Tag-Archive for ◊ cake ◊

13 Jul 2011 Butterbeer Cupcakes

Harry Potter.  My 20 year old twins have tickets to the midnight show.  Of course they do.  They were in second grade when I read the first book to them. We stood in line at midnight for the fifth book to be released. After Book Two we had to buy multiple copies of each because no one (myself and their older sister included) could possibly wait for someone else to finish the book before they could start it. They’ve both read all seven books at least three times.  Yes, that’s right.  They’ve both read ALL seven books at least three times.  We have some books on ten disk CD sets.  They listen to them when driving home from college. They saw all seven movies on the day they were released. We own all the DVDs. Tomorrow’s movie premier:  Book Seven, part Two is the end.  The end of everything.  The last Harry Potter movie signals the end of their childhood just as much as their high school graduation, their high school prom, and their first nights in their college dorms rooms did.

My daughter is running a Harry Potter marathon tonight.  She’s  set up the Three Broomsticks Tavern.  Tonight’s specials: Butterbeer cupcakes and Cockroach Clusters (chocolate covered pretzel clusters sprinkled with powdered sugar) and Butterbeer Floats (cream soda with butter pecan ice cream).

These cupcakes are delicious; a from scratch cupcake, a filling, a frosting, and a drizzle!  To die for.  Oops. A double entendre.

I found the recipe at AmyBites, as have a good many other people!  Thanks, Amy!  I left out the artificial butter flavoring, and I should probably say to reduce the ganache by half.  Abby had a lot left over…, but I think it will be a good drizzle for that leftover butter pecan ice cream 🙂

Butterbeer Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda

For the ganache (for the filling and the drizzle):

1 11-oz. package butterscotch chips
1 cup heavy cream
.

For the buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 16-oz. package powdered sugar
Splash of milk or cream (as needed)

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugars and beat until well-combined, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in vanilla. Add one third of flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture and stir to incorporate.  Add half of the buttermilk and half of the cream soda and mix to combine. Add half of remaining flour mixture, mix well.  Add remaining buttermilk and cream soda, mix well.  Stir in remaining flour mixture.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and cake springs back to the touch. Cool completely on wire racks.

For butterscotch filling: In a double boiler (heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove), combine butterscotch chips and heavy cream and stir until completely combined and smooth. Cool to room temperature. Fill a squeeze bottle with ganache and insert into the center of each cupcake, squeezing until filling begins to overflow.

For buttercream frosting: Cream butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in cooled ganache, vanilla, and salt and mix until well combined. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add milk or cream by the Tablespoon as needed. Frost cupcakes and top with a drizzle of butterscotch ganache.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  These are very, very good cupcakes, even if you are not into Harry Potter or Butterbeer 🙂  If you are into Harry Potter, you have to make them.  To mark and to celebrate the end of and era.  A very, very good era.

17 Jun 2011 Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

I made a cake last night.  No special reason.  The stars just aligned.

  • My daughter took my car, so I was stuck at home, alone, all night.
  • There was nothing on TV (is there ever?).
  • There was a “Cook’s” magazine under the TV remote.
  • There was a recipe for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting (one of my favorites), in the “Cook’s” magazine.
  • I have to make a  “Signature Cakes”, for the August Cookbook Club meeting.  (A “Signature Cake” is a showcase cake, appropriate for any celebration, that is so good people might start asking for it on their birthdays and such. )
  • A little “Signature Cake” practice wouldn’t hurt, and was probably needed.
  • I had just bought fancy-schmancy 9-inch layer cake pans at a hoity-toity gourmet store for 70% off.  Time to put them to the test!
  • I had all the ingredients on hand.

Who doesn’t like yellow cake with chocolate frosting?  It’s a classic!  The little editorial near the recipe on page 51 of the Spring 2011 edition of “Cook’s” said everything I want to say about Cake Mixes…chemical emulsifiers and leavening agents…monoglycerides and diglycerides….hydrogenated fats….artificial food coloring.  How about a good yellow cake without all that? This recipe delivers, and it’s moist and fluffy, too.  The taste? It HAS taste!  In my experience, cake mixes turn out cakes high on texture and color  with little taste other than that of sweet, overly-sweet.

