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.



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.






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.

trader joe’s gingerbread


a couple of weeks ago i tried a Trader Joe’s box cake mix.  it was delicious.  i added a topping of chopped walnuts.  the cake is very moist and easy to prepare.  and, it is only offered during the holiday season in the stores. there is something special about the taste of gingerbread.  it reminds me of many of the historic villages we have visited over the years–Colonial Williamsburg, Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill Kentucky, Hancock Shaker Village, Sturbridge Village, Old Salem, or Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan.

any of these historic sites usually offers the dark rich blend of molasses, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in a cake or cookie.  the taste transcends anything that is usually made today.  today’s stores are typically filled with sugar cookies or peanut butter cookies.  however, the classic taste of gingerbread is something that will never be forgotten.


the Trader Joe’s mix comes together very easily with just water, egg, and a bit of canola oil. it is easier than making gingerbread, as there are many ingredients including spices that have to come together for the recipe.  i would say the taste is excellent in this box mix, and resembles anything that i could make at home.

the feel of the holidays will come to your home with this easy box mix.  the ginger cake could be served with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, chopped nuts, holiday red raspberries, or even a drizzle caramel.

square angel food cake



as a fan of angel food cake, i had to share this information.  i found a wonderful angel food cake pan that changes the whole look of the cake slice.  typically, angel food cake is made in a tube pan with a removable bottom, which provides tall slices of cake in a classic shape.

however, just recently i purchased a new angel food cake pan online from king Arthur flour’s website.  this cake pan is rectangular, however made from the same material as the classic cake pan. they refer to the pan as the loaf cake pan.

i want to report that this pan works perfectly, although it does not have a removable bottom.  the traditional cake mix recipe fits the pan perfectly, rises perfectly, and is so much easier to slice and serve.  i totally love this cake pan and encourage you to try it out.



for more information on where to purchase online, follow this link: