Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Modern Baker: Perfect Birthday Cake

Perfect Birthday Cake. That's what Nick Malgieri the author of The Modern Baker cookbook calls this cake. The Modern Bakers are not moving onto cakes until January, but I had to try this cake. This is the first year my child's birthday has not fallen on the day we actually celebrated. I made the super adorable and fun monkey cake for her party, but on the day of her actual birthday she needs cake too!
Perfect birthday cake for a perfect little girl who is now two year old! I made a half recipe of the cake and then split the batter between two 6 inch pans, one circle and one square. I made the chocolate ganache frosting, put a large dollop on each, put out the sprinkles and let them have at it!
The girls spread, sprinkled, and decorated to their hearts content before digging in. I put out forks but both preferred to just run their fingers through the frosting and enjoy the chocolate frosting with half a cabinet of sprinkles on top!
I was a bit surprised I enjoyed this cake as much as I did. I took issue with N.M. calling this perfect birthday cake as I'm a chocolate cake with white icing gal. He's obviously a yellow cake with chocolate icing guy. I snuck a few bites off the girl's plates and really enjoyed it. The cake was the best yellow cake I've ever had and the chocolate frosting was delicious. If you're a yellow cake with chocolate icing person I'd venture to bet this would be the best birthday cake you'd ever eat. 
Five stars for this birthday cake from the birthday girl!
N.M.'s cookbook is now in paperback and he was so generous to send the Modern Baker's a copy of the new paperback! I have big Christmas giving plans for it! Spreading the baking love! Thanks Nick!!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monkey Cake aka Banana Cake

We can hardly believe it's true!!
Our little monkey is turning two!!!
A monkey party with monkey cake is what we'll do!!!
 We invited the family over to monkey around with us!
The banana cake was a hit at the party!!!

My husband won the first annual Pumpkin Carving Contest with his monkey pumpkin!!!

Monkey Cake aka Banana Cake
Adapted From: Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

3 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup  packed golden brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups mashed or pureed very ripe bananas (5 to 6 large)
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and coat the paper and sides of pans with nonstick spray (or butter and flour).

2. Whisk cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in two additions just until combined. Divide batter among two pans.
4. Bake cake for 40 to 45 minutes until inserted tester is clean. Cool each layer in its pan for 15 minutes before flipping out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Quick Fudge and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Makes approximately 5 cups frosting

4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Note: Chocolate needs to be melted and cooled before beginning frosting.

2. Mix ingredients in an electric mixer. Beat for 5 minutes.

3. Set aside about 3/4 cup of the white frosting. Add a small spoonful (about 1/2 tsp) of chocolate to this white frosting and two drops of yellow food coloring. Mix well to create the light brown frosting for the eyes, notes, and mouth area.

4. Add the remaining chocolate to the large batch of white frosting. Beat well.

Assembly Tips
Firm up the cake layers in the freezer; this will make carving the ears much easier. Carefully trim each layer into a round monkey head with two half-circle ears coming out at 9 and 3 o’clock. Basically you're trimming in slightly from each side and creating an ear.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I don't like applesauce. I've never really liked it. Except for my grandma's applesauce. I don't know what it was about her applesauce but I straight up refused the store bought stuff my whole childhood. My children won't eat applesauce either. Aren't kids supposed to love it? Is it because they don't see me eating it? I've even tried telling them it's "apple yogurt" to no avail.
Why make applesauce? Well, because I had to do something with all the apples we picked. The girls had the best time apple picking! The ladies at the farm were so nice to direct me to the apple trees where the girls could pick themselves and one farmer stopped his tractor so the girls could see all the pumpkins he was carting and let them sit on his tractor!
So, here I am with a pile of apples! I might as well learn how to make applesauce. Perhaps my kids would prefer the homemade kind and if nothing else I can use it in muffin recipes this winter.
Applesauce can sound a bit intimidating, but it's beyond simple. When I called my mom for my grandma's recipe (see below), I thought she was being a bit difficult because the recipe was basically non-existent.

My Grandma's Recipe:
Get some windfallen apples. Cook them until they're soft. Add some cinnamon and sugar.

But, now having made applesauce- there really isn't a whole lot to it.
Did the kids eat it? No. But I'll sneak it into their muffins soon enough. I had some and it was oh so delicious! I used prime red apples for this batch.

