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.



mummy cupcakes

For a couple of years I have seen photos of different mummy cupcake designs either on the Internet or in food magazines.  I decided to try them out this year for a quick sweet treat.

I used a box cake mix to make some carrot cake cupcakes.  I made only 12, and used the other half of the mix to prepare and bake a single layer cake.  I usually do that to freeze ahead for another occasion.

I used some white chocolate melted over a double boiler to ice the cupcakes for a base coat.  I allowed them to dry for about and hour, and then frosted with a #48 tip and pastry bag filled with white buttercream icing.

I use a simple recipe of 5 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, mixed with 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 tablespoon orange extract, and 1 or more tablespoons of half and half.  I start with a small amount of the half and half and then just add a drop or two to get the right consistency of the icing.

Pipe the icing on in stripes like a mummy wrap.  I do refrigerate these cupcakes after placing them into cupcake wrappers for serving.  I do not bake my cupcakes in the wrapper, but place them into the wrappers just for the presentation.  I found the candy eyes at a local craft’s store.  The eyes can be purchased online as well in different sizes.

Fun to make, and fun to eat for Halloween.  Here is another way to keep Halloween alive in your home if you choose to celebrate.

Easy Holiday Petit Fours

Years ago I found this recipe for easy petit fours.  This is a “go-to” recipe that can be made for just about any holiday.  It uses the standard frozen pound cake, which is thawed overnight in the refrigerator.  Then, after cubed, the pound cake squares are glazed with a typical confectioners’ sugar mixture.  During the hardening process, the petit fours can be decorated for any holiday occasion.


For St. Patrick’s day, I chose to use sparkling sugar to give a bit of Irish green to their appearance.  I could easily have made a frosting to pipe polka dots or stripes on the tops of each square.  The ideas are endless for decorating petit fours.

To make this simple glaze, which is gradually drizzled over the cake, mix these ingredients with a hand mixer together:

2 pounds of confectioners’ sugar, with 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water, and 2 teaspoons of any flavored extract.  Suggestions would be almond, lemon, coconut, or orange.  Then, begin the drizzling process.  I generally use an iced teaspoon for best control.  Then, I gradually drizzle over the pound cake squares which have been placed on a wire rack over a pan.  The squares will need several coats, so this process may take 20 minutes to complete.  The left over icing can be gathered and re-used during the drizzling process if necessary.  This recipe will make more than needed for about 34 squares.


This is a very easy petit four recipe which can be used for many celebrations.


one pan cake with fruit

I am becoming a fast fan of Martha’s cookbook  One Pot.  I have been trying recipes in every category with outstanding results.  Even in her dessert chapter, all of the selections are made with just one type of pot, pan or skillet.  So, I would call these quick and easy desserts.  Reading through the recipes, I can see that any of them would even welcome substitutions from any pantry.


For this recipe, I substituted pears for plums and the result was super tasty and delicious.

To make this cake:

First decide on the fruit for the cake.  These would be the possible choices:  plums, peaches, cherries, pears, apples, or any berries. Peel and slice those that would have peels, prepare the others as you would for any pie.

Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8 inch skillet or pan.  Dust with flour.  Whisk together the following ingredients in a bowl– 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.  Next, mix 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup buttermilk with a hand mixer in another bowl.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the batter bowl.  Incorporate with the hand mixer.


Transfer to the baking pan.  Add the fruit to the top.  Sprinkle the top with additional sugar.

Bake about 40 minutes until browned.  Test with a cake tester to done. Serve either warm or cooled.  This is a great brunch cake, a tea cake or an anytime fruit dessert.


Delicious with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and drizzled with either caramel or chocolate sauce.






Las Vegas food

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs I have been reviewing my photos taken on my recent vacation to Las Vegas, I am appreciating the artistry of the pastry chefs and food teams at many of the hotels on the strip.  We enjoyed sampling meals from many of the hotels, which have hundreds of choices of types of offerings.  I wanted to highlight some of the bakeries and Italian gelato bars which seemed to be plentiful throughout the week.  There is not a shortage of food for purchase.  We spent most of our time between the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, Paris, The Wynn and The Venetian hotels.  We also visited the MGM hotel in the other direction on the strip as well.


From these photos, I find inspiration and see much dedication for pastry perfection.  There was a great affinity for Italian gelato stands instead of ice cream, although we sampled a large ice cream at Serendipity 3 at Caesar’s for my birthday.  We have visited the original Serendipity in New York City a couple of times, and could not resist this fun patio environment during the lovely fall days.



brownies in a slow cooker

After experimenting with a few different slow cooker recipes for a chocolate fudge brownie dessert, I created this recipe for brownies in a slow cooker. The closest recipe came from an online recipe found at Taste of Home.  Although I have several different types of slow cookers, many of them larger than what is needed for this recipe, I find that the smallest slow cooker works the best.  I used a 3 1/2 quart model, and the diameter of this slow cooker allows for the brownie to be turned upside down onto a cake plate for serving.

This recipe is almost like having a lava cake, or even a slice of hot fudge cake.  It is very easy to make, and can be put together before a party, and will cook up to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your slow cooker.  The best part of this recipe is that it does not use eggs. So, no worries there. It is best served warm, and can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in the oven or microwave.  Served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, I am certain it will become a favorite of your family.

To make the brownies:

Combine these ingredients in a small bowl:  1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons baking cocoa, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Then add, 1/2 cup fat-free half and half, 2 tablespoons melted margarine, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Of course, other flavorings could be substituted, such as almond extract or orange extract.


Next, spread this mixture on the bottom of the slow cooker.

For the next layer, sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips over the ingredients.  For the last step, mix together 3/4 cup brown sugar with 3 tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl.  Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water and mix.  Pour over the other ingredients in the slow cooker, but do not stir.

Cover the slow cooker and allow to cook on high temperature for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  Test to see if the brownie is done and coming away from the edges of the slow cooker.  The bottom of the brownie will show chocolate on the tester, even when the brownie is done.  Remember, the icing is on the bottom.


When the cake part of the brownie is baked, loosen the sides of the brownie from the cooker with a metal spatula.  Invert the slow cooker onto a plate, and watch the chocolate lava icing flow over the cooked brownie.  Serve and enjoy.  This recipe will serve at least 8 people.