Monday, January 28, 2013

Lemon-raspberry cake with "magical" lemon cream cheese frosting

I have been so excited about the new recipe for "magical" frosting I just found over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe, that I have made it three times in the last three days! :) Still, I made it in the original form the first time, using almond extract the second time, and changing it up just a couple more notches the third time- read below. :)

My daughter, Anna, helped me with the baking of the cake and making of the frosting, as well as assembly and decoration of the cake. She is so eager to learn, at just 8 years of age, I can't contain my joy! :) Here she is, proud with the cake we created together:

For the cake, we used my favorite vanilla cake recipe (see here), adding to it at the end the zest of one whole lemon and 1 tsp of lemon extract. We put raspberry preserves between the two layers of the cake and then frosted with the magical frosting (see here) and the following modifications:

Magical lemon cream cheese frosting
I substituted 8 oz of the butter in the base recipe with 8 oz of cream cheese,  added 1/2 tsp of lemon extract, the zest of one whole lemon, and freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon.

This variation definitely resulted in a softer frosting which would have been close to impossible to pipe, but in our case, that wasn't a problem- we wanted to simply smother it on the cake and make it very homemade looking. We achieved our goal! :) The frosting- and cake- were delicious! Tangy and sweet at the same time, moist and irresistible- all guests went for seconds!

We used the zester to garnish to top of the cake with more lemon zest in pretty long strips:

My little hostess serving the lemon-raspberry cake to our guests with a sweet smile:  :)

Friday, January 25, 2013

The best frosting ever, a.k.a. "magical" frosting

I have been on the search for the perfect frosting for years. Nobody in my family likes buttercream frosting- they all think it is way too sweet. Whipped cream is great in taste but doesn't work too well for piping and doesn't really hold up for too long. So, the search has always been on for a light and fluffy frosting that would also lend itself to piping. And voila- I stumbled upon this"magical" frosting over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe! The name actually fits it perfectly! It is like buttercream and whipped cream had a love child! I was able to pipe it and it held beautifully!

I am so excited and looking forward to making the chocolate version of this frosting next, and then maybe playing around with various extracts- lemon, orange, strawberry, changing it up a bit by subbing some of the butter for cream cheese, and some of the sugar for honey... The possibilities are endless- it is like a whole new horizon has opened up in front of me! Did I say I am excited!? :)))


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1% with stellar results)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened at room temperature


In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium saucepan and pour the milk mixture through the strainer into the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and is thick enough that it starts to become difficult to easily whisk. This could take anywhere between 5-10 minutes, for me it was ready in exactly 7 minutes. It should bubble quite a bit at the end (be careful of the splatters) and thicken considerably.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and cool to room temperature – this is extremely important! If it is even slightly warm, the frosting won’t beat up properly. (It took my mixture a good 2 hours to come to room temperature and it was smooth sailing from there.) You can also refrigerate the mixture overnight. If you do this, make sure to pull it out in time to let it warm back up to room temperature. If you try to proceed with the rest of the recipe and the mixture is too cold, the butter won’t absorb into the frosting properly.

Once the frosting is completely cooled to room temperature (it should have no hint of warmth at all!), pop the bowl on your stand mixer and beat the mixture with the vanilla on low speed until it is well combined, about 30 seconds. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat the frosting until all the butter has been incorporated fully, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and let the mixer work its magic. Beat the frosting for five minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Let the frosting sit at room temperature until it is a bit more stiff, about 1 hour, or chill if you want a stiffer consistency for piping. I piped mine without chilling it and it was stiff enough. The only caveat were all the air bubbles which naturally form in the frosting while fiercely beating the heck out of it but I was fine with it.

Chocolate Version: Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt mixture in the first step. Once the frosting has been mixed for five minutes and is light and fluffy, mix in 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate that has been melted and completely cooled to room temperature.

