baking buttermilk cake or adventures in frosting

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As I continue to flip through the yellowed three-by-five cards in Great-aunt Helen’s recipe boxes, I’m amazed at the breadth of her recipes. Savory and sweet, complex and simple, old-school and avant-garde–they all happily co-exist. Admittedly, more are simple than … Continue reading

the bourbon slide show

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Remember that Bourbon Festival mentioned last post? It’s in the rearview mirror and I now have only memories. More accurately, I have only memories, lots of photos, and oodles of bourboncentric souvenirs. Though I won’t be pulling out the slide … Continue reading

the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

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Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

puppies, not ponies: time for another birthday cake

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My youngest daughter, she of last year’s pony birthday cake, is set to turn a year older. Which means I have an excuse to go all out with another cake. Her chosen party theme for turning 8 is “puppies,” so … Continue reading

gate-crashing a Sicilian cocktail party

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Liz: Well, hello. Welcome to a Special Travel Edition here at food for fun. I hope you brought your passport, as we’re going International today. First, you’ll want to meet my friend Saucy of Saucy Gander. She puts my simple … Continue reading

food geek chocolate cake

The hardest part of monthly guest posts at Blog of Funny Names is coming up with that funny name. Committing to a food-related name helps narrow the field, but I’m never sure where to look for a name that is fun, fresh, interesting, relevant, and unique enough to be considered “funny.”

Googling always saves the day, but I still need a direction in which to head. This month I got that direction from a small inner voice whispering, “molecular gastronomy.” [While hearing small voices might qualify me for professional help, your reading this might qualify you for the same so we’re in this together. Stay with me? Please?]

So. Searching “molecular gastronomy” was exactly what I needed to do and we all benefit because 1) I found an amazing man named Hervé This, whom I now admire greatly and 2) I thought I’d try a bit of kitcheny science over here as well.

Those kitcheny science results are as laughable as they are delicious and we’ll move on to them as soon as I can convince you to hop over and learn a bit more about Hervé. Click here, then please return for a doozy of a chocolate cake experiment.

***

Back for cake? Very good, then. Learning about Monsieur This inspired me to find a recipe I remembered seeing on Foodography, a favorite Cooking Channel show. Self-proclaimed food nerd Jeff Potter demonstrated a microwave chocolate cake leavened only by N2O gasses in the cream whipper that dispensed the batter.

Long a cream whipper fan, I’ve used mine only to whip cream and branching out sounded like fun. A cake leavened with nitrous oxide instead of chemicals–kitchen science indeed.

ready to rock

ready to rock

Though the recipe threw me a bit: Four ounces chocolate, four eggs, plus smaller amounts of flour and sugar. This sounded like multiple servings, but best I could understand, it all went into one glass. Mention of only filling the “pan” two-thirds full should have been my clue, but after studying the recipe closely, I saw no mention of anything more than one serving. I filled that mug to the top. (also added a dollop of marshmallow fluff after half-filling with batter per recipe suggestion)

batter in place

batter in place

halfway

halfway

fluff!

fluff!

ready for the microwave

ready for the microwave

The first 30 seconds in the microwave didn’t “bake” the batter through, so I added four more 30-second intervals. And by the first minute, the batter was up and over the side of the mug. For sure this recipe is meant to serve four and shame on me for not getting that.

no words for this

no words for this

Just the same, this offers opportunity to turn disaster into triumph. (It’s a game I often play called, “I meant to do it this way.”) The cake turned out nicely on a platter, a bit of gooeyness on the top (now the bottom) adding to its charm. Dusting with powdered sugar, as advised, crowned it in glory and it was happily ever after.

A side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it's restaurant worthy.

Add a side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it’s restaurant worthy.

No question the batter was meant to be divided evenly among four glasses. Though the numbers divide in half easily enough, making two servings an option as well.

While this was fun, and meeting Hervé was worth any amount of kitchen mess, my next microwave cake will be of the chemically leavened mug variety. Fortunately, another Liz–of Tip Top Shape–has me covered with her funfetti version.

I raise my future mug of Liz’s Funfetti Mug Cake to you all for spending time with me here and over at Blog of Funny Names. I look forward already to our next food adventure.

British (cake) invasion

Anyone who writes, reads, comments on blogs would attest to the power of online communication for building relationships. Ditto for facebook, twitter, etc. We’ve all made friends we’d never have imagined meeting outside of online connections.

