Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

This cake has been on my radar since I joined TWD. I love coconut and a cake covered in it sounded delightful. Plus, this cake was chosen for a Daring Baker challenge before I joined and I knew I wanted to complete the past challenge but I decided to wait until it was picked for TWD.

Thankfully, this recipe wasn't chosen until now. While Nathan was deployed, 3 of my friends were my main taste testers and 2 of them don't like coconut. I am glad that Nathan was home for this recipe because he loves coconut and I knew he would love this cake!

The base for the recipe is a white cake flavored with lemon extract. It was very fluffy and incredibly delicious. It has a layer of raspberry jam and is covered in creamy buttercream and finished off with coconut. I loved the final product and am very glad that I made a mini cake or else I would've eaten WAY TOO MUCH cake!

I don't know if I would call this the perfect party cake because I know too many people who don't like coconut, but if you leave it off, then it would be the perfect cake. It would probably please most people.

On a side note, I felt like the cake should have been shaped like a bunny with all that coconut! :) Maybe it was the pastel plate I put it on. Anyway... it would make a PERFECT Easter cake!

Thanks to Carol of Mix, Mix... Stir, Stir for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

SMS: Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies

For the month of June I think my blog turned into a place for me to post SMS, TWD, Cookie Carnival, and Daring Bakers. I don't think that I posted much of anything else. It has been for a good cause... reuniting with Nathan and spending as much time together as a family. My blog (and visiting other blogs) has been neglected for the last month, but I hope to get back to posting on a regular basis by next week.

This week's SMS selection was Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies. They were really good cookies! I enjoyed them a lot, but what's not to love? Chocolate cookie with chocolate chunks and cherries. YUM! They did remind me a lot of the Chocolate Cherry cookies I made with Cookie Carnival back in February. I can't say which was better since it has been a couple of months, but this recipe is definately worth trying if you are in the mood for a chocolatey, fudgy cookie.

Thanks to Megan of My Baking Adventures for hosting this week. The recipe can be found at her blog. Also, check out the blogroll to see what the other SMS Bakers thought of the cookies!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart

Let me start by saying that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this challenge! These little tarts were so amazing! I will make them over and over again. SO GOOD!

This tart started with a shortbread like crust and then it was topped with jam and frangipane (almond filling). The jam choice was left up to us and whenever that happens, I just can't decide! So, I made mini tarts and had 8 different fillings. I used Nutella, Raspberry Jam, Strawberry Jam, Chocolate Chips, Cinnamon Chips, Crushed Butterfingers (per Nathan's request), Caramel, and Orange Marmalade. Of course the Nutella was my favorite, but there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. I can't wait to make these again!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Don't forget to check out the DB blogroll to see the beautiful tarts!

Bakewell Tart
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes

Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz))
jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart:

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)

Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Monday, June 22, 2009

TWD: Roasted Pineapple Coconut Daquoise

When I first bought Baking: From My Home To Yours almost a year ago and started flipping through it, this recipe caught my eye. The photo in the book in stunning! Gorgeous layers of roasted pineapple, white chocolate ganache, and coconut called out to me. This was probably the top recipe for me in terms of what I definately HAD to make. I couldn't wait for it to be picked for the group!

You can imagine my excitement when I saw that it was on the list for June recipes! Of course, you would also think that since it was something that I had wanted to make for so long that I would've set aside enough time for it. That's not the case. Between all the travelling we've been doing, family outings, Father's Day Thanksgiving, and life in general, I didn't start making this until yesterday afternoon. Not good when the daquoise needs to cook for 3 hours and the entire dessert needs to chill for 4 hours.

I saw on the P&Q thread that someone was considering using puff pastry instead of making the daquoise. I had puff pastry in the freezer and decided that as much as I wanted to make the recipe as written, I just didn't have the time to do it this month.

I think that the puff pastry worked amazingly well! I did quarter the recipe for all the other components since the dessert would have to be eaten immediately after assembly (puff pastry gets soggy fast!).

The white chocolate ganache was Nathan's favorite part of the dessert. He told me I could just make the filling and give it to him in a bowl with a spoon. We both enjoyed the completed dessert as well. It was AMAZING! I will make this dessert over and over again! I plan on trying it with the daqouise soon, but if you are short on time and want the flavor, use puff pastry. It won't disappoint!

Thanks to Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen for chosing this yummy treat! Check out her blog for the recipe and head over to the blogroll to see this amazing dessert!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SMS: Butterscotch Cashew Bars

Cashews are hands down my favorite nut. I LOVE cashews! Funny thing is that I almost never buy cashews. I will buy mixed nuts and sift through them for the cashews. You'd think that I would just buy a can/bag of cashews and not waste the other nuts but I like the hunt! HA HA HA!

I did buy a bag of cashews for this recipe and it is pretty exciting to have ALL the nuts be cashews! I was eating them by the handful while making this recipe. YUM!

