Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

I was treated to this cake by some new friends, and I was excited to get the recipe so I could recreate it at home. It was so good, that despite already having a fantastic strawberry cake recipe, I was happy to add this one to my repertoire.

My recreation of it was not as good as the original. I think I used too many strawberries and underbaked it slightly, so the end result was a little gooier than I’d have liked. Still tasty, and both my children thought it was a wonderful treat, so it didn’t go to waste.

It is phenomenal with freshly whipped cream, even cream that’s been overwhipped a tad as mine was.

Ingredients
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (267 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups (280 grams) fresh strawberries, chopped
3 Tablespoons (38 grams) sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two 9″ cake pans with baking spray (the kind with flour included).

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and whisk to evenly mix. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar and mix until soft and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each egg is added, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla and lemon oil.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating batches, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing on low speed just until everything is incorporated.

Spread the batter into the prepared pans, then sprinkle with strawberries and reserved sugar.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out of pan.

Variations, Modifications, and Other Comments
If you don’t have lemon oil, use lemon zest. Or leave it out entirely.

Substitute any sort of berry you’d like for the strawberries, and most other berries could be left whole.

If you don’t have buttermilk, read my lengthy comments on buttermilk substitutions on an earlier post.

I would expect it to freeze well, but we devoured the cake too quickly to verify that fact.

Recipe doubled and adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s raspberry buttermilk cake.

Cinnamon Quick Bread

Cinnamon Quick Bread

My husband and son love quick breads of all sorts. When I came across this recipe for a cinnamon quick bread I knew I’d have to try it for them. When I was in the midst of making it I thought I should have only tried one loaf at first, in case they didn’t like it.

Fortunately I didn’t have that thought before I started, because they would be very disappointed if there was only one loaf. It is absolutely delicious, with a lovely crunchy top, and a gooey, cinnamony bottom.

Ingredients

For Cinnamon Mixture:
2+ teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

For Batter:
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9×5″ loaf pans.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and 1/2 cup of sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and whisk to evenly mix. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and sugar and mix until soft and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each egg is added, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating batches, beginning and ending with buttermilk , and mixing on low speed just until everything is incorporated.

Spread a quarter of the batter into the prepared pans, then sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Spread the rest of the batter on top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Using a knife, cut through the batter and swirl in the cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out of pan.

Variations, Modifications, and Other Comments
Add more or less cinnamon to the cinnamon mixture, depending on the strength of your cinnamon, and your liking for the flavor. I used very strong Vietnamese cinnamon, and 2 heaping teaspoons, but could have used more.

If you don’t have buttermilk, make your own by adding 2 Tablespoon white vinegar to a measuring cup, then enough milk to bring the total in the cup to 2 cups. Stir together and let it rest for 10 minutes. You can also purchase buttermilk powder in the baking aisle or online, and use it as directed on the container. It will last indefinitely in your refrigerator.

(Unless you plan on sharing with friends, I would not actually buy it from that Amazon link – it’s for 3 containers, and 1 container lasts so long that it would take me years to use up 3. The link is there so that you know what it looks like!)

I prefer the taste of “real” buttermilk to the mock version made with vinegar, or the reconstituted powder, so often I’ll stockpile several recipes that require buttermilk and then buy a quart or half gallon. It should last a week or two in the fridge, so that gives me plenty of time to make 3 or 4 recipes, and as long as they are freezable, that’s not too much for our family even if we don’t have any guests or events to go to that will help use up the resulting baked goods.

Recipe adapted from Katie Brown’s Weekends: Making the Most of Your Two Treasured Days.)

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Toffee Turtle Bars

Toffee Turtle Bars

I love bars. They’re so much quicker than cookies to make; no need to scoop out individual balls of dough. Most bars freeze well, so they’re easy to have on hand even if you don’t have time to make a fresh batch. And usually once they’re baked, you’re done, unlike with cakes that so often must be frosted.

These bars were initially a disappointment. Tasted soon after they came out of the oven the shortbread base separates from the top and the flavor is bland.

Tasted the next day, after the bars have chilled overnight in the refrigerator, and the bars hold together well, and the flavor is fantastic. Slightly chewy thanks to the condensed milk, but with nice crunch from the nuts, and the shortbread turns into a delightfully crumbly base.

So, don’t make these expecting an immediate treat, but if you can plan ahead and let them thoroughly chill, they are delectable.

Ingredients
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toffee baking chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13×9″ baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter. Mix until thoroughly combined, then firmly press into prepared pan to form a crust. Bake 12 – 14 minutes or until golden brown.

While crust is baking, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour over baked crust. Sprinkle evenly with the nuts, chips, and toffee chips.

Return to oven and bake until set and golden brown, around 25 minutes. Cool at room temperature, then cool completely in refrigerator.

Variations, Modifications, and Other Comments
I didn’t measure any of the nuts, chips, or toffee pieces that carefully, but I probably used less toffee chips and more chocolate.

Use whatever sorts of nuts you prefer. I adore pecans so that’s almost always my choice.

These bars freeze beautifully, so don’t hesitate to make the entire batch, even if you don’t need many. I almost never halve a recipe that calls for a can of condensed milk because I hate trying to measure out a half can.

I’d give credit to the original recipe source, but I don’t know it. It’s one that’s been in my recipes-to-try binder for years before I finally made it, and any original attributions were lost.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I’ve never liked pound cake. Not homemade, not from a box, not the frozen kind that my mom always bought. To me, pound cake was a waste of calories; boring and blah.

That is, until I made Cream Cheese Pound Cake. Suddenly the pound cake had a luscious texture and a subtle tang that made it irresistible to me. And my son. And husband. And I’m sure my daughter would agree, if only I’d ever shared it with her.

