Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

Well I finally made the decision and I bought 9-inch square cake pans.  Will the cake turn out large enough to feed my office is the question.  Hopefully it is, because there are two birthdays this week.  So, my first try at a two layer square cake is a strawberry shortcake: two layers of vanilla cake with  strawberry and whipped cream filling, topped with whipped cream.  The cakes were baked...then I realized that I don't own a container that will actually hold a two layer square cake...oops.  So, this cake is staying in the pan...hey maybe it will stay together better.  This cake turned out moist, slightly dense, but delicious.  The whipped cream helped to lighten things up, without being too sweet.  

This might just be a perfect summer cake or maybe a cake you just need to make when you want to remember summer days.  Those days that you don't ever want to end; that turn into starry nights with friends.  Well then again in DC its hard to have starry nights, sometimes you just have to imagine they are there.  So do that, imagine the stars are there and look for the moon cause its always there.   Oh and make this cake, it will make you happy and make you think of all of the strawberry shortcake you ate as a kid, which will make you smile.  And well smiling just makes you feel better, so enjoy! 

Oh so nice and golden brown.

Topped with whipped cream...

...then strawberries.

Whipped cream piped on to cake just to add a little something special.

Vanilla Cake: (recipe from Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcakes)
1 cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk

1.  Prep two 9-inch round or square cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and a parchment paper.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. 

3.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and set aside.

4.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together flours.

5.  Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and milk to the wet ingredients, mix just until combined. 

6.  Pour cake batter in to prepared cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cake cool in pans for 10-15 minutes.  Then gently remove from pans and let finish cooling on a cooling rack.  Prep strawberries for filling.

Whipped  Cream with Strawberries:
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 pints strawberries

1.  In a medium size mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, mix together heavy cream, sugar and vanilla.  Start mixer on a lower speed and slowly increase the speed.  Mix until light peaks form.  Place whipped cream in the refrigerator until ready to be used.

2.  Slice 10-12 strawberries in 1/4 inch slices.

To assemble cake:
1.  Remove parchment paper from the bottom of one cake layer.  Place layer back in to one of the cake pans.  Top with a little over 1/2 of the whipped cream.

2.  Top whipped cream with a layer of strawberries.  Remove parchment paper from remaining cake layer  and place on top of strawberries and whipped cream.

3. Using a cake spatula or piping bag top cake with remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Herb Cheese Waffles

So, I have been wanting to make savory waffles for a long time.  There is a great restaurant on Capitol Hill that makes these amazing Belgian waffles.  Ones with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes or caramelized apples and cinnamon.  They are delicious and were my inspiration for making these.  They serve theirs with a light herb salad; I ate mine with a veggie black bean burger for a light lunch.  The waffles are light and fluffy.  The herbs are not over powering and the cheese adds a nice flavor that goes well with the chopped onion.  You really could use these as substitute for bread on a sandwich or serve them along side tomato soup this fall.  Either way give them a try, substitute the cheese, switch things up, add something new, just have fun with them.

There is something about waffles that always make me think of being a kid.  Waking up on Saturday mornings as a really little girl and having Belgian waffles with strawberries and cool whip.  Do you ever wish you could go back to being a kid sometimes?  When your biggest problems were really the smallest things, like whether or not you had newest coolest shoes.  (Don't forget about jellies, especially the bright pink sparkly ones.)  Life as an adult is so much more complicated and I'm really only half way to being a real adult.  Your friendships are more complex because everyone lives all over the place.  We are all busy with work; in relationships or on our way to being married; or even trying to have kids.  (I am not there trust me, there are days I barely feel like I can take care of myself.)  And sometimes the screw ups are bigger as an adult.  You try for something you wanted, you really think it through and you take that gamble.  However, it doesn't always turn out the way you wanted; its not all rainbows and kittens and butterflies.  Instead people get hurt and the reasons for the hurt no longer matter.  They are gone and it all turns into a mistake. 

