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.


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.






Martha’s ginger scented pecans

Holiday seasoned nuts are very popular.  I have tried a couple of recipes over the years, and decided to try one from Martha’s Hors d’oeuvres Handbook.  These were very flavorful toasted nuts that were a favorite of my family.


The toasting brings out a nice texture of the pecan, and the ginger flavor was not strong or overpowering.  I made a smaller amount from her recipe and the ingredients were perfect to taste and texture.

Here is how I adapted Martha’s recipe:

Gather the following ingredients.  3 cups or 2 bags of pecan halves, 1/2 cup sugar, 1  1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 2 tablespoons agave or honey, and 2 teaspoon canola oil.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Bake the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast about 12 minutes.  Combine sugar, salt and ginger in a small bowl.  Next, combine the honey, 2 tablespoons water, and the oil in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.


Add the pecans when they are done roasting, and cook until all of the liquid is gone.  Then, toss with the sugar ingredients.

Spread on parchment paper to cool.  Store in a covered jar or container for about one week.        SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


Martha’s chicken with sauteed mushrooms

Here is another recipe that can be made in under 1/2 hour straight from Martha’s One Pot Cookbook. It has a pan saute made from white wine and chicken broth, which is very flavorful and helps the chicken to stay moist.

I served this dish with rice, but it could also be served with noodles or as a stand alone with vegetables.

I also used my electric skillet, but preparing on the stove top would equally be easy and quick in a large non-stick skillet. I changed up a couple of the quantities, and it was perfect.

Gather these ingredients first:  1/4 cup flour, 1 pound of chicken, sliced very thin, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons thyme, cleaned and sliced white button mushrooms, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth, parsley flakes.


Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Next, dredge in flour to cover lightly.  Shake off excess.  Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Brown the chicken.  Next, add thyme, mushrooms and 2 tablespoons butters.  Cook about 8 minutes to brown.  Then add, wine and broth.  Bring the mixture up to a boil and make certain the chicken is cooked throughout.

Top with chopped parsley to finish off the entrée. This is a great meal for a weeknight or to serve guests.





Homemade ice cream without a machine !

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIs your freezer jammed with items ready to cook for the holiday season?  Are you looking for a place to chill your ice cream bowl before making a holiday dessert?

Well..I found a delicious recipe from Martha Stewart’s One Pot cookbook.  It was recently released and I have already made many recipes which are nothing short of fantastic.  I will be posting many of them on the blog, so stay tuned for some great time-saving recipes.

This coffee chocolate chip ice cream is made in a large bowl, and mixed with a hand mixer.  Then it is frozen for at least 12 hours and then is ready to serve to guests.  It is creamy, smooth, and oh so tasty.  Here is a recipe for when you don’t have access to your ice cream machine or when you just did not think far enough ahead to have the bowl frozen for use.

To make the recipe, find these ingredients first:  1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, coarse salt, 2 cups heavy cream and 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate–chopped.

In a large bowl, combine the vanilla and coffee powder.  Stir until dissolved.  Then stir in the condensed milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.


With an electric mixer on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Next, fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture.  Fold in the chocolate.  Transfer to an ice cream freezer container.  Cover.  Freeze for at least 12 hours. I froze mine overnight.  Let stand a few minutes prior to scooping.


Yum. Yum. Yum.

blueberry pancake


fruit pancakes are one of our favorite.  with blueberries being so plentiful in the market, i just had to try this Martha Stewart recipe for an oven baked pancake.  this is a delicious recipe, and could be made with any type of fruit. i am going to try it with strawberries next time.

the baked pancake is so good, that it could also be made without the fruit, and just served with fruit topping.  the blueberries or other fruit could be simply warmed on the stove and served along  with the pancake wedge.

this pancake will serve 5-6 people.  we had leftovers that stored nicely in the refrigerator.  they were easily warmed up in the microwave.

actual time to prepare this recipe is ten minutes, with a 25 minute cook time.

assemble these ingredients first to make the recipe:  1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, coarse salt, 3/4 cup half and half or milk, 1 egg, 1 cup blueberries.  i also used confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup as toppings.

preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  next, preheat a 10 inch skillet in the oven.  during this time, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, a dash of salt.  in a second bowl, combine the wet ingredients–milk and egg, and add 2 tablespoons melted butter.



remove the pan from the oven and melt and swirl another tablespoon butter to coat the pan.  pour in the batter.  sprinkle with the fruit.  top with a small amount of sugar.  bake until browned and done.  this will take about 25 minutes.  serve with maple syrup and powdered sugar.  one wedge of this pancake is a serving, which could be accompanied with any breakfast meat.



mushroom and spinach tortilla cups



here is a quick and easy recipe for weeknight dinners. this one comes from Martha Stewart, and is very tasty.  i think this one could be varied with any of your favorite ingredients.  i adapted Martha’s a bit and only made four of the cups, and found that i liked my additions and changes. serve these with a nice side salad or even fruit in the summertime.

begin the recipe by slicing about one medium sized container of white mushrooms.  dice about 1/2 medium white onion.  saute the onion in a skillet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  season with salt and pepper to taste.  next, add the mushrooms and brown them with the onion for about 7 minutes.  remove from the heat and mix with one box of thawed frozen spinach, which has been drained. fresh spinach can be used as well.

meanwhile, warm the six tortilla shells, eight inch size, in a microwave or in the oven. the warming process helps with the next step.  prepare a jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray, and place the tortilla shells in the six muffin cups.  with your spinach mixture, add one cup of monterey jack cheese or a combination of white and sharp cheddar cheese.  stir well and add the mixture evenly to the six muffin cups.

add about 1/2 cup more cheese to the top of the cups before baking. bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the contents to heat evenly.  easy, quick, tasty and a different way to enjoy tortillas.