Pineapple Upside Down Cornmeal Cake

These past two weeks have been so hectic! I started working for my cousins at their grocery store and what was supposed to be a light and easy gig turned into a full time bout of responsibility in a matter of minutes. They needed someone to cashier for them a couple times a week and since I was available, they asked me to do it. I’ve never been a cashier before, so it has been a learning experience. Trust me though, I picked up VERY quickly. Like a week in, my cousin’s wife (who also works there) had to take an emergency leave at the same time the other cousin was taking his two weeks off. I had to maneuver my post by myself every single day since then. My shifts range anywhere from eight to nine hours, which are doing a number on my feet and legs. It’s super tiring and sometimes boring but it’s okay. My cousin is super grateful that I’m there and I’m always happy to help. The only caveat is that I don’t have time to bake anymore! Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to rest and get in the kitchen.

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I got home a little early last Sunday and was inspired to bake, tiredness be damned. For some reason, I had upside down cake on the brain. Before this blog’s existence, I once made a pineapple upside down cake. I used my mom’s casserole dish and was super psyched about it. It was good and my folks loved it, except most of it stayed in the pan. I knew I wanted to do it again but with a twist. You already know my dad is a corn fanatic, so I thought why not work that in? A quick search led me to this pineapple upside down cornmeal cake.

I had been working all morning and was sort if disheveled by the time I made it home, so I kinda maybe screwed up in parts. Firstly, I went with blinders on into the supermarket for ingredients. I was too focused on speeding up the trip than on what I needed, and ended up with pineapple chunks instead of rings. Then, I had the brilliant idea of making this in a spring form pan to ensure its removal in one piece. Good idea — in theory. The caramel and pineapple juice started oozing out from the bottom, leaving me with trails of sugar all over my kitchen and kitchen table. Not only that, but I forgot to put a sheet pan under it in the oven until 5 minutes in. Some of that caramel fell on the oven floor; causing it to burn and smoke while the cake baked.

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Despite all this, the cake came out great. Nothing stuck to the pan and I made everything work. I didn’t have maraschino cherries, so I used real ones. I cut the chunks in half and lined the whole pan because the more pineapple, the better right? Then I swapped the whole milk for coconut, to add a little richness and extra flavor (although it was undetectable). The best part is that this recipe uses coarse cornmeal, which adds a lot of texture to the cake. I have to say, for all those screw ups and the long wait, it was definitely worth it. It was like a corn muffin turned up a notch. The fruit got all nice, sweet and tender. Then the caramel. Oh goodness, the caramel! Some of it came up the sides of the cake while baking, which hardened after it got cold. So good! I have to say, for a last minute thing, it came out pretty darn good. I just hope I have more time to get back in the kitchen soon!

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Pineapple Upside Down Cornmeal Cake – adapted from Food Network

Makes 1 10-inch or 9-inch cake

  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1 cup
  • 6 slices canned pineapple in heavy syrup
  • 6 maraschino cherries, or regular cherries
  • 3 tablespoons juice from canned pineapple
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add the cornmeal and stir. Let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in another small saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour into the cake pan. Carefully place 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan. Place the other 5 slices around the center slice in a circle. Place the cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices and sprinkle the nuts evenly over the fruit. Drizzle pineapple juice over top.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the canola oil and whisk. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add this to the flour and stir just until combined. Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes in the skillet. Set a platter on top of the skillet and carefully invert the cake. Serve.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • You can use a regular 9 inch cake pan; my spring form is 9 inches and it worked out fine (for the most part)
  • This was great with pineapples but I bet it’d go great with other kinds of fruit; like all cherries or maybe even peaches

1st Blogaversary! – Chocolate Mug Cake

It’s my blog’s birthday! My tiny baby is now one. I can’t even believe its been a year already; it went by so fast! I have to say, I never expected my blog to grow into something like this. Granted, its still a baby and has tons to grow but I feel like we’re onto something. I started this blog when I finished college last year, as a way to keep myself occupied during my job hunt. A year has passed, and I’m still looking. The only constant thing since then has been me in the kitchen. I’m as dedicated as they come, so I knew I had to put in work if this blog was going to actually become something good.

It’s honestly a pleasure to force myself to get in the kitchen every week and make something new for myself, my family, and you. I’m not the most popular food blog but I’m still here and am working to make my presence known. I’m thankful to even be in such great company. There are so many great blogs are leading the way! Things are starting to look up on other ends, so expect some change in the coming months. I’m so happy I stuck with this and hope to expand and grow as much as I can in the food blog community. Til then, join me in my celebration for one with a simple microwave chocolate cake. I love this recipe because it’s so simple and really hits the spot when craving something fast and chocolatey. It’s also good when you really need some cake but don’t want to bake a whole one (and then eat it alone). So many other great things about this little cake; it’s fast, serves one, and is delicious! Mix and make the cake in the same mug, which is awesome because it’s an easy clean up. Another bonus? No eggs! Could totally eat the batter straight up if inclined (I won’t tell).

