Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Butter Pecan Meltaways

These Butter Pecan Meltaways are my favorite cookies hands down! My Mom and most of my friends love these too. I always double and triple my recipe because one batch usually isn't enough. :)

1/2 lb butter (i.e. 1 cup/ or 2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds or filberts)
6 tblsps powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tblsp water
1/2 tsp salt
powdered sugar for coating

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and water. Beat in flour and salt. Add nuts and mix thoroughly. Roll into small (about 1 inch) balls- I use my small ice cream scoop for that purpose- it works like a charm!

Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes (bottoms should be golden brown). When they come out of the oven, roll in powdered sugar. They literally melt in your mouth! Mmmmm... :)

Special thanks for this awesome recipe to my dear friend Nancy Pietz who graciously gave it to me quite a few years ago. I have been baking these delicious cookies every Christmas (and in between) ever since!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peanut Blossom Cookies a.k.a. Sweet Spots :)

These peanut butter/chocolate cookies are an old favorite in my home- my kids can eat tons of them, if I let them. :) I also have a co-worker who gets a whole plate of them every Christmas because they are his personal favorites too. In fact, he is the one who calls them Sweet Spots- he said this is the name his grandmother always used. I like to call them Sweet Moments. :)


1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsps milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar for coating
1 bag Hershey kisses (48 to 60 kisses), taken out of their wrappers


Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, beat butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla. Beat in the milk. Add the flour, baking soda and salt (mixed beforehand separately) and beat until incorporated. Cover and chill the batter for an hour or until firm enough to form into balls.

Preheat oven to 375F. Place rack in the center of oven. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar. Put on baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Flatten out each cookie a little bit. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly browned. Immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven, place a chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down until the cookie just starts to crack. Don't touch cookies until completely cooled- kisses will be melty.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

I don't actually remember where exactly I got this recipe from, or when. :) But it has been used many, many times in my kitchen for the years I've had it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rum Balls

These no-bake, fool-proof, "adult-only" cookies have always been a huge hit at my work place. Every Christmas, they are the most requested treat by everybody. What is great about them, they are extremely easy to make and the longer they sit, the better (i.e. the rummier) they get. :) It's a "retro" recipe that is still in demand. :)


2 1/2 cups Nilla wafers, finely crushed (one 11oz box)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup honey
1/3 to 1/2 cup rum (I use Bacardi for maximum flavor)
orange zest from half an orange (optional)


Mix everything thoroughly by hand, or using the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Shape into little 1 inch balls. Roll in more powdered sugar, or cocoa powder, or finely chopped nuts. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Special thanks to my friend Donna Davison for this terrific recipe.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cranberry-lemon scones: encore :)

These scones are so delicious and easy to make, they have become an absolute favorite in my family, and among my friends. :) I keep being asked for the recipe, so I thought I'd repost it. So, here it is, with the latest picture of them:  :)

cranberry-lemon scones


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), frozen
1/2 cup dried cranberries, i.e. craisins
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

preheat oven to 400 F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

mix dry ingredients and frozen butter (cut in pieces) in food processor, process it a few seconds until well blended, add wet ingredients and pulse it until well blended, add lemon zest and cranberries (or any other fruits or chips you like), just pulse it a couple of times to mix, take the batter out, divide it in two balls, pat each one flat on a lightly floured surface forming a 6-7-inch circle about  1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place scones on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. bake until golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. 

alternately, if you do not have a food processor,  follow the directions below:
  1. in a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers (or a pastry blender) to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in cranberries and lemon zest.
  2. in a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.
  3. using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (the dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.) 
  4. divide dough in two balls, pat each one flat on a lightly floured surface forming a 6-7-inch circle about    1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place scones on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. bake until golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. 
recipe adapted from:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shrewsbury biscuits

I live in a town called Shrewsbury. A few years ago I stumbled upon a recipe for "Shrewsbury biscuits" and thought I'd definitely have to give them a try one day. Today was my Garden Club's monthly meeting and the theme was Shrewsbury, England since our mayor came to give us a presentation about his recent visit to our sister town on the old continent. I knew the time had come for me to bake those cookies. :) They were simple to make but seemed to be a hit with everyone at the meeting. My daughter, 8, who helped me bake them was so happy and proud! :)

