Kahlua and Cream Triple Layer Cake

Quick share of a fun cake. We were invited to game night at a friend’s house, so of course I volunteered to make dessert. Because me.

I started to go Super-Karen and think of triple chocolate with a salted caramel, or orange-chocolate with Cointreau….and then told myself to calm the fuck down. Just a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting would be fine.

So, that is basically what we got. Three layers of Ina’s chocolate cake sandwiching my grandmother’s fluffy vanilla frosting and a little ganache to top it off. Since it was a naked cake, I brushed it with a Kahlua simple syrup. I wish I hadn’t garnished it with the swirled chocolate bits on top (it was a pain to slice that way) and the ganache was lovely by itself. But, ya know – live and learn.

This puppy got rave reviews (Ina’s cake always does), so I put the steps & the recipe links in a Google doc. Give it whirl. It is incredibly moist and chocolately, without being so treacly sweet it makes your teeth hurt. We all need a little choco indulgence now and again, and this baby fit the bill nicely. If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out, and how you adapted the recipe for your perfect indulgence.

Cherry Tomaisins


Not to go all foodie on you, but an oven dried tomato is an amazing sweet tart chewy bit of umami magic. Happily this is the time of year when Sprouts has these little cartons for less than a dollar. I needed half of one to roast with some fish, but of course bought two because LESS THAN A DOLLAR, you guys.(What’s the green, you ask? Himself made a chickpea spread and it is yum!)

Those little pints stared at me everyday from the kitchen counter. Then this morning I realized – I can roast them! I started to think about a quinoa salad with roasted veg and a garlicky balsamic, and thought how yummy these would be. Or maybe in a wrap. Or tossed with some green beans. Or as a layer in a bacon sammich. Or…..anyway, these freeze like a dream – if you have any left to freeze. Seriously, you will eat them like candy when they come out of the oven.

This is a Sunday at home for a couple hours recipe. It requires almost zero effort, and hardly any oven heat – but it takes two or so hours for that chewy sweet goodness.

Cherry Tomaisins
2 pints cherry roma tomatoes
2 Tb XVOO
½ tsp. pimentón ahumado dulce
garlic salt & pepper
Heat your oven to 225*. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Wash and laterally slice in half the tomatoes. (From stem to tip, in other words.) Toss them on the lined tray. sprinkle with the olive oil and seasonings. Toss in the oven. After an hour, gently stir them every half hour until they are done – about 2 hours, depending on how juice they were to start with. This batch was 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Mmmmmm
PS – If you want the link for that spread, it’s here at BlenderGirl.

Gateau aux Pommes

It’s good to fail. It gives perspective.
I know I should be posting about berries and springy things and asparagus, but I saw this recipe yesterday and made it this morning on a whim.

This is like a clafoutis, or even an apple pudding, if the pudding part were similar to a bread pudding. I hated it and thought it tasted like vanilla paste. Himself said it “wasn’t bad”, but might be better chilled. We’ll see. Maybe.

Do not think I will make this again. Or, if I do, I will make it thicker. I still want to try that Swedish version with the grated marzipan – that sounds much tastier.

Alrighty, here’s the receipt:

Heat your oven to 400*. Grease an 8″ springform and line the base with parchment.

In your mixer on high for three minutes until super fluffy light:
2 eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Peel and mandoline 6 medium apples.

Sift together
1/2 c. + 1 Tbp flour
1 tsp baking powder

Melt 2 Tbp butter

Once the eggs/sugar are super fluffy foamy, sprinkle the flour/baking powder over them, drizzle in the butter and
1/3 c. whole milk.

Mix to combine.

Reserve some apple slices to sprinkle on top, and hand mix the rest of the apple slices in to the batter, making sure they are all coated. Pour into prepared pan, put the reserved slices on top, and bake for 30-35 minutes until set.

Serve hot, warm, or cold. With vanilla sauce or sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Almond Danish

One of himself’s favorite treats is an almond croissant.

When I made that marzipan, he was on that in an instant.
Gotta confess, though, croissants scare the crap out of me. And the time required meant I would not be done before I lost the light for photos. So…..what to do? Then I remembered the danish pastry dough recipe I’d found for my mom for bear claws, and thought – what the hell? Let’s try this.

Oh, my. These turned out to be one of the most amazing treats ever to come out of my oven.

And although it took some time, it was all passive. The actual labor was negligible. You do have to start the day before, though. The next day is about two hours time to goodness, so these would be perfect for a brunch. Unless you’re an obscenely early riser. Which I am not.