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Thanks to everyone that has stopped by and left me likes and comments. I read and appreciate every single one and get excited when I get new notifications. I’m really looking forward to continuing this journey, expanding and growing in the coming months and years to come. Here’s to the first year, and many more!

Chocolate Mug Cake – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Makes 1 mug cake

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon agave or sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 tsp coconut oil, vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients in the mug and mix very, very well. Add liquid, and stir until completely incorporated. Microwave 30-40 seconds.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Mix ins go great with this recipe; peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc
  • Microwave times may vary. Start with 30s and go up in 5-10s increments until done

Coconut Popsicles

It has gotten too hot to bake. I never thought I’d type those words! I mean, even in this sweltering heat, I am still planning on firing up the oven at least once a week. It’s still too hot to bake but I’m still planning on it! As a sort of apology to my folks for the extra heat, I made popsicles.

We already know about my family’s love for coconut, so this flavor was a no brainer. Another reason why I chose coconut? I’m supposed to be in the Dominican Republic right now and I really miss it. My family and I used to go every two years for a whole month. The last time we went was July 2012, so technically we should be there right now. Things have changed so much that it wasn’t possible this year. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to go, and to keep up with tradition (because y’all already know how I am about that) but I will return one day.

As I mentioned in previous coconut themed posts, we get to eat a lot of them during our stays in D.R. It’s one of the top five things I love to do when I’m there, besides actually being there. When we’re not eating fresh coconut or drinking its water, we like buying popsicles. If you think New York City summers are hot, you are wrong. Summers in D.R. are at least five times hotter. It sounds strange but I swear the sun over there is closer than it is here in the city. It gets so hot and humid during the day but the advantage is that it cools down at night; unlike nights in NYC.

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In that humid heat, a popsicle is like a godsend. We don’t make them ourselves because the electricity over there is so ridiculously unstable. Instead, we buy them off fellow Dominicans who are trying to make an honest living. Any flavor popsicle is refreshing in that heat but the popular flavor is obviously coconut. I tried my best to recreate the fresh flavors we’re used to when we go visit my mom’s house but it wasn’t exactly easy. I don’t have access to fresh coconut to make my own shreddies or coconut milk but the canned stuff seemed to work just fine. I don’t know if you have noticed but popsicles are ridiculously hard to photograph! I haven’t figured out how to make them photogenic or how to capture that essence behind a pop, and am planning on figuring it out. Until then, enjoy these gifs of the process!

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My parents and I were pleased with these pops. I’m just not sure if they liked them because they were refreshing or because of the taste! These popsicles are super creamy and slightly sweet. The specks of shredded coconut are a lovely textural surprise; adding to that coconut flavor. The pops took me back for a quick second to two summers ago; when we’d sit with my cousins, neighbors, and my grampa on the front porch to eat popsicles. It’s that moment of silence when everyone is just savoring the ice cream and kind of forgets about the fact that they’re melting (both the person and the pop) that I miss so much; that second where everyone is collectively together enjoying a moment of refreshment. I miss my vacation for sure but at least I can have a small piece of it here.

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Coconut Popsicles – adapted from PureWow

Makes 6-8 popsicles

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cool slightly. Stir in the coconut milk, vanilla, rum and shredded coconut.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into ice-pop molds. Press sticks into the center of the pops and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours (overnight is best).

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Use your food processor to finely shred the coconut before stirring into the milk for these pops
  • The original recipe calls for coconut water instead of regular milk
  • Amp up the coconut flavor by using a super small amount of coconut extract; a little bit goes a long way!
  • Run the popsicle mold under cold water for a few seconds before attempting to remove from the mold

 

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Happy Independence Day! Well, not yet but I do like to get ahead of myself sometimes. I know for a fact that there will be cookouts, parties, potlucks, and all other kinds of celebrations going on this weekend. It’s fabulous that people gather to celebrate a common thing, surrounded by patriotism and a ton of food. There’s nothing more American than burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and pie!

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I think that in my entire lifetime, I’ve only been to one or two 4th of July cookouts. We live in the city, which is not exactly optimal for a barbecue. The few times we did end up going to one (if I remember correctly), we went to a family member’s house in Jersey. It has been a ferociously long time since we went to one of those, and I kinda miss it.

Granted, at a Dominican family’s 4th party, there’s a lot of variations to the kinds of foods served. Yeah, there are burgers and hot dogs, but there are also other kinds of grilled meat, at least three different kinds of rice dishes, potato salad (like the one I had for Christmas and Thanksgiving), and probably cake. I might be missing some items but that’s basically the gist of it. Noticeably absent from this list is the pie. As a culture, we don’t really do pie. I kind of touched on that in my Thanksgiving post, but it’s not something we have or make. Dominicans are cake people; which is why pound cakes are super popular at these things.