The frosting spreads like a dream, and is rich, smooth, and will knock the socks off anyone who likes chocolate (who doesn’t like chocolate?).  The frosting is made with only 1 cup of powdered sugar (as opposed to the usual four cups), and is made with a food processor, not a mixer (a first for me).  Just a note though, this recipe results in a soft, creamy frosting (kind of like the canned stuff–but again, with TASTE…and none of that thick oily texture); so, if you are wanting a harder, fudge-type frosting, this is not the right recipe.

I am not sure this cake is fancy enough for my Cookbook Club….but it’s fancy enough for every other occasion.  I just may have found a “go-to” cake for many occasions.  It’s relatively easy to pull together, calls for no ultra-fancy ingredients, each layer is high and moist, and then there’s that creamy real milk chocolate frosting…

Yellow Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 oz.) cake flour (I did use cake flour, and not all-purpose)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 3/4 cup (12 1/4 oz.) sugar (divided use)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted, it’s all I had), melted and slightly cooled
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (if you bought a whole carton, freeze the leftovers until you are ready to make another cake)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites (make a Pavlova or meringue cookies with the leftover egg whites), at room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare 2 9-inch cake pans with 2 inch sides.  Spray with Pam for Baking, or butter and flour.  Line with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Set aside.
  4. In another bowl combine melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and egg yolks. Set aside.
  5. Place room temperature egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat eggs until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over over egg whites.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form but beaten egg whites still look moist, about 60 seconds.
  6. Remove the egg whites from the mixer bowl to another bowl and set aside.
  7. In the now empty mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment pour in the flour mixture.  Turn mixer on low.  Gradually pour in the liquid ingredients and mix on low for about 15 seconds.  Stop and scrape bowl.  Mix again for another 15-30 seconds or until cake mixture is smooth and creamy.  Remove bowl f rom mixer.
  8. With a rubber spatula fold in 1/3 of the egg whites.  When those egg whites have been incorporated add remaining egg whites.  Gently fold in egg whites until no white streaks remain.
  9. Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Now , one at a time, life the pan off the counter, and gently let it drop back down–to remove air bubbles from the batter.  Five light taps for each pan will do the trick.
  10. Bake cakes in preheated 350 degree oven for 22 – 30 minutes or until cake starts to pull away from sides of pan, and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.
  11. Cool cakes in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto wire rack and cool for an additional hour or hour and a half before frosting.
  12. Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and stored in refrigerator for two days, or can be frozen for up to one month.  Thaw layers completely before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (20 tablespoons), soft, but not runny (again, I used salted, it’s all I had on hand)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 oz. good quality milk chocolate (I used Hershey Symphony Bars), melted and cooled slightly
  1. In a food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, stopping once or twice to scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Add corn syrup and vanilla to the mixture in the food processor and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until smooth and creamy, another 10 – 15 seconds.
  3. Frosting can be made up to 3 hours in advance.  For longer storage, cover and refrigerate then let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
  4. For other cakes, this frosting can be made with dark or semi-sweet  or bittersweet chocolate.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today. I hope you find an reason to make this cake.  Once you make it, I think you’ll make it again and again and again.  For other recipes, click on the “In The Kitchen With Polly” logo on the top left hand side of this webpage.  Let me know what appeals to you and what you make. I love reading your comments.