Shrewsbury biscuits- or cakes- are an English dessert named after Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire.  They were first mentioned in a recipe book dated 1658, "The Compleat Cook of 1658". They are also mentioned by the English playwright William Congreve in "The Way of the World" in 1700 as a silile (Witwoud - "Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you 'tis not modish to know relations in town"). The recipe was taken to the White House, when First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams made them for her husband, President John Quincy Adams. Shrewsbury biscuits are also among the most popular snacks in India. (

Shrewsbury biscuits are hard, crisp, sweet biscuit flavored with some combination of lemon, rose-water, caraway seeds and raisins, the exact combination depending on who you ask. :) (

The recipe I used came from The Good Housekeeping New Step-By-Step Cookbook (British Edition)

Shrewsbury biscuits

½ cup butter, room temperature
5 ounces sugar
2 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange (I used lemon and they were delicious)
8 ounces all-purpose flour
2 ounces currants (optional in the original recipe, but I put them in)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the egg yolks and the lemon zest. Slowly add the flour and the currants. Stir until the dough comes together.

Roll half of the dough on a lightly floured surface until ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds and place on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Reroll the dough scraps and cut as many cookies as possible. Do not reroll the dough too many times.

Bake the cookie for about 15 minutes until very lightly browned on the edges. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Here are my Shrewsbury biscuits at the Shrewsbury Garden Club meeting tonight:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Old-fashioned apple cake

I love this cake! Since I first made it a couple of weeks ago, I've baked it at least half a dozen times for different occasions. Let's put it this way- I find reasons to make it! :)) It is so moist, yet so simple, pure old-fashioned goodness! And perfect for the fall with all these wonderful, sweet, juicy apples that are in season right now! I know the recipe by heart now, since it is so easy to remember- I call it my 1-2-3-4 cake (because it has 1 cup oil, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs plus a few other ingredients) :)))

Old-fashioned apple cake

Preheat oven to 350F.


5-6 medium apples (4 if large) cored and sliced thinly in small pieces (but not peeled)
5 tbsps granulated sugar
1-2 tsps cinnamon

Mix the apples, sugar and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Drain any juices that the mixture may produce.

In a large bowl, blend together:

1 cup oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purple flour
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tsps baking powder

To this batter, add:
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients.  Batter will appear thick and heavy, not runny like traditional cake batters, but do not worry- this cake is one of the moistest cakes you will ever taste!

In a well greased angel food pan or bundt pan, pour 1/3 of the batter, add half of the apples, pour another 1/3 of batter over apples, add remaining apples and cover with remaining batter. Bake at 350F for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Note: If using a dark or non-stick pan, start checking for doneness at 1 hour.

After it cools, and you turn it over in an air-tight container, you could dust it with some powdered sugar too, if you want. This part is optional, of course.


The first time I made this cake, I followed the directions- and list of ingredients- to the letter. However, since then, I have made it using a combination of apples and pears (delicious!), added chopped walnuts and slivered almonds, threw in raisins and cranberries- you can come up with so many delicious variations! I have also made it without the cinnamon because my mother has an aversion to it and I thought it would be nice to bake a cake that she could have with her coffee too. :)
She really appreciated it! It is truly perfect with a cup of coffee or tea!

Here is a picture of one of my variations: it has apples and pears, cranberries, walnuts and no cinnamon. My family- and everyone else who has tasted it- loves it!

Special thanks to my husband's co-worker, Don Cottrell, for this fabulous recipe!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Four-ingredient no-bake cheesecake

I realize I have been taking quite a few shortcuts in baking lately. I guess it's no coincidence that this is happening during the month of September, i.e. the beginning of the school year. :) I guess once the initial shock and madness of school go into "normal" mode, I may plunge again into more involved, from-scratch recipes. For now, this no-bake, four-ingredient only cheesecake is perfect! And I have to say, you could really fool quite a few people with this awesome recipe! It is a snap to put together, but the results are nothing short of decadent! I only wish I'd found this recipe early on in the summer because it would be the perfect no-bake dessert to make and take to any get together!

