Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

Our monthly Sunday Family Dinners have kind of morphed into Saturday Family Dinners. It may not have the same ring to it but after an evening of consuming tons of goodness, the last thing I want to do is to drive back home to San Diego to make it to work the next morning.

March 2013 Family Dinner

So last weekend, we held our monthly Fam-Din at my seester’s casa where we jumped into a Middle Eastern inspired menu. The seesters made Roasted Garlic Hummus, Cucumber-Chickpea-Feta Salad, Shish Tawook and Basmati Rice.

March 2013 Family Dinner

Shish Tawook are chicken skewers that are marinated in yogurt, citrus, spices and then grilled. My seester served them with toum which was a super garlicky sauce that she was obsessed with. Truth be told, I had no idea what toum was before this weekend but it was fantastic over the chicken. As for the salad, it went really well with the Shish Tawook as the acidity helped to cut and brighten the dish.

March 2013 Family Dinner

Initially I was going to bake fresh pita to serve alongside with the hummus and chicken but well…I got lazy, really lazy. And since one of my seesters lives down the street from a wonderful Middle Eastern grocery store, I decided to pick up some of their delicious sangkak that they bake fresh throughout the day. Sangkak is a Persian flatbread that is slightly chewy and the one I picked up from Aria was about 36 inches long, speckled with sesames seeds, and was steaming hot.

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

As for my homemade contributions to dinner, I made a Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake for dessert and Pomegranate Mojitos. Yea, yea….I know mojitos are Cuban but I considered it a fusion since I used pomegranates and fresh mint for this cocktail—totes Middle Eastern flavors. :)

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

As for the cake, well…..truth be told, this was an 11th hour addition. The original dessert I had planned to make was a Pistachio Pound Cake but when it cooled, it weighed a gazillion pounds and was as hard as a brick!!! It totally confounded me as the recipe appeared “normal” and I didn’t over bake it but that’s how new dessert recipes roll sometimes. Hit or miss. But if I didn’t experiment on my loved ones, who would I try new recipes on? :)

So with dinner just a few hours away, I pulled out one of my tried and true recipes and modified it a bit to compliment our Middle Eastern themed menu. To a trusted cake batter, I added finely ground pistachio nuts, fresh orange zest and a few dashes of orange blossom water that I had picked up when I grabbed the sangkak.

With a hope and a prayer, I served my “do-over” cake with fresh berries, a citrus scented whipped cream and crushed pistachios. And guess what? The seebs and kids really liked it! Really! Because if they didn’t, they would’ve told me in a heartbeat. That’s the thing with family. They give brutally honest feedback–something I completely appreciate it….when it comes to cooking, that is.

The cake was rather light and beautifully aromatic from the pistachios and orange flavors. And although I did cover it with a glaze, it wasn’t too sweet and paired well with the fluffy whipped cream I scented with orange zest. As for the berries, wonderfully tart and bright.

All in all, it was a delicious and successful Fam-Din! And true to form, we hadn’t finished 1/2 of our meal before we started planning April’s menu—Japanese!

The Vapors would be so proud.

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Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1½ tablespoons fresh orange zest
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
½ cup finely ground pistachios

Glaze
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios

Orange Scented Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons fresh orange zest

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and eggs in another bowl.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, orange zest and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and with the paddle attachment beat at medium speed until ingredients are light and fluffy. Beat in the almond extract and orange blossom. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Mix in ½ of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in 1/3 of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, mixing until the batter is well mixed, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Continue beating for another minute to ensure that the batter is thoroughly mixed and then add in the ground pistachios. Mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into a well greased bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minute before carefully inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has completely cooled, create the glaze. In a large measuring cup, combine all the glaze ingredients except the nuts. Microwave in 20 second intervals until the glaze has just combined (whisking in between). Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving. *The glaze is quite thin. For a thicker consistency, double the amount of powdered sugar.

Before serving, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest and whip until combined.

Serve the cake with dollops of whipped cream, additional chopped pistachios and fresh raspberries (optional).

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

It’s hard to believe but it’s been over a year since I’ve made a batch of Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Crazy, eh?