In an attempt to at least feel like I’m going to a barbecue, I made these bars. It’s kinda like pie but portable, easier, less messy, and possibly more delicious. While we as a culture don’t really do pie, I try to. I’ve had the trifecta of pie before: apple, cherry, and blueberry; my favorite being the cherry. I may be Dominican by blood but I was born on American soil (somewhere in DR, my uncle is inexplicably angry at this statement haha), and I like partaking in some American traditions. I’m not gonna necessarily go all out this Friday, but at least I’ll have something sort of “on topic” to eat.

These bars are so easy to make, you don’t even need a mixer! It’s basically a mix and dump kind of situation. The most labor intensive part of this recipe is the crust. Actually, it’s the only part of the recipe that requires a process. To try to make things a little simpler, I decided to freeze and grate the butter in. I briefly touched on this in my last post but basically, this is kind of a shortcut to cutting in butter with a fork or pastry cutter. I don’t have one of those and find that forks or using my hands can make the butter too warm and clumpy. So, I froze my sticks of butter for a couple hours and used a box grater to grate it in. Yes, the grating part is a little messy, as the butter starts softening up but I still find it easier than using forks to mash up butter cubes. If you hate cleaning up box graters, this shortcut isn’t for you! After grating, you can just stir it in the dry ingredients to coat and that’s it! The mix looks crumbly, just like if you cut in the butter the usual way.

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I have to say, even if I wasn’t going to a party this weekend; these bars are perfect for the occasion. The crust is buttery and crumbly, with a little freshness from the lemon zest. The blueberries are naturally sweet, and a little tart from the addition of the lemon juice. Besides them being super easy and super delicious, they’re also portable. So if you are partying this weekend and need a one handed dessert, this is it!

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Blueberry Crumb Bars – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) frozen, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Grate the frozen butter, using the large hole shredder, into the bowl. Add the beaten egg, and mix with a rubber spatula until coated and incorporated. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan.
  3. In another large bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • This recipe is easily adaptable to whatever fruit you may have on hand; cherries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc. 

Coconut Lime Scones

Summer has entered the building. I don’t know, I feel like we skipped a season. Spring was barely here, with all these weird cold fronts that happened when we were supposed to have cool weather. It’s like it went from winter to summer without any notice! While I can’t get spring back, might as well revel in the summer.

To me, summer equals refreshment. Not so much with the weather but with food. It’s the best time to enjoy seasonal offerings like fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in their prime. While I patiently wait for my seasonal farmer’s market to come back for the season, I thought about making some scones.

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Normal people usually avoid turning on their ovens during the summer. I am (apparently) not normal. I love scones, and more in the summer. I got my first taste of scones at my local farmer’s market. One of the little booths is from a bakery, and they have a ton of freshly baked goods. Anything from fresh bread, muffins, and cookies, to fresh honey and jam. My sister and I used to get their giant peanut butter cookies, courtesy of my mom when she used to do the shopping. When my sister and I started going, we decided to try all the other things up for sale.

One of the first things we tried were her pumpkin scones. They were moist, flaky, and warm. It was weird having a fall offering in the middle of a sweltering July but it was so good! It had that essential scone taste. It’s weird to describe but good scones have this like, signature taste. It’s the one thing that identifies a good scone from a biscuit (because you knew scones and biscuits were related, right?) I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what the hell was the product of that ~taste~ and realized the common denominators in scone recipes: cream and butter.

The key to scones (and biscuits) is cold cream and butter. Super simple and super essential. Both of these fats need to be cold when incorporating because they’ll help create those flaky and delicious layers found in scones (and biscuits). Once I figured that out, I thought about what different kinds of flavors I can stuff in a basic recipe. Like a sign from the food blogger heavens, Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) posted this the other day. And just like that, I was making coconut lime scones.

Coconut and lime go SO WELL together. Like, you have no idea. Bonus if the coconut is toasted. Now, think about those flavors; enveloped in a neat package filled with butter and heavy cream, and iced with a coconut lime glaze. Close your eyes and imagine the flaky and buttery layers, hiding a tropical paradise in every bite. Can you taste the vacation in your mouth? Because that was me with these scones. The tart and nutty flavors of this scone made up for the fact that I actually had to turn on my oven to make them. While they may work better with a cup of coffee or something, I would not have minded a lovely cocktail to go with them (piña colada anyone?) I totally won’t judge you if you do ;)

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Coconut Lime Scones – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes about 16 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated. Stir in the cooled toasted coconut.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, lime zest and juice, vanilla, and cream. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  3. Using a muffin scoop or a large spoon, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepped baking sheets. Bake the scones 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 4 to 5 minutes to firm before removing them from the pan. Glaze, if desired, once completely cooled.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Freeze the stick of butter for a couple hours and shred it into the dry ingredients. Super nifty tip that helps keep the butter super cold and requires less handiwork. 
  • For the glaze, I mixed about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, a touch of heavy cream, about 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and three drops of coconut extract. It made enough to glaze about six scones. 
  • If the dough seems too wet or soft, freeze the scooped scones for about 10 minutes before baking; helps them keep their composure and aids in making them super flaky. 

