Sweet Summertime Strawberry Heaven

shortcake on the goI used to live a mile away from an organic strawberry farm. It was part of my normal routine to walk through the fields, overlooking the ocean, to hand pick strawberries. Those were some pretty sweet, strawberry filled days!

Fortunately those organic California strawberries make their way up to Oregon, but with a bigger price tag. I probably won’t be making as many strawberry treats this summer as I once did, but I will still allow myself to indulge in recipes that I can resist! This recipe fell into that category of totally irresistable. I followed a link to My Baking Addiction’s blog and only about 3 seconds passed between looking at the picture and reading the words ‘fresh,’ strawberry,’ and ‘cupcake’ in one sentence before I decided that I HAD to make these. And RIGHT AWAY! So, on my way home from work, I picked up the necessary ingredients and started baking away. Around 10pm I scarfed down a DEEELICIOUS cupcake and then had another…

The texture and flavor of these cupcakes is some of the best I have ever had. The recipe is based on one by Martha Stewart called ‘Sprinkles Cupcakes’ that was modified by My Baking Addiction. I made the following changes based on my personal tastes and My Baking Addiction’s reflections: She mentioned that the cake was a little dry, so I upped the amount of strawberry puree in the cake batter and replaced milk with sour cream. I also decreased the baking time and took them out of the oven when they were ‘just done.’ She mentioned that the frosting was a little on the soft side, so I decreased the amount of strawberry puree added. This however made the strawberry flavor in the frosting somewhat subtle, so I added strawberry puree to the top to pack in more strawberriness. I also put the frosting in the fridge for a bit to help it firm up. 

I honestly can’t think of any way to make these better, but if you do, let me know!  This recipe makes 18 cupcakes. (more…)

Upsidedown Pineapple Cake

too sweet to be good for yaI was feeling like making a retro dish and when I came across this recipe, it hit the spot- for some reason, pineapple upsidedown cake seems like a thing of the past, like mincemeat pie or little smoky casserole. Many people seem to have an adverse reaction to the mention of pineapple upsidedown cake, as they would to the other two dishes I mentioned above. I think that may be because it was often made with questionable ingredients- e.g. a can of mushy fruit cocktail pineapple and cherries. I fancied mine up a bit by using fresh pineapple and omitting those maraschino cherries altogether (I really think they should only be used for the occasional shirley temple or traditional ice cream sundae).

The cake didn’t have the look I was going for (it is really hard to cut pineapple in rings) and the cherries, while gross, would have added a bit of color to the bland looking cake. However, it tasted quite delicious, confirming that using the fresh pineapple was indeed a good idea. I served it up with vanilla ice cream (John mentioned coconut ice cream would be good too) because everything is better with ice cream.

This recipe serves 6-8 people and is based on a recipe by Alton Brown in ”I’m Just Here for More Food.” (more…)

Edible Bowling Lane

i dare you to roll a strikeTo celebrate the end of yet another fantastic bowling season, I made an elaborately decorated bowling cake for the team. What started out as a simple idea became more complex the more I got into it. I usually think cake decorating is a pain in the ass, but if you have time for it, it sure can be fun!

This cake is quite big and will serve a couple of bowling teams at least! The recipes are from the Magnolia Cookbook.

I’ll tell you my method for decorating this cake, but leave your process up to you because I’m sure you’ll have some awesome ideas! I started this recipe out with a simple chocolate cake and plain buttercream frosting. After frosting the cake, I added chocolate to the remaining buttercream for decorating purposes. I chose gumballs for bowling balls because they are colorful and perfectly round. I played with the idea of drilling tiny holes in each one, but decided against that for safety reasons, and opted to just make dots on them with piped frosting. The closest thing I could find that remotely resembled  bowling pins were candy covered almonds (yuck!). My friend andy has been known to carve pins out of jack cheese and make the stripes with red bell pepper- perhaps I will use that method next time! I used chocolate jimmies to make the arrows on the lane, but I think chocolate chips or just piped frosting would work as well. i literally carved out the gutters in the lane with a knife and piped them full of chocolate frosting- above ground frosting gutters would have probably been less messy. The ball return carriages were made from leftover scraps of cake, frosted with the chocolate buttercream frosting. (It was pointed out to me after the cake was finished that the ball return carriages should have been placed toward the outsides of the lane, so as to leave room for the bowler- good tip for next time!)

