thought. I am on a half-hearted sort of diet and have lost a few pounds. But yesterday I weighed myself after a couple of weeks and it read that I had lost 9 pounds! Wow! Should I be concerned or thrilled? Actually, I was a bit suspicious. So that half of the brain that wants to live sans sugar didn’t trust the scale and the rest of me was throwing confetti into the air and patting myself on the back. Wow, life feels pretty good.

Then my brain forced me to march back in there later that day and try again, on the scale. Dang! Those 9 pounds were right back again.

Stupid scale. Guess it needs batteries.

Or it was mocking me.

One of the reasons we don’t have a scale is because we don’t set much store on it. Our clothes and a mirror tells us what we need to know. But our guest here can’t live without weighing himself several times a day. It’s a thing with him. One of many things. So naturally, if it’s sitting there…I’m gonna use it once in a while.

Until now.

So, cakes, huh? I’ve had a run of cake orders lately. This one I am sharing with you today was for my sons teachers birthday and was not exactly an order, but an idea of my own. I called and no one had provided one. It can’t hurt to grease the educational wheels, right? (Just kidding, she is a wonderful person and deserved a wonderful cake.)

Why had I bought the 12″ Executive skillet from Pampered Chef when it was on sale 60% off in April? Why? This Turtle Fudge Skillet cake, thats why! I kept hearing about  this cake you could make at shows baked in a skillet. This one or pineapple upside down cake or black forest cake…But this turtle cake was calling out to me.

But I know better than to make a cake just for us.  So here was the perfect opportunity. Except for one small glitch.

I never did get to taste it.

Not one nibble.

When I delivered it, it was warm and smelled like heaven. I had to just ravish it with my eyes. My lips never got to touch it.

Well, I am going to share the recipe with you all, so you can taste it anyway. But don’t feel sorry for me. I will make it again some day when we are having a dinner party or a birthday party or going to a pot luck. You betcha!

Turtle Fudge Skillet Cake

(of course, I tweaked the original recipe, just a little)

you need:

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix of your choice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter plus 1 extra Tablespoon for the pan
  1. Mix well with a hand or standing mixer, the first 4 ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. If you have the PC Executive 12″ skillet, put one Tbsp of butter into it and, on the stove top, melt it over a medium heat. Spread it out.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the skillet, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Put in the oven and bake about 30 minutes, testing it a bit earlier to see if done. (with a straw or other pointy-sticky thing)

Now for the shiny, crunchy topping:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate. If bars, chop up. Or use chips.
  • 1 jar of caramel topping for ice cream (although I only had half a jar left and made do)
  • about 1/2 cup or more chopped pecans
  1. Put the chocolate and half the caramel in a microwave proof dish and melt in the microwave about 30-45 seconds, stirring it up. (Or do this in a small saucepan on the stove.)
  2. After the cake is done, let it cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a large platter.
  3. Pour the melted sauce over the cake, smoothing it out and letting it drip over the edge of the cake.
  4. Now sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top.
  5. Then, if you want, drizzle the rest of the caramel topping over the top of the whole cake and stand back to take a picture because it looks amazing!