Today’s story is about such a connection, though it goes back 12 years, before blogs, facebook Likes, or tweets. Remember the chat room?

With little to do at the end of my first pregnancy (I had stopped accepting new projects in anticipation of first-time motherhood and the nursery was ready and waiting), I found myself newly addicted to a television show I’d enjoyed in the ’80s. Discovering its virtual chat room linked me to others following this cult favorite. Thus my bonding with Scarecrow & Mrs. King fans began.

It’s with some embarrassment that I ‘fess up to having been into this show (admitting to a trip to LA for SMK’s 20th anniversary reunion doesn’t help my street cred either), though I will forever be grateful as it formed a friendship I still hold today.

Di–watching SMK in Great Britain–was brilliantly funny and we soon moved on to emails and exchanging packages (though she’s much better at sending than I am). We’ve met up in LA, Vegas, Boston, D.C., and DisneyWorld and I’ve hosted her in my home as well.

(You can meet Di yourself, through TourGuide Ted, her well-traveled stuffed bear who has his own website, twitter account, and vacation property.)

Though Di would never call herself a “cook,” her bear, Ted, has posted the occasional culinary delight. Most recently, he showed up on his Twitter feed with a piña colada cake. And when Di sent me the recipe, I was on it like a maraschino cherry on a pineapple ring.

TourGuide Ted's cake is much prettier than mine.

TourGuide Ted’s cake is much prettier than mine.

What’s surprising here is that I don’t like pineapple. I especially don’t like pineapple in baked goods. (My theory that raisins don’t belong in baked goods easily extends to all fruit, excepting apple pie and crumble of course.) But a seemingly endless string of sub-zero temperature days broke me and I wanted nothing more than a slice of piña colada cake.

Luckily I have a kitchen scale and working knowledge of google as I needed to weigh ingredients and translate British cooking terms such as sandwich tins, caster sugar, and Gas Mark 3.

In the end, my cake baked up flatter (didn’t have 7-inch cake pans, so used 9-inch) and was less pretty (bought two cans of pineapple tidbits instead of one each rings and tidbits–oops) than what Ted had whipped up, but it couldn’t have been any less delicious. Moist, sweet, a little bit boozy, the cake offered texture contrast with moist pineapple pieces and shredded coconut. I put away three (not huge, honest) slices before I could stop eating.

Kept going back for more.

kept going back for more

slice of heaven

slice of heaven

In the spirit of the recent Winter Olympic games, food for fun salutes all its readers–international and domestic–with a cake that is good enough to bring about World Peace. And hopefully a spring thaw for those in northern climes.

Piña Colada Cake as told to an American food editor

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple rings
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 6 ounces butter, softened
  • 6 ounces caster sugar (used granulated)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons coconut rum (used twice that and Ted claims to have tripled the amount)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dessicated coconut (used shredded)
  • 6 ounces self-rising flour (used 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple pieces, drained and well-chopped (used canned tidbits)

Filling and Frosting

  • 525 grams icing (powdered) sugar
  • 225 grams butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • Coconut rum
  • Pineapple juice (reserved from canned pineapple)
  • 2 to 4 ounces dessicated coconut (Ted says toasted, though I did not)

Set oven to Gas Mark 3 (325ºF). Line 7-inch sandwich tins (with removable bottom). [I coated two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray.] Sprinkle bottom of one pan evenly with brown sugar. Top decoratively with pineapple rings and cherries.

In mixing bowl, beat together 6 ounces butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, rum, and vanilla until blended. Fold in coconut, flour, baking powder, and pineapple pieces. Add more rum if mixture is too thick to pour. Divide batter between pans. Bake on same oven rack 35 to 45 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides of pans and wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool (pineapple-side-up for pan with rings) on wire rack.

To make filling and frosting, sift icing sugar into large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter and small amount of liquids; mix until smooth. Add liquids to taste until mixture is smooth and spreadable. (Here Ted mentions that it is important to keep tasting, though he is speaking specifically about the rum at this point.)