Polly

 

23 Feb 2011 Champagne Cupcakes

My daughter recently catered a birthday dinner for a very bubbly, champagne loving girl.  She knew Champagne Cupcakes had to be on the menu!  The good news is that these are great cupcakes not only for a birthday dinner, but for an Oscar party, too! Aren’t we all going to an Oscar party on Sunday?? They’re also good for many other champagne worthy events:  Birthday Party, Engagement Party, Shower, Wedding, New Year’s Eve, Promotion, Retirement, Bon Voyage, Welcome Home, Mortgage Burning, Mortgage Acquisition,  Crowning of Miss America… 🙂

This recipe makes a very light and not-so-sweet cupcake.  The champagne flavor really comes through if you brush champagne on the cakes before adding the frosting. This was my daughter Hannah’s idea, it’s not in the original recipe.  She also added more champagne to the frosting (tut-tut-tut, says Mom…)!  The original recipe called for coloring, but not being a food coloring fan, Hannah omitted it.  “In retrospect”, she said, “it would have been nice to have a slightly pink colored frosting.  After all, I did use pink champagne!”

Champagne Cupcakes

For Cupcakes:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup pink champagne, plus extra (approx ½ cup) for brushing onto baked cupcakes (I used Chandon Rose)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4-5 drops red food coloring (optional)

For Frosting

  • 1 1lb box powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ¼ cup pink champagne
  • 3-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • candy pearls (I found these in the cake decorating section of the grocery store)

To Make Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat eggs whites with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Set aside. (If you have only one bowl for your electric mixer, you will have to remove the egg whites to another bowl).
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer,  cream the 2/3 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined.  Add in ½ of the champagne, beat until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing until fully incorporated, then add the remaining ½ cup of champagne, beating until combined. Beat in the remaining flour mixture and the food coloring, mixing until combined.
  6. Gently fold in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter and mix until fully incorporated. Fold in remaining egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each cupcake liner 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.
  9. Once cupcakes have cooled, poke 8-10 holes in each cupcake using a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, coat each cupcake with champagne.

To Make Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and champagne.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and food coloring, mixing well until the frosting is smooth. (If too stiff add more champagne, if too runny add more powdered sugar.)
  3. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip (or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off), and decorate cupcakes.
  4. Top with candy pearls.

Makes: 24 cupcakes.  Keeps well for a day or two.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  And thank you to my daughter, Hannah, for testing this recipe and sharing the cupcakes with me.  Guess what I am taking to my Oscar Night Party?  Yep!  If you’d like to take these to a special event, but don’t have time to make them, contact  Hannah, she is a fledgling caterer, you know!

30 Jan 2011 Drunken Monkey Cake

Drunken Monkey Cake: my third cake from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  The directions were bothersome again, but I (mostly) made it as directed the first time.  This resulted in a cake that was too “moist” (probably too many bananas) but the cake showed promise, so I committed to rebaking it.

The first thing to go was the showy process of flaming the cherries in rum.  The directions specified boiling dried cherries in ¾ cup water, then pouring ¾ cup rum over the cherries, and lighting the whole thing on fire.  Being English, I know a few things about lighting things on fire.  I’ve had flaming Christmas Pudding every Christmas and New Year’s Day of my life.  The flames are for show.  Why do I want to flame the cherries?  Who’s watching?  I boiled the cherries in the water, added the rum, and set the mixture aside. I know better than to burn up my rum.

The second big problem with the recipe was the ingredient list which called for “5 or 6 very ripe bananas”.  Come again?  How much banana? Small, medium or large bananas?  I had four small and two large bananas, so that’s what I used.  Not good.  The cake was way too moist.  Even with 20 minutes extra baking, it was still too “moist”.   Stop the madness!  Specify in cups or by weight how much mashed banana to use!  For the rebake I did a little research.  One banana should equal 1/3 to ½ cup of mashed pulp, a bit more helpful, but still an issue.  With “5 or 6 very ripe bananas” I was now dealing with 1 ½ cups, 1 2/3 cups, 2 cups, or 3 cups of mashed banana!  The higher quantity being double the lower quantity!  Isn’t this maddening?  Recipes directions should be written to ensure success. If I follow a recipe I should get a good result,  without having to do additional research or recipe reworking. The second Drunken Monkey cake was baked with 2 cups of mashed banana (which was 4 medium bananas).  Still too much banana.  1 2/3 cup of mashed banana is probably just about right.

