Kitchen Experiments: Angel Food Cupcakes

Ah yes, angel food. A cake so light, fluffy, and fat free that angels sing about it and eat it exclusively. Or something like that. Angel food cake is one of my favorite experimental desserts. Not only is there a unique method but the bigger version of this cake is kind of show stopping, but that’s another post ūüėČ

Angel food cake is a meringue based cake. I’m already familiar with meringues, so this wasn’t very new to me. Besides the fact that meringues and I roll mad deep, I’ve made angel food two other times.¬†The first time didn’t go so well. My cake didn’t rise as high as it should’ve. While it yielded tasty results, it didn’t look like the cake I envisioned. What went wrong? I probably deflated the whites a bit. Since I now know my way around meringues, I knew this wouldn’t happen again, and I’ve got pictures to prove it!

Cupcake! 2

At first, I was skeptical to make these cupcakes. Angel food, the big cake, requires cooling upside down. It’s the weirdest thing but hey, I’m not going to argue with that recipe. I wondered how it would work or if the cupcakes would end up deflating after cooling. Even with those doubts in my mind, I went for it.

The first step to making this recipe is to separate a dozen large eggs. We only need the whites. Save the yolks, though! I have 12 yolks chillin’ in the fridge with no aim. I’ll think of something. After separating, leave them out for a while to get to room temperature. Egg whites are best separated cold but they whip better room temp. Strange but true. I separated mine and went to the gym. Seems oxymoronic to make these after the gym but that’s how I roll. I also went ahead and pre-sifted the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt, and set it aside. When in doubt, mise-en-place it out. Quote me.

Egg whites and yolks

After I got back from the gym, I got to work. Let me preface this by saying all your utensils MUST BE GREASE FREE. Whites are so finicky, they won’t get all voluminous if there’s grease. They’ll never, ever whip. Ever. No fixing that, so make sure your bowl, beaters, and spatulas are grease free. A good way to do this is to wipe your tools down with either lemon juice or vinegar. Now that everything’s clean, preheat the oven to 350 and line a million cupcake pans. Okay, so not a million but this recipe faithfully makes 36 cupcakes, so line enough wells for that. Set all that aside and let’s get started.

Pour those whites into your giant bowl, or in your stand mixer if you’re a lucky duck. Start beating the whites until they get frothy and bubbly. Shouldn’t take too long. Add the cream of tartar. What is that? Well, it’s neither cream nor tartar. It’s actually potassium bitartrate, which is a byproduct of wine making. I hear they scrape this stuff off wine barrels. It’s purpose here is to stabilize the whites. With this stuff, your whites will not fall. Crucial stuff here.

After adding the cream of tartar, continue beating the whites until you have soft peaks. How do you know you’re there? Turn off your beaters, dip them straight down into the whites and pull them back up. Turn the beaters on its side and look at the whites on the tip. If some of the whites stay on the beater and look like the picture below, you’ve got soft peaks. No whites on the beaters? You’re not there yet! Keep going and check periodically.

Soft Peaks 2

Continue beating the whites and gradually add the sugar. Keep beating the whites until they’re super fluffy, and thick. At this point, they’re probably at a medium peak (like in the photo). Add the vanilla and beat it in. You know you’re done whipping the whites when the trail of the beaters stays on the whites.¬†No trails? Keep going.

At this point, we’re done beating. Grab your spatula and pre-sifted dry ingredients as it is time to fold them in. The best way to fold in the dry ingredients is by doing it in thirds. Don’t throw it all in and mix because you’ll risk deflating the egg whites. We definitely do not want that. Despite the fact that there’s cream of tartar in here, it won’t help keep all that air in. Fold gently and carefully, but also making sure to completely incorporate the dry ingredients. My favorite folding method is the “cut and sweep.” I basically take my rubber spatula and “cut” straight down the middle of the bowl, then I “sweep” the side of the bowl into the middle. Rotating the bowl helps!

Folding the dry

Once done folding, spoon the batter in gently into the lined cupcake tins. Bake the cupcakes for 18-19 minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool completely and top with frosting. I went for a raspberry whipped cream because I low key made these for Valentine’s Day. Except not really but these make a cute lover’s day dessert! Like, I won’t tell if you and your partner eat all 36.

Cupcake!