When cake layers are cool, place bottom half (without pineapple rings) on serving plate. Spread with about half of frosting; top with remaining cake layer, pineapple-side-up. Spread remaining frosting around side of cake. Top with coconut as desired.

deLizious leftovers

What with all the sweet potato dishes cooked up here last week and the oatmeal cookies the week before that, I’ve burned myself out a bit in the kitchen. My husband has made more than a few of our weeknight meals and we have so many cookies (double dosing this cookie season with two Girl Scouts in the house), cakes, and the like that there’s no need to make any new sweet treats.

OK, I did make this cake for Valentine's Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

OK, I did make a cake for Valentine’s Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

So I’ll do what other cooked-out cooks do and serve leftovers this week. For starters, here’s a recent Blog of Funny Names post. Give it a click (Do it! It’s not like you’ll be tested on it 😉 ) and learn more about the folks behind your favorite cold-weather foods.

Minnesota Soybean’s Real Story blog also gave me opportunity to bake up tasty cornbread, containing not one, not two, but three soyfoods. You need cornbread if you have chili on the menu, so give it a read here.

Because food for fun’s goal is to send you away with more than enough, I’ll also offer you the recipe for husband’s killer oven-baked Crunchy Chicken. Served with creamed spinach (A pinch-and-dash puree of spinach and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then mixed with fat-free half-and-half and neufchâtel cheese. Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, it made a lovely side.) and reheated stuffing from a soon-to-be-posted clams casino recipe (spoilers!), the chicken was a hit.

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Would love to see you back here next week and while I don’t yet know what we’ll be serving up, I promise it’ll be fun eats.

Crunchy Chicken

My husband plays it fast-and-loose with seasonings, so there’s no guarantee his results can be recreated exactly, though this is the recipe he used. Also note that he used only drumsticks and chicken breast tenders.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, and/or drumsticks), trimmed
  • 3 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To marinate chicken, in large plastic resealable food-storage bag, whisk together buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken; seal bag. Turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven 400ºF. Set wire rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Coat rack with cooking spray.

To make coating, in shallow dish, combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs; toss until well coated.

Working with 1 piece chicken at a time, remove from marinade. Dredge in crumb mixture, firmly pressing crumbs onto all sides. Place chicken on wire rack, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until coating is deep golden brown and thickest part of chicken thigh registers 175°F and thickest part of breast registers 165ºF.

other people’s recipes

Food for fun is taking it easy this week. After the excitement of last Thursday’s crazy Halloween bash, it’s time to take it down a notch. Instead of offering original fare, I’m paying it forward by sharing experiences with recipes found elsewhere.

If you’re looking for recipes and photos that make you drool, a trip to Cottage Grove House should do the trick. Last August, a post for Cherry Yogurt Cake stopped me in my tracks. I was struck by the recipe’s simplicity. What would one need to make this pretty little cake? Only butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, yogurt, and cherries. Last week brought time to make the cake and it was everything I hoped it would be: spectacular in its simplicity.

Of course there were changes, though none made deliberately. About halfway through slicing through the bag of cherries I’d frozen last summer, I realized there were no pits (can you say “autopilot”?) and upon closer inspection saw that the cherries were red grapes. Huh. Well, why not, thought I and went ahead with my newly named Grape Yogurt Cake. I also neglected to use vanilla yogurt and didn’t add vanilla to the plain yogurt I did use. But in the end it was a stunner. As much as I love fancy-pants desserts, there’s something so lovely about a simple white cake.

PB&J Cake

PB&J Cake

The grapes had me thinking peanut butter, so I added a spoonful of two of chunky-style to warm caramel sauce and served it alongside, christening it PB&J Cake. I’m certain the cake would be smashing made with only cherries as well. Three cheers for Cottage Grove House!

Moving on: I’m always thrilled when others take me up on my invitation to post their fun food finds at deLizious facebook. Amb, of Words Become Superfluous fame, thrilled me over the weekend by posting her bananarrific muffins. They looked most festive propped with a Christmas-themed plate and topped with Halloween candy. (It’s a must-see you haven’t already. Follow my deLizious link above and look for 11/3’s post.) She also credited the original recipe, and it was drool-at-first sight. These muffins looked tender, moist, and so very banana-y. (And we all know food for fun loves a good overripe banana recipe.)

