citrus cake

Hello!

A month. I know. A whole entire month, basically, between posts.

Here’s where I’ve been:

– Learning the work-life balance (it’s not easy!)

– Gradually turning my new place into a home

– On vacation for a week/in a wedding!

– Surviving a break-in…

To get it out of the way, yes, my house was broken into. My bedroom, more specifically. It’s unsettling and gross and sad (I haven’t been sleeping very well ever since), but I’m honestly super bummed about what they took—- my bike!

I had just shipped my bicycle down to D.C. and I was really enjoying having it for commuting, exercise and fun. (So if anyone knows anyone selling a women’s bike on the cheap, let me know. Desperate to replace mine!)

Onto happier things: my cousin Erica was married a few weekends ago, and I was lucky enough to be a part of her big day! It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and – of course- bride. Congratulations, Erica and Aaron!

I was trying to think about what both tied into a “sorry I’ve been gone so long” and a wedding and the answer was obvious- cake.

I lifted the idea for this cake from Apollinas, who does perhaps the coolest blog concept I’ve ever heard of – lifts patterns and inspiration from the runways and re-creates them in baked good form. Amazing.

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So the first thing I did was make my favorite yellow cake recipe. It’s from Martha, and I’ve used it before, most notably in my Super Bowl cakes. This time, I made two 9-inch rounds.

When they cooled, I spread lemon curd (my favorite!) in the middle as filling. I didn’t make my own lemon curd, but it’s easy enough to do.

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Next up was a lemon buttercream. I put a crumb coat on, and then swirled the whooole lot of it over the cake. Here’s a little secret about me: I prefer the frosting to the cake. So when there’s a solid inch – or more – of frosting on a baked good, I’m a happy camper.

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Lastly, I used thinly sliced citrus fruits  (still loving my mandolin) to decorate the top. It looked adorable – though not as good as Apollinas’ – and was a big, big hit.)

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Frosting:

Lemon buttercream frosting

2 cups of unsalted butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I like my frosting to taste very lemon-y. If you don’t want this, adjust accordingly.)
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute until light and fluffy. Gradually and slowly mix in the lemon zest and juice.
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chocolate PB nutella cake

DISCLAIMER:

This is not health food.

This is not weight loss-friendly, it’s not kind to your swimsuit figure and it definitely won’t aid you in those skinny jeans.

It is pure decadence. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to eat a salad for every meal until the end of time, just so that you can eat a slice of this incredibly rich cake and not feel guilty.

Sometimes you need this kind of food. And there is a way to justify it: the end result is so rich (almost too rich) that just a tiny sliver will satisfy you.

Until you eat some more within the next hour.

It’s an easy cake though. Steps are as follows:

chocolate PB nutella cake 

1. Make your favorite brownie mix. Mine is my grandmother’s recipe, it involves sifting and melting chocolate over a double boiler. It’s great. Add peanut butter chips, or Reese’s Pieces, to the batter – because why not?

Bake the brownies in a sheet cake pan. This will make a very, veeeery thin end result, so make sure you spray the pan liberally with baking spray.

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2. While the brownies are cooking and cooling, whip a carton of heavy whipping cream into, well, whipped cream.

Fold Nutella into it. I used almost the whole jar because why not? Be gentle during this process, but make sure it’s mixed completely.

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3. When the cake cuts out, cut it in half, hamburger-style. Spread the top of one half with your Nutella mixture and stack the halves.

Cut the cake in half again. Trust me. “Frost” and stack again.

Now frost the sides. You’ll have a short and stubby chocolate cake. Four layers of goodness. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour so it can all set – and it should be stored in the fridge, too.

Feel free to get creative with sprinkles. And make sure you have a giant glass of milk on hand when you devour your end result.

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buttered popcorn cookies

This post almost didn’t happen.

Seriously, for a multitude of reasons, these cookies almost didn’t make it into my oven.