Golden Vanilla No Churn Ice Cream Cake

As evidenced by several posts on here, I am very much a traditionalist. I love celebrating holidays, more so when they celebrate the people I love. Father’s day was this Sunday, and I couldn’t really go without making anything. As a kid, I used to hand make cards for every occasion. Tons of construction paper, crayons, markers, glue, and glitter strewn everywhere as I created a card with a badly drawn picture and a heartfelt message. While I don’t make cards anymore (I should really get back into that, though), I still find a way to make something awesome with a ton of love inside it; just like my mami taught me.

My dad is a really complicated guy. So much so, it’s hard to understand what he wants/means/says at any given time. We grew up with his naturally stern voice guiding us through life. He was very particular about how he wanted things done, and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know that. I ended up picking up this trait to a degree; something which I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing.

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We had a sort of strict upbringing that we now chalk up to my dad’s old age. Believe it or not, he’s from a different time (and I’m not just saying that). This is where another one of his traits, that I now possess, comes from; the aforementioned traditionalism. While his traditionalist ways have nothing in common with mine, it was evident that he liked things done the old fashioned way. He was more traditional in the sense of how my sister and I were raised, and wanted to do it like it was done ‘back in the day.’ There were certain things we could, couldn’t do, and still can’t do to this day because he still sees us as his little girls.

Before I made my move from observant child to baking ‘adult,’ my dad was the resident baker. Granted, it was box mix cakes and canned biscuits but it was still delicious and what we thought of as an amazing feat. I even inherited the old avocado green Presto hand mixer he got in a garage sale when my sister and I were little. The mixer didn’t make it to this day (ahem, I might’ve killed it with some cookie dough) but I managed to get some use out of it. Now that I do all the baking, I take advantage of it and make things for special days in lieu of an actual gift. Sounds like a cop out but who doesn’t like baked goods?

It's melting!!

It’s melting!!

Two years ago for Father’s day, I made him an ice cream cake. It was a pound cake with rum raisin ice cream and a toasted coconut topping. It was my very first time making ice cream, which was a giant feat because I don’t have an ice cream machine. I used David Lebovitz’s delicious rum raisin recipe and one of his no churn methods; frequent whisking during the freezing process to break up large ice crystals. It was a lengthy and part laborous process but it was worth it. With it, I baked a pound cake to serve as the bottom layer of the ice cream cake. I didn’t freeze the cake long enough, and it ended up soaking up most of the ice cream layer. It was still amazingly delicious but it didn’t stay in two distinct layers.

This year, I wanted to do it again. Ice cream is a show stopping dessert, more when there’s a cake attached. It’s even more glorious once people realize that you made it yourself, and that you did it without an ice cream maker. This time, I wanted something simpler. I originally wanted to repeat the rum raisin flavor but poor planning didn’t let me. Instead, I stuck with vanilla. I found out about this awesome way to make a no churn ice cream that was still soft and scoopable, without any noticeable ice crystals and a silky mouth feel. I was skeptical about the method, but it quickly gained my trust. There is no cooked custard in this recipe, which is great for anyone who finds that process daunting (it isn’t but the thought of maybe scrambling the eggs is stressful). It’s just three simple ingredients; sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. I absolutely love this because not only is it easy, but it leaves a lot of room for customization; there’s no telling what other flavors this base can be made into.

PERFECT SCOOPS

PERFECT SCOOPS

It took me two days to complete the cake. Not because of complicated instructions or anything, but because all the elements require freezing prior to assembly. I made the cake layer and ice cream Saturday morning. I popped the ice cream in the freezer, and hyper wrapped the cake and froze it after it cooled completely. This is where I messed up the last time I made an ice cream cake, so I made sure I left both elements in the freezer as long as possible. Sunday morning, I assembled the cake. First, I leveled out the cake a little bit. My oven is lopsided, resulting in asymmetrical cakes every time. I put the cake layer inside of a springform pan lined with wax paper. I’m paranoid about things staying stuck in places, so I put it in for security purposes. Next, I scooped on the ice cream. This is the part where I was amazed. The ice cream scooped beautifully! Even my mom was shocked, stating that it looked just like the store bought stuff! This is why I love baking; I always feel like a mad scientist when things work out. I smoothed down the ice cream into an even layer and hyper wrapped the entire pan in plastic wrap before returning it to the freezer.