But I think at some point, I had just overdosed on them.

Yes, My Friends…….I had too much of a good thing.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

But then the next thing I knew it, the holidays were smacking me upside the head. Everywhere you looked it was hues of blues, silvers….green, red. I just had to bring out my tried and true Red Velvet recipe to ring in the holiday cheer. The beautiful color is just so darn festive.

And let’s face it. It would be near “Grinch-like” if I didn’t.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

To add a little different flair to my Red Velvet Cuppies, I decided to swap out my favorite cream cheese frosting with a super decadent and sweet White Chocolate Buttercream. It was a nice change from the tangy cream cheese but if you don’t like sweet frostings or want to cut back a bit, you may want to stick with the classic.

But c’mon now—it’s the holidays! I won’t tell if you don’t :)

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
Makes approximately 18-20 Regular Sized Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Batter:
1¼ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1½  Tablespoons High Quality Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs, room temperature
½ Cup Sour Cream
½ Cup Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2-3 Tablespoons Red Food Color, depending on desired intensity of color

White Chocolate Buttercream:
10 Ounces Unsalted Butter, room temperature
6 Ounces White Chocolate, melted and cooled
3-4 Cups Sifted Confectioner Sugar, varies due to preferred frosting consistency
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2-3 Tablespoons Milk, if needed

*Optional: White Chocolate Shavings to top the cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 350°degrees and place paper liners in pans.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy for about 3-4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add milk, sour cream, vanilla, and food color. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients until well blended.

Fill each lined cup 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway between baking time. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean. Cool completely in pans on top of a wire rack.

While cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the vanilla and butter until fluffy.  Add the white chocolate and whip until combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Continue adding sugar to desire consistency. Should the buttercream appear dry, whip in a tad of milk.

When cupcakes are thoroughly cooled, frost or pipe decorate swirls on top. Sprinkle with white chocolate shavings.

Happy Holidays!!

Happy Halloween with Jack Skellington Cake Pops!

Jack Skellington Cake Pops

 

 

If you’ve never seen The Nightmare Before Christmas  you simply must go out and rent it. Everything about it is so well done from the production/animation, storyline and music. AND it could be considered a Halloween or a Christmas film—that’s a two-fer!

At the heart of the film is Jack Skellington—the pumpkin king of Halloween Town. I’ve loved Jack’s character and his wish to create change and break the monotony. And although his attempts were a hot mess you got to just love a character who dares to be different.

 

 

I carved Jack a few Halloweens ago.

The first time I ever made cake pops covered in white, it immediately reminded me of Jack Skellington’s head. And for this year’s All Hallow’s Eve,  I thought it would be fun to make them. I admit, half of my Jack-Pops looked like him and the other half kind of looked like aliens. But I consoled myself by saying the “alien-Jacks” were him on his bad days. :)

Since I’ve already posted tips and the method to making cake pops, I won’t bore you by repeating them. However you can find it here. These Jack-Pops were made with my basic vanilla cake and buttercream.

Jack Skellington Cake Pops

 

 

HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

 

 

ps. Here’s a clip from the film–enjoy!

 

 

Key Lime Cheesecake

Key Lime Cheesecake

I know I always harp on about it.

But I freaking love citrus.

In the foods I cook/eat, beverages I like to drink, fragrances for my hand soaps and lotions, and even for decor.

I’m a Citrus-a-holic.

Key Lime Cheesecake

I know. I’ve got issues :)

Key Lime Cheesecake

Since Key Lime Pie ranks among one of my top favorite desserts, I wanted to take it’s bright flavors and marry it with one of my other favorite sweet treats—Cheesecake!

If you love citrus and limey things, this dessert is perfect for you! The tartness is fully pronounced but not overwhelming and the citrus-whipped cream is the ideal pairing.