Quick Danish Pastry Dough (modified from this recipe at SprinkleBakes)
3.5 c. AP flour
¼ c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1.5 c. unsalted butter
2 packages quick yeast
½ c. warm water
½ c. half and half
2 eggs, room temp
The night before you want pastry heaven, bloom the yeast in the water. Slice each stick of butter in to 8 slices. Combine the dry, use a pastry cutter to very coarsely cut in the butter – most of the butter should still be in chunks bigger than a pea. Stir in the wet – it will be a thick, shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with saran and put it in the fridge til morning.
The next morning, dust your board well and roll out the dough to a rectangle about 16”x24”(It’ll be about ¼” thick). Use your board knife to lift up one of the short sides and fold it over. Then do the opposite side. It should look like a third-fold letter you would put in an envelope. Then fold up the open-ended sides in thirds again. Now it should be a fat square. (Confused? Here is a lovely diagram from Kokblog! Her work is gorgeous – check it out!) Flip it over, seam side down, and repeat the process. Put that fat square in plastic wrap and toss it in the fridge for 30 min.
Line two baking sheets with parchment, set the oven to proof and then make the filling.

Almond Filling
Combine in the mixer until smooth:
2/3 c. marzipan
1 egg white (save the yolk for the egg wash in a little bit!)
¾ c. powdered sugar.
This will be a thick sticky paste. Set aside.

Then, roll out your dough to a rectangle about 18” x 24”. Slice that in to four strips (6” wide, 18” long), then cut that in to triangles (Look at the pictures above). On the fat part of each triangle, glob a rounded teaspoonful of marzipan filling. Roll them up by starting at the fat end. Place on the tray at least 2” apart, loosely cover with a towel and proof for 1 to 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.

After the proofing, make your egg wash.
Whisk the egg yolk with ¼ c. half and half

Preheat the oven to 400*. Gently brush the egg wash on to the proofed dough and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake 15-20 min, until deep golden brown.
Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Or box up for the neighbors.

Marzipan

I have to blame my mother for this. She has been on a quest to make home made bear claws, and dropping off samples. And that almond filling made me think about marzipan, and whether it could be made at home. The interwebs said yes. That I needed almond flour, and hey! I still had ¼ bag of that almond flour I bought to make macarons with G.
Things can spiral out of control so very quickly…..

So, found this recipe at The Daring Gourmet. Had most of the ingredients on hand, although I did a few mods: I prefer Dr. Oetker’s bitter almond to just extract, and merinque powder just for the safety of no raw egg whites. It is simple, and amazing. Don’t think I will ever buy marzipan again.

Marzipan
1 ½ c. almond flour
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. orange flower water
1 vial bitter almond (or 2 tsp. almond extract)
2 tsp. meringue powder
3 tsp. water
Stir together the meringue powder and water. Set aside. In your food processor, put all the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Pour in the liquids, and pulse until it forms a loose crumbly ball. I had to add another teaspoon of water to mine, but I think that’s because I’m in the desert and everything is very dry.
Remove from the food processor and knead the marzipan a few times. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and toss in the fridge.
Besides just eating this as is, we made some little logs and dipped them in dark chocolate. Oh, yes. So very very tasty!
If you have the ingredients on hand, make this!!!

Cake for Breakfast, Bitches

Mmmmmm. Cake. I LOVE cake. Nothing in this world tops a plain yellow cake. Except maybe a yellow cake with my Meme’s fluffy frosting. (Snort. Nothing tops a cake…. ok ok.) Don’t get me wrong, chocolate cake is delicious. But yellow cake is sublime.

So, what if I told you that you could have cake for breakfast and that it would be slightly healthier than pancakes? As in, it has less sugar (unless you’re some kind of weirdo who eats pancakes without syrup.) Silliness aside, the ingredients for pancakes or this yellow cake are practically interchangeable. Add some low-sugar jam, and we’re done.

We picked this jam up at Costco, and it’s quite tasty. It is not very sweet, though – so if you like a really sweet jam, this is not for you. But for a cake filling, it is spot on.

Shall we?

Cake:
2 c. AP flour
1 ¼ c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350*. Get out two 8” or three 6” round pans.
Alrighty, y’all know I love me the creaming method of cake creation – so here it is:
In the Kitchenaide, with the paddle attachment, put all the dry ingredients. Give a couple spins to combine, then toss in the stick of butter (Cold from the fridge is fine). Run on medium for a couple of minutes, until the mixture looks like a bowl full of fine crumbs.
While that’s going, line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment, then grease and flour the pans. No, this is not overkill. You could parchment the sides, as well, if you want a super-smooth side. I didn’t – I’m lazy.
Back at the mixer, when the mix looks like crumbs, pour in the three liquid ingredients, bring up to medium high then high for about three minutes – until the mixture looks fluffy and is a lighter color than when you started.
Evenly divide between the pans. Give each a good whack, and bake for 30-35 minutes (start testing at 25 for the six inchers.) And, I weigh mine when it’s by three because otherwise I have vastly different sized layers. Eyeball it at your own risk.