As for the cake scraps, I had an idea for those. Ice cream cakes always have some sort of crunchy element; be it candy pieces or crushed cookies. I took advantage of the fact that I’d have some cake scraps, so I crumbled it up, tossed it with some melted butter, and popped in the toaster oven until they were golden brown and toasty. Instead of putting it in the middle layer, I left it as garnish. I didn’t want them to get too soggy!

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The cake came out amazing! It started melting almost immediately, but it was really creamy and smooth. It tasted like the real ice cream! No one could tell it was homemade and made without a custard base. The cake was soft, dense, and went well with the vanilla ice cream. The cake crunchies were an excellent texture change, and added depth to the creamy ice cream. I also made some whipped cream in a jar. It totally does work! Took a while but it turned into luscious whipped cream in minutes.

My dad liked the cake, which was more than I was hoping for. These days we don’t exactly see eye to eye, but I know that he just wants what’s best for me and my sister. I just hope that my kids will one day get to know him and understand why I am the way I am.

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No Churn Vanilla Ice Cream – Martha Stewart

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon or any other dark rum (optional)

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and bourbon or rum (if using). Set aside.
  2. In a separate large bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, about three minutes. Fold the cream into the sweetened condensed milk mix carefully. Pour into a loaf pan or plastic container with lid, and freeze for six hours or overnight.

Yellow Butter Cake – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 9-inch round cake

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a lined 9-inch round pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy and pale, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract. With mixer on low, add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk; starting and ending with the dry. Beat until combined.
  4. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Transfer pan onto a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Invert cake, peel parchment, and continue to cool on the rack top side up.

Cake Assembly:

  • Cut a piece of wax paper a bit larger than a 9-inch springform pan. Place the wax paper over the bottom part of the pan, and hinge the circle over the paper. You want there to be a bit of overhang on the bottom for easy removal.
  • Cut another piece of wax paper to line the sides of the pan. Again, make sure there’s a bit of overhang for easy removal. I used a long piece and cut it in half, lengthwise.
  • Scoop ice cream onto the cake layer, and spread evenly. Smooth out the top, and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Fold down the wax paper onto the plastic wrap. Cover the entire pan with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least four hours, or longer.
  • To serve: unwrap the plastic wrap off the pan. Unhinge the springform, and remove the wax paper off the sides. Using the overhang from the bottom of the cake, lift the cake off of the bottom part of the pan. Carefully peel the paper off the cake, and place the cake on your desired plate. Top with whipped cream and cake crunchies, and serve.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • No churn ice cream is awesome but I don’t think it’s appropriate for a cake. It starts softening and melting pretty fast, which may not be ideal for a cake. Still good, though!
  • To make whipped cream in a jar: place cream in a jar with some sugar (powdered or granulated) and some vanilla extract. Place the lid on it and shake vigorously! I’m not sure how long it took but I shook that jar for a while! You’ll know it’s done when you can no longer hear the sloshing cream.
  • Whip the cream before taking the cake out of the freezer; it takes a bit of time and the cake will start melting fairly quickly. 
  • I think next time, I’ll tort the cake and make the ice cream the middle layer

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies are my #1 favorite cookie. I’m talking about homemade cookies, because if this were the store bought category, Oreos will forever remain #1. Overall, they’re both tied. To me, oatmeal raisin cookies are superior to chocolate chip or sugar. There’s just no way any other cookie is better. I know there are thousands of people who disagree but I will fight to the death for oatmeal raisin cookies. I think the best thing I’ve heard from an oatmeal raisin cookie hater is that they suck because the raisins are and taste like deception; they apparently could’ve been chocolate chips.

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Oatmeal raisin cookies: deceptively delicious

I honestly don’t understand the hate or why they’re compared to chocolate chip cookies. They’re both awesome in their own right but oatmeal raisin cookies are just better. I mean, think about it. An oatmeal raisin cookie could be excused for breakfast. How many people can say they have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? None. You say you had an oatmeal raisin cookie and people will only half-heartedly disapprove.

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Like, just look at an oatmeal raisin cookie. There’s tons of oats in there, which are whole grains with tons of fiber to help keep you full for a while (ahem, if you eat enough of them). Then there’s the raisins; not only delicious but could also count as a fruit serving (or at least part of one). And the cinnamon in there? Helps speed up your metabolism (don’t quote me on that). Look, I’m not saying that it’s a complete breakfast but they definitely have the potential to be.