Even with all that doubt in my mind, the cupcakes came out beautifully. Fluffy and light, just like they should be. They’d be completely fat free had I not topped them with whipped cream but it’s whatever! I hope I helped demystify the angel food process (in cupcake form, at least). While it looks intimidating, the results are way too delicious to not try and make these.

Angel Food Cupcakes – barely adapted from How Sweet It Is

Makes 36 cupcakes

  • 12 large egg whites (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift before measuring)
  • 1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Separate the eggs, and let the whites sit at room temperature. While that’s resting, sift the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt together. Set aside. Line your cupcake pans, and place your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350F
  2. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, begin to beat the whites until frothy and bubbly. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, while still beating, and continue until the whites have thickened and have medium peaks. From there, beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients in thirds, making sure to fully incorporate each addition before adding more. Once batter is smooth, carefully spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 18-19 minutes or until golden and fluffy. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For the raspberry whipped cream, I beat a pint of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks, added two tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup of seedless raspberry jam. I reckon a shot of booze will go good here ūüėČ
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Turning 25 + Deb’s Yellow Birthday Cake

Happy New Year! It’s only been a week so far, and some things already hit the ground running. Back when I was a kid, I hated my birthday because it was so close to New Year’s. I still kind of hate that but I’m growing to love it because I get to start fresh at the same time everyone else does. Looking at it like that makes it seem less special but it is to me.

Looking back, my 24th year was pretty eventful. I started out 2014 at probably one of my lowest points. Sad but true. Everyone in my house was unemployed and miserable. The holidays that year was one of the worst, aided by the fact that Christmas didn’t even feel like Christmas. It just sucked. When my birthday rolled around, I hoped for a change in all of our lives. Despite whatever was going on, I was determined to keep it positive.

2014 birthday throwback! Remember this?

2014 birthday throwback! Remember this?

Fast forward to March. We’re still all kinda miserable and unemployed. Through my efforts on the internet, I was able to apply to some jobs for my mom. She was desperate for a career change, and I did my best to help her out. She loves kids and used to babysit when my sister and I were younger. She wanted to get back into that so I did what I could. Through one of those caretaking websites, I applied for her to one post that caught my eye from day 1. The poster replied back to me, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. Once I cleared up I was the one who applied¬†for my mom, she insisted on meeting the both of us. Taken aback, my mom and I went and the rest is history. My mom now takes care of the cutest and smartest little baby girl. They welcomed my mom into their¬†family, just as we did to them. My mom, the baby, and her family are all happy. That alone put me at ease, despite the fact I was still unemployed and unsure of my future.

For me, things didn’t start changing until maybe June or July. I got an email from my former professor, to whom I reached out because I was desperate for a job. Graduating into a recession is the worst thing ever because no one wants to hire a graduate. In that email was an application to a startup non-profit organization, called CO*OP, that focused on helping graduates find their footing in the industry. This sounded like what I needed so I applied. This was the best decision I had made in the entire year. It was the biggest blessing for me because it was exactly what¬†I desperately needed. Not only did I learn a bunch of new skills, I got a group of friends (including a few special ones) that I never thought I’d have, and sort of had a new job. The founder of the program hired me this past December, so exciting things are happening!

Look who's on the front page of the website!

Look who’s on the front page of the website!

Thanks to CO*OP, I changed so much as a person. I figured out why I am the way that I am, and how to amplify my greatest skills. I became more outgoing and a little more confident in myself and the things I do. Still a work in progress! My new friends became my support system and they helped bring out the best in me; for that alone I’m grateful. I can’t wait to see what happens in my life this year but I’m hoping for some surprises, some love (ahem!), and stability.

Now, let’s talk birthday celebrations. I celebrated my 25th birthday this past Friday. As usual, I baked my own cake but before I get to that, let me tell you how I celebrated.

25th Birthday 1

My sister took me out to dinner at Cafeteria, a cool restaurant here in the city. I’d never been, so I was excited. I’m not one to go out to dinner for birthdays, mostly because that’s not something my family did frequently. I was dying to go out so my sister did me the honors.

Dinner was fantastic! For appetizers, we had mac and cheese spring rolls. As an entree, I had my usual cheeseburger with fries. I get that basically everywhere I go but this was the first time I had one medium rare; it was delish. My sister had a roasted chicken sandwich. I also had a “liquid passion” cocktail, which was a champagne cocktail with passion fruit. For dessert, we had deep fried Oreos that came with a mini milkshake and a scoop of mint chip ice cream with crumbled Oreos in the middle. Everything was amazing and my sister and I were beyond full.