Four-ingredient no-bake cheesecake

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 (8-ounce) tub of cool whip (I like to use the Lite Cool Whip, for fewer calories)
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, at room temperature (again, I prefer using the 1/3 less calories)
1/3 cup of lemon or lime juice

1 ready graham crust, if using

Combine the first three ingredients in the work bowl of your stand or hand mixer. On low speed, blend well for about 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add the lemon or lime juice and blend until just incorporated. Immediately pour mixture into a waiting graham crust or for those who can't have the gluten, in muffin cups. Refrigerate for an hour to and hour and a half and viola- creamy, luscious, velvety deliciousness! I served mine with cherry pie filling on top but you could do fresh fruit- strawberries will be awesome, or just about anything you like! My daughter decided that we should add some of the lemon zest on top too, which I let her do herself. :) She loves using our citrus zester! :)

Recipe courtesy:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Peach and Pecan Oat Crumble Bars

After making the Peachy Keen Bars a couple of days ago, I thought I'd try another peach dessert- while I still have these wonderfully delicious fresh local peaches in my kitchen. So, after some deliberation, I set out to make these Peach & Pecan Oat Crumble Bars I found on a fellow baker's blog:

I love everything about this dessert- the freshness of the peaches, the nuttiness of the oats and the pecans, the buttery crust- you name it! While it is not too sweet, it boasts a tangy, rich flavor that just can't be duplicated if you don't have fresh, juicy, right-of-the-tree ripe peaches. But without further ado, let me introduce you to today's star:

Peach and Pecan Oat Crumble Bars:
Base Dough
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
1/2 packed cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Peach Filling
2 pounds peaches, unpeeled (about 7-8 peaches)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pecan Oat Topping
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour, divided
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer) cream the butter with the brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Turn off the mixer and add in the flour, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Mix dry ingredients in just until the dough is soft and pulled together. Press the dough firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and refrigerate while preparing the filling and topping.

Roughly chop the peaches into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
Wipe out the mixer bowl and mix 1/4 cup softened butter with the oats, flour, pecans, cinnamon, and salt until soft and crumbly. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter and set aside to cool.

Spread the chopped peaches over the chilled dough base. Evenly crumble the topping over the peaches, and drizzle with the melted butter.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned. (I ended up baking mine for almost an hour.)

Whisk together the lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to make a thin glaze. Drizzle over the bars.
Cool (or chill) for at least an hour before slicing and serving. I do recommend chilling these; they will stay fresh (and slice more cleanly) for about 5 days when stored well-covered in the fridge.

Recipe courtesy:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Peachy keen bars

We have been picking fresh peaches from our local farm for more than a month now and before the picking season was over, I decided it was about time I baked some peach desserts. :) I love peaches and nothing can compare to the taste of a freshly picked one right off the tree!

The first peach dessert I chose to make is a cross between cheesecake and peach crumble bars. It is very easy to make because it uses a shortcut- a box of dry cake mix. Since my days have been somewhat crazy with the beginning of the school year, I figured I could definitely use a shortcut this time around. :)

The dessert, while it didn't totally wow me, was a pretty big hit with my co-workers. In fact, I was asked for the recipe. So, here it is:
1 package dry cake mix- white, yellow or french vanilla
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, divided
4 cups diced peeled peaches, about 4-5 peaches (or 29oz can light peach slices, drained)
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13” pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
In a large bowl combine cake mix, butter and 1 egg; mix with fork just until crumbly.
Set aside 1 ½ cups crumbs for topping. Press the remaining crumbs on bottom of prepared pan; Bake 10 minutes. 
Spoon diced peaches onto partially-baked crust. 
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg and vanilla extract; beat with mixer until creamy.
Spread over peaches. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs.
Bake 30 minutes.
Chill at least 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Adapted from:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mango-tomatillo salsa

Although not exactly falling under the "baking" category, this post recipe is equally delicious, trust me! Since we have a huge vegetable- and most importantly tomato- garden, I have been making this yummilicious salsa all summer. It has been an absolute hit everywhere I have taken it and of course at home! In fact, the last party I brought this to, I was asked "to sell the recipe". :)) But since I am more into posting recipes for free :), I figured I'd just put it up here. So, here goes...