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Besides the main ingredients, an underlying characteristic of an oatmeal raisin cookie is its soft and chewy texture. Do not come to me with crunchy oatmeal cookies. I’d probably still eat it but I wouldn’t enjoy it too much. Oatmeal cookies of any kind should be soft, tender, and chewy. The oats have a lot to do with this, but I think it’s all the awesome brown sugar and the tiny bit of flour in there. The key to these cookies’ thick and chewiness is actually a trip to the fridge. Deb (the genius behind this recipe) says that chilling the dough for a bit before baking helps the cookies keep their composure during baking; allowing them to stay tall, thick, and chewy. This is important because it helps firm up the butter in the cookie, meaning they won’t spread out like crazy on the cookie sheet.

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I think my opinion is obviously biased but these cookies are several kinds of awesome. They were nice and thick, with the slightest crunch on the crust. Underneath that layer is the chewy haven that can only be found in oatmeal raisin cookies. The raisins add to that chew, lending their deep and fruity flavor. The hint of cinnamon rounds out the chew with a smidgen of warmth and then BAM, you just had the best oatmeal raisin cookie you’ve ever baked. So good, you’ll want another. SO GOOD, you’ll want to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go ahead, I won’t judge. They’re almost a complete breakfast anyway.

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 23 cookies, 1 3/8″ in diameter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and the egg, mixing until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Stir in the oats and then the raisins.
  2. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out balls of dough onto the prepped sheets and place at least two inches apart. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cooking times vary depending on how cold the dough is. Let cookies cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I added whole wheat flour and more cinnamon than the recipe called for. Feel free to reduce the cinnamon and use all AP flour
  • I like tossing the raisins in a bit of the flour before mixing them in, so that they won’t sink. Not sure if that happens in cookies but I do it anyway (really good to do for cakes and such for raisins and other heavy stir ins)
  • Deb has cookie dough freezing instructions in her original post, check that out if you’re interested
  • She also likes adding chocolate chips (gasp!) and nuts to her oatmeal raisin cookies. Add at your own discretion 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I don’t have much to say this week, except that I fulfilled my craving for coffee cake. More specifically, I fulfilled my craving for a crumb topping.

I mean, really

I mean, really

I was watching the Food Network, as I usually do all day, every single day. I don’t remember what show I was watching exactly, but they were making something involving a crumb topping. As soon as I heard “crumb,” my ears perked up; only focusing on the fact that chunky bits butter, sugar and flour were on the horizon. Let’s be real for a sec, anything that involves a special kind of topping, be it a crumb or a crust, is a fantastic dessert. Since I already did (and failed miserably) a oat streusel topped dessert, I went after the crumb.

Coffee cake is one of the easiest and simplest cakes out there.  Most, if not all, are sour cream based. Believe it or not, that’s the best part about a coffee cake (not counting the crumb topping). The sour cream not only adds necessary moisture to the batter, but it helps give the cake a dense but tender crumb. Not to mention it also makes the cake bright and tangy. It’s weird, but trust me it is good. Sour cream isn’t only found in coffee cakes, though. It also goes extremely well in pound and chocolate cakes.

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Let’s talk topping for a second. Crumb streusel is made up of mostly cold chunks of butter cut into, sugar, spices (sometimes) and a little bit of flour. In the oven, the sandy mixture conforms together into a crunchy, lumpy mass that creates chunky crumbs when pierced. Just the thought of crumbling crumbs was enough motivation to make this cake! Now, this specific recipe makes A LOT of crumb topping. I was honestly overwhelmed with the amount the recipe asked for, and almost cut it in half but I didn’t. Trust the recipe; it may seem like a lot but it is enough.

This was my first time using sour cream in a cake, and it certainly won’t be my last. It made the cake slightly tangy, which went perfect with the super sweet and crunchy crumb topping. The middle layer of sugar and cinnamon was a nice surprise, reminiscent of the insides of a cinnamon roll. The thick and brittle crumb topping was the best contrast against this dense and tender cake. Its sweet and salty taste evened out the cake’s tanginess, making it a perfect marriage of differing tastes and textures. It is the absolutely perfect companion to a cup of steaming hot coffee.

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes one 9 or 10″ round tube cake

Streusel topping and center:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Cake:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Directions:

  1. Make the streusel topping: Mix together flours, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Make the streusel center: Mix together remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 9 or 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl.

  4. Cream butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

  5. Spoon half the batter into pan. Sprinkle streusel center mixture evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle streusel topping mixture evenly over batter.

  6. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.