From L to R: mac and cheese spring rolls, liquid passion cocktail, cheeseburger with fries, and deep fried Oreos

From L to R: mac and cheese spring rolls, liquid passion cocktail, cheeseburger with fries, and deep fried Oreos

We also had a mini adventure because every year, I dress up really nice for my birthday. I got myself a pair of heels to go with my pretty dress this year. The problem is that I don’t usually wear heels so my feet were killing me before we even made it to the restaurant! I had to go to the pharmacy and pick up a pair of those fast flats. After dinner, we walked to the nearest Marshall’s where I bought a pair of real flats. Let me just say, the judgmental looks I got from my little leopard print sock like flats were unreal but super entertaining.

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When we got back home, it was time for cake. Now, this year, I opted to make my cake the day before to save myself some of the hassle the day of. This was mostly a good idea except I ended up with kind of a huge cake fail. The cake itself worked beautifully. I made Deb’s recipe for yellow birthday cake, which is becoming a favorite now. However, due to poor planning, I never figured out how I wanted it flavored in terms of frosting, so I decided to give Swiss meringue buttercream a shot. This is where I messed up, big time.

I gave the buttercream a go the day before as well. When I was making it, I knew something was wrong but trucked on anyway. My meringue wasn’t as fluffy as it should’ve been so the texture was off. Using the instructions to troubleshoot the buttercream, I added more butter. It looked right, so I stopped there and put it in the fridge for the next day. To assemble the cake, I forgot to let the buttercream come to room temp. Another huge mistake right here, as my rushing messed up the buttercream completely. I tried adding more butter to fix it but it ruined the texture of the frosting and made things worse. I wasn’t about to whip up a new batch, as my butter supply is dangerously low, so I rolled with it anyway. Not my best or proudest cake but I couldn’t have a birthday without my cake.

25th Birthday 5

Despite the buttercream coming out way less than perfect, the cake itself was amazing. It was so soft and tender. Deb likens the recipe to her favorite Duncan Hines box mix and she’s definitely right about that. It totally brought back those feelings from when my dad used to bake us cake mixes. That alone was enough to complete my birthday. Even though the texture was off, the taste was still there, so my birthday cake was still somewhat of a winner.

I hope that the couple missteps I’ve had this past week aren’t any indication of how my year is looking. I didn’t quite start on the right foot (which I’ll talk about another time), but I handled it in an adult way. I guess this means I really am an adult? Either way, I hope this year is as successful and eventful as the last half of my 24th.

25th Birthday 8

Deb’s Yellow Birthday Cake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 8″ round cake, plus 3-4 cupcakes

  • 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (530 grams)¬†cake flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line two 8″ round cake pans with parchment, buttering the parchment as well. While you’re at it, line a couple of cupcake wells with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. At a low speed, add the buttermilk. The mix will look curdled but it’s right; keep going.
  3. Add the flour mixture in three batches, making sure each batch is incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. Divide the batter among the cake pans, filling them about halfway. Use the remaining batter to make a couple cupcakes. Rap the cake pans on the table a couple times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 35-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cakes out of the pans and onto the rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:¬†

  • The cake recipe is originally for two 9″ rounds. I only have two 8″ rounds, which is why there’s extra batter for cupcakes.
  • I forgot the ‘rap the pan’ part, which is why you can see the giant air bubbles. Not too pleasing to look at but still delicious.¬†
  • The buttercream recipe is obviously missing. I won’t post it till I get it right!
  • If you’re making the cake a day ahead, wait until it is completely cool before wrapping in several layers of plastic wrap. You can refrigerate it or keep it room temp after that. For a firmer cake that’s easier to level and work with, I suggest refrigerating.

 

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Chocolate Ganache Filling

For the first time ever, I went to a Halloween party. Well, to be fair, it was more of a “get together” than a party. There’s a difference. My CO*OP family and I got together at our founder’s house for snacks, games, and super intense discussions on rousing topics.