Glad for yet another excuse to bake, I set out to make the muffins. A note on the recipe mentioned the option of turning it into banana bread–even better. The loaf still got a generous topping of chopped Snicker’s and peanut butter cups per amb’s photo. Glorious and amazing, this quickbread makes breakfast and snack time very bright. Thanks, amb!

candy-topped banana bread

candy-topped banana bread

all sliced up

all sliced up

Finally, I’ll share a healthier recipe, with which I was also enamored. True to form, it took me a while to get around to making a Weary Chef soup that caught my eye back in February. My daughters love Panera’s chicken wild rice soup, and this seemed a healthier but equally lovely version. I went totally DIY with this one, starting with a large kettle of water and a whole chicken. After making stock, I proceeded with WC’s recipe and ended up with a pot of mmmm-good soup. After two large bowls, I was full and warm and happy. My girls enjoyed theirs as well, and I liked that it was chock-full of veggies, whole grain, and lean protein. Weary Chef is about much more than her Happy Hour, people!

DIY cream chicken wild rice soup

DIY cream chicken wild rice soup

So that’s the recap. Though I’ll close with a link to my latest Minnesota Soybean project. No need to click over unless you like pumpkin waffles 😉

Wishing you a most excellent and delicious week.

bourbon chocolate cake, candy corn cocktail, and a few shout-outs

Community: The name of a much-loved television show (which I’ll admit to never having seen–sorry, amb!) and also a support system found in the blogosphere. I’ve mentioned here before how gratifying it’s been to find others who are as crazy for all things food as I am. I’ve also met folks with completely different perspectives (you listening, wdydfae? 😉 ) that I can learn from.

Because I focus on food and drink, my community is mostly (but not entirely, Miss Fannie) made up of food bloggers, and though there are too many to list, you know who you are. You’ve inspired me with your recipes, photos, ingredients, and general celebration of all things culinary.

It’s also been rewarding to see this community extend to deLizious’ facebook page. Started purely for business purposes–potential clients should see that I’m out there trying new foods, restaurants, recipes, right?–it’s also become another point of connection for fellow bloggers.

Which brings me to the first of the two recipes I have for you this week.

Some months back, a blogging friend and facebook contact (hi, Dave!) posted a photo of a bourbon chocolate cake a friend had made for his birthday. The image grabbed my attention and stayed with me. A week or so ago, I mentioned that cake in a comment response on his blog, and he surprised me by starting a facebook conversation with me and the cake’s baker, asking her to share the recipe. And she did. (Hi, Courtney!) I’m giddily grateful to Courtney and Dave for their generosity and willingness to connect.

Enough with the ramble. Here is that cake!

the other half went down easy!

it goes down easy

Easy to make, it’s dense and boozy and chocolatey. We gobbled up half the night it was served and have been working on leftovers since. Letting it sit, I’ve found, is an excellent move as the cake gets boozier and fudgier by the day.

because even a piece of over-the-top boozy chocolate cake needs mounds of whipped cream

because even a piece of over-the-top boozy chocolate cake needs mounds of whipped cream

The cake was dessert at a get-together with friends. That same gathering gave me opportunity to debut another fun bit of party fare. This recipe connection came not from on-line relationships, but a phone call from my mother-in-law. She’d seen a recipe for a candy corn vodka (!) cocktail that had brought me to mind. (Not sure if it is good that my m-i-l thinks of me when she sees a booze recipe.)

I jumped on this candy corn bandwagon quicker than you can say “trick-or-treat,” combining 1/2 cup candy corn and 1 1/4 cups vodka in a mason jar. “Brewing” time is recommended at 4 hours up to overnight, and I gave the jar a good shake often as I wanted the candy corn dissolved in time for our evening party. Picture a kid shaking a snow globe–that’s where I was, watching the candy corn slowly dissolve as the alcohol ate the sugar.

Five hours later, the resulting liquid was day-glo orange and stunningly beautiful.

Candy corn vodka hanging with crabapple liqueur. Come back in a few weeks for the liqueur unveil

Candy corn vodka hanging with crabapple liqueur. Come back in a few weeks for the liqueur unveil.