Okie dokie, enough chit chat… here’s the recipe. (more…)

Bowling Cupcakes

these cupcakes will improve your score

I made these cupcakes for my bowling team’s Big Lebowski party. While I don’t think the Dude ate peanut butter chocolate cupcakes in the movie, I definitely think he would abide. And, they go splendidly with a White Russian. As a side note, after eating these cupcakes, our team went on to win our first game the following week- go cupcake power!

No one can tell that these cupcakes are vegan… they are so moist, rich, and chocolately! I am not a big fan of piping forsting letters onto cupcakes and I despise those store bought letters/icings, so I got a little inventive. I pressed upside-down mini chocolate chips into the frosting to spell out our team’s name. Yes, this did take a while, but it was a fun and mind-soothing activity.

This recipe is based on the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes from the book “Vegan Cupakes Take Over the World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The recipe makes 12 cupcakes. (more…)

Casper, the Fresh Coconut Cake

don't you want to lick it?

This cake is reserved for coconut enthusiasts and very special occasions. I say that because it is a major project that requires some serious love and determination. However, it is THE MOST AMAZING coconut cake that I have ever tasted! So, if you are up for an adventurous day of baking, this recipe is definitely worthwhile.

I saw Alton Brown prepare this cake on Good Eats a few months ago and at that time decided to make it for John’s birthday. My friend Jolene came to visit for John’s birthday weekend (it was her birthday too) and wasn’t surprised when I mentioned that I had all the ingredients and plans to make a coconut cake from fresh coconuts. She knows me well and during the labor of love mentioned that she actually expected that we would be baking something unique and challenging.

That morning, we woke up and immediately got to work. We drilled, drained, baked, cracked, peeled, sliced, shredded, soaked, and toasted coconut. We frequently stopped for a moment to indulge in the amazing smells and tastes of the fresh coconut. What an incredible food! Jolene and I took a short break for lunch and then continued our baking. It was 7pm by the time we threw the toasted coconut on the frosted cake and marveled at our beautiful creation. So beautiful and laborious that we decided it deserved a name, and Casper seemed appropriate.

Fortunately, we had an eager group of brunch eaters join us the next day to celebrate John’s birthday and indulge in this decadent cake. It was really fun to share the cake and talk about the process. If you have the time and energy to make this cake one day, just once, you won’t regret it. (more…)

Easy Petite Chocolate Cakes

The other night, around 10:30pm, I had a sudden and severe chocolate cake craving. But, I wasn’t feeling like doing a lot of work, making a mess of my kitchen, and eating the cake at 2:00am. And going to the store was definitely out of the question. So, I browsed my cookbooks for something simple and quick to satisfy my craving.

Fortunately, a recipe from Petrossian Boutique and Cafe in the New York Times Dessert Cookbook was just what I was looking for. I had all the ingredients on hand, it was easy to prepare, and it didn’t yield a massive dessert. The only thing I changed was to add chocolate chips to the batter and to cook the cakes for longer so they weren’t gooey in the middle.

This recipe would be perfect for a small dinner party because it makes four small and cute individual cakes. These little cakes bake up in no time, will satisfy the chocolate lover, and are very versatile. I made mine plain, but you could add a dollup of whipped cream on top, ice cream, frosting, chocolate glaze, or even a berry sauce.

I think this just might be the easiest recipe that I’ve posted on my blog so far! (more…)

Sweet and Tart Coffee Cake

My friend Laurie is so kind as to share her many successful cooking and baking experiences with me. When I don’t have the book with the recipe she used, she goes to the trouble of typing it up and emailing it to me. I am so grateful!