The next issue with the recipe was to drain the drunken cherries, and to pour the thickened liquid into the bananas.  Once again, how much liquid was I to expect from the cherries.  What if I didn’t have enough, what if I had too much?  The amount of liquid is not so critical in a sauce, but for a cake it makes a big difference.  So with my second rebake, I changed the way of plumping the cherries, and measured the liquid before I added it to the bananas.  By this time I had also run out of rum, so I had to switch to brandy!  Now I know both rum and brandy taste fine!  Start soaking the fruit the night before baking the cake.

The next change I made to the recipe was to substitute chocolate chips for the nuts (think frozen, drunken, chocolate covered bananas!).  I don’t like nuts, so this was a good option for me, but if I were a nut lover, I think nuts would be awesome in this cake, with or without the addition of chocolate.

The picture above reflects all the changes I made.  Now there is one more issue, I had a piece for breakfast…, hic.  Maybe there was a point to burning off the rum…

Drunken Monkey Cake with Chocolate

Adapted from “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • 2 cups dried cherries (recipe did not specify what kind of dried cherries.  I used tart dried cherries)
  • 1 cup dark rum (brandy works, too)
  • 1 2/3 cups mashed very ripe banana (approx. 3 or 4 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips
  1. The night before baking this cake, or early the morning of, pour the rum over the dried cherries, stir, and set aside to plump.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mash the bananas and measure 1 2/3 cup of pulp to use in the cake.
  4. Drain the rum from the cherries.  You should have approx 3 tablespoons of rum.  Stir this drained rum into the mashed bananas and set aside.
  5. Line the bottom of a 10 inch tube pan with parchment paper, then spray with Pam or spread with butter. (There is too much batter for a normal 12-cup bundt pan.  If you use a bundt pan, don’t line with parchment paper, but use Baker’s Joy! or Pam to well grease the pan–and you’ll probably have enough batter left over to also make 4 or 6 muffins.  Adjust baking times accordingly.)
  6. In a medium bowl combine the white and wheat flours, the salt, and the baking soda and set aside.
  7. With an electric mixer Beat the butter for a minute or so.  Then add in the white and brown sugars and beat for an additional 4 minutes.
  8. Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  9. Stir banana mixture into the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla.
  10. Slowly add the flour mixture to the banana batter.
  11. Stir the drained cherries, nuts and/or chocolate chips into the batter.
  12. Pour batter into prepared pan and place into a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for approx 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean and sides start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  13. Cool in pan for ten minutes, then loosen sides and turn out to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes a lot of cake; depending on how you slice it, you’ll probably have 16-20 slices.  Call the neighbors! Just one warning…, no, two warnings.  It’s probably best not to serve this cake for breakfast! Hic. Hic.  This is definitely not a good cake for children.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, you drunken monkey, you… hic!

29 Jan 2011 Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been in a funk all week.  I made two more cakes from that book I was all aglow about last weekend.  I’m no longer glowing.

First off, I wanted to make the Red Velvet cake; the picture looked so great, and it was front and center on the cover, so I had high hopes.  The recipe was a bit odd though.  Red Velvet cake is supposed to have three things: 1) a very, very light chocolate taste 2) a very bright red color and 3) a pronounced tang from the addition of buttermilk and vinegar.  This cake was good on point one.  The recipe called for ¼ cup of cocoa powder, which is good.  I have seen some recipes for as little as 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder.  I wanted some chocolate taste in the cake!  The recipe also hit a high note on the red color.  The color in the picture looked good, and recipe only called for one tablespoon of red food coloring.  I have seen some recipes call for as much as three tablespoonsful!  My first hint of trouble was with point three, no buttermilk and no vinegar!  The recipe called for sour cream, but I was still going to go with it, thinking the sour cream would have enough tang.

