Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Carving

We finally carved our pumpkins.  The kids have been really worried that we would forget.  Now everyone can breath a sigh of relief!

Puppy Dog, Ghost, Spiderman, Bear

Ami wouldn't even pick out the guts.  Ha ha ha.
Robbie's face says it all.

For dinner, we had a pumpkin themed pizza!

Smiley face and Vampire.

Fall Fun

One of the many things I love about Virginia is the fall.  The leaves are such amazing bright colors and the smells are incredible.  This view is right out my back kitchen window!  I love it!
Kitchen Window View

There are SO many leaves.  We did the seasonly perfect activity.  Leaf jumping!  The kids had a blast.

Chocolate Cake-sort of

Chocolate Cake

Cupcake Rating: 1 Cupcake

I was hoping that this cake would be a go to chocolate cake recipe.  It wasn't.  Unfortunately it was more brownie-like than the moist cake I was hoping for.  In fact, I have had more cake like brownies than this cake was.


1 C (2 sticks) unsalted Butter, plus more for pans
2 C all-purpose Flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
1/2 C unsweetened Cocoa powder
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 C Sugar
2 large Eggs plus 3 large Egg yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 C low-fat Buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.
Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes (Mine took about 20). Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Place one cake, bottom side up, on a cake stand. Frost with frosting of choice.  I took the leftover cream cheese frosting from last week and added chocolate.  Woe was it DELICIOUS.  I never thought of chocolate cream cheese frosting, and will never make that mistake AGAIN.  Add a little baking chocolate to your cream cheese frosting and be transported to HEAVEN.
Rach's Tips
I was disappointed with this cake.  The ingredients and instructions were super simple so I was hoping for a go-to/every day chocolate cake recipe.  Not so much.  It was very dense but not fudgy.  Kinda a 'meh' moment.  The frosting was delicious and I wanted a bowl full! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lemon Meringue Cake

Lemon Meringue Cake

Cupcake Ranking: 3 Cupcakes

I actually made this cake this summer for an Olympic Party.  The cake was moist and citrus-ey.  The cake was truly delicious and would be perfect for a summer night.  It was had a ton of citrus in it and the cake texture reminded me of angle food cake.  The meringue not so much.  The texture of the meringue completely ruins the fluffiness of the cake. 

I can't find the picture my friend sent, but once I find it I'll post.


1 sifted Cup plus 2 tablespoons Cake Flour, (not self-rising)

1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 large Eggs, separated, room temperature
3/4 C Superfine sugar
1/4 C Vegetable oil
1 tsp grated Orange Zest
1 tsp grated Lemon zest
4 Tbs fresh Orange juice
2 Tbs fresh Lemon juice
Pinch of cream of tartar
*Lemon curd
**Swiss Meringue (Optional: I would recommend whipping cream topped with Lemon zest)
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt twice. Set aside.
Place egg yolks in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium high until pale and foamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until very pale and puffy, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add oil in a steady stream. Add zests; beat for 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium low, and add flour mixture alternately with juices, flour in 4 parts and liquid in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside.
In a clean bowl, whip egg whites on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and increase speed to medium high. Beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, or until whites are glossy and stiff peaks form.
Stir a quarter of the whites into the flour-yolk mixture. Fold in remaining whites carefully, trying not to deflate the batter. Gently pour into an ungreased 7-inch tube pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Remove cake from oven, and invert immediately. Cool completely in pan. Run a knife around sides to loosen, and remove outer part of pan. Run a knife along bottom and around tube to loosen and remove tube. Turn upside down onto a cake round slightly smaller than the cake, and slice horizontally into 3 layers using a serrated knife.
Spread half the filling on the bottom layer, and cover with the middle layer. Spread remaining filling on middle layer, and cover with top layer. Refrigerate overnight, or until set. Brush off excess crumbs with a dry pastry brush.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare meringue, and spread it all over cake, swirling with an icing spatula as desired. Set cake, still on cake round, on an oiled baking sheet, and place in oven. Bake, watching carefully, until meringue is brown around edges and beginning to brown elsewhere.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve as soon as possible. Slice using a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry.
*Lemon Curd
3 large Egg yolks, strained
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 C Lemon juice
6 Tbs Sugar
4 Tbs unsalted Butter, cold, cut into pieces
Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth.
Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour.
**Swiss Meringue
4 large Egg whites, at room temperature
1 C Sugar
1 pinch Cream of Tartar
1/2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Fill medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing between your fingers.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use meringue immediately.
Rach's Tips
Beside omitting the meringue I just need to send out the warning that the cake is super delicate.  The directions state to "gently pour" the batter into the pan.  Not kidding.  It is super fluffy and will fall.  Once you put it in the pan and gently smooth, don't touch.  Step away and put it in the oven!  This is a perfect summer cake!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Carrot Cake


Cupcake Ranking: 2

I LOVE Carrot Cake.  I'm not sure if it is the cream cheese frosting or the spiciness of the cake.  But it is delicious.  Anyway, this cake was okay but not fabulous.  I have a standard carrot cake that I make and this just didn't measure up.  The taste was pretty cake but it was super dense not thick, dense and fluffy like it is supposed to be!  But I digress.  Anyway, this is fine for a basic carrot cake but not my fav.  The frosting is CRAZY GOOD.  It will definetely be my standard cream cheese frosting from here on out.