Sometimes though a few cookies and maybe some delicious waffles can help you forget.  Or maybe a long walk or a ride on a carousel to help bring you back to being a child, when things were simpler.  (Trust, carousels are still as much fun as an adult, especially on the perfect sunny day.)  These waffles also help, they make you feel like an adult because you just turned something ordinary in to something all together different.  These waffles are the grown up version of the Belgian waffles we all love to cover in maple syrup.  These waffles prove that sometimes a little change is good and that food can still be fun as an adult.  Try them, let me know what you think.  Don't get me wrong, I will still make my plain childhood Belgian waffles(or even   pumpkin ones this fall covered in cinnamon apples).  I will cover them in strawberries and cool whip and feel like a kid again cause sometimes we all need to remember the simple times; to take a break, relax and just enjoy the every day.

Waffle batter all set and ready to go. 

I didn't fill the whole waffle iron on purpose. I didn't want entire waffles; I wanted partial waffles.

Herb Cheese Waffles:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican cheese blend)

1.  Heat the waffle iron.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and Italian seasoning.

3.  Add the eggs, milk and canola oil to dry ingredients.  Whisk until just combined.

4.  Whisk in cheese.

5.  Using a ladle, ladle batter on to heated waffle iron.  Prepare according to manufactures instructions.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011


This summer has been...

...fun and exciting with trips to New York, Key Largo, Key West, Charleston and last but not least North Carolina...

The water is so blue down in the Keys.

Oh New York, New York

...it has been sweet and sometimes juicy: Cuatro Leches Cake, Blueberry Coffee Cake, Carrot Cake Pancakes...

...it has been well celebrated: Key Lime Pie Cake, Apple Pie Cupcakes, Chocolate-Vanilla Strawberry Shortcake...

Oh what a pie-cake.

...it was full of new challenges, who knew I could actually ride a bike for 45 miles...

...it has had its up and downs with moments you hope you never forget and ones you wish you could erase forever...

Yes we are talking to each other...don't judge.

...it has been filled with grown-up decisions and childhood laughter over grown-up drinks....

Cheers! Strawberry infused vodka with sparkling lemonade.

...But here's to the fall ahead, to the football games and the cool crisp nights, to the smell of leaves in the air and apples baking in the oven, to a new beginnings and old friends...  Happy fall everyone!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eggplant Tomato Tart

Well I was back in North Carolina for part of Labor Day weekend and I might have gone a little crazy at the farmer's market.  I am a sucker for local tomatoes and North Carolina peaches.  Oh yeah and since I don't talk about anything savory normally, I have a new obsession with fresh okra this summer.  I of course grew up on it being battered and fried in the South, but this summer I have had it grilled, sauteed and I roasted mine.  So delicious and so much healthier than frying it, although sometimes a girl from the South just wants some friend okra.  

Okay, so I headed back to DC with my farmer's market goodies.  I stopped and bought this pretty eggplant and some frozen puff pastry and viola we have an eggplant tomato tart.  P.S. folks you don't have to eat this right away.  It reheats wonderfully in the toaster oven at 350 degrees F for about 8-10 minutes.  Well it turned out flavorful and light.  Plus, besides the puff pastry part its not to bad for you. 

Any who this is my salute to summer's end, as we all start to say good buy to the super fresh juicy tomatoes and the sweet peaches that scream of summer.  We are saying hello to crisp fall autumn apples, pumpkins and to the wonderful root vegetables ahead.  Good bye summer, but hello fall!     

Food can be oh so pretty.  Its the rich colors. 

Ready for the oven. I had some leftover eggplant, so I went ahead and roasted it along side the tart.

Eggplant Tomato Tart:
1 small eggplant
1 medium tomato
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 gloves minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella shredded or torn
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper

1.  Defrost one puff pastry sheet and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Slice one small eggplant and put in to a medium sized mixing bowl.  Lightly coat eggplant with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with chopped oregano, Italian seasoning minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Using your hands mix up the eggplant so all slices are coated.  Set aside.

3.  Thinly slice tomatoes, about 1/4 inch thick.

4.  Shred or tear mozzarella.

6.  Arrange prepared eggplant slices over the top of the puff pastry.  Leave about 1/2 an inch around the outside of the puff pastry.  Cover eggplant with a layer of basil leaves.  Cover basil with 1/4 cup of mozzarella.  Layer the tomatoes on top of the mozzarella and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top the tomatoes with the remaining mozzarella.

