Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake - Daring Bakers

Wow...I've been busy with my OB-Gyn rotation. Don't really like Gyn but OB is fun...except for working 6 straight 12 hour days...this is why I missed ARF Tuesday! But what better way to jump back into the Blogsphere than with a Daring Bakers entry? Yes, it's that time again! I've been able to do my last two challenges fairly early in the month. This time, the challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I was really excited about this one because I thought it looked good. I became even more excited when I realized that my Sunday School class was having a lunch and I'd have a reason to make this cake! The only problem (in my opinion!)...the cake had buttercream. After making our December challenge, I determined that I'm not a buttercream fan...just feel like I'm eating butter! Thank goodness, Dorie offered an option to use fruit and whipped cream for a "lighter" cake. This was the option I decided on. The cake was very simple to make and turned out wonderful and fluffy. I did have a bit of trouble getting it out but I also didn't use the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan. Hey! That just meant there was some "goodie" in the bottom of the pan for me to eat...that's the best part anyway! Since I was using the whipped cream version, I made the cake the night before and then cut and iced it the next morning. I was pleased with the way it turned out and so were my friends. Before I knew it, all but three slices of the cake were gone! I did not expect that, but was happy everyone enjoyed it. The only comment I had, and I think I agree, was that the coconut was not needed. I think that with the whipped cream, the texture and even taste of the coconut distracted from the lightness and subtle taste of the cake. Overall, a WONDERFUL cake! Thank you, Morven, for choosing a great recipe and hosting this month. Check out the blogroll for more great entries.

Words from Dorie:

Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)

4 large egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves (I used strawberry) stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable

About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.


The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around

Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.Fresh Berry CakeIf you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries.

You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spaghetti Squash "Lasagna" Casserole

It seems that spaghetti squash is in vogue right now. Over the past week I've seen several posts about the vegetable. I decided to try something a bit different with the squash I had on my counter. You see, my dad's favorite thing to eat is lasagna. I'm not the biggest fan but really enjoy the cheese filling in it. So, I decided to incorporate this into a spaghetti squash lasagna (really casserole). This almost ended in disaster when I dumped the remainder of some spaghetti sauce on top of the squash. Thank goodness I tasted it before I was quite "friendly!" My lips puckered! That was quickly scooped off and thrown away. SO, I pulled out a can of Italian style, low salt, diced tomatoes and stirred that into the squash. While the squash was cooking (15 minutes on high in the microwave AFTER piercing the squash liberally), I roasted some vegetables. The veggies I used were eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, and sweet potato. Mmmm! The layers included the squash, then veggies, then cottage cheese mixture. I repeated and topped with mozzarella. It turned out pretty good but could use something else. I'm not sure what. I think next time I'm going to try a chicken spaghetti squash casserole!!! This can be served as a side dish or a main dish in larger portions. There are lots of great vitamins here, antioxidants, and Calcium and protein from the cottage cheese mixture. Because of all the great veggies and the antioxidants in the tomatoes, this is my entry to Cate's ARF Tuesday at Sweetnicks. Check it out. Spaghetti Squash Casserole 1 spaghetti squash, cooked and "stringed" 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes, drained 1 sweet potato, sliced thin and roasted 1 bunch asparagus, snapped and roasted 1 zucchini, cut in moon shape and roasted 1 eggplant, diced and roasted 1 1/2- 2 cups cottage cheese 1/2 cup + grated parmesan cheese 1 T parsley salt pepper mozzarella cheese Preheat oven to 350 degress F.
For cheese mixture:
stir together cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste for desired seasoning.
In a bowl stir together the spaghetti squash and tomatoes.
In the bottom of a 11X8 casserole pan put half of the squash mixture. On top of this scatter half of the roasted veggies. Try to evenly space each type. On top of this spread half of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Sprinkle top of the casserole with mozzarella cheese. place in preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Easter Egg Cookies

This time of year, specifically this week, eggs at the grocery store go on sale. Kids pick out the dying kits they want to use and moms make sure they have vinegar on hand...why? To dye Easter eggs. But what do you do with those Easter eggs afterwards? Some people eat them, using them to make deviled eggs or egg salad. Other people simply let them sit around until they're no good anymore...eggs wasted! Why not make some eggs that will be certain to be eaten? That's what I did. This month's Masterbaker challenge is to make something with Easter candy. There are so many candies specific to Easter such as Peeps rabbits, jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and chocolate easter bunnies; but my favorite is just the special Reeses pieces eggs! So, this is the candy I chose to use...and then hide because that's what you should do with Easter eggs, right? I chose to dye my cookie dough pink, blue, and purple...which lead to a beautiful psychodelic art in my mixing bowl! Kind of reminds me of the car wash, Mama! Anyway, this is great for little hands and little mouths. They'll enjoy hiding the eggs inside cookie eggs and then finding the eggs inside with their little teeth! Enjoy!
Hidden Eggs Easter Egg Cookies \
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
food coloring
Reeses pieces Easter egg candies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, margarine, and sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; mix. Combine flour, soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture. This will be very thick. If you desire, split dough into equal parts for how many colors you want. Drip in food coloring and mix into dough. Using a cookie scoop, put dough onto baking sheet/stone. With the back of a teaspoon measure (sprayed with cooking spray), make a well in the dough. Place one candy egg in the well and shape dough around it. Be might have some eggs that like to peek out! With wet fingers (from water, please!), shape the cookies into the shape of an egg. Bake for 12 minutes. Don't might still have a few peekers! Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from pan to cooling rack. Place on a plate for the Easter bunny, or for anyone else who might like a cookie!, and let HIM find the eggs for a change and find the surprise inside!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Oh, Yeah" Cookies