2 1/2 C All-purpose Flour, plus more for pans
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp Coarse salt
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted Butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 C packed Brown sugar
1/2 C Granulated Sugar
3 large Eggs
2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1/2 C Water
1 pound Carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.
Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 3 minutes. Add vanilla, water, and carrots. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture. 
Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes (about 20 in my oven). Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
1 pound (16 ounces) Cream cheese, room temperature
2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted Butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
2 pounds Confectioners' sugar, sifted (about 8 Cups)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add butter, beating until incorporated.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add sugar, beating until incorporated.

Using a serrated knife, trim rounded top of 2 cakes. Place one trimmed cake, cut side up, on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup (ish or just till it looks like you want it to) frosting over cake. Top with second trimmed cake, cut side down.  Spread remaining frosting over top and sides (I had lots extra so just frost as thick as you want the icing to be). Gently press coarsely chopped pecans onto sides of cake (I didn't but definetely an option). Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

Rach's Tips

As I mentioned above, this cake was decent.  It is a yummy cake but not my favorite carrot cake recipe.  The frosting was a definite keeper.  The recipe is straightforward, but I don't think I'll make it again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

First Lost Tooth!

IT FINALLY HAPPENED.  YES IT IS TRUE.  Amelia has been wiggling this tooth for 9 months and it finally came out.  Super excited.  Isn't she cute (yes, her brother is a dork but at least he is a cute dork).

Red Velvet Chocolate Cake

Red Velvet Chocolate Cake

Cupcake Rating: 3 Cupcakes

When I first started this cake experiment, the cakes were disappointing.  I started to doubt myself.  This cake assured my self consciousness.  The cake was fluffy and dense like cakes should be.  The others were recipe faults.  Whoo!  Anyway, the cake was super yummy and instead of the 7 minute frosting (icky) I used a Paula Deen cream cheese frosting (way delicious).  If you want a dense, chocolatey cake.  This is for you.  Would I make it again?  Maybe.  I'm not a huge red velvet fan, but I know some people are.  If you love Red Velvet, this cake is for you!


Unsalted butter, for cake pans
2 1/2 C Cake flour, not self-rising
1 tsp Salt
1/4 C Cocoa powder
1 1/2 C Sugar
1 1/2 C Canola oil
2 large Eggs
1/4 C Red food coloring
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
1 C Buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
2 tsp White Vinegar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Sprinkle with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside. 
In a medium bowl, whisk cake flour, salt, and cocoa; set aside. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and oil, and beat on medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar until combined. Add to batter, and beat for 10 seconds. Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack to cool completely.
 Cream Cheese Frosting-Paula Deen
1 lb Cream cheese, softened
2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla extract
4 C sifted Confectioners' sugar
Mix ingredients and frost cake.
What is with the spider web design?  Eh, it's Halloween and the kiddos wanted it to be festive.  Why not?
 Rach's Review:

This cake was yummy and lived up to the picture's expectations.  It was dense, chocolatey and fun.  The cream cheese frosting was yummy but not a must.  A buttercream icing would be equally delectable.  The 1/4 C of Red food coloring was a little unsettling.  So, I substituted 1/8 cup of tomato sauce.  There was no tomato taste, the integrity of the red coloring was preserved and maybe added some nutritional goodness?  Enjoy!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coconut Layer Cake

Coconut Layer Cake

Rating: 4 Cupcakes:

I was skeptical of this cake.  I am not a huge coconut cake fan.  Don't get me wrong.  I like coconut and I like cake but not usually combined.  However, the homemade coconut pudding in the middle gave it the wabang that sucked me in.  Even the 7 minute frosting that has been dreadful on the other cakes worked great for this one.