Once I started making the cake, the trouble began.  First, the directions called for “a food processor”.  Um no.  The directions then said, ” Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed”.  Not a food processor, a mixer.  Bad mistake. THEN, the directions called for two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, but the pictures of the cake-both on the cover, and next to the recipe-were of a three layer cake.  Uh-oh.  Having only two matching 8-inch cake pans, and two matching 9-inch cake pans, not three matching of either size, I decided to bake the cake in the  9-inch layer pans thinking the recipe probably meant to three 8-inch pans or two 9-inch pans.  I thought wrong.  I had too much batter for two 9-inch pans.  The pans were this close to overflowing.  The cakes baked up huge, and domed.  I am pretty sure the cake needed to be baked in three 9-inch pans.  Not sure how many 8-inch pans.  How could there be two such glaring mistakes on one recipe, especially in a book based on recipes that had been tested and that explicitly stated (and the specific reason I bought this book) that recipes with problems had been “rebaked” until they were right?

BUT, after baking, the cake looked good, but a bit crisp on the outside (probably due to over-baking because each pan held too much batter) and seriously domed.  Never mind, I thought.  I can fix it.  I trimmed off the over-browned sides of the cakes, and cut off the domed tops.  The cakes stacked nicely together.  Firm enough for a stable two layer cake, I thought.  I wasn’t overwhelmed when I tasted the discarded domed top, but I thought that was because the cake was still a bit warm from the oven, and didn’t have frosting on yet.

I mixed up the frosting for the cake.  It went on lovely and I spread it on thickly, but I definitely had enough left over for a third layer! Nevertheless, I though the cake was beautiful.  Look at the picture! I was all excited to kick off my Valentine’s Day marathon chocolate posts with this cake…, until I tasted it.  The frosting was to die for, but the cake was No Big Whoop, in fact, it was a Bad Whoop.   The light chocolate taste was good, and there was a bit of a tang, but it wasn’t a good tang.  The cake just wasn’t good. The color was red, but with a bad tasting cake, it made things worse.  I tested the cake on twelve of my favorite testers, my Dining For Women group. Most said the cake was OK, but nobody wanted me to make it again.  Everyone would prefer a chocolate cake, or a yellow cake, or a lemon cake or a carrot cake or a coconut cake.  No one wanted any more Red Velvet cake. The next morning I tasted the cake again, and I knew it was all over.  It just was not a good tasting cake.  Remember the red velvet armadillo groom’s cake in “Steel  Magnolias”?  Did you want a piece? This cake tasted as bad as that cake looked!  It was a tragedy.

I did get three requests for the Cream Cheese Frosting though. The frosting I will make again.  So the frosting recipe I will share.  I hope you have a good cake recipe to use it on!

Cream Cheese Frosting

From “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar (about 7 ½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  Add in the vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Makes enough frosting to decorate a three layer cake.

I served the Red Velvet cake, with another one made from the same book .  More problems with the recipe but well worth a rebake.  Version Two of the Drunken Monkey cake is sitting on my counter right now.  A definite improvement over Version One in looks. Taste testing tomorrow.  I sure hope it is good enough to post. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

22 Jan 2011 Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I buy a lot of cookbooks and a lot of cooking magazines.  It’s a big problem.  One time I tried to cook my way through one cookbook (which is how this blog got started) so I would have to stop buying new cookbooks.  I probably made it through half the cookbook, but I kept buying magazines and “Special Interest Publications” anyway.  It’s a big, big problem…

Over time I’ve found that I usually make three recipes from each publication, sometimes more and sometimes less, and then make a judgment about the book.  Not all books pass the three recipe test, and this infuriates me.  WHY publish so-so recipes? Just in case someone might like it?  I want to yell at all cookbook authors, editors, and publishers, “Stop publishing and republishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!”   Just because you have a recipe with a cute name or a pretty picture doesn’t mean it has to be published!  Where’s the quality control? If a recipe is so-so, dump it and move onto the next one, or if it has potential, remake it until it’s fabulous.  Stop publishing so-so, mediocre and bad recipes!