As the self proclaimed class baker, I knew I wanted to bring something awesome. Two of my CO*OP friends requested chocolate cupcakes with black frosting. I’m all about pleasing people, even if it meant coloring some buttercream black (not that visually appealing but whatever). Regular chocolate cupcakes seemed so pass√©, so I went a slightly different route.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 3

If you know me, you know that I LOVE putting booze in things. Sometimes, I put it where it doesn’t belong. I can’t help it! Liquor is every baker’s secret weapon, whether they admit to it or not. There’s just something about putting liquor in stuff that makes things awesome. It might be the liquor itself or the devious feeling I get from secretly putting it in things. Tomato, potato; same thing.

These cupcakes are extra boozy and special because it has not one, but two different liquor components. The cupcakes themselves are made with Guinness. Now, I know what you’re thinking; “beer in cupcakes?! NO WAY.” YES WAY! Guinness and chocolate are actually secret BFFs. There’s something about the dark richness of stout that pairs so well with chocolate. Not only that but the beer also helps the cupcakes stay super moist. Double bonus!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 1

The second introduction to booze in this recipe is through the ganache filling. At first, I thought adding a filling was a little extra but the more chocolate, the better! It’s just an ordinary chocolate ganache but with a couple teaspoons of whiskey. Here’s the part where I tell you I wish I had put more whiskey in this. I wish I had put more whiskey in the ganache. Do yourself a favor and add more liquor in there because what doesn’t kill you, ends up making you a little tipsy.

I swear my goal was not to get my friends drunk. Well, maybe considering I also brought rummy bears with me. Not really because the cupcakes couldn’t do it. Even so, they were fantastic. This was my first time dealing with beer, so I was skeptical but then surprised with the results. The cakes were super rich and chocolatey, with a slight taste of hoppyness (I guess?) from the beer. That was the only indicator that there was any beer in the cupcakes, unless I told you beforehand or you’re some type of beer wizard that just KNOWS when you taste things. The stout helped keep the cupcakes moist and make the chocolate taste more like chocolate. I guess it works a little like how coffee enhances the chocolate flavor. Then the ganache. Not too sweet with that hint of whiskey. It almost tasted like caramel. I don’t know what kind of sorcery the whiskey did in there, but I was all about it.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 2

Let’s talk about the frosting for a minute. This isn’t your typical buttercream. I have been hearing on the internets about this awesome method for frosting that required less butter and sugar, but still had the buttercream taste. Intrigued, I decided to go for it. Initially, these cupcakes were supposed to have even more booze in the frosting, per Deb’s original recipe. Like I said above, I wasn’t about to get my friends drunk off cupcakes, so I refrained from adding more.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 4

My sister’s a hand model

Either way, the recipe is just as easy as regular buttercream. Basically, you make a roux out of flour and milk on the stove, until it’s thick like cake batter. Yes, there’s flour in here. I know, I was like “whaaaaa” when I saw it ¬†but trust; it works. Let that cool completely before proceeding to the next step, which is creaming softened butter and some sugar. Just one cup of butter with a cup and a quarter of regular granulated sugar. WAIT. Granulated sugar? I was skeptical about this too, considering you can feel the sugar even after creaming the crap out it. After joining the cold roux and the creamed butter, magic happens because it turns into a light and fluffy dream. It’s lighter than traditional buttercream but still has the taste. You can’t feel the sugar granules at all. Like MAGIC.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 5

I must say, for a bunch of firsts in one batch of cupcakes, they came out extremely well and very much on theme. They so looked the part for Halloween. If anything, this success is just making me wonder what else I can put booze in. I guess I’m just going to have to figure that out with some trial and error ūüėČ

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Chocolate Ganache Filling – barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 22-24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup stout, such as Guinness
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey, or any whiskey (the more the merrier!)

Directions:

  1. For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350¬įF. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
  2. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
  4. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way.
  5. Bake the cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17-22 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
  6. For the ganache: Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
  7. Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. Alternatively, you can spoon the filling into the cupcakes. Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer, or a paring knife with skilled hands, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom ‚ÄĒ aim for 2/3 of the way. ¬†Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. Or use a teaspoon to spoon the filling into the cupcakes. You can put a “lid” on the filling, by adding the tops of the cut centers back on the filled cupcakes but that’s optional.

Cooked Whipped Frosting – adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?