3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 C sifted Cake flour, not self-rising, plus more for pans
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 C Superfine sugar
4 large Egg yolks, lightly beaten
2/3 Cup Sour cream
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Coconut Cream Filling (see below)
11 oz (about 3 3/4 cups) sweetened angel-flake Coconut
Seven-Minute Frosting (see below)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of three 6-by-2-inch buttered round cake pans with parchment paper. (I used two 9x3 pans.  The layers are thin but it still worked.) Dust the bottom and the sides of the cake pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set the bowl aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, and keep beating until the mixture is fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Gradually drizzle in egg yolks, beating on medium-low speed between each addition until the batter is no longer slick. Beat until the mixture is fluffy again, about another 3 minutes.
Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat in vanilla. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven, if needed, for even browning. Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and let cool completely on racks, tops up.
To assemble, remove parchment paper from the bottoms of cakes. Split each layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife. (If using the larger pans, don't bother splitting because the layers are already thin).
Coconut Cream Filling
6 large Egg yolks
3/4 C Sugar
6 Tbs Cornstarch
1/8 tsp Salt
3 C Milk
4 oz (1 1/2 cups) sweetened angel-flake Coconut
1 1/2 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Unsalted butter, for wrap
Place egg yolks in a large bowl; whisk to combine; set bowl aside.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 10 to 12 minutes (Mine happened quickly, appx 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
Whisk 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into the reserved egg yolks to temper. Slowly pour warm yolks into the saucepan, stirring constantly (this is done so the egg yolks don't boil and harden...icky). Cook slowly, stirring, over medium-low heat, until mixture begins to bubble, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut and vanilla.
Transfer filling to a medium mixing bowl. Lightly butter a piece of plastic wrap, and lay it directly on top of filling to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
Set aside the prettiest dome; it will be used for the final layer. Place another domed layer, dome side down, on the serving platter. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of flaked coconut over the cake. Spread a generous 1/2 cup coconut-cream filling over coconut flakes. Repeat sprinkling and spreading process on the remaining layers until all but the reserved domed layer are used. Top cake with the reserved domed layer (When using the larger pans thus thinner layers use your own judgement on how much pudding.  I just put it on until I thought it looked like enough.  I had about 1/2 cup of pudding left over). Transfer cake to the refrigerator to firm for 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator, and frost the outside of cake with seven-minute frosting. Sprinkle remaining coconut flakes all over cake while frosting is soft; do not refrigerate. Cake can be left out at room temperature for several days.
7 Minute Frosting
3/4 C plus 2 Tbs Sugar
1 Tbs light Corn syrup
3 large Egg whites, room temperature
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Rub a bit between your fingers to make sure there is no graininess. Raise heat to bring to a boil. Do not stir anymore. Boil, washing down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water from time to time to prevent the sugar from crystallizing, until a candy thermometer registers 230 degrees about 5 minutes. (Depending on the humidity, this can take anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes.)
Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Remove the syrup from the heat when the temperature reaches 230 degrees (it will keep rising as pan is removed from heat). With the mixer running, pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering) containing the egg-white mixture. Don't pour the syrup in and then turn the mixer on.  The syrup will pool and harden at the bottom of the bowl. 
Beat frosting on medium speed until cool, 5 to 10 minutes. The frosting should be thick and shiny. Use immediately.
Rach's Review
This cake was really great.  The cake was moist, the pudding provided a nice sweet texture and the icing was light and fluffy.  The cake still obsorbs the icing in a day or two but the 7 minute icing is really yummy with the coconut.  We served this cake to guests and they all enjoyed it.  I will definetely make this again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie
4 Cupcakes:

This cake was DELICIOUS.  I am a sucker for homemade pudding, and combined with this moist cake and chocolate ganache.  Wowsa.


6 Tbs Unsalted Butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 C All-purpose Flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 C Milk
3 large Eggs
1 C Sugar
1/2 recipe cooled Vanilla or Chocolate Pudding
1/4 C Heavy cream
4 ounces Semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; set over very low heat.
With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until thick, lightened in color, and mixture holds a trail for several seconds when beater is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients just until incorporated.
Bring milk and butter to a boil. With mixer on low speed, add hot milk mixture to batter; mix just until smooth. Mix in vanilla; transfer batter to prepared pan, and smooth top.
Bake until golden and pulling away from sides of pan, 35 to 40 minutes (20 in my oven). Cool cake 10 minutes in pan; remove from pan, and transfer to a rack to cool, right side up.
Vanilla Pudding Recipe
2/3 C Sugar
1/4 C Cornstarch
1/4 tsp Salt
1/3 C Unsweetened cocoa powder (if making chocolate pudding)
2 1/2 C Milk
4 large Egg yolks
2 Tbs Unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. If making chocolate pudding, add cocoa powder. Very gradually (a few tablespoons at a time) whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.
Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the first large bubble forms and sputters. Reduce heat to low; still whisking, cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; immediately pour through sieve into bowl. (This is super important or your pudding with be chunky).  Stir butter and vanilla into hot pudding.
Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding (to prevent skin from forming); chill at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
With a serrated knife, split cooled cake horizontally (leave bottom half on rack). Spread bottom half with half of the Vanilla Pudding recipe to within 1/2 inch of edge; gently place top half of cake on pudding layer (very gently.  The pudding easily squishes everywhere).
Make Chocolate Glaze: In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a boil. Remove from heat, and add chocolate; stir until smooth.
Set aside to cool to room temperature and to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes. When glaze has thickened, pour over filled cake. Using a small metal spatula, spread glaze to edges of cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Let glaze set, 15 to 20 minutes. Leftover cake can be refrigerated, loosely covered, up to 2 days.
Rach's Notes
This cake was really yummy.  The cake was the perfect consistency and the pudding and ganache added the greatest texture differences.  I really wouldn't have done anything different.  This is the first cake from this series that really lived up to my expectations.  Basic ingredients with and incredible output.