The recipe is originally from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations, but this is how I make it:

Ingredients
3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 cups (600 grams) sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325. Spray two 9×5″ loaf pans with baking spray*

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together and whisk to evenly mix.

Combine the softened butter and cream cheese in large bowl, and beat well with a mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix 3 more minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each egg is added, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in two batches, mixing on low speed just until the flour is incorporated.

Spread the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 55 – 65 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out of pan.

Variations, Modifications, and Other Comments

Please don’t substitute margarine for the butter. There aren’t enough other ingredients to mask the flavor that would be missing.

I always weigh my ingredients, so the volume measurements for the flour and sugar aren’t what I use.

If the cake is underbaked, the center remains ridiculously gooey, which I find delicious, so I tend to err on the side of underbaking.

The cakes freeze beautifully, either as a whole cake, or, what I do is cut it into individual slices, then flash freeze them on a baking sheet. Once they’re frozen solid, I put them into a freezer container and can then pull out slices as I want them. They take very little time to defrost enough to eat, and I like them when they’re still very cold.

You could substitute other flavored extracts for the vanilla, but you run the risk of masking the lovely cream cheese flavor.

*Baking spray is the spray that includes flour. Alternatively, you can grease and flour the pans, but I am lazy and like the spray that does both in one shot.

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One Bite at a Time: Project 26 {Cook Staples From Scratch}

Project 26, Cook Staples From Scratch, is another one of those projects that I’m already sort of doing. However, just last week I was thinking that I should try and make yogurt because with a boy that loves it, our family goes through a ton of it every week. Making it myself might save some money.

Honestly though, making yogurt isn’t something I’m ready to try just yet. I feel like my brain needs to be sharper before I tackle something that seems like it has the potential to make us very sick. If baby girl would ever sleep through the night, maybe I’d feel like I trusted myself to follow directions on how to make it. I did just see a post again from someone who always makes it, and she makes it sound so easy. I’m going to have to try it soon.

Granola though? Granola I make now, after getting fed up with the price for premade granola. Oatmeal is CHEAP, and granola is not. Plus, by making it myself I can pick and choose what I want in it. Coconut? Yes, please. Almonds? Of course. Raisins? Not a chance.

I make bread from time to time, but I still have never managed to make a sandwich loaf that satisfies my husband. Or me for that matter. I keep practicing. English muffins are another one I’d like to master, but so far I can’t quite get them to taste exactly like the brand I love.

This is a project where I think as long as I’m able, I’ll continue to increase the number of items I make myself. It’s a process, and I’m still working on it.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Peanut Butter Fudge Pie

I mentioned it in my Thanksgiving Recap post, but the peanut butter fudge pie I made was FANTASTIC. So good I can’t wait to make it again. So good I’m scared to make it again because I ate the entire thing myself (ok, it took a week, but still.)

The pie is by Carolyn B. Weil, and is from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook)

Here’s the recipe, with my modifications.

I made an Oreo-cookie crust, and don’t remember exactly the proportions I used of Oreo to butter. I baked it for 15 minutes and should have only done 10.

Chocolate Fudge Filling
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

Peanut Butter Filling
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

To Make the Pie:
1. Prepare the crumb crust & refrigerate.

2. Make the chocolate filling by placing chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and allow to stand until softened. Stir until smooth & cool until tepid.

3. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chocolate filling to a small plastic bag and set aside. Pour the remainder of the chocolate filling over the crumb crust and spread until even. Freeze or refrigerate until firm.

4. Make the peanut butter filling by mixing together all ingredients in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy. Spread over the chilled chocolate layer and smooth the top.

5. Snip the corner of the plastic bag with the reserved chocolate filling and spread the chocolate over the top of the pie.

6. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve chilled but not cold.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thanksgiving Recap

For the first time ever I cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner, and it really wasn’t too bad! I planned it all out in advance and scheduled what I would do when, both in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and the day of.

In hopes that it might be a help in the future, here’s a recap of what I did and how well it all worked, and what I’ll do differently next time (because I’m sure there will be a next time.)

Menu:
Cheddar cheese ball & crackers (from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008)
Fresh veggies & dip
Relish tray with olives & pickles

Turkey breast (Butterball, preseasoned)
Mashed potatoes (recipe from my mom)
Dressing (Stove Top)
Glazed carrots (blended about three recipes together)
Green bean casserole
Rolls (from a now-defunct website)
Cranberry sauce (from a can)
Gravy (from the packet that came with the turkey + a packet of mushroom gravy.)

Pumpkin pie (from A Passion for Baking)
Apple pie
Peanut butter fudge pie (from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook)

Biggest success was the turkey breast (juicy & flavorful), mashed potatoes (so good), and the peanut butter fudge pie (amazingly tasty & pictured above).

Biggest disappointments were the rolls (for homemade, they really weren’t any better than frozen), the carrots (too much cinnamon), and the green beans (they weren’t bad, I just still haven’t found my perfect recipe and will keep looking.)

Working ahead was very helpful to keep the day of from being too stressful. I made the dough for the rolls on Monday. Tuesday I made the cheese ball. Wednesday I made the pies and prepped all the veggies except for the potatoes. Thursday morning I drew up a schedule of events so I wouldn’t forget about things like shaping the rolls or reheating dressing.

Next time I’d like to try a different green bean casserole recipe, skip the carrots all together (we had more than enough veggies thanks to the appetizer of raw veggies & dip), try pumpkin rolls, and make my own dressing. I’ll probably try different pie recipes just because I love to do that, but all three pies were a success.

And if I get really ambitious, maybe try a roasted turkey roulade, because that looks amazing.

Did anyone else fix their first Thanksgiving dinner? Have success with any new recipes?