This recipe starts with a shortbread like crust and is topped with melted butterscotch chips (with a little corn syrup added in) and salted cashews. Let me tell you, these were AWESOME! Definately my favorite SMS recipe to date and probably would've been the recipe I picked for my turn if it hadn't been picked yet!

I did cut the recipe in half because there was no way we would be able to eat an entire 9x13 pan with the volume of desserts that are made in my kitchen. :) My only problem was that I didn't lower the cooking time enough so my crust was slightly crunchier than I would've liked.

Thank you so much to Pamela of Cookies with Boys for choosing this winner! Check out her amazing blog for the recipe and for many other fantastic recipes! And don't forget to see what the other SMS bakers thought!

Now I'm off to enjoy Father's Day Thanksgiving with my wonderful hubby who is the best father EVER! Yes, you read that right. Thanksgiving in June. Nathan LOVES Thanksgiving and we have made it a tradition to do it twice a year; once on actual Thanksgiving and once on Father's Day. Enjoy your Sunday!!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

TWD: Honey Peach Ice Cream

This post is going to be REALLY short. It is Monday morning (as I type this) and we are packing up the car and getting ready to head down to Bavaria for the next couple of days.

This ice cream was good, but not my favorite. I pureed all the peaches so I wouldn't have icy chunks of fruit throughout. It had a good flavor; very peachy. Nathan thought it could use more honey. It was tasty, but it isn't tempting me while sitting in the freezer, so it is safe to say that I probably won't make it again.

Thanks to Tommi of Brown Interior for hosting this week. Check out the blogroll to see what others thought of this ice cream.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SMS: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds

Guess who is the host for Sweet Melissa Sundays this week? Melissa Murphy. Yeah, that's right! THE Melissa Murphy! How cool is that? The recipe for the week is Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds.

This recipe was actually the perfect choice for me this week. One, it wasn't too involved. Two, I was planning on making chocolate chip cookies anyway.

Nathan and I aren't fans of nuts in our CCCs, so I did half of the batch with almonds and half without. I preferred the ones without almonds, but no worries... The ones with the almonds were eaten just as quickly! For me, it is pretty hard to screw up a chocolate chip cookie. There is something about them that is just comforting and delicious, with or without nuts!

I did use a few of them to make Peanut Butter S'Mores (the original reason I was going to make CCCs) and they were fantastic, too. I guess no matter how you choose to make/use this recipe, it is GOOD!
Thanks to Melissa Murphy for not only hosting this week, but for creating such a wonderful cookbook! Head over to the SMS page for Melissa's write-up!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I thought I would share a few pictures from our whirlwind 2 days in Rome. I am hoping to get some recipes posted soon, but things have been hectic around here. Nathan is currently on leave (30 days vacation!!!), so we have been doing a lot of family stuff. I will continue to keep up with TWD and SMS, but probably won't be back in full posting/commenting mode until July. I hope you will continue to stop by and I will do my best to stop by your corner of the blogosphere, too!

Now for some quick highlights from our trip. We took a ton of pictures, so I hope these show a little! :)

Me and Nathan getting ready to start day 1


Cross inside colosseum

Trevi Fountain

St Peter's Basilica

View from top of St Peter's Basilica

Me and Nathan at the top of St Peter's Basilica

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

We got home from Rome at about 2 o'clock this morning and I am EXHAUSTED! I am currently working on my 4th cup of coffee and I am still in danger of falling asleep while typing! :) But, I needed something to do to help keep me awake and so a blog post was in order!

Rome was amazing and everything we thought it would be. Our awesome friends watched the kids for us and we took 2 days and tried to squeeze in everything. We walked for about 7 hours each day and didn't get much sleep, but it was so worth it! I will post some pictures tomorrow when I get them uploaded.

In the meantime, how about a Cookie Carnival? These cookies were AMAZING! They tasted exactly like a strawberry shortcake in cookie form, hence the name. I really liked these a lot. The only problem with this recipe is the shelf life. They really need to be eaten the day they are made, but with as good as they are it shouldn't be a problem!


Makes about 3 dozen.

* 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining
7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.

2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Monday, June 8, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

I was so excited about this week's TWD recipe - Parisian Apple Tartlet. My biggest reason for being excited? Four ingredients. Yes, that's right. Just 4. Puff pastry, apple, brown sugar, and butter. And believe me, it was DELICIOUS!

It is a great recipe to have in your collection because it is easy peasy, tastes great, and would easily impress company! Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for a great choice. The recipe can be found at her blog.

Also, I won't be able to get around to blogs today because I am enjoying some time with the hubby in Rome. I will try to check in on Wednesday when we return. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SMS: Bear's Peach Cobbler

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe choice was Bear's Peach Cobbler. I honestly don't know if I've ever had peach cobbler before. I know, I know. Go ahead and gasp. Nathan did. My friend Monica did. But I really don't think that I have and, if I did, well, it obviously wasn't great because I don't remember it.

But this peach cobbler? YUM YUM YUM! I really enjoyed it. I did make a few changes to the recipe. First, the most obvious change is that I baked it in individual ramekins instead of making one big cobbler. There were two reasons behind this; 1- MUCH quicker baking time, and 2- Nathan and I wouldn't have been able to eat the entire recipe by ourselves fast enough.