My Grandma's Recipe:
Get some windfallen apples. Cook them until they're soft. Add some cinnamon and sugar.

My Recipe:
12 apples
2 cups of water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

1. Cook apples in water until soft.
2. Puree apples in food processor.
3. Add cinnamon and sugar.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds 3 Ways

Candied, Sugar and Spice, Cinnasweet
I'm still not sure if I like pumpkin seeds or not. Every year I get the urge to try some recipes with them when I'm carving pumpkins but in the end I never end up eating a whole lot of them. I've made the classic pumpkin seeds a number of times where you bake them and sprinkle them with salt. I prefer kosher salt.

This year I wanted to try a few recipes and hopefully finally determine if all this pumpkin seeds baking is my thing. I found three fun recipes: candied pumpkin seeds, sugar and spice pumpkin seeds, and cinnasweet pumpkin seeds. Give them a try and see for yourself!
As for me. Here's what I thought. The sugar and spice ones were only okay. The cinnasweet ones had such incredible potential but something when wrong and I burned the sugar or something and they came out black and tasting burnt. Yuck! Fail! I might retry these some time because I really think I'd like them. The candied pumpkin seeds were delicious!

Will I be baking pumpkin seeds again next year? Well, I guess you'll just have to check back and see.

Pumpkin Seeds
Adapted From: CD Kitchen

Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs orange juice

1. Combine sugar, brown sugar, paprkia and salt in a bowl.

2.Cook pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until puffy. Do not brown.

2. Toss seeds with orange juice. Add sugar mixture and coat seeds.

3. Spread seeds on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Cool.

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds, baked
5 tablespoons, sugar, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs oil (peanut or canola)

1. Pumpkin seeds should have been baked for about 25 minutes prior.

2. Combine 3 Tbs of sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne (if using) in a small bowl.

3. Heat oil. Add pumpkin seeds and sugar. Allow sugar to melt and carmalize seeds for about one minute.

4. Add seeds to spices and toss.

 Cinnasweet Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs butter
 2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
1 Tbs sugar

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Toss with seeds and coat. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 350. 

2. Remove from oven. Toss with the 1 Tbs of sugar. Return to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hearty Navy Bean Soup

My mother-in-law had us over for dinner the other night and made a ham. The weather has just turned to fall and a ham was in order. I was lucky enough to walk away with quite a bit of ham for leftovers. As I contemplated what to do with them, all I could think about was soup. It's time to get soups going again! The weather is perfect for it.

I found some navy beans in my cupboard and decided a navy bean ham soup would be on the menu this week. As I mentioned I was lucky enough to walk away with a lot of ham, but not the hock. My mother-in-law kept it and I'm sure is stirring up a pot of her delicious split pea soup tonight.

It took a bit of work but I finally found a navy bean recipe that didn't call for a ham hock, just cut up ham. I figured I could just use stock instead of a hock, but I was hoping others out there had a solid recipe for those in my predicament. I stitched together four navy bean recipes to create the recipe below. It was so delicious!

Hearty Navy Bean Soup
Printable Recipe

2 cups navy beans, dried
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic
6 stalks celery, chopped
Dozen+ baby carrots, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups cut ham
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme

1. Soak beans the night before. The rule is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of beans, so this recipe would call for 4 cups of water and 2 cups of dried beans. Let sink on counter until ready.

2. When you're ready to start the soup drain the beans.

3. In a large pot saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the celery and carrots and saute together for a few moments.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Soup

My friend Phyl is hosting a Pumpkin Roundup today and asked me to participate!

I just posted about my pumpkin fries and have one more recipe to share. I found this recipe while perusing my new obsession- Pinterest. My good friend Sarah got me hooked and now I'm finding myself pinning when I should be getting dinner made, getting out the door on a run, or getting myself to bed!

Have you heard of Pinterest? (It's pronounced- pin-terest. Like the words pin and interest put together.) It's a bit hard to explain. It's sort of like visual bookmarks. You create boards (think of a corkboard on your wall at home) and then you can "pin" images onto it. Now instead of ripping pages out of magazines to pin up, you're pinning photos/images from the web. You can have many different boards and you can see and interact with your friends and what they're pinning. The pin connects back to the original website, so you can pin a beautiful photo that just makes you happy, or you can pin a great craft idea or recipe and when you want to go back to it the pin will take you back to the original site. Like I said- visual bookmark.