As I mentioned in my post about Key Lime Pie with a Macadamia-Graham Cracker Crust, it’s tough work to squeeze the juice out of those little buggers! But Key Limes have such a distinct flavor that I didn’t want to substitute them with Persian Limes. Lucky for me, my sis had just picked up a bottle of pure Key Lime juice from Williams Sonoma. And since I was intent on packing in as much citrus flavor into this cheesecake as I could, I also used Key Lime Extract. (My sis had given me a bottle as a gift since she knows what a key lime freak I am!)

Key Lime Cheesecake

Sure, if you just “kinda” like the flavors of citrus, you could decrease the amounts of juice, zest, or extract. But what fun would that be?

I myself, just might even try to add more zest next time. :)

And with that my friends, thanks for reading and have a WONDERFUL MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND!

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Key Lime Cheesecake
Makes one 9-inch Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 Tablespoons Sugar
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

Filling:
24 Ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature
¼ Cup Sour Cream, at room temperature
1 Cup Sugar
3 Large Eggs, at room temperature
3 Tablespoons Key Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Lime Zest
1½ Teaspoon Key Lime Extract

Whipped Cream:
1 Cup Heavy Cream, chilled
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoons Lime Zest
Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan and press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sour cream until its light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the lime juice, lime extract and zest until well combined.  Pour the filling over the cooled crust.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven with a pan half full of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. (To prop the oven door, I use a wooden handled spoon to keep it ajar a few inches). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes.  Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Carefully remove the sides of the pan by running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest and whip until combined.

Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake and garnish with additional lime slices and zest.

Enjoy!

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

 

And within a blink of an eye, Maya was turning 6. How is it possible that my sweet baby niece is now a quick-witted and mature little girl? Time flies too quickly.

But one thing is for certain. She, like many little ones her age, LOVES Sanrio–particular Hello Kitty. So it was a no brainer for her auntie when I wanted to make her something special for her birthday dinner. Cake Pops—in the form of Hello Kitty. To which I turned to the Queen of Cake PopsBakerella.

 

Hello Kitty Pops

 

But these little kitties sure did cause me some agony.

My fault, completely.

Usually when I attempt something new, I plunge into deep research—reading everything I can find for tips, common problems, etc. Yet for some reason or another, I just plunged straight forward without a care in the world. That was first of MANY mistakes.

My first challenge came from the cake itself. The birthday girl, being a woman after her own auntie’s heart, requested chocolate cake. Which wouldn’t normally be an issue—-except when you’re trying to cover the cake pops with white chocolate. As a result, I had to dip the pops twice in the white chocolate and even then, I didn’t think it covered the dark cake color enough. Note to self—use lighter colored cakes when dipping in white chocolate.

Then there was the frosting.  Although I did make my own chocolate cake (versus using a boxed cake mix), I did employ the use of packaged frosting. Not necessarily out of laziness. But I didn’t want to use too much frosting and it’s near impossible to make a “little bit” of buttercream. Problem is, there’s a reason why Bakerella uses a whole can of frosting. I was worried the pops would be too sweet and only used about 8 ounces of frosting. But since I didn’t use enough binding, I could not properly shape Kitty’s head as the cake wouldn’t hold together well. She was quite bumpy and I had crumbs everywhere. Next time I won’t worry too much about the pops being “overly sweet” and will gladly use MORE frosting.

Which then brings me to the Candy Melts. I have never had great experiences using Candy Melts and this time was no exception as it would not melt properly. I quickly dumped them and went to using regular white chocolate that I tempered. MUCH better results.

Finally there were the edible markers which I had never used before. UGH! How is it that out of all of the markers from a fresh new pack, only the black one wouldn’t write well?? As such, over half of our Hello Kitties had blue eyes. Eh….at least they were diverse. I think I’ll pass on the edible markers next time and paint things on using powdered food colors and a brush.

 

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

 

So from my experience…..

  • If you don’t have a styrofoam block then hold off on making cake pops until you can pick one up. Trust me. Your life will be so much easier for it.
  • After you place the cake balls on the sticks, refrigerate them for another  few hours. The firmer they are, the better it will be when you dip/cover them in chocolate.
  • After you dip the pops in chocolate, GENTLY rap the lollipop stick with a spoon or with your finger to remove excess chocolate. If you’re too rough with them, they will definitely plop off. It happened to me….but then I just ate the runaway cake balls :)
  • Plan to make several more than you need. Chances are, there may be a few “flops”. But don’t let it get you down–even Jelly Bellies have “flops“.