The other change I made was to use frozen sliced peaches. Our commissary isn't known for it's produce department and the peaches weren't ripe the day I was going to make this. So frozen was my only choice. They worked wonderfully, except for that I should've added a little more cornstarch to compensate for the extra liquid in the frozen peaches.

Nathan, who has had peach cobbler before, loved this. He said it was a really good cobbler. I, who has never had peach cobbler, loved this. It was incredibly good and I will definately make it again!

Thanks to Andrea of Nummy Kitchen for choosing this wonderful dessert! The recipe can be found at her blog. Also, check out the amazing SMS bakers to see what they cooked up!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake & Snickerdoodle Scones

Whoa... I am BEHIND on posts! I made these recipes weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting them. It has nothing to do with the food. I promise you they were delicious. But for some reason I have a huge pile up of posts in my draft folder. I need to get on top of it! :)

I love snickerdoodles. They are such delicious little cookies. I tried Snickerdoodle Blondies and fell in love with them. Julia from Dozen Flours posted a comment on the blondies telling me that she had also made a cake. Then I saw it on Ingrid's blog (3 B's) and knew I had to give it a shot.

It was a HUGE success! Such a simple looking cake, but it packs a big flavor punch. It was so good plain, but I bet it would be great warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. YUM! Writing this post is making me want to whip up another bundt cake right now!

Also, I figured since I am so behind on posts, I would double up and have a snickerdoodle party! We all know I love scones and these were great! I loved the addition of cinnamon chips, but they would be great without them, too. I know those chips are a pain to find!


Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix together really well and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325F. Here's the exact way I made the crust: Using a spray product like Pam with Flour,generously spray a 9 inch Bundt pan, being careful to cover all the nooks and cranies, as well as the center tube. (Note: If you don't want to use Pam with Flour, you can just grease the pan with shortening.) Gently dust the entire inside of the pan with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. You should only need about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, but you want to try and evenly coat the inside surface of the pan, including the tube. Save the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture and set everything aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.Beat just the butter on medium speed for one full minute. Add the white sugar and mix for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and blade and add the brown sugar.
Mix for 2 minutes until the mixture looks light brown and uniform in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each for 1 full minute. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream; beat well. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture over top the cake. Spread the rest of the batter into the pan and sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over the top. (If you run out of cinnamon sugar, you can mix just 1/4 cup of sugar + 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon together for the top of the cake. It should be more than enough.)
Bake in the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Snickerdoodle Scones
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup cinnamon chips. (optional)
additional cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 350º.
Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Combine sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt in another bowl.

Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Combine egg with sour cream mixture. Add cinnamon.
Gently stir into flour mixture until moist.
Place on baking sheet and pat into a 3/4 inch thick circle.
Cut into 8 wedge shaped pieces. Move slightly so they are not touching.
Dust with cinnamon-sugar.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Drizzle with glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Water/Milk to thin to desired consistency

Monday, June 1, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares

Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures chose this week's TWD recipe, Cinnamon Squares, and I'm glad she did! To be honest, I don't know if I would've made this without this group. In the past, cinnamon and chocolate just didn't seem to be a good pair for me. But this cake, WOW!

It was very simple to put together; everything was mixed by hand. The batter was delicious on its own (yes, I licked the spatula!) and I was really excited to taste the finished product. Half of the batter was poured in the pan, topped with cinnamon/sugar and chopped chocolate, then the remaining batter went on top. After the cake was baked and cooled, it was spread with yummy chocolate.

My only problem with the cake is that my chocolate all sank to the bottom of the cake. Now, it didn't taste bad, but I didn't get that pretty swirl in the middle like Dorie did. I guess that's why she gets the big bucks, right? :)

Thanks to Tracey for picking this little gem of a cake. You can find the recipe at her blog.

Eric's Birthday Party (Plus a FANTASTIC chocolate frosting recipe!)

My baby boy turned one on Friday! We celebrated his birthday on Saturday and it was so much fun that I had to share. Eric is the only boy in our group of friends and has spent his first year surrounded by girls. Because of this, Nathan came up with the great idea of having a "James Bond" party for Eric. We bought a tuxedo for Eric and all his girlfriends (plus his sister!) wore pretty dresses.

We had finger sandwiches (Cucumber, BLT, Tuna, and PB&J), veggies, cheese and crackers, and punch (Sherbet, 7-UP, and Hawaiian Punch). I also made chocolate cake with the BEST chocolate frosting ever. I got the recipe from Joy the Baker and LOVED it. (Recipe is at the bottom of post.) I also made tuxedo strawberries to top the cake. They were so cute and so delicious!

I have to thank my wonderful friend, Erica, for the pictures you see here. Also, thanks to Monica and Britteny for taking so many other great pics. Love you guys!

Hope you all enjoy the pictures!

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Joy the Baker
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.

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