When they test clean with a toothpick, cool on a rack for ten minutes (they’ll still be warm), then remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely. Layer with your compote or jam, sprinkle with powdered sugar and you are good to go.
Bon apétit

What about Meme’s frosting? I will try and fit that in to a post here soon. The interwebs knows about it, especially because the Pioneer Woman extolled its wonder a while back – check it out if you can’t wait!

Cranberry Crumb Muffins


So, these were supposed to be those blueberry muffins that came in out in the NYTimes last week – that new recipe with the smashed blueberries in it. Only when I went to the freezer to get the blueberries, I forgot himself had been making smoothies and….yeah, you see where this is going. But, because my poor long-suffering husband is awesome, he said, “what about cranberries? You have those.” Indeed. And they’re nice and tangy, to boot!

So a little tweak here and there, add some crumb topping and serve with some marmelade! Yum!!

That is kumquat marmelade, from my friend K’s tree, btw. Never made it before – turned out a bit thin, but yummy! (The interwebs tell me I overcooked it a bit and so killed some the pectin from the seeds. Sigh.) I’d never seen kumquats like those, turns out they are a hybrid with a mandarin orange and are called Fukushu. Those little fruits were so pretty, too. The peel itself was sweet. Amazeballs.

Well – lets bake! These cook under half an hour, and are gorgeous and slightly sweet. If you have some marmelade, it takes it to a whole new level.

Cranberry Crumb Muffins (yield 12-ish)

Preheat oven to 375. Line twelve muffin cups.

For the crumb topping:

1 stick unsalted butter
¾ c. sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ c. AP flour
1 Tbsp corn starch
Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until it’s crumbly. Set aside.

For the muffins:
In the mixer on low until it looks like fine crumbs.
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 ¼ c. sugar
2 c. AP flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp salt

Add in, and then mix on medium high for a minute or two until thick and fluffy.
2 eggs
½ c. buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir in:
2 c. fresh cranberries (not sweetened dried!).

Spoon in to lined muffin cups, top with the crumb mix and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a tester comes out clean.

These are so yummy – lots of good feedback (nyuk!) from the neighbors.

Pecan Bars – Nutty Salty Caramel Goodness

Here’s some really good advice. Do not make a batch of your favorite cookie if you are home alone on a rainy day. Do. Not. Holy shit, y’all. Seriously. I’ve eaten three of these and had to force myself to stop. Three doesn’t sound like much, does it? But these are buttery rich little tiles of heaven and one would be perfect for a normal person.

I’ve never made these before – so why now? We had a cookie potluck at work the week before Christmas; one of my co-workers brought in some of his girlfriend’s pecan bars. Oh, lawdee lawd. They were so good. Crunchy base, caramely salty pecan topping. I have not been able to get them out of my mind for three weeks. That, plus the fact that my mom gave me three pounds of pecans, and you can see why I had to make these.

The interwebs garnered many a recipe, and pecan PIE bars appears to be the preferred nomenclature. But I don’t want a gooey top, I don’t want a pecan pie. I want that toasty nutty chewy sticky caramel taste. I found an awesome recipe at Shockingly Delicious – which of course I had to tweak.

My one take away from this, though? Grease that pan. Then, when you think you are done, grease it some more. This is serious sugary sticky shit.

Pecan Bars

Preheat the oven to 350*. Heavily grease a rectangular cake pan – 9”x13”x2”. Line it with parchment or foil, à la Alton Brown brownie hammock. You’ll need those edges as handles to lift them out after baking.
In the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix:
2 c AP flour
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 ½ sticks butter
½ tsp salt
When it looks like crumbs, it’s done. Dump the mix in the bottom of the pan. Smooth it out. Then, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper and use the bottom of a jar or glass to smoosh it down. Be sure to put a little lip up all the sides and especially the corners. Remove the wrap, and bake it about 20m until it’s set, but not brown. (This would also be a fun kid part – smooshing it down with their hands.)