I understand differences in tastes, I don’t make recipes I know I won’t like.   I have nothing against publishing hot and spicy recipes.  Many people like those, I’m just not going to try them.  I make recipes that sound good to me, and I expect the recipe to work and I want the recipe to taste good.  No, more than good.  I want the recipe to be fabulous, but I will settle for one step up from mediocre.  One step up from mediocre wouldn’t make me angry.  It would be an improvement! I received a huge cookbook for Christmas, which shall remain nameless.  I made three recipes.  Three bombs. Well, not bombs exactly. The recipes worked, but they weren’t as great as the descriptions made them out to be.  I had taste testers for all these recipes.  All said the food was “OK, but not great” and then started giving suggestions for improvements!  You’d think the author would have done this.  If the recipe is not GREAT, don’t publish it, even if there is a good story or a fabulous picture to go with it. The stories and the pictures are supposed to be backup for a good recipes, not to compensate for them.

I have taste testers for ALL my recipes.  I know I have pretty high standards, so I check my expectations with my friends, family, Dining For Women members, book club members, clay class classmates, quilt group friends, massage night friends, neighbors, workmen… If I don’t like something, I check to see what others think.  Most often they agree with me.  If my testers like something I don’t, I remake it and test it again on myself, and some more testers, to see what I missed.  If I rave about something, but my testers give it so-so marks, I don’t publish the recipe.  I only publish recipes I love, and recipes my taste testers love, too.

I understand differences in preferences. Not everyone likes a particular texture. Not everyone likes the same kind of brownie or spaghetti sauce, I know this. I know not everyone is going to like the same thing, but still, there are recipes published that are just NOT good.  This needs to stop.  It’s no wonder some people think they are horrible cooks.  Chances are they’ve made some attempts over the years, have tried some some fantastic sounding recipes, only to be defeated by them.  It’s not always the cook. There are just too many bad, so-so, and mediocre recipes published.  I want to tell self proclaimed bad cooks, “It’s probably not you, it’s probably the recipe”.  To be a GREAT cook, you have to have a GREAT recipe…, and there are few cookbooks out there you can trust to give you a great recipe on every page.

I’ve  found a “post worthy” recipe in the newest cookbook I bought, “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray.  Melissa works at NPR, and every Monday for a year she brought a cake into the NPR office in New York. If she didn’t get good feedback, she “re-baked” the recipe until it worked! (A woman after my own heart!)  Her cookbook is the compilation of the best cakes from that one year experiment.  The first cake I baked from this book was “The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake” (the recipe was originally published in “Barefoot Contessa: Parties!“).  Winner, winner, winner! My son likes the two-day old leftovers so much he’s taking them back to his dorm with him, and texting his friends to expect it!

This weekend I am going to bake to more cakes from the book and then test them out on my Dining For Women group.  Stay tuned!  But until then, bake this!  It’s yummy.  Not too sweet. Classic coffee cake. Goes well with coffee.  Very well.  A nice Sunday breakfast or mid-morning snack.  Every one of my taste testers liked it. Liked it a lot. We need more recipes like this to be published and republished.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

For Cake

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For Streusel

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 325º.  Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan (or spray with Pam for Baking)
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined.
  7. Make the streusel…combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter.  Mix until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in walnuts. Set aside.
  8. Spoon 1 cup of cake batter into bottom of prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the streusel mix.  Pour in half of remaining cake batter, top with remaining streusel, and then last half of cake batter.
  9. Bake cake in preheated 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes.
  10. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool.  Let cake cool for at least 30 minutes, and as long as overnight.
  11. In a small bowl stir the maple syrup and powdered sugar together with a fork.
  12. Drizzle glaze over top of cake.
  13. Serve.  You’ll get about 16 slices of cake.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  My apologies for being a bit hot winded before I got to the recipe but I do feel strongly about NOT passing on bad, so-so, or mediocre recipes. I promise only to send you GREAT recipes! Make them! Then DEFINITELY tell me what you think!