Big thanks for this wonderful recipe to: Mel's kitchen cafe

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Banana Cream Pie

I actually made this dessert for a party we recently went to but it took me a while to pull my act together and post the recipe here. Now, I have a  confession make: I have made banana cream pie many, many times before but mostly using ready vanilla pudding mix. Let me tell you- there is no comparison whatsoever between the made-from-scratch vanilla pastry cream and the store-bought vanilla pudding! None. True, it takes longer to make the from-scratch pastry cream with all the whisking by the fire, tempering of the eggs, etc but the taste is definitely superior. My husband proclaimed it "The best banana cream pie" I've ever made without knowing what was different. Well, in this case, there was also the addition of a couple other "secret" ingredients (compliments of Paula Deen) that made this heavenly dessert really and truly over the top.


5-6 bananas, sliced
1 box Nilla Wafers
Vanilla Pastry Cream (recipe below)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) container Cool Whip
chocolate syrup for decorating (optional)
chopped nuts for decorating (optional) 


Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with Nilla Wafers.

Slice your bananas and layer evenly on top of the wafers.

Spread cooled Vanilla pastry cream on top of bananas. 

Arrange another layer of Nilla Wafers on top of vanilla pastry cream. 
In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese & condensed milk until smooth.  Gradually fold in whipped cream. Pour the mix evenly over the second layer of Nilla Wafers. 

Decorate with chocolate syrup and chopped nuts if desired.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen's Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

Vanilla Pastry Cream
2/3 cup sugar (can be reduced to 1/2 cup if you prefer desserts less sweet)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a fork to combine. Set aside.

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually pour in milk, while whisking, to make a smooth mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Continue to cook and stir one minute.

Pour several tablespoons of the hot mixture into the bowl with the eggs and immediately stir well.  Pour warmed egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the hot milk mixture. Return to a slow boil, and cook one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Set aside to cool. When the pan has cooled, place in the refrigerator to fully cool. If desired, lay a piece of plastic wrap on the top surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.

My youngest daughter, Lizzie, admiring Mommy's banana cream pie :))

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apple walnut cake

This beautiful Apple Walnut Cake was the "Recipe of the month" for January, 2013 as printed in one of my local magazines, The Navesink Area Journal. It sounded good and I am always game for another apple dessert, so I whipped it up this past weekend. It turned out pretty darn good: buttery, moist, with a good apple-spice flavor, and walnuts that give it richness and texture.


1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups cubed/chopped Macintosh apples  


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour one 10inch tube pan.

 2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside.

3. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Stir in vanilla, walnuts, and apples. Mix well and pour into prepared pan.

5. Bake at 350F for approximately 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes (depending on your oven), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Slide knife along outer edges to release bottom of tube pan. Slide knife along bottom of tube pan and inner tube to release cake. Note: If using lesser amount of apples, add several tablespoons of milk, to moisten the batter.  

Glaze (optional)
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tbsps of milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Makes approximately 1/2 cup of icing.

Stir milk into sugar. Add vanilla. Drizzle onto cake. May be thickened with confectioners' sugar or thinned with milk.

Monday, January 14, 2013

One Hour Dinner Rolls

These one hour dinner rolls were a pleasant surprise! I found them on Pinterest and thought why not make them, they only take an hour! :) Indeed, they were easy, quick and delicious. The only change I would make next time is use a little less sugar but other than that they were super fluffy and really yummy!

  • 1 c. warm water 
  • 1/4 c. sugar (I will use 1/8 cup next time)
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 2 Tbsp. yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 egg yolk, for glaze (optional)
  1. In a kitchenaid mixer bowl, mix together warm water, sugar, oil, and yeast. Let stand for 15 minutes until yeast mixture is bubbly.
  2. Stir in salt and beaten egg to yeast mixture.
  3. Gradually add flour. Dough will be kind of sticky, but add enough flour until it's manageable. Let dough rest in the kitchenaid bowl for 10 minutes.
  4. Spray hands with non-stick cooking spray and form dough into balls. Place balls so they don't touch on a cookie sheet (18" x 26" pan). Let rise for 20 minutes (or longer, if you have the time). Or you can stick them in the fridge to slowly rise and you can bake them when you're ready later in the day.  
  5. Brush with egg yolk just before popping them in the oven. Or, brush with melted butter after they are baked. 
  6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
Recipe courtesy: What's on your menu this week?

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