While it is baking, combine in a heavy 2 quart sauce pan on medium heat:
½ c. plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
¼ c. corn syrup
14 Tbsp butter (two sticks minus two Tbsp)
½ tsp salt.
3 Tbsp. heavy cream (I used coconut/almond coffee creamer)
Stirring frequently, bring the mix to a low boil – it will get all foamy and lighten a bit in color.
Remove from the heat til the crust is done.

When the crust comes out of the oven, spread out on top:
3 1/2 cups pecan halves or pieces
Even pour the caramel mixture over them. Make sure everything is well-distributed, then all back in the oven for another 25-ish minutes. It will be bubbly and a little darker when it’s done.

Cool completely, lift it out of the pan and slice in small squares. Sprinkle with some good flaked salt, like a kosher salt or fleur de sel.

These will keep in an air-tight tin for quite a while. If they last that long.

Meyer Lemon Cake

Himself came home from work one day a week ago. Said his co-worker brought some lemons from his tree, because at this time of year in the desert, citrus is the currency that zucchini enjoys in the summer. As in, here’s-a-bag-of-it-dear-god-please-take-some-now-I-can’t-fit-any-more-in-my-fridge. When I got near the bag, I could smell them. No, it couldn’t be. I opened the bag, and yup. Sure as shit, there in their incredibly fragrant, golden finery – a bag of Meyer lemons.

What treasure! “Those are Meyer lemons!” I exclaimed, disbelieving my good fortune. “What?” He responded. “What, is that special or something?” Sigh. But I do love him, Pa. And they are so very special. Super fragrant, thin-skinned, super juicy. YUM!

Then that begs the question, how to use them best? I scoured the interwebs, asked my friends. And finally decided on a lemon cake. This is a meyer lemon adaptation of Ina’s lemon cake.

At the first bite, you will not believe this is made with AP and not cake flour. It has a lovely, fine crumb. You really must make this. It is amazeballs.

Meyer Lemon Cake
Cake:
2 sticks butter
2 c. sugar
zest and juice of 4 Meyer lemons
2 c. AP flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 eggs
¾ c. buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze:
½ c. lemon juice
½ c. sugar

Garnish:
Pearl sugar

Preheat oven to 350*, grease and flour two 8” loaf pans, then line them with parchment.
Whip the butter with the paddle attachment on your mixture until it is smooth. Add in the dry (sugar, flour, leavening, salt, zest). Mix on medium until it looks like damp sand. Add the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and ¼ c. of the lemon juice. Mix again on medium, then high for about a minute or two until it lightens in color and looks almost fluffy. Divvy it up between the pans, then give each a good whack to get rid of any big bubbles before baking.
Bake 50-ish minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.Once the cakes come out of the oven, make the glaze (either stove top, or in the microwave.) I zap the lemon juice and sugar 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until clear. While the cakes are still warmish, take them out of the pan and set them on a cooling rack with a cookie tray underneath. Brush the warm glaze on the cake in several passes, waiting for it to absorb one pass before doing the next. After the last pass, sprinkle with the pearl sugar. Let cool, then slice and consume.

Roast Butternut Soup

I know, I know. ANOTHER butternut squash recipe? I should be getting some kind of commission from the Butternut Council of America. I am so googling to see if that exists after I finish this post.

So, you know what they say. Soup: it’s what’s for dinner. Or at least, that’s what my poor, long-suffering husband says every time there’s a grey sky. Besides – Costco had two packs of these bad boys. On a cold day, this is a win/win, people.


Roasting concentrates the flavor and brings out the sweetness of the veg. Add some earthiness with the celery and the thyme, and the tartness from the apple, and this is simple goodness all around. Shall we?

Roast Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
½ large (or one small) white onion, large dice
1 small green apple, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tsp. dried thyme
S&P
1 ½ to 2 quarts chicken (or veg) stock.

Toss together everything but the stock on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast 375* for about an hour
The last twenty minutes, bring one quart of the stock to boil, then reduce to simmer to keep it hot. When the squash et al are done (fork tender, nicely caramelized), toss it all in the pot. The stock should just cover everything (add more if needed). Take a stick blender to it, puree, consume. Add more stock if you’d like a thinner soup.

Or – keep the squash in the fridge, and bring to boil and puree later when you’re ready to eat. It’ll keep in the fridge for several days (as will the soup once it’s done.) If you freeze this one, expect some water separation at the thaw. You can do it, I just wouldn’t recommend it.


I garnished mine with a little greek yogurt and some toasted walnut – butter would also be delish.

P. S. That Butternut Council of America does not exist. I must confess to being disappointed, although another smartass food blogger had the same idea back in 2013. So there’s that.