Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love oatmeal cookies. Actually, I think I love oatmeal. Period. Oatmeal raisin cookies are like, in my top three. The other two cookies are Oreos (duh), and sprinkle cookies. Probably. Only the ones from the bakery, though. You know, the crumbly, buttery ones with a million sprinkles? Those are the jam. Oatmeal raisin would be at the top because homemade, but either way, I needed to have an oatmeal cookie in my life soon.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies_3

When I was brainstorming aloud to my friends on what I should make next, I mentioned an oatmeal cookie. I have already done my favorite, but with the mention of “oatmeal” alone was enough to cause a mini stir. I couldn’t finish my sentence before I heard “I HATE OATMEAL COOKIES.” Emphasis on hate. Mostly because oatmeal cookies always seemed to equal oatmeal raisin. While my little oatmeal raisin lovin’ heart broke, I reasoned with them. I also got the whole “raisins are deceiving” line, too. Although, that reaction is a lot funnier.

So, I settled on oatmeal chocolate chip. I get to eat my oatmeal cookie and everyone else gets to enjoy them raisin free. While I’m still a tad offended at the fact that there are so many raisin haters out there, I figured this was a good compromise.

BROWN (er, tan?) BUTTER THO

BROWN (er, tan?) BUTTER THO

Now, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are basically a chocolate chip cookie but with oats. Sounds basic, to be honest. The last thing I want is a basic cookie. I sat there with my browser open and thought “how can I make these unbasic? How can I take them up a level?” And then it hit me.

In my time baking, well before this blog, I have only attempted to make brown butter once. Let’s just say, I took it too far. I had light black butter. Not appealing, and definitely not tasty. With the help of some instructional GIFs, from one of the last places I’d look to on the internet for kitchen advice, I tried to make brown butter again.

Oats, though

I was cautious of it going too brown, so my brown butter might actually be tan butter. Or light brown butter. Or maybe taupe butter. I don’t know! What I do know is that when I was making this, my house smelled heavenly. I could not believe that melting butter, and taking it a little further than just melting, could make my house smell that good. It smelled like warm, toasty, buttery, and nutty all at the same time. I was amazed, and then I got excited because if it smelled that good, I already knew my cookies were going to come out poppin’.

Ideally for cookies, you have softened butter. After browning mine, I let it sit room temp so it can harden a bit. It’s funny that I had to reverse the technique here and go from melted to softened; never thought I’d have to do that! I stirred it before it got too hard to evenly distribute all that golden brown deliciousness. Granted, I could’ve let it get a tad stiffer but I was short on time.

Cookie DOUGH

Anyway, the cookies came out unbelievably good. The brown butter was PERFECT in these cookies. Like, I can’t even at how great this came out. I’m still stunned. It added a hint of nuttiness to the cookies that I just couldn’t believe. I had a (ahem, or two) cookie while it was still warm, and I wanted to melt just like the chocolate chips. Super chocolatey, with that nutty hint from the brown butter, and then with the crispy but chewy addition of the oats. OMG. IT. WAS. CRAZY. I took them with me to work and they were gone in minutes. Even the oatmeal haters became oatmeal lovers after these cookies.

So, if you have an (or several) oatmeal skeptic(s) in your life but need to fill that oatmeal void with something everyone can enjoy, try this cookie. Oatmeal haters will see what they’ve been missing.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies_2

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 4 dozen

  • 2 sticks of butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (fresh, if you can)
  • 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (spoiler alert: a whole 12oz bag)

Directions:

  1. Make the brown butter: in a small pot or sauce pan, melt both sticks of butter over medium heat. Once completely melted, begin stirring. You’ll see the butter foam up as the milk solids rise to the top and begin to pop. KEEP STIRRING. While you’re stirring, pay attention to the butter’s color. A good way to see what’s happening, if the foam is all in the way, is on the sides of the pan. For me, it got brown as well, which is how I knew I was close. Once you see the butter is a nice light brown color, GET IT OFF THE HEAT ASAP. Pour your brown gold into a heatproof vessel and let it hang out. It’ll continue to get browner (allegedly) as it cools. Cool until it’s hard but soft enough to cream with butter.
  2. Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line your baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the cooled but softened brown butter and both sugars until creamy, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mix; making sure to incorporate the dry ingredients well. Stir in the oats, and finally fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using a disher or tablespoon, scoop out the dough onto the prepared sheets, leaving a couple inches of space between each cookie. Bake the cookies for 10 to 13 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (try them warm!)

