Birthday cake icing

For years I have owned a checkerboard cake pan and finally decided to attempt to make this layer cake.  First and foremost, I want to emphasize–this takes time.  I planned two days to prepare the cake, chill the cake, and make and decorate the cake.

And by no means, am I any sort of expert.  I call myself a cooking and baking enthusiast.  But, over the years, I have developed confidence in trying many new recipes and experimenting with my own recipes and modifications.

This icing recipe is not an experiment.  It came directly from the pages of Martha’s American Food cookbook.  It was made exactly as she recommended.  And, it is an amazing recipe.  Although she does not say to chill the cake after icing, I highly recommend that step.

The icing is perfect consistency for spreading on a layer cake, but needs to firm up for serving.  I also feel that by chilling the cake prior to icing, allows the cake to firm up as well.  There is nothing worse than a layer cake that is sagging, tilting, or falling over.

If ever thinking of making a layer cake, consider this recipe, it is delicious. This recipe made 7 1/2 cups of icing.  I had about 1/2 cup left over after frosting three layers.  Certainly, the quantity could be changed based on your cake size.


1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 cup boiling water, 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter SOFTENED, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt

Heat and melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Combine the cocoa with the boiling water in a bowl. Dissolve.  Beat softened room temperature butter in a stand mixer, with the sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate slowly and then add in the cocoa mixture.

Use immediately.  The icing will be soft and free-flowing and covers the cake very well.  To firm up the icing, chill in the refrigerator.

And about the cake itself, the pan is the key to the checkerboard cake.  You can use any two types of cake mixes, or any of your favorite cake recipes.  The pan does the work.  I baked the cakes for 25 minutes, chilled, and leveled the tops prior to assembling the layer cake.  These pans provide an easy release and there were no worries with the results. I used a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake pan, but many others are also available online, including one from Wilton.

I always have a nice feeling when I bake a cake for the one I love.


Ginger Walnut Bundt cake

After seeing so many beautiful cake pans displayed from Nordicware, I just had to prepare an old-fashioned bundt cake at home.  This cake was super delicious, with the recipe coming from the pages of Taste of Home, November 2015.  Even though I often adjust other cookbook recipes, for baking, I always follow the recipe exactly and this was one no exception.

The crystallized ginger gives this cake an outstanding flavor panel.  I certainly recommend it for any time of year.  Gather these ingredients and get ready to experience a yummy cake for your friends and family — 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup hot coffee, 1 cup canola oil, 1 cup molasses, 1/4 cup light sour cream, 2 eggs, 3 1/4 cups flour, 5 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger and for the glaze, you will need:  2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 4 Tablespoons lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a Nordicware 9 1/2 to 10 inch tube pan. I own several sizes of bundt and other Nordicware pans, and love to use them in my baking.  In your Kitchen Aid stand mixer, beat brown sugar, coffee, oil, molasses and sour cream.  Add the eggs and blend in.  In another bowl, mix flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the stand mixer and blend in.  Stir in walnuts and crystallized ginger.

Transfer to the bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes before removing to a cake plate.  Allow to cool completely before adding the glaze.

Usually a glaze would be sweet, but the lemon juice in this glaze makes it a bit sour.  It really is quite delicious on the cake.  If you prefer, you could just use milk or water instead of the lemon juice.  I actually prefer the lemon glaze with this cake.  To make the glaze — mix the sugar, lemon peel and the juice to reach a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle and sprinkle over additional crystallized ginger.  I only used a portion of the glaze on the cake.

For 2017, Nordicware has introduced so many new colors in their line of baking pans. Along with their Fall harvest pans, and silver holiday collection, they have introduced new premier gold and copper pans.  They are stunning and include so many cute cakelet pans for Spring and Summer.  If you have not seen them, be sure to check out their online store, or their baking pans can be found at various shops including Target, Wal-Mart or Williams Sonoma.

Here are some of the photos I took while at their booth in Chicago.



carrots in the garden cake



the weather was lovely in Michigan yesterday.  it really seems like Spring is here.  of course, the season of chocolate came as well, with another round of chocolate bunnies and just about everything dipped in chocolate in the stores.  it is certainly difficult to resist all of the temptations at the market.  my husband was treated again to chocolate bunnies and that makes him very happy for weeks to come.

as for me, with all of my bakery visits, i was determined to try a garden cake for Easter.  this was a simple pound cake mix, that i decorated with my chocolate ganache recipe.  it is so simple, it just begs to be made.  in a double boiler over boiling water, melt 10 ounces of dark chocolate, and one teaspoon flavor, such as vanilla or almond, and then whisk in 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  that step takes a bit of time to make sure the chocolate is glossy and smooth.  don’t stop the whisk–part way through everyone thinks that this will not work.  but, it does. and the result is so delicious. don’t give up.  the chocolate and the cream look like they will never come together, but don’t put down the whisk.  this recipe will be enough for a whole cake.  today, i chose to decorate only one layer.

then, once i spread the chocolate, i sprinkled chopped chocolate crumbs over the top of the cake to resemble soil for my garden–chopped Oreo’s could be used or any type of chocolate cookie crunch.


i allowed the frosting to harden at this point, before adding the carrots.  the carrots are simply circles piped on with copper color-tinted frosting.  i used my basic frosting recipe of 5 tablespoons creamed unsalted butter at room temperature, with 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 tablespoon flavor, and 1 tablespoon milk.  mix these together very well and tint to color of choice with paste color.  i used copper for the carrots.

to make a radish garden or even just a radish row, use red tinted icing. the green stems will be the same. i supposed even onions could be made with white icing.

the green stems are made by slicing green twizzlers into small pieces.  add the stems and the garden comes to life.  even though this cake took several hours to come together, it was easier than growing a garden of carrots in the yard.

i will attempt that later this spring.

cupcakes from the store



last week i wrote about baking inspiration.  i love to visit bakeries.  probably, i should not be visiting as much as i do, but nevertheless, i am inspired by bake shops.  a couple of weeks ago, i visited Ann Arbor, Michigan and happened upon this very cute bake shop which is not located near the campus.  just baked happens to be a franchise with sixteen locations in the southern part of the State.  these cupcakes were also featured on Good Morning America.

yes, i just had to try their cupcakes.  with names like Fat Elvis and Chubby Hubby, how could I resist?  we selected four to take and sample over the course of several days.  with 35 cupcakes on the menu, and another 33 listed as seasonal or occasional flavors, i felt like this was baking inspiration at its’ finest.

the strawberry cupcake has a shortbread cookie bottom with strawberry cake and strawberry cream cheese frosting. i loved this combination.


the drumstick was covered in nut topping with a chocolate ganache, reminiscent of the world famous drumstick ice cream cone. some of the other creatively named and decorated flavors are: sno-cap, which is rolled in nonpareils–pineapple upside down–cinnamon donut, with a cinnamon sugar bottom, with cinnamon cake, and drizzled with icing.

i would have to recommend a visit to one of their shops, when on a trip to the Detroit suburbs. the cupcakes were fresh, delicious, creative, and most of all plentiful.  there is a nice area for eating, and the to-go packaging is very sturdy, preventing the cupcakes from moving about during transport.  for more information, check out this link: 


birthday cake — texas sheet cake



may is birthday month around our home.  so, for the 8th this year, i made Martha’s recipe for Texas sheet cake, from her cookbook titled Martha’s American food.  the cake is made in an old-fashioned rectangular pan, and is probably a recipe that has been made for 60 or more years.

it is a super easy recipe to make, but be certain to bake the cake thoroughly until well done.  i think i may have baked according to the directions, and the cake was more of a brownie texture in the end.  still delicious, still sweet, but maybe would be more light if baked longer than suggested.  

i used a 9 by 13 pan as suggested by Martha, but i know i have had this cake made by others baked in a true sheet pan, so it is very thin and not as high.  perhaps that is the secret to avoiding the brownie texture.

to make the cake: preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  spray butter the pan.  whisk together the following:  2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

next, melt 2 sticks unsalted butter in a saucepan, and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, then add 1 cup water and boil.  add to the flour mixture.  

then in a mixer, add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. pour batter in the pan and bake until the sides come away from the edges.  Martha says 12-14 minutes, but i think longer.  pour the icing over the cake while it is still warm and sprinkle with pecans which have been chopped.  cool before serving.

Boiled icing recipe

1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar.

bring butter, cocoa and cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  stir during this process.  remove from heat and add vanilla and sugar.  use while warm.

coconut birthday cake

 for my mother’s 89th birthday this year, she asked for a coconut birthday layer cake.  one of the best decisions i made for this cake was to purchase this brand of unsweetened flaked coconut.  the large shaved coconut was perfect for the cake and added excellent flavor to the frosting. 

by having flat shaved pieces of coconut, compared to the fine wisps of coconut that i typically purchase at the market in the baking aisle, we experienced a much better tasting icing for the cake.  for this two layer cake, i used almost the entire bag of coconut.

in order to make this cake, i did not make the cake from a recipe, but used a white cake mix, and then my own icing recipe that i have published on the blog under maple icing  for this cake, however; i used vanilla flavor rather than the maple flavor on that posting.  once i frosted the first layer, i added coconut flakes to the center of the cake, and then continued with the frosting decoration.  after the cake was frosted, i added the coconut to the top and exterior of the cake, being very generous in the application.

birthday cake

for more than thirty years, i have always purchased a birthday cake for my husband brian. this year, i decided to make him a cake from martha’s stewart’s cooking school book. i made her white cake with easy chocolate buttercream. instead of making two layers, i divided the batter into four smaller layers, baking them for only 17 minutes each. the buttercream frosting was made with frango mint chocolate baking cocoa, so it has a distinct minty taste. the coconut decoration was my personal addition, since brian likes coconut. this frosting is not a glossy ganache, but a richer and sweeter buttercream. i believe it is labeled easy, since cocoa is used instead of melted chocolate, which would need to be incorporated into the mixture. the layers added height, and i had just enough icing, about five cups to decorate the cake. by using only two layers, i would have had additional icing to pipe decorations onto the cake. since this cake was well received, i am going to continue my baking attempts for future family celebrations.