Splatter Paint Cake

I kind of lost my love for baking these past few months. It was a stressful and emotional winter, and the kitchen was not its usual place of relaxation.

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However, I’m happy to report that I’m back in action! I baked a multitude of treats for my friend’s birthday last week and enjoyed every single second of it.

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This cake is inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Molly Yeh, and is basically one big art project. When I texted my dad a picture, he said it was too pretty to eat, but my friends had no problem digging in. They even devoured every last drop of ‘paint’ on the parchment:)

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Combine a perfectly chocolaty cake x3 with creamy marscapone icing, plus a pretty top coat of springy colors, and you’re sure to have a winner!

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Chocolate Cake

adapted from Molly Yeh’s Basil Marscapone Buttercream Frosted Cake

2 1/2 cups + 2 T granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups + 2 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 T vanilla
1 cup + 2 T boiling water

Vanilla Marscapone Buttercream

3 sticks butter, softened
8 oz. marscapone, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Splatter Paint

for each color:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon milk
food coloring

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Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 8 inch round cake plans and line with circles of parchment paper. In your stand mixer bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Add vanilla. Add cocoa and oil and mix until combined. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir in the boiling water very slowly, as the batter will be quite thin at this point.

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Distribute the batter evenly between the three cake pans and bake until the center of the cakes bounce back after a gentle poke. Begin checking them around 28 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Flip onto cooling racks to cool completely.

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To make the icing, beat together the butter and marscapone until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar incrementally until the desired texture and taste are achieved.

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Once your cakes are totally cooled, level the tops with a knife to make them as flat as possible. Spread a thick layer of frosting on the bottom cake, place the middle layer on, spread more frosting, and place the top layer on. Cover the entire cake in a crumb coat and refrigerate for about 15 minutes to set.

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Frost the cake smoothly and generously. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes to firm up. Use a fork or spoon to drizzle your paint all over the cake!

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Quaresimali Honey Almond Biscotti

This variety has quite a different flavor profile and texture than our regular almond or pecan biscotti. The combination of the honey with the spices and citrus yields a more substantial texture and very complex flavor – warming and wonderful!

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The first step is to make some candied orange peels. Of course you could buy them, but they are easy to make, so why not?

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QUARESIMALI HONEY ALMOND BISCOTTI
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 lb (1 1/2 cups) toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peals, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (1/2 orange) orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon (1/2 lemon) lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg for glaze
CANDIED ORANGE PEELS
  • 2 to 3 oranges
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

 

Using a potato peeler, peal the rind from 2 or 3 oranges. Place the orange peels in a small pot with 2 or 3 cups of water and bring to a boil for a few minutes.  Dump out the water and repeat. Bring it to a boil for a second time and dump out the water. Now measure 1 1/2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar and boil slowly with the orange peels for 30 to 60 minutes. Ideally, record the temperature using a candy thermometer and stop when the temperature hits about 230F.  Then, place the orange slices on a piece of parchment paper, dusted with a light layer of granulated sugar. Sprinkle some additional sugar on top and let air dry for a few hours.

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While the orange peels are cooking, you can toast the almonds. Place the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 350F oven for abut 10 to 15 minutes. Watch them carefully during the last few minutes as they can burn. (I can usually tell when the are done when they start to produce that wonderful almond smell.) After they have cooled, roughly chop the almonds, leaving sizable chunks.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and almonds. Whisk together until fully blended.

In a separate medium bowl, mix the eggs and honey. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix at first with a fork and then with your hands. Add the chopped orange peels, orange zest, and lemon zest and continue mixing.  It should be firm but remain easy to handle.

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Divide the dough in half and form two logs about 14″ x 4″ x 1/2″ in size on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Brush the logs lightly with an egg wash (1 egg white + 1 tablespoon of water, beat well) and pop in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350F until the biscotti becomes a light golden brown hue.

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Cool on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. Then slice at a diagonal angle using a sharp serrated knife into 1″ wide slices. (Some people like thinner slices, but¬† for me, I think a nice piece of biscotti should be something to remember. You only live once – enjoy!) Now place the cut biscotti back on the cookie sheet and bake at 350F for about 7 to 10 minutes on one side. Then flip each piece and return to the oven and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Bake for less time if you like them softer and for longer if you like them crispier.

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Cashew butter + goji berry trail mix cookies (gf)

These healthy “cookies” are my absolute favorite version of the¬†Almond Butter Trail Mix cookies. I’ve made a multitude of variations of those guys, while experimenting with different gluten free flours, nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit. My gluten free pal assured me that these ones with cashews and goji berries are the winner. And I couldn’t agree more.