Combining it with lemon juice and Grand Marnier (subbing for Triple Sec), along with ice as instructed in the recipe left me with a powerful strong beverage, highly drinkable with an extra shot of soda water. (Thank you, soda siphon!) I hadn’t realized until finding the recipe link online that this was a “pucker-tini” and have decided since that I’d use 1 to 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice instead of the 2 next time around.

puckertiniCrazy-good cake and cocktails made for an evening to remember and I owe it all to connections and community–online and off. Many thanks to all of you for your follows and Likes and comments and reads. I’m honored and thrilled to be in your most excellent company. Candy corn cheers to you!

another funny name in food and how the cookie crumbles

Because last summer’s family camping trip went far better than expected, my husband and I committed to doing it again. We stayed closer to home this year, hitting Duluth for a few days, then traveling north to camp at one of the mind-blowingly gorgeous state parks on Minnesota’s North Shore. I’d taken a page (literally, I tore out a page) from our local paper’s Taste section featuring dining musts in Duluth, so with a car crammed with kids, camping gear, and plenty of food, we hit the highway.

Great fun (and food) followed and I’d hoped to post a recap this week. But re-entry has been tough, so instead I’ll simply ask you to (please) hop over to the latest Funny Names in Food installment for the story of sweet treats.

Though don’t think I’d leave you without at least a little bit more. I offer another story here, this one of crazily crafted cake pops.

cookie "cake" pops

cookie “cake” pops

A recent batch of chocolate raspberry cookies impressed me greatly and I added the two dozen or so that were left to our stash of camping food. They were soft cookies, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they crumbled into cookie dust during transport. (Ziploc bags only provide so much cushion.) I briefly considered throwing the lot, but remembered the spendy chocolate and fresh berries they contained. Surely there was a use for them.

And there was: cake pops! A cup or so of leftover chocolate frosting waiting for me at home was just enough to moisten the cookie crumbs. The mixture was then formed into balls, dipped in melted chocolate that had been thinned with coconut oil, and rolled in sprinkles and sugars. While not “pretty” à la Martha Stewart, they’re cute in their own rough and tumble way. And more importantly, they taste phenomenal. Combining cookie crumbs, homemade buttercream frosting, and melted chocolate could never be anything but knock-your-socks-off dreamy.

I’ll sign off now as I imagine you need to find some cookies to crumble so you have an excuse to make cake pops. Please return next week as we’ll be showing Food for Fun: The Camping Edition. 🙂

special ed. with pink mushroom cake, vodka gummy bears, and a bourbon ball

Summer crazies have temporarily stalled out food for fun, but I’m back tonight with a special edition highlighting three unrelated tales of fun food and drink:

Tale 1 First, a look back at last post’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream. I had lamented that this Humphry Slocombe recipe seemed a lot of work and though it was tasty, wondered if it had been worth the effort. The ice cream accompanied a birthday cake for my oldest daughter and what with those summer crazies, I made yet another cake soon after for another birthday party.

now that's a cupcake

now that’s a cupcake

I used a much-loved cake pan, which when sprayed well enough with baking spray makes two cake layers that come together to make one big cupcake. (When not sprayed well, it makes a big mess.)

All went as planned until it came time to frost. Many a poorly decorated cake has been featured at food for fun (here and here, just for starters), so it should come as no surprise that this one got out of hand as well. Instead of the sweet “cupcake” I’d planned, it looked more like a big pink mushroom. (Or where Smurfette calls home per deLizious facebook post.)

again, best-laid plans

again, best-laid plans

As with my other decorating disasters, the cake tasted far better than it looked. The big surprise, though, was how amazing the HS chocolate ice cream was served alongside. Whether it had aged a bit in the freezer, mellowing its flavors, or was simply a better match for white cake than it was chocolate trifle, I know not. But that ice cream really dazzled here.chocicecream

A word about the cake: Mr. Wonderful White Cake recipe was found in Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook. Corny name aside, it’s one of the best white cakes I’ve had.

do you like the cake saw?

do you like the cake saw?

Mr. Wonderful White Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two cake pans or spray with baking spray.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, butter, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer 3 minutes or until smooth. Add egg whites; beat 2 minutes longer. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cakes directly to wire racks to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Tale 2 Another bit of cocktail news means that Weary Chef can’t be too far away. I found a link through one of her Happy Hour posts for vodka gummy bears and was smitten. With young kids underfoot, there are always gummy bears to be found, and I loved the idea of infusing them (the gummy bears, not the kids) with vodka.