Mango-tomatillo salsa

1 very ripe mango, chopped (the riper the mango, the sweeter the salsa)
1 or 2 good size vine-ripened garden tomatoes, chopped (I use large heirlooms with tons of flavor)
1 yellow tomato, chopped (I grow these too and they are even sweeter than the red ones)
2-3 tomatillos, chopped (this was the first year I grew these in my garden and it has been great!)
2-3 tbsp sweet onions, minced
1 small jalapeno, minced (optional- only if you like spicy food)
2-3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1-2 minced garlic cloves (I know this is not typical for salsa, but I like the depth of flavor it adds to the dish)
the juice of 1 lime

Mix all ingredients. Chill for a few hours or overnight. I like making this a day in advance because I feel the flavors really marry that way. I like using this dish not just as an appetizer, served with tortilla chips, but also as a garnish to grilled chicken or fish- it is amazing!

I have also made this with pineapple instead of mango and it is awesome as well. Also, I have added avocado in it and that makes the salsa really creamy. There are a lot of combinations possible here, and you can really run with it, the key factor is fresh garden-ripened tomatoes. If you don't have a garden yourself, try to get them at a local farmer's market. It will make a world of difference.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mini cupcakes galore :)

An order of 5 dz mini cupcakes for a friend's party today. Two flavors in three different colors: dark chocolate cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting and vanilla cake with vanilla-almond buttercream (which I make the same way as my regular vanilla buttercream, only I add 1 tsp almond extract as well):

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Last weekend we were invited to a party and, of course, I wanted to bring a dessert. :) I wasn't in the mood for making a cake, plus I thought something more like finger food sized portions would be more appropriate, so, I decided to make these decadent brownies. There have been quite a lot of versions for "brownies with a twist" hovering around on Pinterest lately, but I sort of came up with this recipe on my own, combining bits and pieces of others out there. The final result did not disappoint. I made a big batch and took about 2/3 to the party,  saved some for home and brought the rest to my co-workers. Everybody raved about them! Within a day, they were all GONE! What I love about this recipe is the fact that it starts off with a boxed mix of brownies (since I was a little short on time at 11PM when I started baking :)) but then quickly gets transformed into something way, way better than regular boring brownies out of a box. Check this out:


Brownie layer:
1 box brownie mix, your favorite brand, mixed according to package instructions
(in this particular case, I had to add 2 eggs to the mix but I only had 1 left, so I substituted 1 egg  for 1 tbsp flax seed mill and 3 tbsps water- it worked great and I will be doing this on a regular basis from now on!)

Cheesecake layer: 
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
 Mix everything until creamy and smooth (I actually used my little Kitchen Bullet for that and it worked great)

Peanut Butter Layer:
1 cup peanut butter, melted for about 1 minute in the microwave (I stir it a little after the first 30 seconds), I used natural chunky peanut butter because I like the texture it gives the brownies but creamy will do just fine

And last but certainly not least,
about 2-3 oz of your favorite chocolate, broken up in small chunks (I used milk chocolate in this case)


Preheat oven to 400F.
Cover a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil. Grease well.

Pour 2/3 of the prepared brownie mix batter on the bottom. Next, drop the melted peanut butter by spoonfuls on top of the brownie batter. Pour the cheesecake mixture. Spread the chocolate chunks. Pour the rest of the brownie batter on top. Using a fork, swirl around the batter to create a marbleized look.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out almost dry (it may still stick a little bit because of the cheesecake batter but that's okay; as long as it doesn't jiggle in the center, it's done).
Cool in pan. Cut and serve. They won't last long, trust me! :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Butterfly cupcakes for Miss Lizzie's 3rd Birthday :)

Normally, I don't do too much baking in the hot summer months because I just can't bring myself to turn the oven on when it is 100F outside and no AC can cope with that effectively. However, my sweet daughter Elizabeth's 3rd birthday was an exception. When I asked her what she wanted for her special day, she didn't hesitate too long. "Butterfly cupcakes" was the almost immediate request and I just had to oblige. :) I baked our now favorite vanilla cake recipe (see here) by changing it up just a tad: instead of 1 whole cup of sour cream, I did 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup strawberry flavored Greek yogurt. The second alteration I made was instead of 2 tsps of vanilla extract, I put 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp strawberry extract. This way, I gave the recipe just a slight hint of strawberry, since the birthday girl loves this fruit. Of course, the icing had to be pink- with pearls on it (!). I just whipped up a batch of the fluffy pudding frosting that everybody in my family likes for its light texture and not too sweet taste. It is super simple when you are not in the mood for major whipping from scratch. It is not too stiff, but holds up somewhat okay for piping, as you can see from the pictures below. 