Makes enough to generously frost all 24 cupcakes, and have leftovers

  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk over medium heat. Keep whisking and cooking until the mixture has thickened and resembles cake batter; about 7 minutes. Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let mixture cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light, pale, and fluffy. This can take anywhere from three to 10 minutes, depending on how long you can go. You basically want the sugar and butter to be really incorporated. Don’t be afraid to beat it more!
  3. Add the completely cooled flour mixture to the creamed butter, and beat until completely incorporated, making sure to periodically scrape the bowl. Add food coloring, if using.
  4. Place the frosting in a piping bag and frost cooled cupcakes. Enjoy!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in the cupcakes for three reasons; it was the only Dutch processed cocoa in the supermarket, it’s my favorite, and it tastes good.
  • I don’t have a small circle cutter, so I used a paring knife to cut out the circles freehanded. Use what you have!
  • I also skipped the piping bag for the ganache, and opted for a teaspoon to fill the cupcakes.¬†

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

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

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‚Äôt remember what show I was watching exactly, but they were making¬†something involving a crumb topping. As soon as I heard ‚Äúcrumb,‚ÄĚ my ears perked up; only focusing on the fact that chunky bits butter, sugar and flour were on the horizon. Let‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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

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 ūüėČ

Strawberry Shortcake

My mom is the main reason I got in the kitchen. Since I was a little girl, there was always a permanent seat in the kitchen for me. At first, I would just watch her do her thing. To me, it was magical. I’d ask for a kitchen set for Christmas almost every year, just so I can pretend to cook like her. I grew up hearing the praises of everyone around me because my mom is that much of a fantastic cook. As a teen, I started to help her make dinner; chopping onions and peppers, stirring pots, all while laughing and chatting with her about anything. After my sister and I grew up, she started working as a cook in a deli. We were fortunate to have our mom at home when we were kids, but times got hard and she decided to make money doing what she loved most. Even then, we’d hear customers regularly praising her cooking. Now that my mom is no longer cooking for work, we get together in the kitchen several times a week and pick up where we left off. I hate to brag, but she really is an awesome cook. I can eat the exact same thing made by someone else¬†and it’ll never taste the same. In fact, I’m so picky about home cooking that I rarely eat anyone¬†else’s. It’s just that good! I know kids are supposed to say their mother’s cooking is superior, but I am not lying when I tell you my mom’s is the best.

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She¬†is the quintessential Dominican cook. If you’ve seen my Thanksgiving and Christmas posts, you’d know what I was talking about. Her saz√≥n is like no one else’s; often imitated but never duplicated. Everyone asks my mom how she cooks such good food and all she does is smile. Sitting in the kitchen with my mom all these years, I witnessed her magic and the secret behind her amazing food. It’s simple (and ridiculously clich√©) but it’s just love. My mom is passionate about cooking and pours tons¬†of love into every little thing she makes. You can hear her humming, or even singing while she stirs a pot or chops veggies and herbs. It’s in there and you can feel it. She is truly her happiest in the kitchen, making food for the people she loves. Even when she did it for work, she’d sing and laugh and smile.

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That passion and energy is what pushed me into the kitchen. I look up to my mom a lot because not only is she a fantastic cook, but she’s an amazing person. I know, everyone says that about their moms but she really is. She’s my number one cheerleader in life, and has always given me all of her support and love. She’s more than just my mom; she’s my friend, too. We talk about absolutely everything and even give each other advice. Granted, I don’t have much life experience but I like to believe I can be wise sometimes! I’m her shoulder to cry on just like she’s mine. She taught me how to be strong, loving, caring, and thoughtful. I’m not even sure that she knows how much she’s taught me or how much I value what she says.

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Every year, I try to make Mother’s day extra special. I show my mom how much I love her on a daily basis but on days like these, I like to put in a little extra. This year, we were a little tight budgeted so we settled on just me baking her something. I decided on a strawberry shortcake because I had been dying to try my hand at a chiffon cake. The strawberries were perfect, so I went ahead with it. Unfortunately, my oven is still on an angle, so one of my layers came out really lopsided. I messed up royally attempting to even it out so I can tort it into two layers. I did my best to remedy it with the cream and strawberries but it ended up not looking too presentable. I almost didn’t even want to post it! I actually apologized to my mom for its appearance and she just smiled at me and said “it’s the thought that really counts.” I told her that I knew that, and internally rolled my eyes because it’s so clich√© but accepted it and realized that was the point. Her whole deal is doing things with love, which is what I aim to do when baking. I made this cake with a ton of love and excitement, and she knew that. This alone was enough of a gift for my mom and I’m glad I was able to give that to her.