 

Hello Kitty Cake PopsA “litter” of Hello Kitty Pops


In the end, despite my follies, the Birthday Girl really enjoyed them. And if Maya likes them–then her auntie’s job is done. :)

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Hello Kitty Cake Pops
Adapted From Bakerella

Supplies Needed:

1 9 x 13 Cake (Chocolate Cake Recipe Below)
Approximately 12-16 Ounces Cake Frosting
White Candy Melts or White Chocolate
Jumbo Heart Sprinkles
Rainbow Chip Sprinkles
Edible Pens or Black Food Coloring
Lollipop Sticks
Styrofoam Block
Toothpicks

Cover a large baking sheet with wax paper. In a large bowl, thoroughly crumble the cake. Add frosting and mix together with your hands. Be sure to use enough frosting so that the cake binds well together and can hold shape. If it’s too crumbly, add more frosting. Using a cookie scoop or small ice cream scoop, scoop/roll/mold an oval shape for kitty’s head. Dip the tip of a lollipop stick into some of the melted chocolate and insert into the bottom of kitty’s head. Place the heads on the covered baking sheet and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

Once chilled, take two white chocolate chips and dip the bottoms in the melted chocolate. Place/glue them on the top of the head as kitty’s ears. Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the ears are firmly attached to the head, dip the cake pop in a bowl of melted white chocolate. Then remove and gently tap off any extra coating. Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the heads are completely dry, apply the hearts and sprinkles to make a bow and the yellow rainbow chips to make a nose. Use toothpicks to assist in this process. Once everything is completely dry, draw eyes and whiskers with edible pen or paint on with food coloring.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
¾ Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
6 Ounces Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cups Strong Brewed Hot Coffee
½ Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs
1½ Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of pan with parchment paper and cover with cooking spray. Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for a few minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a mixing stand, beat eggs for a few minutes until they become a pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the chocolate. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into the lined pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Spiced Pear Cake for National Bundt Day

Spiced Pear Cake

 

Was it a coincidence or luck? Perhaps a little bit of both was on our side this weekend as my nieces and I prepared a delicious spiced pear cake using a bundt pan. And to my amusement as I was drafting up this post, I discovered that today is National Bundt Day!

This is the time of year when I bust out all of the warm spices (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc) and begin feverishly baking molasses cookies, gingerbreads, and other spiced desserts. YUM. I just love the aromatics and the deep warmth it brings to your home/kitchen when you’re creating such delights.

Since pears are in season and were in abundance at the market, I picked up a few Boschs with the intention of creating a cake that would be great for breakfast. (Cake for all times of the day, I say!) I also took the opportunity to try out this recipe with my nieces, Nina and Stephanie. They are turning out to be quite the whizzes in the kitchen and have refined palates for their age. And in truth, they did most of the work with this cake with me just guiding them through the process. I’m a proud Auntie.

The end results were just what I was hoping for. An extremely moist cake speckled with diced pears and perfumed with warm spices. Perfect with a huge cup of steaming coffee in the morning. With breakfasts like these (and wonderful nieces), perhaps I’ll make it through the chilly season after all.

And with that dear friends, rummage through your pantries to whip out those wreath-like pans—Celebrate National Bundt Day! (I know, I know….I’m a sucker for any “holiday” :) )


Stephanie and Nina hard at work…..Great things will come out of their kitchens in the future :)

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Spiced Pear Cake
Approximately 10 servings

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
¼ Cup Molasses
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Large Eggs
3 Cups Diced Pear

Glaze
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
¼ Cup Water or Apple Juice
1 Cup Confectioner Sugar
½ Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a large bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and granulated sugar. Mix in brown sugar, breaking up any clumps. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and mix in oil, eggs, vanilla extract and molasses. The batter will be quite thick. Fold in the diced pears being careful to not break up the fruit too much.