Fluffy Pudding Frosting

1 (3.5 oz) pkg of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (8oz) container of Cool Whip (thawed)

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix with milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping until no streaks remain. Add food coring if desired. Frost and enjoy your masterpieces! :) 

Lizzie's favorite colors: pink and purple combined in one cupcake: :) For the decoration, I took the easy way out and used ready made butterflies which are not edible but so adorable, Elizabeth was ecstatic!

The Birthday girl, thrilled with her cupcakes and ready to blow those three candles: :))) 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beachy cake for end-of-year school party :)

I got to make another cake for Anna's teacher, this time for the end-of-year school party. :) Anna thought that vanilla cake would be best since most people like that flavor. I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe (too see it, click here) and frosted the cake with vanilla buttercream (recipe below) and put fresh strawberries between the two layers since they are in season right now and so yummy. :)

I frosted the whole cake in a very light blue buttercream, then decorated it with a shell border (both top and bottom), sea weed, and starfish. I also put a big smiling sun on top, reminiscent of a first grader's drawing. :)

I just realized that although I have been posting a lot of pictures of my cakes and cupcakes frosted with buttercream, I never actually posted my recipe for it. So, I am correcting this mistake right away... :)

Vanilla Buttercream

1 1/2 cup (3 sticks butter), at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp salt
8 cups (about 2 lbs) powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 tsp vanilla extract (or the flavor of your choice)
5-6 tbsps (or more) heavy whipping cream, or half-and-half, or whole milk

In the work bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and shortening on medium-high until very smooth and creamy (2-3 minutes). 
Add sifted powdered sugar gradually (covering your mixer with a towel to avoid clouds of powdered sugar all over your kitchen), and continue creaming until well blended. 
Add salt, vanilla, and  whipping cream/ half-and-half/ milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add additional 1-2 tabsps whipping cream if necessary. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Very berry vanilla cake

Last night, I baked a cake for my daughter's 1st grade teacher, since it is teacher appreciation week. Anna loves Mrs. Lugones, so she requested a cake that is as special as the bond the two of them share. She chose vanilla berry "poke" cake. It was an 8-inch two-layer vanilla cake "poked" with raspeberry jell-o, filled with my homemade blueberry/strawberry jam, and frosted with a strawberry buttercream.
The recipe for the vanilla cake is the same one I have been using for a while now- my favorite! You can get it by clicking here. 

I decorated the cake all very girly-girl- just like my little Anna- with lots of pink roses and drop flowers. :)

Anna wanted to write "To the best teacher- Mrs. Lugones. Love, Anna". So, that's what we did. A lot yummier than a simple thank-you card. :)

The side of the cake had little drop flowers. The bottom had a "shell" border, again in pink, with lots of green leaves throughout.

The border was made of roses with little pearls and green leaves.

Not surprisingly, after all this, Anna's teacher was tickled "pink" :))))

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Peaches and cream cake

Happy Birthday to me! :))) This is the cake I baked for my birthday this year. It was three layers of classic sponge cake, also called pan di spagna, or genoise. The fillings were vanilla pastry cream and my homemade peach jam. I used stabilized whipped cream frosting for the rose design on the top and sides. And I soaked the cake with a classic sugar soaking syrup. After two days of whisking, mixing, baking, stirring, and piping, I ended up with an extremely moist, beautiful and decadent cake- very much European and very much what I grew up eating as a child back in Bulgaria. I guess you could call it a nostalgic cake. :)

Sponge cake is a cake that uses only beaten eggs to give it volume, no baking powder or baking soda are added to it.  It requires a lot of whisking, but if you have a stand mixer, you should have no problems with it. :) It is very light and fluffy and can serve as the base for a multitude of layered cakes.


8 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
190 g/ 6.7oz sugar
95g/ 3.3oz all-purpose flour, sifted
55g/ 2oz corn starch, sifted
45g/ 1.6oz butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch round spring-form cake pan. Line it with parchment paper.