7.  In a small bowl, beat the egg.  Lightly brush the crust of the puff pastry with the beaten egg.

8.  Bake in a 400 degrees F oven for 18-22 minutes or until crust is golden brown, mozzarella is melted and eggplant appears roasted.  Serve and Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Devils Food Peanut Butter Eclair Cake

So its another busy month of office birthdays, which means I get to bake more fun cakes!  Not as many as July, but there are three.  Which is a lot when we are starting to get in to our busy season in the office.  But hey, its getting to be time for apples and pumpkins and all things fall, who doesn't love this time of year?  The first request was something chocolate and peanut buttery.  The result, thin layers of devils food cake with peanut butter eclair filling between each; then the whole thing is topped with chocolate ganache.  This is a rich one folks, so have a glass of milk ready and some friends to share it with.  It will not slice prettily, but the cake is moist and the filling is light and fluffy and the peanut butter is not over powering.

In other non-cake related news the nation's triathlon is finally this weekend and I think our team is ready to go.  So, healthy food week is ahead to prepare...soo not fun.  Also, turns out life's curve balls can turn one way and then another in no time at all.  I'll keep you posted on whether or not this is a good thing.  I am actually ready for our busy season this fall though, its time to focus on work again, and bake to take my mind off of it when things get a little too stressful.  So here goes nothing.  Happy September! 

Whisking together the wet and dry ingredients.

Cakes ready to go in to the oven.

Preparing the peanut butter eclair filling: milk, pudding and peanut butter.

Gently fold in the Cool Whip.

First layer ready: devils food cake and eclair filling.

Next layer of devils food cake down.

Pouring the first layer of chocolate ganache over the cake.

Cake awaiting the birthday girl. 

Not the prettiest cake when you cut in to it, but pretty darn delicious.

Devil's Food Cake: (adapted from David Lebovitz devil's food cake recipe)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour (1 1/8 cup all purpose flour + 3 tablespoons cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup strong coffee, at room temperature
1/4 cup skim milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray three 9 inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and then line with a parchment paper round in the bottom of the pan.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.  Whisk in vanilla extract and set aside.

3.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together cake flour (or all purpose flour & corn starch), cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

4.  Combine coffee and milk in a measuring cup.

5.  Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and coffee-milk mixture to the wet ingredients, mix just until combined. 

6.  Pour into prepared cake pans and bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 16-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pans for 10-15 minutes.  Then gently remove the cakes from the pans and let finish cooling on a cooling rack.  Prepare peanut butter eclair filling. 

7.  Layering the Cake: Remove parchment paper from on layer of cake and place cake on cake stand with extra parchment paper around the edges to help keep cake stand clean.  Place the ring of a cheesecake pan around the bottom of layer of cake.  Using a spatula or a large spoon, scoop 1/2 of eclair filling on to the bottom layer of cake.  Add the second layer of cake and then top with remaining filling.  Then place the top layer of cake on and put cake in to the refrigerator and prepare first batch of ganache.  

Peanut Butter Eclair Filling: (recipe from Plain Chicken)
2 (3 1/4 oz) boxes vanilla instant pudding
1 cup peanut butter
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1 (8oz) container Cool Whip, thawed

1.  Whisk together vanilla pudding, peanut butter and skim milk until well combined, about 2 minutes.

2.  Gently fold in the Cool Whip.  Store in the refrigerator until cake layers are cooled.

Ganache Frosting:
1-12oz bag semisweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream

1.  Heat 1 cup heavy cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until gently simmering.

2.  In a heat safe bowl, pour heavy cream over 1/2 (6oz) of the chopped chocolate chips and stir until well combined. 

3.  Let cool until ganache thickens just a bit (more to the thickness of caramel sauce).  Leave cheesecake pan around cake and pour ganache over cake.  Refrigerate for one hour or until ganache is firm and set. 

4.  Prepare the rest of the ganache.  Gently remove cheesecake pan from around cake.  Carefully pour ganache over cake.  Once ganache is set, carefully remove parchment paper.  Refrigerate cake until ready to serve and Enjoy!