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Don’t burn the butter. 
  • The whole wheat flour is optional! I threw it in there for added “health” but feel free to use the 2 full cups of all-purpose. 
  • Seriously, don’t burn the butter. 
  • Store in an airtight container at room temp. They should be good for a couple days, if they last that long. Alternatively, you can portion out the dough and freeze it for cookies anytime. 
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Monster Cookies

I almost didn’t make this post. Or these cookies, for that matter. It seems that I’m in somewhat of a baking rut. It’s like writer’s block but worse. Well, its horribleness is in the eye of the baker but alas, I have baker’s block.

Monster Cookie

It’s strange because a planner like me always has something up my sleeve. I don’t know, I like having a little bit of insurance for when things don’t go as planned. There’s a long list of recipes I’m dying to make and yet, I didn’t feel like making any.

This week, I just decided it was time to slap some sense in myself and get back in the kitchen. Luckily, I had a reason to. You see, I now work for the fabulous program I mentioned a couple times here. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I work for a non-profit organization called CO*OP (which is short for cooperate). Its main goal is to give recent city grads an opportunity to add onto their education with new digital skills. The grads then get to take these skills and put them to practice during a three month apprenticeship at a participating agency/company. I was part of the pilot group and am fortunate to be part of the team that will help this grow into something huge.

Monster Cookie Dough

Anyway, yesterday was our welcome party for our second cohort of fab grads. I knew I had to bake something, and forced myself into the kitchen to do so. Earlier this week, my sister brought me an M&M cookie. It kind of hit me right there. I was just like “PUT M&Ms IN A COOKIE, STAT.” To me, the only cookie with M&Ms in them are monster cookies.

I gotta be honest, I wasn’t expecting these cookies to come out this way. I used Ree’s recipe with a lot of faith that I’d have a cookie similar to the one I ate but much better. I wasn’t totally disappointed but it could’ve gone way better. The cookie spread out something fierce in the oven, which made it thin and lacy. Again, not the result I was expecting but delicious nonetheless. If I can blame it on anything, I’d blame the hot oven. 375F is kind of high for cookies.

Monster Cookie Dough_2

My favorite thing about Ree’s recipe, which is why I chose it in the first place, was how easy it is to customize with your own favorite fillings. You know how much I love throwing random things into my baking, so I was all over that. For this particular trial, I chose the traditional M&Ms (of course), mini semisweet chocolate chips, and threw in some cornflakes last minute. Cornflakes, you ask? Yes, cornflakes. Ree puts Rice Krispies in hers, so I thought about it for a good two seconds before I was like “CORNFLAKES.” I’d say it worked!

Despite the fact that the cookie was ridiculously thin, the cornflakes kept their crunch, which made the cookie twice as crunchy. The M&Ms popped out both in color and taste, which brought yet another layer of crunch, followed by some smooth chocolate. My old and new classmates loved them! I had an absolute blast hanging out with them, and seeing them enjoy the cookies (and the brownies) made me feel really good. Like, “get back into the kitchen to bake like usual” good. I look forward to getting back in the game, and treating the second cohort to some goodies on a regular basis!

Monster Cookie 3

Monster Cookies – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Makes 48 cookies

  •  2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups plain M&Ms
  • 3/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/4 cups cornflakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the sticks of softened butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Mix until moistened and combined. Fold in the rolled oats, M&Ms, and chocolate chips until evenly distributed among the dough. Lastly, fold in the cornflakes.
  3. Using a tablespoon, two spoons, or a #50 disher, portion out the cookie dough onto the prepped baking sheets, making sure to leave room between each cookie. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before carefully moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips: 

  • Ree’s recipe originally calls for salted butter. I usually have unsalted on hand because I can control the salt content in what I’m making myself. To kind of match the salted butter, I opted to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick of unsalted butter. Since the recipe already called for 2 teaspoons of salt (on top of the salted butter), I only added 1/4 teaspoon more instead of 1/2.
  • If your ovens run hot, like mine, take advantage of the temperature reduction I included in this version of the recipe. If yours doesn’t, feel free to bake these at the original 375F. 
  • Also, don’t forget to customize your monster cookie with your favorite toppings!

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.

 

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

To me, it’s not Christmas without gingerbread. It’s probably my favorite holiday cookie. Where people might say sugar, I say gingerbread.

It’s funny because I didn’t grow up with having gingerbread like that, especially for the holidays. Like I mentioned last year, the only time I had anything that even remotely resembled gingerbread was through a famous lady named Little Debbie. Thankfully, not anymore. I feel like though, in this day and age, if I ate one of her gingerbread men I’d probably get the worst headache ever. Processed sugar does that to me sometimes.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies_5

These past couple of years, I’ve made it a point to have a gingerbread something for the holidays. My folks, as usual, are meh about them so my sister and I get to eat most, if not all of the cookies. When I first started baking on theme things, and gingerbread was on the list, I started with this recipe. Allrecipes used to be my holy grail of recipes, and I sometimes go back there for old faves. I even have this very same recipe printed out on an index card, in a feeble attempt at a recipe box! Let me just say, formatting that on Word was a nightmare.