Place egg yolks in the bowl of your electric stand mixer. Whisk on high speed until creamy. After 1 minute, add 2 tbsps of the sugar. Continue to mix for a couple more minutes, until the mixture becomes thicker. Add vanilla extract. Keep mixing until the mixture doubles in volume. Turn off mixer. Transfer egg yolks to a separate bowl.

Thoroughly wash mixer bowl and whisk attachment. Make sure they are washed extremely clean; if not, any fat that remains on these utensils will negatively affect the mixing of the egg whites. Place the egg whites in the clean mixer bowl. Whip them on high until they become white and frothy. Slowly add sugar a little bit at a time. Once the mixer is nice and stiff, turn off the mixer. The whipped egg whites mixture is ready when it clings to the whisk attachment and does not drip.

Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Make sure you do not over-mix!

Combine flour and corn starch in a sieve.Slowly sift them into the egg mixture. Sifting the flour will make the cake lighter. Fold together remembering not to over-mix.

Finally, add melted butter, combing it in briefly.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the lined cake pan. Spread evenly. Give the pan a few good shakes to remove air bubbles. 
Bake at 350F for about 27-30 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer. The cake is ready when the skewer comes out batter-free. Set aside to cool before removing it from the pan. Once it is cool, run a very sharp knife around the edge of the cake. Remove spring form pan. Fill and frost with your choice of fillings and frosting.

If you prefer a very moist cake, as I do, you can soak it with some simple sugar syrup.

Simple soaking syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or your favorite flavor extract
Mix together the water and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, mix in vanilla extract and cool before using. When cool, sprinkle or brush on cake.

The stabilized whipped cream frosting was a new recipe I tried and was very happy with. I will be posting the recipe in a later blog post. It is not only light, fluffy and delicious, but it also holds up extremely well after being piped- two, three, even four days! Highly recommended!

The vanilla pastry cream was time-consuming but so worth it! I will definitely be making it again- and will post the recipe very soon.

For video tutorial on how to make the sponge cake, see:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Perfect homemade pizza dough

Tonight, we made our own pizza for dinner and we all loved it! This time, I used a new- and I have to say fantastic- recipe for pizza dough. It produced the best pizza crust we have ever had- better than our local take-out pizza, which we really like.

Perfect Pizza Dough

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl


Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 1 1/2- 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

When ready to make your pizza, place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into three or four pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough, then transfer it to a pizza peel that has been lightly dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top as desired. Slide the dough onto the heated stone. Bake until the crust edges brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Enjoy! 

So thankful I found the recipe for this pizza crust on: Annie's Eats

Friday, April 27, 2012

Classic Creme Caramel

Creme Caramel has been one of my most favorite desserts ever since I was a little kid. My Mom used to make it all the time. Then, when I became a teenager and developed an interest in baking/cooking, I started making it myself. It is a simple, yet really elegant dessert and certainly a very classy finish to any dinner party.

Creme Caramel is actually the French name for this yumminess. In the U.S. it is more commonly known as flan. It is equally delicious, whichever way you prefer to call it. :)

In order to make it, you will need about 6 ramekins and a deep baking pan which can accommodate them.

For the custard:
2 cups whole milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar

Heat the milk until very hot but not boiling (at this stage, if you want to shake things up, you can infuse the milk with different kinds of tea, citrus peels, vanilla beans, etc by letting them steep for about 15-20 minutes and then discarding). Separately, in a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until really pale. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture and mix until well incorporated. Let cool. 

For the caramel:
3/4 sugar
1/4 water

In a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil over medium-high heat whisking constantly. When mixture starts to boil, turn heat to medium-low and stop whisking. Continue to simmer until mixture turns golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Quickly pour into ramekins, swirling to coat bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 350F.
To prepare your water bath, pour about an inch of hot water in a deep baking pan.

Pour the egg custard mixture on top of the caramel and set your ramekins into the baking pan. Add more water if necessary, the water should come to about half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until the middle still jiggles a bit when shaken as the mixture will continue to cook and set when refrigerated.

Let the water bath cool off for a few minutes and remove the ramekins. Let them cool off to room temperature. Refrigerate a couple of hours before serving, and up to 2 days.