First of all, I’m still slugging my way through a limited carb challenge. Guess what? I’m not doing very well.

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So the idea of making cookies seemed sort of counterproductive.

Then, I had a bummer of a day. The kind where I didn’t even really want to turn on an oven because that wasn’t the same thing as a couch and chick flick movie marathon.

But, I decided, this was exactly the kind of day that needed a baking marathon to cheer myself up.

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Then I lit the bag of popcorn on fire. Yes. I used microwaveable popcorn instead of popping my own and I lit it on fire. Things are glamorous, all the time, in my kitchen.

So anyway, buttered popcorn cookies. They’re originally from Smitten Kitchen, Joy over at Joy the Baker did her own spin on them today (with chocolate! why didn’t I think of that!). And here’s mine.

Yes! This is what the dough looks like! I know!

Yes! This is what the dough looks like! I know!

In case you were wondering, I of course did not eat only one cookie. I’m the worst.

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Popcorn

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup yellow corn kernels

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the popcorn, sprinkle with salt, toss with the butter and remove any kernels that didn’t pop.

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two cookie sheets with baking spray.

Cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat on low until just combined.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in the popcorn.  It’s gonna look weird. Let the popcorn break down a bit, and keep folding.

Scoop dough by tablespoonful onto baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges and tops are golden brown.

roasted strawberry buttermilk cake//swimsuit season is coming

It’s coming.

Can you feel it? Do you dread and welcome it as much as I do?

Swimsuit season.

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Also known as the season of sun, shorts, breezy tops and floaty dresses. I mean, I love it. But it’s also hard to embrace when you’re not feeling at your 100 percent best. Which I haven’t been.

I’ve just been feeling slow lately. Some days, it feels like my head is encased in a fog all day- that no amount of coffee will fix. And I feel sluggish and unhealthy, despite my frequent gym trips.

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Sometimes, the baking and eating out and pizza and pasta and candy catches up to you. Funny how that works.

So I’m instituting a healthy eating challenge for myself, as an effort to re-set my system and feel confident as swimsuit season approaches, bringing with it graduation and pictures that will Be Around Forever.

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I’m limiting myself to one day a week for sweets (so don’t worry, I’ll still be baking). I’m drinking more water, emphasizing lean protein, focusing on fruits and vegetables. And perhaps most daunting? I’m cutting out carbs – gasp – after lunchtime.

This is going to be hard. But hopefully, it’ll help me embrace other dinner and cooking options without falling back on pasta. Or pizza. Or burritos. You get the drill.

I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician. I’m not a professional. This is what works for me, but it’s probably not right for everyone.

Anyway, on my last night of carbs after noon, I went big. You have to. I started with a huge bowl of pasta and one of my favorite sauces: pepper-caper tomato sauce, which is as easy as it sounds (Add peppers and capers to tomato sauce, stir.)

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Then I moved onto the big guns, as you can see from the above photos.

Roasted. Strawberry. Buttermilk. Cake.

It’s light. Sweet. Warm. Comforting.

It made me sigh as I considered the no-carb challenge I’m taking on.

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Recipe below, adapted from Joy the Baker.

Stick around for the no-carb adventures, won’t you? Should be fun.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Strawberries:

16-ounces medium strawberries, hulled

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoon olive oil

pinch of salt

3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Place a rack in the center of the oven, to 375 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each strawberry in half and place in a mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, olive oil, and salt and toss the mixture with the berries.

Roast for 10-15 minutes. Put the berries in a bowl, toss with balsamic vinegar, set aside.

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar (you’re going to use these two different amounts at different times)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or spray a pyrex dish, set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and butter. Then add vanilla.

Combine the two, mix until fully incorporated. Then add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup of milk (not buttermilk). Mix.

Pour into dish and scatter the roasted strawberries on top. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve, top with powdered sugar.

basketball jersey cake

I love baking for myself, sure. What’s not to like about sugar and sweet? But baking for other people is probably my favorite part of getting in the kitchen.