I did exactly as instructed and was unimpressed when unveiling the batch a week later. My cute little sugar bombs had melted into the vodka, leaving me with a thick (albeit colorful) syrup. Anyone who has read food for fun knows that this wouldn’t stop me and I was forging ahead regardless. I mixed some of this goo with carbonated water and loved that it was sweet, fruity, bubbly, and boozy. It went down easy for sure. I’m curious as to why my bears melted down when I Sing in the Kitchen seemed to keep hers intact. Maybe gummy bear brand matters? Regardless, it was a fun cocktail.

the bears make it silly, but it's still a goo cocktail: refreshing and potent

the bears make it silly, but it’s still a fine cocktail–refreshing and potent

Tale 3 You’ll need to hop over to Blog of Funny Names for this tale. A recent guest post highlights another Kentucky favorite: Ruth Hanly Booe and other funnily-named folk who made Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls the internationally known confection they are today.

Many thanks for stopping by during what I know is YOUR crazy-busy life. Your visits here are always appreciated 🙂

best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

With my oldest daughter’s birthday on its way, I got in gear to bake an amazing cake. (There was that pony cake to match, if not top.) And because she loves chocolate, I also wanted to make her a batch of brilliant chocolate ice cream. But…

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

After enjoying a Swiss-roll type of cake at a local diner, we knew we’d found  the perfect treat for her big day.

A quick internet search for “homemade chocolate ding-dong” (Can hardly type this with a straight face, but that’s the snack cake I thought I was going for. My Hostess-savvy husband has since pointed out that ding-dongs are not cake rolls. Just the same, the name stuck.) brought me to Smitten Kitchen’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll. I could do this.

Turns out I couldn’t. The fact that there was no flour in the cake should have concerned me, but I figured SK knew what she was doing (and I’m sure she did–her cake roll turned out quite nicely) so jumped in.

My mistake was taking the cake out of the oven too soon; it was overly moist and stuck to the dish towel. But, I was trying to follow SK’s advice to not overbake lest it become too dry for rolling. Not ready to admit defeat (I had six eggs and six ounces good chocolate already invested), I set it aside to deal with later.

so not was I was going for

so not was I was going for

Next up was the ice cream, so I turned to trusty Humphry Slocombe for their Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate recipe. Intriguing! Though I was making this for an 11-year-old, I loved the name and had been eying the recipe since buying the book. (HS claims they had no intention of making flavors as mundane and ordinary as chocolate, but when their customers wouldn’t let up about it, they developed this rich, velvety chocolate ice cream and gave it an in-your-face name. You can read Attempts in Domesticity’s post for more on their Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream.)

This ice cream was a tough gig. First step was melting sugar into caramel, then adding water (though I subbed in coffee), cream, and milk before tempering with egg yolks and adding shots of cocoa powder and a final blast of dark chocolate. Lots of muscle was involved when my caramel hardened and I had to cook and stir, cook and stir to melt it down again. But I don’t go down easily in the kitchen and was proud to emerge victorious. The resulting custard was dreamy and dark, and I chilled it overnight.

churning the dark chocolate custard

churning the dark chocolate custard

Humphry S had described this ice cream as being pudding-like, so I wasn’t surprised at the thick custard that greeted me the next morning. But I was surprised when it didn’t freeze while churning. After a half-hour or so, I took matters into my own hands and set the canister in an ice-water bath and beat it with a hand mixer. The dark brown chocolate gradually lightened as it filled with air and when it was light enough to overflow the canister, I transferred it to another container for freezing.

look at how much lighter it is!

a lot lighter

Back to that cake: Rolling didn’t seem an option, so I did what any self-respecting failed cake baker would do: I made a trifle. Into a lovely glass bowl went layers of crumbled moist (flourless) chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, sprinkles of cacao nibs, and a killer chocolate ganache. Birthday cake? Not really. But we stuck a candle in it and called it good.

pre-candle

pre-candle

The birthday trifle certainly didn’t need a rich ice cream to accompany, but I’d gone to the trouble of making that d@mn stuff, so serve it up we did. More frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream, it was light, ethereal, and almost otherworldly. If I made it again, I’d serve it solo and let folks enjoy it for the rich and creamy and deeply flavored chocolate treat that it is.

Did my daughter enjoy her birthday desserts? Sure. Though it seemed over the top, especially on a weekday evening when dinner was slotted between an afternoon playdate and evening tennis lessons. This may have been an instance when a simple cake and store-bought ice cream would have been sufficient.

over the top birthday treats!

over the top birthday treats!