To serve, gently loosen the edge of the creme caramel with the tip of a sharp knife to help release the custard and cover mold with an inverted serving platter. While holding the platter against the mold, flip over. Gently lift off mold. Caramel will fall as a liquid sauce over the custard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bird's nest cupcakes :)

I made these bird's nest cupcakes for the Orthodox Easter party we went to on Sunday. My kids helped me decorate them- they placed all the "eggs" in the nests. :) It was a really fun project!

The cupcakes were our now favorite chocolate/peanut butter recipe combo.

For the recipe, click here. This is my original chocolate cake recipe with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. For cupcakes, bake only 18-19 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Carrot Cake for Easter

Happy Easter to all my Christian Orthodox  friends! We went to a party yesterday and I made this carrot cake to take there. I decorated it with jelly beans in bright colors, so the kids have fun. :) This cake is THE best carrot cake you will have in your life! I absolutely guarantee it! I am forever grateful to our friend, Don Cotrell, for sharing this recipe with me!


2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 tsps baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsps cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups white sugar
8 oz crushed pineapple with the juice
1-1/2 cups shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with parchment or wax paper.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together.

3. Separately, beat oil, sugar and eggs WELL.

4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture

5. Fold in pineapple, carrots, coconut and walnuts (if using)

6. Bake at 350 F for about 40-45 minutes (but you may start checking at 35 minutes because different ovens take different time).

Note: One trick I have started using when baking my cakes is wrapping a wet tea towel around the cake pans and securing it with a pin (one that is all metal, no plastic on it), then baking the cakes just like that in the oven- don't worry, the towels don't burn because they are wet- they just dry out and brown- make sure you use old towels for this. :) This way, the cakes bake very evenly on top and the sides do not get too hard in order for the center to bake through- which seems to be a tendency for this particular recipe, as wonderful as it is. The wet towel strips around the cake pans during baking totally solved this problem for me and the cake was extremely moist throughout. Give this a try! Of course, you could also use ready store-bought baking strips from stores such as AC Moore but the tea towels work great for me. :)

I frosted the cake with a simple Cream Cheese Frosting:


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsps vanilla extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese well. Add the powdered sugar gradually, covering your stand mixer with a towel to avoid sugar flying all over the place. :) Add vanilla extract and beat until fluffy.

This frosting can be made with a lot less sugar but for my purposes, I need it stiffer in order to pipe it when decorating, so the 4 cups make just the right consistency- and I haven't had anybody complain about it being too sweet. :)

Special thanks for this fabulous carrot cake recipe to my husband's co-worker, Don Cotrell. This one is a keeper!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Guitar cake

I made this guitar cake last May but I just realized today that for some strange reason I never put it up my blog. Shame on me! So, I am hurrying up to rectify this omission. :) It was actually one of the most challenging and rewarding cake projects I have ever undertaken. When I agreed to make it, I knew I could do it. I just didn't have a clear idea of how long it would take. :) It was fun (and daunting at times) but so worth the experience! The whole cake was covered in buttercream (even though it may look like fondant- but this is just because of my amazing skills at smoothing buttercream out to perfection :))). And even though it may look like chocolate buttercream, it was actually regular vanilla with brown gel food coloring (Wilton) because this was what my friend requested- vanilla cake on the inside too. The cake was in fact for her son  who was graduating from high school and going to study guitar in college in the fall, so we gave him a guitar cake. :)

I followed pictures of a real classical guitar, created my own template and tried to make the cake as authentic as possible. The research and planning process took me a couple of weeks. :) Making the actual cake- three days. :) 

It turned out 26 inches long! 

And here is the cake with the personalized text on it:

And here is the pat on the back I got from my friend who ordered the cake:

"The graduate LOVED it... And so did the rest of the family. Yum! ... The cake was not only beautiful, it was delicious! We gobbled it up. Thank you! Your cake making skills are incredible!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More chocolate cake! :)

"Back by popular demand", I had to make another dark chocolate mocha cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. The occasion was the Easter party we attend every year and the request came from none other than my husband. :) The hostess was delighted too. :)

 To see the recipe for this cake, click here. 

Before we left for the party, I decided to add "Happy Easter"on top of the cake too, so here it is with the writing on top before it got all carved up. :))

Print recipe

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...