You might swear over the mixer as powdered sugar flies up and coats your face. Maybe half of the frosting somehow, inexplicably, ended up in your hair.

But the reward – when those you bake for are amazed and excited by what you’ve made them – that’s worth even the most stubborn stain on your jeans. (Really, the dishtowels are there to wipe your hands and I still find myself absentmindedly using my pants.)

Birthday cakes are fun. They’re a little messy and a lot of work. Still, watching people eat the cake you made as they celebrate a special day is pretty cool.

Have a basketball fan on your hands? Jersey cakes are surprisingly easy and definitely a crowd-pleaser. First, just make a sheet cakes – I used my favorite Martha yellow cake recipe.

Then, when it’s cooled, flip the cake onto a cookie sheet. Cut curves along the top two sides of the cake and a gentle dent out of the very top. Discard (or snack on) the pieces.

Frost the cake to look like a jersey of choice. This one was Celtics-themed:

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giant sugar cookies

Let’s talk cookies for a second. I am a big fan in all sizes, shapes and types.

I am also a big fan of Pinterest. And something that always, without, fail, pops up on my Pinterest feed are those cookies in a mug. You know what I’m talking about- you add a pinch of this and that, stir it up, pop it in a microwave and boom! instant cookie for one.

Except.

Okay, you people who can eat one cookie and be satisfied? Who are you? And how can I get your willpower?

Sometimes, you need an entire batch. But sometimes, you need a cookie the size of your face. Maybe double.

It needs to be weighty and big in your hand and you can nibble around the edge for about an hour before getting to the soft, warm middle. It’s a virtual hug, a giant cookie, and it’s worth it.

Don't you love this scenic glimpse at my kitchen floor?

Don’t you love this scenic glimpse at my kitchen floor?

Giant cookies also remind me of a weekend ritual when my family used to live close to Providence. I was probably five, my brother three, and my dad used to get us up early on Sundays and take us to a local Starbucks so my mom could sleep in. (And my family wonders where my coffee addiction comes from).

Without fail, the barista would give my brother and I giant M & M cookies for free. It was essentially the best thing in the world.

These cookies are incredibly adaptable, in fact, I mixed it up based on this original post.

I made mine Saint Patrick’s themed- added some green food coloring, topped with gold sprinkles. Feel free to explore the options!

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Recipe makes two. The dough is very, very sticky- I added a little bit of water to make it less so, but that’s not wholly necessary.

Giant Sugar Cookies

4 Tbsp butter (room temp)
8 Tbsp sugar
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Add sprinkles, food coloring, whatever you want.

Place the dough into two balls, evenly spaced apart, on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 14 minutes, until edges are crispy and brown. Let cool.

Eat!

rainbow butter cookies

Probably the number one rule about blogging the things you cook is that you should have your camera charged.

But it’s the holiday season- and it’s also finals season, so sometimes, cameras sit in the back of a desk drawer and then you pull them out as butter and sugar are being creamed together and – oh – that little blinking red light tells you there’s no way that camera is turning on, not today.

So. You’re left with just cell phone pictures, and not even of the process, really, just two measly pictures of the final result.

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The good news? This recipe is essentially foolproof. It’s a lot of fun to make, too, and doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting. Or mixing.

The rainbow butter cookies get their “rainbow” from mixing in some food coloring. Pretty basic- the hardest part is that I did it with my hands, because I’m lazy, and didn’t feel like washing a bowl and a mixing instrument in between each color. So I stained my hands.

These cookies can be any color you want! That’s probably the best part. I went with red and green, because it’s Christmas, but any. color. you. want!

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Rainbow Butter Cookies

Cream together 1 cup butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Add 1 egg and 1 tsp. vanilla, mix. Sift in 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cream of tarter and a pinch of salt.

Divide the dough into three parts. Color each part with food coloring, drop rounded balls (about 1 tsp. each) onto a buttered cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (mine were fine right at 8).