But homemade trifle and creamy-rich chocolate ice cream should be celebrated and I don’t regret the time and effort that went into making either. It was a bit more of a battle than I’m used to, but a kitchen challenge is a call to action and backing down was never an option. Happy Birthday, my dear Clare. May you dodge the bullet of inheriting your mother’s crazy-obsessed food DNA.

banana bash–three dishes you’ll want to make and one you will not

Those who’ve been here before may have read mention of neighbors who bring over a box of food every Sunday. My understanding is that their church has a community food bank, from which they take any leftovers home to share with friends and family.

It’s much like a CSA as I never know what a Sunday will bring. Near-expired dairy products, produce, cookies, bread–it’s been fun to receive this kindness weekly. We offer our thanks each time they bring bounty (though their being from Nigeria and ourselves born and raised Minnesotan means communication can be spotty) and when appropriate, share what we make with their gifts. (They once brought over a 50-pound (!) box of chocolate chips–you’d better believe they got a batch or three of cookies out of me.)

they dared me to use them all

they dared me to use them all

I share this here not so much as a personal anecdote, but rather to set up this post’s reason for being: four bunches of spotted bananas. Not four spotted bananas, no. Four bunches.

What to do? A loaf of banana bread wouldn’t even make a dent. Freezing (peeled or no, both work) would take care of what I couldn’t use, but I was up for a challenge, so put it out there on deLizious facebook that I needed banana recipes stat. And my awesome readers came through. Here’s what I did to use up three of those four bunches. (One went home with friends, so was not my problem.):

My friend Jill wrote about a smoothie her family enjoys on summer nights. Cleverly named Monkey Smoothies blend frozen banana chunks, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and milk. I cut a few bananas up and froze them overnight, then followed Jill’s instructions the next morning. The shakes were dreamy and tasted much like a peanut butter cup would were it frozen and drinkable. Definitely a winner.

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk--yum!

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk–how could this be anything but extraordinary?

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

Fellow WordPress blogger Perky Poppy Seed opened new worlds for me with her “recipe.” She suggested slitting unpeeled bananas “banana split-style” and placing on a baking sheet. Next, the slits were filled with small pieces of butter, ground cinnamon, and a splash of rum (or brandy or bourbon) and roasted at 400°F-ish until the skins turn black. Finally, the puree is spooned from the skins and used wherever mashed banana is called for. This was a “wow” for me–any banana bread I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a fair number as I try not to repeat b bread recipes) could be made again with this spiked puree, taking on a slightly different flavor. This I had to try.

not going to win any beauty contest, but they smell heavenly

not going to win beauty contests, but they smell heavenly

I filled and roasted 10 of the bananas, placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet to avoid having to wash the pan. The fragrance was heavenly and the final puree was as amazing as I’d imagined.

this stuff is pure baking gold

pure baking gold

I immediately set aside a cup for my next project, which was…

bananarama cake!

bananarama cake!

Beki, of Beki Cook’s Cakes, is the instructor responsible for my personal best in making a cake look pretty. She responded to my facebook query with a link to her blog for what looked to be an amazing recipe. I followed this recipe mostly to the letter, though used the roasted rum bananas and sprinkled a touch of vanilla salt between frosted layers.

The cake was phenomenal, though Beki will most likely wonder if I left my fine decorating skills in her classroom. Alas, the finished cake was a bit more goofy than it was beautiful. (I could use my 7-year-old daughter as an excuse for the imperfect frosting, but she was really only responsible for one smudge in the lettering. I’ll take full responsibility here.)

one crazy--but tasty--cake

one crazy–but tasty–cake

But even without bakery-quality visuals, this cake was crazy good. I was finally able to stop myself after three slices (they were fairly small, but still!) and am even now remembering how moist and tender that cake was. How it had an earthy sweetness that keeps you coming back for more. I managed to part with half of the cake to share with our neighbors, which means the cake has already dwindled significantly. When it’s gone? I’ll make another as I have a good cup or so of the spirited puree in my freezer.

oh, this is good

oh, this is good

The one banana recipe I did not use (besides the one that read “open trash bag, throw away”–horrors!) was offered by the keeper of the Kirschner Cookbook Library, which I’ve written up here before. Megan posts great finds from this library at a favorite blog and she pulled from her archives to share Banana Sardine Boats. These scary salads are worth a click for the kitsch factor alone.