But, back to the soup! I saw this great recipe for pumpkin curry soup and had to try it. The weather has just turned enough that the days are beautiful but the idea of pumpkin and cinnamon are so exciting.
The ingredients. Quite simple.
Have I mentioned how much I love my food processor. Mincing onion is oh so easy!!
The resulting soup was just okay. It wasn't bad at all, but it just lacked a little something for me. It didn't knock my socks off I guess. If you like pumpkin and curry give it a try. I could easily see others loving it. I have some leftover and am thinking of ways to add a little kick to it. It's kind of a fun culinary experiment for me.

Pumpkin Curry Soup
Adapted From:  Sophistimom
Printable Recipe

1 small onion, minced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cumin
1 large can (28 ounces) pumpkin puree
4 cups (32oz) low sodium chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup apple cider
yogurt (optional)
cilantro (optional)

1. In a large pot set over medium heat, saute onions in oil until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in garlic and spices and cook for a minute more.

2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste soup and decide if pureeing with an immersion blender is needed. (Depends on preference of onion size.)

3. Serve with cilantro and a dollop of plain yogurt.

Pumpkin Fries

My friend Phyl is hosting a Pumpkin Roundup today and asked me to participate!

I wanted to find something that my kids would try and hopefully like. Pumpkin Fries! (See my next post for the Pumpkin Curry Soup recipe.)
While apple picking we picked up a small pumpkin from a local farm. I knew I needed to peel the pumpkin and actually pulled out my peeler. After three swipes at the pumpkin I realized it was a lost cause. I'd be here all year if I had to peel the pumpkin with my almost-dull peeler. I highly recommend using a knife to slice the skin off.
Once that was done, I opened the pumpkin up and cleaned it out. Stay tuned for pumpkin seed recipes soon!
I then sliced the pumpkin into thin strips. My best advice here is do the best you can and keep thinking "french fry" as you slice and try to get all the fries similar in size.
Spicy Seasonings, Cinnamon Seasonings, and Herb Seasonings
I wanted to try a few seasoning options. I chose three: Spicy, Cinnamon, and Herb.
Left: Spicy Fries. Top Right: Herb Fries. Bottom Right: Cinnamon Fries
I baked the fries for about 40 minutes. The spicy fries turned out a little blah. I was reducing the recipe proportions for a smaller batch which led me to only use a "dash" of cayenne. I was also cooking for kids and didn't want them too spicy. In the end they were too spicy for one kid but didn't pack much punch for the grown ups. Next time, use more cayenne and make something else for the kids! The herb fries were good, although I'm not sure I'd do them again.

The star of the dinner was the cinnamon fries. They were really really good and kids asked for third helpings of them.

Thanks for the great challenge Phyl!

Pumpkin Fries
Printable Recipe

Recipe proportions are for 1/3 of a pumpkin.

1 small pumpkin
Olive Oil

Spicy Fries
Adapted From: Aaplemint
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
Pinch cayenne
Pinch black pepper

Cinnamon Fries
Adapted From: Sarah's Cucina Bella
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Herb Fries
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Peel pumpkin. I found it easiest to use a knife to cut the skin off rather than a peeler. Open pumpkin and clean out. Cut pumpkin into fry strips.

3. Prepare fry seasonings. Again, recipe proportions are for 1/3rd of a small pumpkin. If only making one kind of fry, increase seasoning proportions.

4. Toss fries and seasonings with olive oil (about 1 Tbs).

5. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cherry Cranberry Crisp

One last bag of frozen cherries in the freezer. Personally handpicked berries from my parents cherry tree I must add. A small amount of leftover cranberries from an earlier recipe. And, a desire to make a healthier dessert. This all came together to make a wonderful dish.

I experimented by not putting any sugar in the filling. I tend to like tart things and saw no reason to sweeten up the filling. The combination of cherries and cranberries was fantastic and I didn't miss the sugar at all. Is there a baking reason for putting sugar in filling or is it simply to sweeten things up?
Cherry Cranberry Crisp
Printable Recipe
3/4 c old fashioned oats
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
4 Tbs butter, melted

4 cups cherries, thawed
1/2 c cranberries
2 Tbs flour

1. Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl until they are wet and crumbly.

2. Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl.

3. Place the filling ingredients into an 8x8 oiled pan. Sprinkle the crumble topping on top of the filling.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
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