It seems that I haven't posted a cookie on here in a while and I figured that I should give you one! Thus...these are "Oh, yeah" cookies. Another reason I dubbed them "Oh, yeah" cookies is that the recipe comes from a cookbook that I tend to forget I own. It's the Sara Foster cookbook. There is a chicken recipe in there that I really want to make, but I'm saving it for a time when I have company...which hopefully will be soon. I made these cookies many weeks ago, in fact, probably months ago. However, I still remember that they were very good. Though I tend to prefer softer cookies, an oatmeal cookie that is crispy on the outside is perfect! It lends a sense of being wholesome and not so ooey gooey sugary buttery unhealthy, etc! So, next time you want to feel a little better about your cookies, try out an oatmeal cookie. To make them better for you, add some fruit or nuts and leave out the chips or candy. Yum! OR, if you just want to indulge, throw in some delicious chocolate, candy,, any other suggestions for a decadent oatmeal cookie? If so, try out this recipe, throw in your idea, and post about it! Could be fun! Oatmeal Cookies with Raspberry Chocolate Swirl Chips adapted from Fresh Everyday by Sara Foster
2 sticks margarine
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup-1 1/2 cups raspberry chocolate swirl chips (or whatever you want to add it!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and sugars until fluffy. This can take 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix together. Stir gently into the creamed mixture OR put the dry ingredients gently on top of the sugar mixture and "stir" with a spatula before slowly mixing with mixer. This is a cheat I use often if the dry ingredients go in the butter in one addition!
Scoop the dough onto a cooking sheet or stone in Tablespoonfuls (or for a larger cookie using a 1/4 cup measure; if doing this, flatten the cookie with you hand before baking). Bake for 8-12 minutes depending on desired doneness. If making the larger cookie, Sara suggests baking for 12-14 minutes for a soft, chewy cookie or for 15-17 minutes for a crunchy cookie. Allow the cookies to cool for a minute before removing to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cashew Chicken for Mama!

My ARF this week is another recipe that I made when I visited home! I had so much fun cooking. I haven't been able to cook very much because of rotations, etc. So, when Mama asked me what I wanted to eat I decided to look through my list of to try recipes. Then I remembered, there was a cashew chicken recipe that I wanted to try! My mom loves cashew chicken so this was the perfect recipe. It's from Cooking Done Light. There are many great recipes that have been tweeked to be less calorie-full. This one was great. The chicken is not saturated in sauce or fried but is instead marinated in a great asian marinade and then stir fried. I thought this tasted great! To me, you could add some more veggies to grated carrots and sugar snap peas! That would be SOOO good. So, if you want a great, easy dish that's good for you and your family, try this one. Oh, and check out the other great recipes at Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday! Cashew Chicken
1 pound (I used 3) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into strips or pieces)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry white wine (or chicken broth if you don’t have wine)
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
6 green onions (scallions), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 can (6 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup cashews, raw or toasted
Place the chicken in large resealable food storage bag. Blend the cornstarch, wine, soy sauce and garlic powder in small bowl until smooth and then pour it into the bag over the chicken pieces. Seal the bag tightly and shake it around a little to coat the chicken. Place the bag in the fridge for at least an hour (or as long as overnight) to marinate.
Add the mushrooms, bell pepper and water chestnuts to the hot skillet and stir-fry until veggies are to your desired texture (I like mine a little softer than some but not mushy!). When done, remove to a plate until chicken is cooked (I put it on the plate I served it on).
When ready, drain the chicken and discard the marinade. Heat the oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add chicken and stir-fry for until slightly cooked through. Return cooked veggies and stir together. Serve the chicken and vegetable mixture over the cooked rice and top each serving evenly with cashews.
. Makes 4 servings. Per Serving: 264 calories, 6 g total fat, less than 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 31 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 0 g added sugar, 21 g protein, 83 mg sodium , 36 mg cholesterol

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ever Get Writer's Block?

Well, we have a fellow blogger who has gotten there...sort of! Marye of Baking Delights is trying to come up with a new tagline for her blog. She's even hosting a contest for it. The winner gets a gift certificate to Amazon!! I could think of ways to use that. Another prize being offered is Dorie Greenspan's book about baking her way through Parisian bakeries. If you are creative...or even if you don't want Marye to end up like this then stop by and lend your brain!!!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I Went Home this Weekend

What does that matter, you may ask? Well, if you've been reading this blog for long, you know that whenever I go home, I make some form of banana bread. This trip was no different. There were two black bananas awaiting me. Mama even asked, "Are you going to make SUnday breakfast?" YEP! As many times as I've made banana bread or muffins, I still try to find new recipes. This one that I found at The Budding Chef turned out GREAT! Mama commented on how moist it was with a light inside. Usually, homemade banana muffins tend to be a little dense and maybe close to dry...this one was not. The texture reminded me of Betty Crocker Mixes...which is good. I would highly recommend this recipe. And because it has bananas and walnuts (or pecans in my case) it high in, it's my entry to Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday. Drop by her site and see what other bloggers have come up with. Banana Pecan Muffins Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour, sifted
3 bananas, very ripe
1 egg, beaten
1/3 Cup vegetable oil (I used slightly less)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Cup of pecans, chopped coarsely
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift the flour, add baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon powder. Mix well to ensure that there are no lumps. Mash the bananas well & add the vanilla essence to it. Add the beaten egg along with sugar & oil and mix well. Add to the dry ingredients. Add the chopped pecans and mix well (but not too much) to bring everything together. Line the muffin pan with muffin paper cups & add enough batter to fill each cup to about 2/3rds to the top. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of each cup. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness. A toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin should come out clean.
This recipe yielded about 12 muffins.