Left in my freezer, then, is about a cup of spirited banana puree and maybe 1/2 cup frozen banana chunks. I was thrilled to meet my banana challenge, though also had plenty of help from facebook readers. While the four bunches of spotty bananas are gone, I’m certain I will run across more sooner rather than later and I’d bet you will, too. So I ask you to keep the recipes and ideas coming. What is your go-to banana recipe when you find yourself with too many brown bananas? Please share as it’s more fun to go bananas with fellow food folk 🙂

partying like ponies and an awesome birthday cake

Loving any excuse to maffick (follow the link as this is a word you will want to know and use), I take great joy in throwing parties. Two young daughters give me a twice-yearly excuse to invite friends and family over for birthday celebrations. A fair amount of planning goes into the food for these parties.

Knowing my youngest’s seventh birthday approached and her family party was on the calendar, I laid awake one night wondering what to do for the cake. (My husband notes that many folks buy birthday cakes at bakeries–Costco cakes are indeed divine–or whip them up with cake mixes, but for many reasons, that folk is not me.) While I very much enjoy making from-scratch cakes for family birthday parties, I am not known for my cake decorating skills. Exhibit A: These cat cupcakes taste good, yes, but they also look a wee bit scary.

birthday treats--yes, they're supposed t

birthday treats–yes, they’re supposed to be kitty cats

While effort has gone into improving my cake decorating skills, I’m still better with ideas than implementation. As I lay there contemplating cakes that night, keeping in mind my daughter’s request for a pink and purple Little Pony cake, I envisioned baking the batter up in 13×9-inch, 11×8-inch, and 8-inch square pans. If the cakes were stacked bottom-up from largest to smallest, then filled and frosted, could we call it a hillside on which to place a few of her precious Little Ponies?

three cake layers ready for baking

three cake layers ready for baking

When I posted the above photo and idea on deLizious facebook and got an enthusiastic response, I knew I was on to something. A friend who commented offered the services of her daughter, who has taken multiple cake decorating classes and is also a friend of my eldest. Knowing I had help, I fully committed to my hillside pony cake. The day before the party, I made a crazy-good batch of French buttercream (from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s Cake Bible) and gave the birthday girl free rein with the icing colors. I was wowed by her sense of color.

vibrant hues

vibrant hues

Lexi came over the morning of the party, pulling her extremely large decorating kit behind her, and along with my older daughter, filled, frosted, and ponied up one of the most amazingly fun homemade birthday cakes I’ve ever seen. (Crack-me-up comments like “I trust no ponies were harmed in the making of this cake” and “I think there’s room for one more pony” greeted its fb debut.)

could there be any more ponies?

could there be any more ponies?

This cake made my seven-year-old happy. It made the decorators happy. It made party guests happy. It made me happy. And this, in the proverbial nutshell, is why I love parties and celebrating: They make folks happy. There’s so much sadness and tragedy and even just general annoyances in life that I choose to live by words I remember my mom saying more than once: “You have to celebrate the good stuff.” (This was an order from my mom, mind you–she used the words “have to.”)

Because the party was all about ponies, I served up a spread of grazing foods–popcorn, cheese, crackers, fruits, carrots, hummus. (My oldest pointed out that horses don’t actually eat most of these foods, but as hay wasn’t an option I stuck with my original plan.) So in addition to the cake making folks smile, there was plenty of finger food to munch on as well. (And we musn’t forget the fruit-infused water: I subbed in a sliced apple and handful of blackberries for the more-often used lemon or cucumber slices.) It gave me great joy to see friends and family visiting and laughing and eating the foods I’d had so much fun putting together (with help from others, yes).

party spread for grazers

party spread for grazers

apple-blackberry water

apple-blackberry water

This led to a bit of pondering and the realization that foodforfun, while always about cooking and baking and food and drink, is at its core really about wanting to share happiness. (same goes for deLizious facebook) We all have our vehicle–some love movies, some music, some gardening, some sports. But in the end, we’re all sharing happiness. I like that thought a lot and put it out there even in the wake of what seems like so many recent tragedies. I’m going to remember and honor the sad things, yes, but will focus on celebrating the good (thanks, mom) and I raise a glass of fruit-infused water and invite you to join me.

Victory Part 2-1

Why is Ryan Gosling here? This is why.