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Despite its not so good looks, the cake came out fantastic. The chiffon cake was super light and fluffy. The strawberries went perfect with the coconut whip, against the fluffy and slightly lemony cake. My mom loved it, as well as the rest of my family.

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I’m grateful to have my mommy because without her, I don’t know what I would be doing these days. I’m thankful for her endless support and hope that I can continue to be there for her, like she is for me. Because of her, I will continue to bake with love and happiness and hope that I can make her proud.

Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 9″ round cakes

  • 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 8 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • 2 (13.5oz) cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least overnight
  • 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325¬įF. Line the bottom of two 9″ round cake pans with lightly greased parchment paper. Leave the rest of the pans ungreased.

  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice.

  3. In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth.

  4. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently ¬†fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites until the egg whites are no longer visible.¬†Do not overmix, as it’ll deflate the whites and result in a shorter, tougher cake.

  6. Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean 40 to 50 minutes Please check your cake every five minutes or so from the 30 minute mark on for doneness. Do not overbake!

  7. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour in the pans on a wire rack. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand) and then another plate.

Coconut Whipped Cream:

  1. Open both cans of coconut milk. The cream should’ve solidified and risen to the top. Scoop out the cream into a bowl. If there is any liquid at the bottom of the can, discard it.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream for 2-3 minutes or until it reaches soft peaks. Sift in the powdered sugar and cornstarch, and add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla are incorporated.

Assembly:

  • 2 pints of strawberries, hulled and sliced
  1. You can make this a two layer cake but if you’re feeling lucky, tort both of the cakes into four separate layers. If you have a cake cutter, now would be a good time to use it. If not, grab a ruler and several toothpicks. Measure your cake’s height, marking the halfway point with a toothpick. Rotate the cake, continuing to mark the halfway point with a toothpick all around. Use as many toothpicks as you need, just make sure they are consistent all around the cake. Using a serrated knife, gently saw through the middle of the cake, using the toothpicks as a rest/guide. Once split, remove the toothpicks. Repeat with the other cake.
  2. Place one of the four layers on your cake plate or platter. Spoon on about a quarter of your cream, and gently spread it evenly to the edges. Take care not to go over! Arrange a quarter of the sliced strawberries atop the cream. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Refrigerate if desired.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • The floss trick won’t work here! Use the serrated knife
  • When halving the cakes, try to keep your wrists straight to prevent slanted cuts on the layers
  • You can omit the cornstarch in the coconut whip; I only added it for stability and so it wouldn’t solidify in the fridge
  • Alternatively, you can use regular whipped cream; just sub 2 cups of heavy cream for the coconut milk
  • To get the milk to solidify, the cans need to be refrigerated at least overnight. I like to keep mine in there for several days before use; just as security so I’ll know it’ll be solid. You may get lucky (depending on the brand) and have the entire can solidify without any remaining liquid.¬†

 

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

We celebrated my sister’s birthday last Monday, and of course there was cake. Every special occasion is a chance for me to practice my baker skillz, so there’s no doubt I took advantage of my sister’s birthday and made her something super special.

These days, I tend to make something for any¬†occasion; my own birthday, Valentine’s Day, even Easter but I try my best to make something new. For my sister’s birthday last year, I put my no bake skillz to the test and made her a vegan icebox cake consisting of Oreos (which are surprisingly vegan), coconut whipped cream, and toasted unsweetened coconut. We kept it dairy free because she is lactose intolerant. It was a delicious hit, despite the fact there was no actual cake or any dairy. So delicious, it helped land my sister in the hospital several days later! We spent the remainder of her birthday week couped up in the hospital, while she had her gallbladder removed. It wasn’t very glamorous but it was definitely memorable. To my defense, it wasn’t necessarily my cake that was the “final straw” but an influx of sugar and high fats consumed over the days revolving around her birthday was definitely part of it.

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We made deal that for this year, we were not going to try and end up in the hospital again, because she doesn’t have anymore organs ready for removal. This was after we decided we were aiming for her liver this year (which we may or may not have hit). I kid, I kid; no more hospital trips for anyone’s birthday this year. Anyway, for this birthday, she knew she wanted a Sweetapolita cake. If any of you can recall, I made her funfetti birthday cake for my birthday this year, and it was amazing. High off of that sugar rush, she wanted something similar. We chose Rosie’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake, which was basically the same thing I had sans sprinkles (blasphemy, tbh). She did want some flavor somewhere, so we also picked her Whipped Strawberry Frosting.