  7. Make the glaze: Mix together confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle over cake, and let drip down sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Add chopped pecans or walnuts to the topping, like the original recipe suggests for some crunch 
  • If you don’t like extra sugar on your sugar, you can totally skip the glaze
  • Yes, the topping seems like a lot. Half the recipe if you’d like but it was perfect as is
  • Use the butter wrapper from the softened butter to grease the pan

Kitchen Experiments: Orangettes

Orange is definitely one of my favorite flavors. Along with the other citrus fruits, oranges are full of freshness and flavor. One of my favorite things to do is actually peel an orange by hand. I like to get my fingers in there and just pull back the peel, and watch the orange oils just leak out and get all over my hands. It’s like nature’s perfume! Obviously I’m no stranger to oranges but it wasn’t until recently that I experienced a dark chocolate covered candied orange peel. I instantly fell in love. I was never really one to eat any kind of fruit with chocolate; not even the super popular chocolate covered strawberries. It just wasn’t my thing. I liked my fruits and chocolate separate when I was a kid, and never thought to try them together until adulthood. Blame the ‘refined palate’ I’m now claiming because I’m game to chocolate with fruit, and the darker the chocolate the better.

Back to the candied orange. It was definitely an experience and an eye opener. With the whole “do it myself” kick I’ve been going through, I knew I could probably pull this off. I used this recipe as a guide and got going.

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Making orangettes is super simple but very time consuming. It can take all day, but the majority of the process is just waiting. To get started, grab some oranges and carefully remove the peel off in segments. I like to cut off the top and bottom of the orange; trying to take away as little as possible of the actual orange. We just want a little opening into the pith. From here, I score the peel four times around the orange, and then use my hands to carefully remove the peel. Oddly enough, we actually want the pith. Ideally, when eating an orange the pith isn’t edible but for this purpose, we need it as it helps hold the sugar and gives the orangette its structure.

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After peeling the whole orange, slice the peel into strips. Try to make them as even as possible, but don’t fret if they’re not. I find that the thicker the slice, the better but this also takes longer to dry later. Play around with the sizes and thickness until you find what you like. After you have your strips ready, bring a pot with water up to a boil. Place the strips into the boiling water and blanch for five minutes. Rinse the peels and repeat the process two more times. This process is done to get rid of the bitterness found in the peel, and helps soften them up for the next step. For this part, I changed out the water each time and blanched them a total of three times. I’m sure it isn’t necessary to change the water each time, but I did for extra security.

After the last blanch, place an equal amount of water and sugar into your pot and bring to a simmer. Essentially, this is a simple syrup, and is what turns regular orange peels into orangettes. Amounts of water/sugar can vary, depending on how many orangettes you plan on making. For the one orange I used, I made my simple syrup using two cups of water with two cups of sugar. I did this for two reasons; one of which was because of my failed first attempt. The first time I tried to make these, I didn’t use enough water and sugar; the strips were touching the bottom of the pot. On top of the fact that they were sticking, I had the heat a little too high and ended up with caramelized orange peels. It could’ve been good but it was NOT what I was looking for.

Peels in syrup

Peels in syrup

When the syrup is at a simmer, put the peels in the pot and keep at a simmer for an hour. Yes, I know. A whole hour. Don’t stray too far from the pot, either. It needs to stay at a simmer or else you’ll end up with my first attempt’s result. Not good. While you wait, eat the orange you now have laying around if you haven’t already. This is also a good time to think about what kind of chocolate is best to dip the finished orangettes in. Personally, I’m a fan of dark chocolate. In this case, it goes very well with the orangey sweetness of the orangettes against the bitter tones of a dark chocolate. Bittersweet and semisweet also work extremely well, but you can use what you like. For this instance, I used semisweet.

Now that the peels have been simmering in the syrup for an hour, it’s time for removal. Carefully lay out each orangette atop of a cooling rack. Place a baking sheet under the rack to catch the syrup drippings. Right now, you should have a pot full of orange simple syrup. That was reason number two! Save the syrup and use it to sweeten tea, cocktails, or even lemonade.

Here comes the hard part: more waiting! The orangettes need to be completely dry before dipping in chocolate. For me, it took several hours; I didn’t really note how long it actually took. After they’re completely dry, they should be a little sturdier and less sticky. Melt the chocolate of your choice, either on a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Dip each orangette, and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. At this point, you have creative license to dip them however you want; either completely, halfway, or a simple drizzle. For the non-chocolate lovers (ahem, my folks), toss the orangettes in some granulated sugar but only before serving! The orangettes tend to soak the sugar up and they get kind of wet and sticky; not cool.

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Orangettes are just plain awesome.  They’re sweet, chewy and intensely orange. The slight bitterness of the semisweet chocolate goes so well with the sweetness of the orangette. I mean, chocolate and orange just love each other. Pity it took me this long to figure that out. Now that I think of it, these would make an awesome gift. Honestly, I’m just thinking ahead to Christmas! Too soon, maybe.