Spoon the cake batter into the greased bundt pan and spread the mixture evenly. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes before inverting on to a plate.

While cake is cooling, prepare glaze. Melt butter and slowly add confectioner sugar and cinnamon. Add apple juice (or water) and mix until combined. Strain the glaze to remove any potential lumps. Slowly pour over the cake while its still warm.

Fresh Apple Cake

Apple Cake Slice

 

Last weekend, my sister and her family came up from Southern California for a visit. And what do the Nguyen’s do when we are on vacation? We Eat….and we Eat a lot. And when we are not eating (or shopping), we like to have Foodventures. So it’s not too surprising that after spending a few indulgent hours at the SF Street Food Fest, we  were hitting the road to Sebastopol to Twin Hill Ranch for some good old apple picking. We filled our baskets with delicious apples (Gravenstein varietal) and also picked up a few jugs of fresh pressed apple cider—absolutely delicious!

We kind of went nuts with apple picking which did leave a slight challenge. What does one do with over 15+ pounds of apples?! I knew we would need to put our hand picked apples to use. My sister (aka. “Head Foodie” of the family) suggested that I make the Fresh Apple Cake that our mom used to enjoy so much. Perfect!

The recipe is from Feasts of Eden and is incredibly easy and quick. Pretty much a dump and stir method–which is great for baking with kids. The glaze that is poured over the warm cake isn’t like the type that I used on the Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Cake. This glaze soaks into the Apple Cake producing a moist and sweet product. A few other things to note:

  • The batter is incredibly thick. But don’t worry! The 3 cups of fresh apples has a lot of moisture and it all works out–I promise!
  • Next time, I will use only 1 cup of granulated white sugar and add 1 cup of light brown sugar.
  • Add 1/4 Cup Molasses – really rounds out the flavors of the spices.
  • The glaze may get lumpy from the confectioner sugar. If it does, strain it before pouring over the warm cake.
  • Leave the cake on a rack when you pour the glaze on it and then transfer to the serving platter. Since the glaze is somewhat thin, it will definitely run over the sides of your plate/cake stand and will leave you a HOT MESS!

Overall, I was pretty pleased with it and my co-workers seemed to enjoy it as well (they often act as my “guinea pigs”, too). The cake really works well as a breakfast pastry—wonderful with a steaming cup of coffee.

And perhaps it’s just me, but knowing that we handpicked the apples ourselves made it taste even better! :)

Until next time friends!

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Fresh Apple Cake
From Feast of Eden

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
½ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Large Eggs
3 Cups Chopped Apple

Glaze
½ Cup Unsalted Butter
¼ Cup Water
1 Cup Confectioner Sugar
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a large bundt pan.

Sift dry ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients, stirring well to combine. Add the chopped apples and transfer mixture to bundt pan. Be sure to spread the mixture evenly. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes before inverting on to a plate.

While cake is cooling, prepare glaze. Melt butter and slowly add confectioner sugar and cinnamon. Stir well to ensure there are no lumps. Add water and mix until combined. Slowly pour over the cake while its still warm.

Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake

My dear co-worker’s birthday was coming up and as her assigned “birthday buddy”, I was in charge of bringing in a cake to our staff meeting to celebrate her fabulousness. Since I knew she had a chocolate cake for her festivities at home, I was sure that I wanted to bake her something sans-chocolate. Lucky for me, our Meyer Lemon tree was filled with ripe lemons for the picking so I opted for a fruit-citrus cake.

I turned to my gal, Martha Stewart, for some inspiration. Since our staff meetings are in the morning, I opted for a bundt cake that makes you feel better about eating sweets in the morning since it “looks” more “breakfast-like”. I know…not really–but work with me here :)

I settled on Martha’s Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake, with of course, a few tweaks. For the batter, I added fresh meyer lemon juice to kick up the bright citrus flavor. I also thought the cake was a bit “naked” and created a light glaze to cover the tops. Incidentally, I hadn’t greased the pan thoroughly so the glaze acted as the perfect “cover up” to my imperfections. Also, if you don’t have fresh blueberries, use frozen ones like I did. Just be sure not to defrost them before use—just toss the frozen ones directly with the zest and flour before folding into the batter. :)