Looking at the recipe that accompanied the strawberry frosting¬†gave me an idea. I have never attempted to make more than two layers for a cake, so why not give it a try this year? I aimed high and decided I wanted to make my sister’s cake four layers.¬†For this, I baked the cake in two cake pans, and split each cake in half. Easy, right? Well, no. My oven (and kitchen, actually) appears to be on an angle. One of my cakes came out really lopsided. It was kind of sad but I ran with it. My only concern with halving these cakes was to make sure they were even. I am a huge stickler for accuracy; more when there are numbers involved. I had a ruler, tape measures, toothpicks, and a calculator nearby to make sure I was as accurate as possible. This lopsided cake threw me for a bit of a loop but I wasn’t about to give up. I used¬†this creative and unique method¬†to halve the cakes, which as you may recall I used something similar to slice¬†these¬†cinnamon rolls¬†a while back. I just never thought it would work¬†on a cake! Despite this ingenious method, I still ended up with a slightly uneven layer because the of the lopsided cake. Thinking on my feet, I used the scraps to help me level out that layer. It didn’t look too good but it did even things out enough that the cake wasn’t lopsided at all.

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Now, the buttercream also proved to be tricky. We had a giant container of fresh strawberries in the fridge, which partly influenced the flavor of this buttercream way before we’d even planned it. The problem was that these strawberries, while pretty, were virtually tasteless. We live in New York, which is nothing close to warm during this time of year. It wasn’t surprising that they didn’t taste right, as they’re not in season yet. Even with that in mind, I decided to roll with that too. I cooked the strawberries a bit with some sugar and a squeeze of lemon, cooled it, blended it, and then passed it through a sieve. It was beautiful and thick but still sort of tasteless. I held back on the sugar because I didn’t want sugar overkill in the buttercream; we wanted the contrasting flavors of the sweet buttercream against the fruity strawberry. I added almost a cup’s worth of puree to the buttercream, which gave me a pretty pink frosting with the slightest taste of strawberry ever to grace a cake. I ended up with some frosting left over after covering the entire cake, so I got creative with my piping tips and decorated the cake with some rosettes and a pathetic attempt at a buttercream rose.

I was so proud of the fact that I was able to pull together a four layer cake, that came out almost¬†flawless. My sister was super happy with the result, which in turn made me happy; despite the fact that a ton of things went wrong (which I honestly just noticed as I was writing all of this). The cake was truly fluffy and reminded me a lot of box cake mix, except that this tasted eons better than the boxed stuff. Although this cake’s method was strange, it was important for the awesome taste and texture it provided. The frosting’s pretty pink tint was a lovely visual contrast against the white cake. It was definitely sweet and airy, with the slightest hint of tangy strawberry. The fact remains that buttercream tastes like ice cream, and this was no exception.

If anything, all these minor (hah) mishaps left me wondering when I’ll make my next layer cake. I had fun making this cake, and reveled at the fact that it looked like the real deal; like something you’d find in a real bakery. I’m extremely pleased that I helped make my sister’s special day a success, and hope that this year is her greatest yet.

My lovely (and old) sister with her cake. Cameo from my mom in the back

My lovely (and old) sister with her cake. Cameo from my mom in the back

For the Fluffy Vanilla Cake and Whipped Strawberry Frosting¬†recipes, please visit Rosie’s amazing blog, Sweetapolita by clicking on these links.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Follow the cake recipe verbatim! Although the process may seem strange (read: like no other way you’ve ever mixed a cake), it really does work. Also, use a large bowl; flying pieces of floured butter are NOT a good time.¬†
  • Weigh everything. I know it’s a pain but accuracy is definitely required to make Rosie’s cakes successfully. This is especially helpful if you tend to buy extra large eggs!
  • Use frozen strawberries for the puree, unless the fresh ones near you actually taste like strawberries. Also, no need to cook them if frozen. Have extra puree? Make bellinis!¬†
  • Keep cake chilled if you’re not serving it immediately or if you have a warm house, but remove from the fridge at least 20-30 minutes before serving. The buttercream hardens in the fridge and needs a chance to soften up for slicing.¬†