This year, in case you haven’t noticed, the cookie recipes I’ve posted have all been no fuss drop cookies. I swear it was unintentional. I realized this when I looked at my cookie wish list on my whiteboard the other day. I was deciding what to make next when I mentally screamed “WAIT A MINUTE! How come I don’t have cut outs?” I think my subconscious did me a favor by not choosing cut outs. Thanks, brain.

Since these are not cut outs, they are super easy to make. There’s just three things I’d like to point out, though. The original recipe says to use margarine. I’m an all butter household now, and there’s no turning back. Why use margarine when there’s butter available? Unless you have like, dairy problems or something, use the butter. The second thing is, swap out half the sugar for brown sugar. I didn’t this time, because I forgot, but please do. There are molasses in these cookies already but brown sugar is awesome in these sort of things. Dark brown sugar if you can, although either works fine. The last thing I’d note is to refrigerate the dough a little bit. It’s super duper soft, which can be a real pain when trying to shape into uniform balls to dip in sugar before baking. Let them chill out for half an hour or so, then thank yourself for not making cut outs.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies_4

Speaking of sugar, I guess I have one more thing to note. These cookies are rolled in sugar before baking, because why not add a little somethin’ somethin’ extra to these? Well, I upped the ante this year by rolling them in raw sugar. This was the best idea I had since deciding to add twice the amount of chocolate chips in a PB cookie. The crunch on these cookies because of this sugar is unbelievable. I was stunned, as I thought the dough would soak them up. It didn’t and they were fab.

Now, my cookies spread out quite a bit but that’s okay. I want to say that it was partly because of my new sheet pans and silicone liners, but I just don’t know. Either way, the cookies are as fantastic as I remember. Chewy, gingery, and molasses-y; just like a ginger cookie should be. The ginger is subtle but still present, which makes you just want to eat another one. The crunch from the raw sugar adds depth to an otherwise all chew cookie. Since mine spread out something fierce, it also didn’t look too bad if you ate one or five. They weren’t thick so it didn’t count!

Despite the fact that my ginger cookie this year was not in the shape of a little edible man, I still feel like I got in the quintessential holiday cookie. Good thing I can eat them all by myself!

Big Soft Ginger Cookies_3-1

#CookieCraziness recipes thus far:

Big Soft Ginger Cookies – adapted from allrecipes

Makes 36 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (stick and a half) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar, for rolling

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon and cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the room temperature butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Remember, you can go as long as you’d like. anywhere from 4-10 minutes; whatever it takes. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Then add the molasses and the water until fully incorporated.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mix, making sure it’s well incorporated before adding more. Fold in the last bit of dry ingredients, making sure to not overmix. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You can definitely skip this step but a chill will make the soft dough a tad more workable.
  4. After chilling the dough, preheat your oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside. On a plate or in a small bowl, place the 1/4 cup of raw sugar.
  5. Scoop out the dough using a disher, tablespoon, or two small spoons, and place on the raw sugar. Roll the dough ball until completely covered and transfer to the prepped baking sheet.
  6. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least five minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used maybe more than 1/4 cup to roll the dough balls in. Depends on the size of the dough ball, I guess. 

Recipe Roundup: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is finally here! Well, tomorrow officially but the wait is basically over. Even so, I don’t have a very clear idea of what’s landing on my dinner table tomorrow. It’s a struggle every year but this year feels different.

We try our best to combine both Dominican and American cultures on the table but I think this year, we’re leaning more on the American side. I guess I’ll see just how much we’re leaning tomorrow! Just know that no matter how far into the American side of things this family will lean, pie will never be a part of it (for shame:()

Anyway, I don’t have a recipe for today. Instead, I decided to do a little link roundup of recipes I’ve made or I’ve seen on the internets that I like and are on theme for tomorrow’s dinner. I’m including a few Dominican recipes that we’ve had for the holidays for those that want an idea of how to make some of those dishes. They’re not my recipes but we’ll get there one day! There will also a recap post of my Thanksgiving on Friday, so be on the lookout for that.

Treat House Salted Caramel Turkey

Salted Caramel Crispy Treat from Treat House NYC

 

Mains/Sides:

Bread:

Dessert:

Missed last year’s Thanksgiving recap? Check out what I had for dinner last year here.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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’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 😉

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.