So, as you may have guessed, Laurie sent me this recipe after she made it over the holidays. It is based on a recipe published in the San Jose Mercury News in an article by Liz Scott. I love the balance of the sweet almond flavor with the slightly tart fresh cranberries in this recipe. It makes for quite a unique coffee cake! (more…)

Giving Thanks for Carrot Cake

John’s family does Thanksgiving up big… his mom has 8 siblings that all convene at grandmother’s house, each with a dish in hand. We flew down for the holiday, but I still wanted to bring something to the feast, so I had to get creative and find a recipe to fit the circumstances. All of the basics were covered: turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, yams, green beans, salad, rolls and lots of pie pie pie (I counted 14 desserts). And, I would be cooking in someone else’s kitchen, which poses its own set of challenges: unfamiliarity, different tools and equipment, and the need to purchase many ingredients. After much internet research and feedback from friends and family, I decided to go with a carrot cake. It did not fit the seasonal theme I was going for, but it is a Jessee family favorite. And besides, how can you go wrong with homemade cream cheese frosting!!!

Carrot cake is actually pretty easy to make. Besides grating those carrots, it is pretty much like making a muffin. The most important trick is to not over beat the batter. As a result, you will have a light, fluffy, moist cake. I made this one in a bundt pan, but you could also use a regular cake pan, as long as it is deep enough or split it into 2 pans and reduce the cooking time. If you make a layer cake, you probably will want to increase the frosting to have enough to fill the middle.

I got this recipe from my trusted source, Alton Brown, and adjusted the spices slightly. I chose hazelnuts to top the cake with because John is allergic to walnuts and pecans. Plus, hazelnuts sounded like something different and interesting to try with cake. I liked them, but you could substitute just about any nuts that you prefer. (more…)

Gifty Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaves

Once upon a yoga retreat, we were sitting around talking food (as usual) and the subject of baking with pumpkin came up. Perhaps it was the fall season or the fact that I’ve had a can of it in my pantry for a year, but whatever the reason I was really excited to try a new pumpkin-something recipe. My friend Nils swore by his pumpkin chocolate chip muffins… he went on and on about how really really really good they were. So, of course, I had to follow up and make sure I got that recipe! He emailed it to me a week or so later and then I tucked it away because I was in the process of moving and pumpkin was the last thing on my mind.

Upon getting settled in Portland, I was brainstorming what kind of seasonal treat I could bake for my new neighbors when I remembered Nils’ pumpkin muffins. Aha! Instead of using a muffin tin, I bought recycled disposable mini loaf containers for a more gifty presentation. I had to double the original recipe (I’m not sure of its source- Nils, if you know, will you please post it?) and I omitted the suggested nuts because I wanted more chocolate chips.

These loaves, I must say, are absolutely fabulous! They have the perfect ratio of spice to pumpkin to bread to chocolate chip. And they have a divine texture. They are quite versatile and can be served as breakfast, snack, or dessert. Plus, they are oh so cute! They keep well in an air tight container for 2 days or can be frozen for a couple of weeks. The following recipe makes 7 mini loaves. (more…)

Pretty Pear Cake

I had the pleasure of eating this cake, on more than one occasion, before actually making it myself. My former boss used to make it with fruit from her backyard and bring it warm to staff meetings. I loved the unique presentation and the crispy, sweet brown-sugar top. I begged her for the recipe for months and, as a going away present, she gave me the book with the recipe in it: “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison. I have since tried a few other savory recipes from this book and have found them all to be quite unique and delicious!

This cake is baked in a cast iron skillet… and I’m not sure that it would turn out as good in another type of pan. There’s something about that thick, seasoned, iron skillet that creates a great crust and depth of flavor.

We always ate it in the morning, but I think it would be excellent served with ice cream or whipped cream as a dessert. This cake can serve quite a lot of people, depending on how you slice it! If you cut it into gargantuan pieces, you could feed at least 8. (more…)