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I’m positive this method isn’t just limited to oranges, and could produce awesome tasting candied lemon peels (lemonettes?) or lime peels (limettes, obviously). Try them with different combinations of chocolate; like limettes covered in white chocolate or lemonettes in milk chocolate. The options are endless and sure to produce a delicious result.

Orangettes – adapted from Handle the Heat

  • 1 large orange
  • 8 cups of water, divided
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4-8oz of semisweet chocolate chunks, melted
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut the top and bottom off of the orange. Score the peel four times, rotating the orange after each score. Gently remove the peel with your hands, trying to get the peel to come off in one piece. Slice the peels into uniform strips.
  2. Set a medium sized pot, and bring two cups of water to a boil. Blanch the peels in the boiling water for five minutes. Pour the peels into a colander, and rinse off with cold water. Replenish the pot with two more cups of water and bring to a boil again. Repeat the above process for a total of three times.
  3. In the empty pot, combine two cups of water and two cups of sugar over low-medium heat. Stir the sugar until it is dissolved, and bring to a simmer. Place the blanched and rinsed peels into the simmering syrup and continue to simmer for an hour.
  4. Carefully remove each peel and place on a cooling rack over a baking sheet. You can discard the syrup or keep it to sweeten drinks or tea; just place in a jar or other container and cool before refrigerating. Allow the peels to cool and dry completely, which may take several hours.
  5. After the peels have dried out, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or gently in the microwave. If you’re microwaving, melt the chocolate in 30 second increments; stirring each time. Do not scorch/overheat the chocolate. Dip each orange peel in the chocolate, and set on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Allow the chocolate to set before enjoying.
  6. Alternatively, toss the dried orange peels into granulated sugar, instead of chocolate, before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • This is a whole day kind of project. Start early!
  • Again, I don’t think it’s necessary to change the water after each blanch. If you test this, please let me know!

 

Light and Airy Pound Cake

I’m having the worst case of baker’s block. I’ve been feeling a little uninspired lately about everything kitchen related, and it’s catching up to me. I usually have my weekly baking excursions planned at least a month in advanced but I haven’t done that since March. I don’t know, I guess I’m going through a bit of a rut. So, what do you do when not even a fridge full of butter is enticing enough to compel you to make something? You bake a cake, of course.

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Pound cake is super easy. It’s literally a pound of butter, plus a pound of sugar, flour, and eggs. Simplicity at its finest. But this pound cake is different. I must admit, I made this recipe before (waaaaay before this blog was even a concept) and chose it because I thought it was “light” ingredient wise. You know, like light in terms of  “not fattening.” Boy, was I wrong! Nothing that involves two sticks of butter is “light.”

It did the thing

It did the thing

I quickly realized the error of my ways of thinking, and why this recipe was even titled “light.” This cake gets its lightness from whipped egg whites. Usually, pound cakes don’t require this step but it totally makes a difference. The ones that don’t probably end up more like a brick of cake; no offense to those recipes! Gentle folding of the whites into the already mixed ingredients helps keep the air in, and allows it to puff up into this light and buttery loaf. Another reason why I gravitated towards this recipe was the booze. There’s a tablespoon of hooch in this recipe! I’m no stranger to adding alcohol into my desserts; I actually try to throw it in whatever I’m baking as often as possible. I don’t know why but it just goes so well into baked goods. I promise you this cake won’t taste like alcohol but the flavor is there (somewhere).

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Originally, the recipe calls for lemon zest but I used orange zest instead. I reckon lime zest would be awesome, too. Perhaps with some coconut rum? Now I’m just imagining things! The pound cake was definitely light and airy. It’s super soft and fluffy, with the slightest hint of orange. The crust adds a bit of warmth and a necessary texture change that reminds you that this isn’t an angel food cake. I’m betting the alcohol lends to the browning of the cake, as it turns the loveliest shade of brown when baking and crumbles at the bite.

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The cake disappeared within minutes, both times, which obviously means this was a hit. I still don’t know what’s gonna come out of my kitchen next week, but I guess that feeling of uncertainty is okay. I know I’ll figure something out. If all else fails, just bake a cake!

Lighter, airy Pound Cake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one loaf cake

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Generous pinch of salt (about 1/8 – 1/4 tsp)
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, (divided: 1/2 cup + 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon Brandy, or other liquor of your choice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan, and set aside. Sift the flour onto waxed paper and then spoon it gently back into the sifter, adding the baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Sift the mixture twice more, each time spooning it lightly into the sifter.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks and then gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored and then add the rum and zest.
  4. Gradually fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes up clean. Cool for ten minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn the cake out and cool completely on the rack.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Use the butter wrappers to butter the loaf pan; slightly messy but a good way to use the butter left on the wrapper
  • Really, sift the flour three times. Trust me (and Deb!) on this one
  • If you try the lime zest/coconut rum version, please let me know how it turned out! I have to try that ;)