They’re¬†delicious on top of yogurt, with your morning smoothie, or as a snack on the go. I like them best warm out of the oven, with the crunchy edges and melted pieces of dark chocolate:)

 

Cashew butter + goji trail mix cookies
recipe inspired by OhLadycakes

1/2 cup cashew butter
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
4 Tablespoons agave (can sub honey or maple syrup)
1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 C buckwheat flour
1/2 C quinoa flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oats
2 Tablespoons cacao nibs
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/4 cup goji berries
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

In a large bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, coconut oil, agave, and almond milk. Once combined, add the flours, baking soda, and salt until a thick dough forms. Now, add in your extras – oats, cocoa nibs, cashews, gojis, and chopped dark chocolate – and mix until evenly distributed. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate your dough for at least an hour.

Drop the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325F for 15-18 minutes. I usually yield about 12 big cookies. Once they are lightly browned but still a little soft on the inside, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container. They keep even longer in the fridge!

Bread and Butter Pickles

If you are lucky enough to belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – One Woman Farm in Gibsonia), you know what it’s like to be immersed in the bounty of delicious local fruits and veggies. With this latest CSA box, I was wondering what to do with a bunch of cucumbers… make pickles of course!

When it comes to pickles, I tend to prefer the sweet taste of the bread and variety so that’s what I decided to create!

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I had three nice sized cucumbers, about 2 1/2 pounds in total. Good to go.

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Bread and Butter Pickles

Ingredients
2 1/2 to 3 lbs cucumbers
1 to 1 1/2 lbs onion
1/4 cup salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup red cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric

Wash the cucumbers and slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices depending if you like them thicker or thinner РI go right in the middle:)  Slice the onion into thin 1/16 to 1/8 inch slices and then cut into quarters so you get pieces that are about 1 inch in length.

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Place the cucumbers and onion slices in a bowl and add the salt.  Mix it up so the salt can reach all sides of the slices.  Cover and place in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  When I made this batch, I had to go to work and I left them chilling all day, no problem.

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From here, I canned my pickles, but if you plan to cold pack them instead (they’ll only keep stored in the refrigerator for about 1-2 months), you can skip the canning preparation steps.

Head over to the orange marmalade post to read my comprehensive instructions on canning techniques… but here is a quick review.¬† Wash 4 or 5 pint canning jars.¬† Heat a large pot of water to boiling that will be able to cover the sealed jars.¬† Place the empty jars in the boiling water to sterilize them and take them out just before you are ready to fill them.

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When you’re ready to make some pickles, add the vinegar, and remaining ingredients to a 3 to 4 quart pan.¬† I like to use the 50/50 mixture of red wine vinegar to white vinegar for a slightly bolder taste.

Rinse and drain the cucumber/onion mixture to remove the excess salt.

Add the cucumber/onion mixture to the vinegar solution and heat.  Stir occasionally and remove from the heat just as the mixture starts to boil.

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Ladle the pickle mixture into each of the jars, filling to within 1/2″ from the top of the jar.¬† Clean the rim using a paper towel. Place on the top and screw the ring on tight.¬† I find it helps to use a towel to hold onto the hot jar.

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Place the jars into the boiling water and make sure there is at least 1/2″ – 1″ of water covering the jars.¬† Boil for 10 minutes and remove the jars using jar tongs.¬† Set your jars on the counter and within 2 to 15 minutes, you should see and hear each lid pull down.¬† If a lid doesn’t pull down, you should refrigerate that jar and enjoy those pickles first!

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Grill up a nice burger and add some fresh tomato with your homemade bread and butter pickles Рnothing better!  Enjoy!

Spring Strawberry Cake

This cake was my birthday icing decoration project.

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It is an adapted amalgamation of recipes from two of my favorite food blogs – Smitten Kitchen and My Name is Yeh!

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I doubled¬†the amounts for Deb’s cake so I could make a second layer but only placed the strawberries in the bottom cake so that they’d serve as a sort of filling. I combined this cake with Molly’s icing (because she has mad, gorgeous skills), and the results were magical.

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It received the seal of approval from aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and my brother. And they’ll be straight with you if it’s nothing special… we’ve eaten our fair share of desserts. They kept asking if there was some secret ingredient to make it so moist and have the perfect texture and sweetness. This is just one of those cases where simple flavors are amazingly delicious:)

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Strawberry Vanilla Cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar + 2 Tablespoons (for sprinkling the strawberries at the end)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350¬įF. Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by lining with parchment paper and then buttering.

In electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in egg and beat again. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined and smooth.

Distribute batter amongst two pans, placing slightly less in the one of them. In this pan with slightly less batter, arrange strawberries, cut side down, as closely as possible in a single later. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cakes for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack.

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Vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting

from My Name is Yeh!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
4 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Cream all ingredients together.

To assemble the cake, place the strawberry layer on the plate. Spread a thin layer of the icing and place the other cake layer on top. Spread on a thin crumb coat and then refrigerate for about an hour until it firms up. Fill a large piping bag fitted with a petal decorating tip. Starting at the bottom and working your way up, pipe around the outside of the cake with the wider end of tip up against the cake. Do the same thing on the top of the cake, and voila!