A few quick suggestions to a successful cake:

  1. Generously and THOROUGHLY cover your bundt pan with cooking spray. I thought I had but clearly I hadn’t done enough when I inverted the cake later. Yikes!
  2. It’s really important to cool the cake in the pan for some time. Trying to flip it too early could cause tears and sticking since the cake hasn’t fully set yet.
  3. I used Meyer Lemons in my recipe which may vary if you use regular lemons. Meyer lemons tend to be juicier and less tart than the more commonly found ones, so adjust accordingly to your preference.
  4. If you glaze the bundt cake, be sure to wait until the cake has fully cooled or the glaze will soak into the cake versus “glazing” it.

Overall, I think the birthday gal and my co-workers enjoyed the cake. The citrus gave a light flavor which was further accented by the berries. The sour cream also assisted in the moist texture. Next time you’re looking for an alternative to a chocolate cake, give this Lemon Bundt Cake a try :)

After creaming the butter and sugars.

Tossing the blueberries with zest and flour.

Inverting the bundt cake. EEKS! Clearly, not enough cooking spray!

No problem–that’s where glazes act as a tasty cover up to any imperfections!

 

 

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Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

For Cake:
2½ Cups All-Purpose Flour, plus 1 teaspoon for blueberries and zest
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Cup packed Light-Brown Sugar
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons Meyer Lemon Juice
1 Cup Sour Cream
2 Cups Blueberries
2 Tablespoons Grated Meyer Lemon Zest
Nonstick cooking spray, for pan

For Glaze:
¼ Cup Meyer Lemon Juice
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar (*add more for thicker glaze)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of sour cream.

In a bowl, toss blueberries and zest with remaining teaspoon flour; gently fold into batter. Coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake cake on bottom rack of oven until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a rack; cool completely, top side up.

While cake is cooling, whisk lemon juice and confectioner sugar to create glaze. Mix until all the sugar has dissolved and there are no longer lumps. When the cake has completely cooled, drizzle glaze over the cake.

Serve and enjoy!

Mini Spiced Cheesecakes with Gingerbread Crust

Since we were preparing a “heavy meal” for my family the other night, I wanted to make something light for dessert to end things off with a little sweetness. What better than mini cheesecakes? They’re small enough for folks who have had a bit too much for dinner but perfect for those of us who have a spare “dessert tummy” that we reserve specifically for delicious treats. They’re quite small so you can just pop them into your mouth. :)

This particular recipe is wonderful for the holiday season with its gingerbread crust and spiced cheesecake filling. The ricotta also offers a light pairing to the cream cheese that is neither too sweet nor dense. For those who prefer even more warmth in flavor, add an additional ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to the cheesecake mixture. You can also swap out the raspberry garnish for a drizzle of white chocolate ganache.

Enjoy! :)

 

Mini Spiced Cheesecakes with Gingerbread Crust © Photo rights reserved.

 

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Mini Spiced Cheesecakes with Gingerbread Crusts
Makes approximately 18-20 mini cheesecakes

Ingredients:

1 Cup Gingersnap Cookies
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter
½ Cup Ricotta Cheese
4 Ounces Cream Cheese
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
Raspberries for Garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees.

In a food processor, pulse Gingersnap cookies into an even powder. Transfer to a bowl and add melted butter until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Generously spray 2 mini-muffin pans with cooking spray. Place a heaping teaspoon of the gingersnap mixture into the bottom of each cup, pressing firmly down to pack the bottom. Place the prepared pans in the oven and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

In a food processor combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and the eggs. Blend until smooth. Fill the cups with about 1½ tablespoons of the cheesecake mixture. Situate the mini muffin pans in a water bath by placing them in a baking dish and pour boiling water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the mini muffin pans. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer the mini muffin pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes then refrigerate for 20 minutes. Use a small pairing knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups. Plate the mini cheesecakes and garnish with one raspberry atop each cake.